Thursday, April 6, 2017

2017 OHL Priority Selection Primer

The 2017 OHL Priority Selection is set for next Saturday, April 8th. If you recall, last year I hooked up with the guys from TheScout.ca to help us preview and highlight potential selections in an inaugural Priority Selection Primer (found here). Well today, we do it again prior to the 2017 Draft. Once again, each member of the scouting team at TheScout has given us their favourites for the draft, in addition to potential sleepers.

Matt Grainda (USA) - @graindaiv

1. Alex Turcotte – Chicago Mission U16 AAA
“Easily one of the most dynamic forwards available from the United States, Alex Turcotte has been simply dominant all season long. Turcotte led the U16 HPHL in scoring this year by a decent margin, putting plenty of pucks in the back of the net and creatively dishing out lots of helpers. He’s a kid with really strong hockey sense, quickly finding open seams and moving into high impact areas. His skating stride and mobility are very good, and his puck-handling and puck protection skills are strong. Turcotte is not the biggest player, but his ability to make space for himself and develop smart plays will make him a highly-effective playmaker down the road. He currently has a NCAA commitment to play for the University of Wisconsin, and he will likely end up playing the next two seasons for the USA National Team Development Program. After that though, it will likely depend on which NHL team selects him in the NHL Draft to see which hockey path he continues down, whether it be the NCAA or the CHL.”

2. Tag Bertuzzi – Oakland Jr Grizzlies U16 AAA
“Another very dominant forward playing in the United States this season, Tag Bertuzzi did some major damage in the U16 T1EHL as one of the league’s highest scoring players. Just like his former-NHL playing Dad, Todd, Tag Bertuzzi does a great job blending a skill and power forward game, even mixing things up physically and playing right on the edge. Bertuzzi has an excellent shot that he utilizes quite often, and he can even create quality opportunities working down low and around the net. He’s got a quick set of hands that can create separation from defensive players, along with a mean attitude that would allow him to barrel right through an opponent if necessary. Tag does have a lot of toughness in his game and a nice physical frame to work with, but his attitude can sometimes get the best of him and cause some unnecessary ramifications via questionable penalties or poor defensive play. Without an NCAA commitment, Tag Bertuzzi could end up being one of the top 3-5 selections in the OHL Draft.”

Sleeper - Arthur Kaliyev – Detroit Compuware U16 AAA

“The final player that should probably go higher than he is currently ranked is Russian-born Arthur Kaliyev, who is also without an NCAA commitment at the moment. Kaliyev is a forward that OHL Draft scouts will be very familiar with, having played up as an under-age player last season with U15 Detroit Little Caesars. This season, he was the only 2001-born player on his Detroit Compuware squad and he ended up leading a team full of 2000-born players with several USHL draftees and NCAA commits in scoring. Kaliyev really likes to make positive use of a lethal shot and a very quick release. He has a stealthy way of opening up lanes, walking right in and surgically placing a quick shot into a tight corner. With a bigger body and some good power behind his frame, Kaliyev can protect the puck very well and has the capability to dangle his way out of a tight situation. He has made plenty of defensemen look silly, reaching to try and take the puck off his stick. There are many paths that Kaliyev could end up taking, but he could end up as a high first round OHL Draft pick depending on who is interested.”


Mat Milberry (HEO Midget/Ottawa) - @MatMilberry

1. Joe Carroll LW , February 1, 2001 - Carleton Place Canadians U18
Though he has all the tools to be the top pick out the Ottawa area, a lot of scouts are left wondering when are they going to see it on a consistent basis and if he can take that next step required in his development to become an impact player at the OHL level. It's no surprise that he's on most scouts radar because of his size, skill, shot and hockey sense, but he's a guy that will be interesting to watch come OHL draft day because scouts will look at his inconsistent play throughout the 2016/2017 HEO U18 regular season as a deterrent. One scout may say his inconsistency is due to lack of effort and urgency in his game, when another may say the 15 year old is 1 year removed from playing AA and that it's a matter of breaking bad minor hockey habits. I think it's the latter, and that he'll be a steal if he drops out of the top 50 players selected in this year's OHL draft.

2. Alex Johnston C , November 19, 2001 - Kanata Lasers U18

Even after a respectable first 34 games of the season where he had 10 goals and 15 assists he was still high on my list for the 2001 Ottawa age group, but his ability to elevate his game and become impactful on both sides of the puck down the stretch propelled him into the top tier group of 2001's available for the draft - final 11 regular season games had 8 goals and 12 assists for 20 points. When it comes to project prospects Alex is a player that a team should be willing & able to have time for. Everything he does is quick - hands, feet, hockey sense and instincts with and without the puck. He has the physically and mental quick switch skill set that you can't teach, and a team that's willing to be patient with this players development and physical maturation will reap the benefits of having a top 6 point producing playmaking centre in the two years removed from his years OHL draft.

Sleeper - Ryan Richardson LW, April 9, 2001 – Smiths Falls Bears U18

Richardson is one of the more versatile and consistent 2001 DOB players to come up out of the Ottawa region. His point per game pace during the season would not come in spurts, as his longest point drought was 4 games out of his 45 games played during the 2016/2017 regular season. A player that isn't large in stature, right now, he shows no fear to go to the dirty areas and plays bigger than his size. A team would be foolish to think all he brings to a line up is physicality and bottom 6 minutes. Along with his physicality and compete levels with and without the puck, Richardson's skating, offensive instincts, puck skills and puck pursuit will add a versatile dimension to a line up that not many players his age can match. He can score in different ways and have an impact on the game, even if he isn't on the game sheet. A team that plays an up-tempo and grinding 4 line system should have this player on their radar. Think of Zach Smith of the Ottawa Senators.

Brent Craswell (HEO Midget/Ottawa) - @brent_craswell

1. Alexandre Hogue, Cumberland Grads U18
Hogue is a supremely confident puck-rushing defenceman who excels in transitioning his team from defense to offense. He has high end acceleration in his first few strides.  Once he gets up to top speed, Hogue uses his edges to glide through checkers in the neutral zone with ease.  The rearguard is made all the more dangerous by the fact that he consistently makes smart decisions with the puck at high speeds.  Once possession is established in the offensive zone, Hogue is very active in making himself available for passes.  He possesses excellent touch around the net, and better puck skills than you would see from most forwards.  Simply put, he is a rare offensive catalyst from the back end. Now, there are admittedly a few warts in Hogue’s defensive game.  Most notably, he has difficulty with puck retrievals if he is forechecked and his regular forays up the ice can leave his team susceptible to counter attacks.  Still, for me, the good far outweighs the bad for Alex Hogue.  The team that drafts him will not be disappointed, provided that they are willing to accept the occasional positional indiscretion.
 

2. Alex Johnston, Kanata Lasers U18
Alex Johnston is an impressive player to watch when he is in control of the puck.  His combination of puck skills, balance, and strong edges makes him a difficult winger to dispossess.  He regularly maintains control below the opposition’s goal line while being hounded by defenders. Johnston is a tremendous stick handler, and is a master of shepherding the puck through tight spaces and high traffic areas. These attributes couple well with his high end vision, as he is often able to find teammates in dangerous areas after the opposition has become too focused on him.  Johnston is certainly a playmaker first, although he inevitably gets his scoring chances in every game. Johnston, who has a late birthday, could stand to improve his skating. He is currently not a player who can separate from defenders using speed along, instead relying on his slick hands to get himself the space he needs to be a threat with the puck.  Johnston is a late birthday, so there is hope that his skating sees improvement with a bit more time and training.
 

Sleeper – Nicolas Chartrand, Cumberland Grads U18
Chartrand’s game is all about details. He is regularly the first forward back to neutralize odd man rushes, and supports his D well in puck battles. When Cumberland does regain control of the puck, often thanks to his work, Chartrand is quick to push up the ice with his long, smooth skating stride. Despite his defence-first mentality, he always finds ways to involve himself in his team’s attack. Chartrand finds soft areas in coverage and can get shots off quickly.  He’s also a dangerous distributor of the puck due to his poise.  There isn’t much panic in his game, and he has a knack for holding on to the puck to see what develops.  He was relied on by a young Grads team to play on both the PP and the PK, to take important defensive zone face-offs, and to protect late leads. It is rare to see a player at 15 who plays this complete a game, and that’s worth recognizing.  Chartrand really grew on me with each viewing throughout the season, to the point where I think there is a strong possibility that he develops into a dependable two-way centre in the OHL. 


Matt Barbara (ETA) - @Mbarbs30

1. Blake Murray- Whitby Wildcats

Coming into this season as one of the top scorers from last year and playing with a new team it was on his shoulders to prove to everyone he could be the elite player Whitby was hoping he could be. Blake is a unique talent and has some scouts questioning his compete level in the defensive zone and whether or not he can adapt a two way game at the Junior level. Holstering one the best shot/release in this years draft class, he is a kid on Halloween when he comes down on the left wing and beats the defender wide to look for that top corner shot that he finds with ease. A bit of an unorthodox skating style he is still able to build up his long strides and hunt down defenders to pick their pockets or use his raw strength to muscle them off the puck. Being a workhorse below the goal line in the offensive zone allows him to use his underestimated play making skills to set up his line mates and has similarities to Mats Sundin when he used to use his lower body strength and body positioning to hold off defenders and allow teammates more time to get open out front of the net. His vision when in control of the puck is something he has been improving on throughout the season and has been able to use it to better his ability of controlling the setup in the offensive zone and in the neutral zone to open up the ice for a more precise pass. Being a power play threat is where I feel he has excelled the most this season and has also allowed his teammates to find the score sheet more, and what I mean by that is the opponents are closing in on Blake and allowing them to have more open ice in the offensive zone and not forcing them to make split second decisions. Though not known for his faceoff ability at the beginning of the season he has seemed to either been working on his techniques or the opposing centres are giving away what they are going to do because he has become a threat in the draw and also will change up his stance mid-draw which is signs of a veteran centre. He will be most known for his shot and offensive instincts heading into this years draft but proving he was able to adapt to a new lineup that was already loaded with talent and become their top player, he should have no problem stepping into an OHL lineup next season and become a fan favorite in a matter of time.

2. Connor McMicheal- Ajax- Pickering Raiders

It was a tough decision to put Connor at #2 and maybe we can call them both #1's as they bring so much talent and leadership to the table. His game breaking abilities and outstanding puck control has had scouts raving about him all season. May be one of the most elite penalty killers, especially at catching defenders off guard chasing back for the puck and stealing it before they even know he is there. His quick stick and impressive eye hand coordination makes him a threat all over the ice and possibly the best two way players in the draft this year. Though I speak so highly of his defensive upside, Connor is a weapon in the offensive zone from being a playmaker on the power play to sniping from the slot with his deadly accuracy. Such a smooth and elegant skater, he glides around the ice always looking to intercept passes and seems to be a play ahead of everyone on the ice with such awareness. Being such an all around talent has allowed him to play in every situation that his coaches throw at him and he excels a majority of the time when called upon. Having the looks of a player that is ready for the next level, he may just need to pack on a few pounds to be ready to play against the bigger boys and hold his own in the rough areas on the ice. Too go along with his exceptional skating abilities he also displays next level puck control as he can turn defenders inside out at a snap of the fingers. He could possibly be the first ETA player selected in the upcoming draft and it would not surprise me one bit but if anything is going to hold him back from that honor it would solely be because someone else fit the teams needs that he didn't.

Sleeper- Jacob DiDanelli- Whitby Wildcats

All year I have been deciding where I should be putting Jacob in my rankings because he is such a unique talent. One game is a bull on the ice running kids through the boards and causing problems out front of the net and the next time I come out he is scoring highlight reel goals and showing off his playmaking abilities. Though his skating ability is what may hold him back from going earlier in the draft this year, I believe that is something that he can work on but the work ethic and grittiness that he brings every game is something that you can't teach a player. He proves that he plays for the name on the front of his jersey and not the back by stepping up for his teammates in tough times and will turn the momentum of a game around by making a bone crushing hit. His raw size and physicality he brings to the ice is something teams should truly look at and what it can do to help their team in the future, though he might not turn out to be a goal scorer or playmaker, he will definitely be the hardest working player on the team.

Matt Stewart (STCA) - @stewbucs

1. Ryan Stepien, Forward, Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs, 5.11 170lbs
Stepien is the top performer on the top team in the SCTA. He has emerged as the top offensive threat on a team that has been without its captain for much of the season through injury. Stepien is undersized but is blessed with top hands and a sturdy, well-balanced frame that make up for his less than ideal size. He has the ability to beat anyone on the ice one-on-one due to impressive creativity in the offensive zone, opening up opportunities both for himself and his teammates. He doesn’t rely on speed or pure skill but rather a combination of natural hockey sense and all-around puck skill. His skating is not elite but he does get around the ice effectively enough, showing a good ability to withstand and control through traffic which helps him as the team’s prime puck carrier. Stepien understands how to manipulate speed whether in short bursts or change of pace. He keeps pace high by maintain possession and moving pucks promptly then making himself available to receive it back. Possesses smart, quick vision to locate teammates and displays good creativity in getting pucks onto their sticks. Smart carrier who has a special knack for timing in his passes, dishing off to teammates in stride as defenders close on him. He commands the puck whenever he is on the ice and he tends to win more puck battles than he loses. Small frame but is fairly strong in winning those puck battles. Works extremely hard in all three zones and is relentless in getting the puck back once his team loses it. Intelligence on the ice is high, Stepien knows where to be to get the puck from a teammate or to win it back when it’s lost.  He doesn’t try and force things out there and if a play isn’t there right away, he can delay until it develops. Doesn’t commit many turnovers even though the puck is on his stick for the majority of his shifts. Despite his ability to beat people one-on-one with ease, he won’t take unnecessary risks with the puck. Seems to protect it well even while under pressure. Good possession type player. Stepien doubles as a dual threat attacker due to a next-level shot release that explodes off his stick and finds pin-point accuracy. Smartly follows his shots for second chance opportunities, where he can swiftly retrieve pucks with gifted, quick hands. Has a sneaky good shot in his arsenal with the ability to pick corners with relative ease. Excellent passer around the goal mouth, finding the tightest of lanes through traffic. He is a first line power play option who usually plays the point because of his passing ability, clever vision and quick handling skills. Stepien has the ability and skill to continue at the next level as a top six forward. Improving on his skating - adding quickness and becoming more efficient - will only help him advance into the next level. Stepien’s rise continues to surge as he’s becoming one of the draft’s most effective attackers and certainly a top prospect from the SCTA, In a down year for the SCTA in general, Stepien has separated himself from the pack as the number one offensive threat for a fairly good Hamilton team. As a late September birthday, Stepien owns a lot of intrigue.


2. Matthew Gordon, Forward, Guelph Gyphons, 6.1 170lbs

Gordon could be in both categories as he is a favourite of mine but also seems to be a bit under the radar in terms of SCTA prospects this season and could be a sleeper pick in the upcoming OHL Priority Selection draft. He does not seem to garner much attention but is one of the better players in the league. He has excellent size and he uses that size on the forecheck. He can be a real menace for defenders when he gets his big body moving. He also has a bit of a mean streak and certainly does not shy away from the dirty areas of the ice. Willing to pay the price in all three zones. There is a nastiness to his game but he also has a skilled side to his game. He moves around the ice with relative ease and is a real load to stop offensively once he gets a head of steam going. His edge work and start ups could use some improving which would only increase his effectiveness on the ice. Having an explosive first step would give Gordon an even more dangerous aspect to his game. His size and strength are already tough to deal with for defenders so increasing that speed and the decreasing the time it took to get to that top speed would make him nearly impossible to stop. Goes to the net with real purpose and conviction.  Gordon has good hands and the ability to beat defenders one on one when needed. While he does not posses’ elite hands, they are good enough at the next level to create scoring chances. Gordon also is a deft passer with the ability to find open team mates. A very unselfish player that could stand to be a little more selfish in scoring areas. Does not possess an elite shot and could use some work in that area to increase his goal numbers at the next level but his shot is adequate. He likes to have the puck on his stick when he is out there and never seems to take a shift off. May be one of the hardest workers in the league, a non-stop motor. Guelph played him in all situations and at times was an effective penalty killer, scoring a couple short handed goals. He is an obvious choice on the power play because of his scoring ability but also for his excellent passing ability. He can create chances for himself as well as his team mates. Gordon has the talent base to play at the next level with maybe a season in Jr. B to hone his skills a little. He will definitely be a pick in the draft and I think whoever grabs him in the later rounds will be getting excellent value for him and may surprise a few at the next level.
 

Sleeper - Christopher Brady, Goalie, Burlington Eagles, 5.11 170lbs
Brady is the ultimate sleeper pick for me. He plays goal which can be tricky to scout to begin with but he also plays on a team that does not get a lot of attention either. To be fair, the Burlington Eagles team were mediocre at best this year in an SCTA league that was down collectively. It is also a deep year in terms of goaltender prospects this year in minor midget. Maybe the deepest I’ve seen it in years. There are a lot of good prospects and I believe Brady is one of those but is under appreciated. Despite the lack of exposure, I believe Brady could be a real diamond in the ruff. While he does not posses the ideal height most would want in a goal tender, he makes up for it with lightning quick reflexes. He has strong legs and explodes across the ice when pushing off. His movements in the crease are compact and do not exert a lot of energy. He is extremely tough to beat down low. Brady is really poised in goal and plays with a calm that all great goaltenders have. Never seems to get rattled or play out of control. Brady’s rebound control is good but not great but his reaction time on rebound saves is excellent. Stands tall and firm in the net and plays with ultimate confidence. Loves to challenge shooters at the top of his crease. His compete level keeps his team in almost every game he plays. His team is short on offensive firepower so they rely on Brady to keep the score within one or two goals for them to win. I witnessed more than a few games this year where Brady was absolutely riddled with shots and he more than held his own making some spectacular saves that others just can’t do because they do not have Brady’s confidence or compact movements. Because he isn’t that tall, he can be beat high when he is in his butterfly but it doesn’t happen often because he challenges the shooters so well. One minor weakness he may have is his glove hand. With a little more work, it can become a strength for him. A combination of good mechanics, poise, confidence, calmness, and a willingness to challenge shooters makes Brady a top goaltending prospect this upcoming draft. With the depth of the goaltenders this year in minor midget, Brady will probably be drafted lower than he should but the smart team that does draft him late will get excellent value and a probable starter for their team in 2 years’ time.

Brett Dowell (GTHL) - @CoachBDowell


1. Brandon Coe – Toronto Nationals (6'3, 175lbs)
The 2016-17 season was a breakout season for Brandon Coe as he vaulted up the draft board with his exceptional ability to execute offensively when it matters most. Coe possesses an impressive arsenal of offensive talent where he can bury the big goal in a tight game, or can be the player who swings the momentum of a game in his teams favour with a thundering body check.  Coe has the pleasure of playing with potential first-round picks in Ethan Keppan and Mason Primeau where the tandem wreaked havoc on opposing teams. Together they resembled a team looking like the Philadelphia Flyers Legion of Boom. Coe was heavily relied upon by his coaching staff to be a leader offensively and put up goals on a team that plays with a defense-first mindset. He stands out from the rest of the draft class as a player who is physically ready to jump into the OHL next year and compete on a nightly basis. Coe is a difficult player to contain on the forecheck as he continuously causes turnovers with his puck pursuit being so quick. His calculated pursuit of the puck quickly takes away passing options and forces opposing defensemen into making poor decisions. Overall, Coe is a highly skilled and desirable prospect because of his skill, speed, and physical maturity. There is no doubt in my mind that Coe is a top 10 2017 OHL Draft pick who may go as high as the top 5, and step right into an OHL lineup next season.

2. Philip Tomasino – Mississauga Rebels (5'11, 170lbs)
Philip Tomasino is a unique talent that everyone wants at centre on their team. A loyal Mississauga Rebel who has spent his entire minor hockey career winning multiple championships with one minor hockey organization, Tomasino is an explosive, high energy centerman with elite puck handling abilities that is ready to make the jump to the next level. Offensively, Tomasino uses his exceptional play making and awareness skills to quickly analyze and recognize his options. He shows great positioning to find the open space and draw out defenders, and frequently uses the entire offensive zone as his canvas to create white space to generate offensive scoring opportunities. Tomasino thrives in possession-style environment as his great vision and patience with the puck allow him to make the perfect play for a great pass or to put an accurate shot on net. While he is an under-rated shooter with a quick release, his quickness could be improved to be considered a true outside scoring threat as most of his goals come from the slot area. Like Jack Hughes, Tomasino has no problem going end-to-end with the puck and is able to walk right through defenders with ease. With Mitch Marner-like abilities, Tomasino’s transition to the OHL next season will be seamless as he possesses the awareness, skating, and puck handling skills to successfully compete against tougher opponents. There is no doubt that Tomasino is a top 10 OHL draft pick for the upcoming 2017 OHL Draft

Sleeper #1 - Eric Ciccolini – Vaughan Kings (5'11, 155lbs)
My first sleeper pick for the upcoming 2017 OHL draft is the GTHL Top 40 Prospects Team Kypreos game MVP, Eric Ciccolini. Ciccolini is a pivotal two-way forward who brings his intensity, passion, and drive on every shift for the Vaughan Kings of the GTHL. He is extremely versatile and is often used in key situations as both a centre and at the right wing position. In the defensive zone, Ciccolini can shut down defenders by reading the play quickly and efficiently take time and space away from his defenders. On the wing, he uses his quickness to effectively cut off passing options to the point, be first to open pucks, and is quick to explode up ice on the transition to offense.
Utilized with Porco on the top line in Major Bantam, Ciccolini was tasked with a leadership role, having to play a more defensive role along-side Brendan Sellan and Drew Ferris. Even with the additional responsibilities, Ciccolini was among the top 3 on the Kings in goals, assists, and points. What many do not see is that he possesses an elite shot whereby he finds the open lanes by pushing or pulling the puck across the body to find an opening, pulling the trigger with no hesitation. Ciccolini is well suited to fit into anyone's offensive scheme in either a possession-style environment or a run-and-gun offense. He efficiently moves around the ice surface to find the open lane, and will explode into the offensive zone with speed. He displays a no-fear approach throwing himself into battles with only puck retrieval on his mind, digging at loose pucks in the crease and never giving up on a play. Look to see Ciccolini selected as early as the 2nd round and I don't expect him to drop outside of the 4th in the 2017 OHL draft.

Sleeper #2 - Alex Dominique – Toronto Titans (5'11, 150lbs)
My second sleeper pick for the 2017 OHL draft is Alex Dominique. As a leader for the Toronto Titans, Dominique excelled this season offensively playing the role of a dynamic playmaker and as a sniper when the opportunity presented itself. While most players had their ups and downs, Dominique consistently competed every game from September through March. Dominique excels in the offensive zone as he uses his strength, speed, and excellent puck protection skills to move throughout the zone to create multiple scoring opportunities. On the defensive side of the puck, Dominique sets himself apart from other elite centreman by consistently using his body and stick positioning to take away options, and creating multiple turnovers. Dominque relies heavily on his high hockey IQ to out-smart his opponent as opposed to using physical power. As a result, Dominque can handle the most difficult opponent assignments by shutting down the opposition, and create scoring opportunities for his. For Dominique to drop outside of the 3rd round would be a steal in the 2017 OHL draft. For any OHL GM looking for a versatile player who doesn't crack under pressure, Alex Dominique is that player.

Andrew Sykes (Alliance) - @ASykes_7

1. Ryan Suzuki, London Jr. Knights
The Alliance regular-season scoring champion and the Alliance Player of the Year, Suzuki is a candidate to be the #1 overall pick in this year’s draft. Brother of current Owen Sound Attack star Nick Suzuki, the brothers are similar in that they are both high-level prospects and extremely talented, but they are really quite different in playing styles. Whereas Nick plays as a centre and dominates with his incredible game-reading smarts and vision, Ryan is a winger who does his damage through his gifted skill-set. That isn’t to say that Nick isn’t skilled and Ryan isn’t smart, just the way that their positions differ in terms of responsibilities. With his effortless agile skating, tremendous hands and puck control, advanced puck-protection, and keen playmaking vision and touch, Ryan is as good as it gets from an offensive standpoint. There are times when we would like to see him be more abrasive in his willingness to demand and dominate the puck, but that has more to do with scouts just trying to find the perfect player. His amount of skill and smarts are rare, and as he develops a professional mind-set and hunger, there is a lot more waiting for him in the game of hockey.

2. Aidan Prueter, London Jr. Knights

Our team has been a big fan of Prueter’s since the beginning of the season and surely OHL scouts and management will echo that sentiment. In our opinion he is one of the safest picks in the draft because of how well-rounded he is. Jack-of-all-trades, swiss army knife, however you want to call it, Prueter is a true all-around player who plays with excellent efficiency in all zones and can do anything that is asked of him. With sharp intelligent instincts, a great overall feel for the game, skill, and a workhorse engine, he can drive and create offense on any line and with any type of linemates. While he doesn’t have one particular attribute that stands out among the elite in the age group, he is simply a coach’s player who does everything at a high level and promotes team success.

Other Favourites

 
Cole MacKay, Kitchener Jr. Rangers
 

If there is a team coveting a goal-scorer on draft day, they will look no further than MacKay who is one of the purest scorers in the 2001 age group. When you think of the attributes that make a natural goal-scorer, MacKay possesses them all. He is a player who loves to have the puck on his stick and one who oozes confidence in his ability to get where he needs to go and do what he needs to do in order to find the back of the net. In short he just “gets it” when it comes to scoring goals. He is elusive as a puck-carrier through slick hands and deceptive stickhandling, and attacks defenders with the mind-set of freeing just enough space in order for him to unleash his elite shot which is backed by a quick-trigger release. One of those players who seemingly does not even need to pick his head up to look where he is shooting yet is still able to find holes in goalies and beat them with a high-velocity and precise shot. Like all natural goal-scorers he has that knack for getting into scoring areas and being opportunistic at arriving to them at exactly the right moment to take a pass and quickly deposit it with a one-timer or a quick snap shot.
 

Keean Washkaruk, Waterloo Wolves
A player who quickly catches your eye due to his impressive engine and the sheer volume of touches he gets, Washkaruk is one of the hardest-working players in the age group. The Waterloo captain plays with unbridled enthusiasm and a tireless work-ethic every time he goes over the boards. Add those qualities to his excellent skating agility/dexterity and pitbull-like puck-pursuit and you have someone who leaves his mark on every game. His offensive ceiling is a question mark as he is prone to tunnel vision, but when you have someone who gets around the ice like he does and brings the desire that he does from the center position, you’ll gladly take the offensive shortcomings he might have and utilize him in a variety of ways.

Wild Card: Brett Budgell, London Jr. Knights
Budgell is a wild-card in this draft because as a St. John’s, Newfoundland native he is not (yet) eligible for the OHL Priority Selection. If he were he would be ranked somewhere within our first round as he has been a top performer from start to finish this season. A highly intelligent pivot with a great offensive acumen, its impossible not to like what Budgell brings to the table.  In my opinion he is the best passer among forwards in this year’s draft with playmaking vision and execution that is fun to watch. He can also score with the best of them with a heavy shot and quick release. Add in the fact that he always shows a healthy competitiveness that includes playing physically and you have a player with the makings of a future captain in whatever junior league he plays in.

Sleeper: Luke Drewitt, London Jr. Knights

There are several Alliance players I could include who would fit the mould of a sleeper but I’ll go with Luke Drewitt who is fresh in my mind after having a strong OHL Cup. The London Jr. Knights winger is someone you have to watch closely to appreciate as he does a lot of subtle things that might not stand out immediately. The most likable quality he possesses is his smarts and awareness as a net front presence. He constantly makes the right reads and picks the right times to get to the net and find loose pucks or to gain position with his body and stick for deflections and tips. These attributes were certainly able to be highlighted more considering the team he was playing for but they are still unique skills that few players possess. He is also a capable player in possession utilizing his rangy wingspan as a puck-carrier and the wherewithal to make timely, clever distributions. Very responsible defensively and is an effective and successful penalty killer.

Other Alliance top players: Grayson Ladd, Aidan Pitre, Brayden Krieger, Nathan Allensen, Tyson Hillier, Jacob Code, Callan Christner, Gavin Wood, Justin McCombs, Cole Schwindt, Peter Fleming, Jeff Burridge, Liam Van Loon, Mason Howard, Mason Millman, Bryce Lewis, David Anderson, Ryan Campbell, Steven Grant, Jagger O’Toole, Jet Greaves, Mark Cooper, Stephane Crevier, Hunter Hutchins, Navrin Mutter, Mark Woolley, Adam Jeffery, Aaron Shaw, Andrew MacLean, Nolan Degurse

Personal favourites from other regions(in no particular order):
Liam Ross, Mississauga Reps
Ross is as close as you can get to a throwback-style of defending in this age group. His ability to defend the rush is as astute as it gets, and while he’s not the flashiest defenseman, few players have the two-way impact that Ross shows every game. He’s a dominant in-zone defender who consistently shuts down attacks through his excellent gap control and great timing. With the puck he makes good decisions and is developing a skill-set that should allow him to contribute in the offensive zone at the next level.

Ty and Dylan Jackson, Mississauga Rebels
It has become a common theme but the Jackson twins get mentioned together because they are truly two peas in a pod. If you were to watch a Mississauga Rebels game at any time this year it is likely that the diminutive dynamos did something that caused your jaw to drop. They are unique players in the sense that they can dominate and control games despite being extremely undersized. They both possess impressive motors and have such quickness, slipperiness, skating/skill dexterity, and excellent vision that it often looks like they are playing keep-a-way and toying with the opposition. It is so rare that their size works against them that it is a non-issue for me, and despite their commitment to Northeastern University, I like their chances at being future OHL stars should they choose that route.

Mike Petizian, Mississauga Reps
If I may toot my own horn for a minute, I was a Mike Petizian fan long before he became an OHL Cup hero. The MVP of the recent event, Petizian elevated on what had already been a very strong season. He is a buzzsaw winger who operates extremely well in tight spaces, displaying nifty escapability, clever passing, and a fearlessness at working in traffic. Despite his smaller size, he just keeps coming at you with an impressive ability to constantly create offense, and the fact that he was able to elevate his game and production on the biggest stage against the best competition should result in his draft stock drastically improving.

Anthony Aguanno, Mississauga Rebels

I have a soft spot for players who are able to leave an impact on a game in any way they can and Aguanno is someone who is able to do that pretty well every time he plays a hockey game. Whether its offensively with his excellent ability to run a power-play or through his aggressive and robust defensive style, the Mississauga Rebels defenseman is the definition of a “gamer.” He offers a unique blend of skill, strength, aggression, and natural instincts and those qualities should set him up to have a long OHL career.

Daniel Nardi, Vaughan Kings

If I were to make a list of my top unheralded players, Nardi would head it. Cerebral and calculated are my favourite characteristics of a player and that’s precisely what the Vaughan Kings blueliner is. A high IQ two-way defenseman who thinks the game very well on both sides of the puck. A smooth, efficient skater with his head up who constantly makes the right decision both with and without the puck. Shows a heady recognition on break-outs, connecting on his outlet at a high success-rate. Will rarely make aggressive pinches or try to force plays that are not there and just focuses on safe puck-management. Is not physically imposing but is excellent as a stick-on-puck defender with a great recognition of his gaps. Teams looking to influence their defense-core with an astute two-way defender and a student of the game should look no further.

Brendan Ross (Scouting Director) - @RossyYoungblood 

Favourites across all regions (including the North)

Luke Cavallin, G, Kemptville U18 73’s (HEO)
An impressively technical goaltender with high level skating ability, Luke Cavallin isn’t just our top ranked Ottawa-based netminder but he will also be featured among our top half-dozen goaltenders (SPOILER ALERT). He’s a player who defends his net with such maturity and poise, dealing in on pucks through traffic and controlling pucks. Cavallin has the look of goaltender with star potential and his ranking will reflect that in our final draft guide.

Jack Quinn, RW, Kanata U18 Lasers (HEO)
Playing alongside Ty Johnston in Kanata, Quinn hasn’t been receiving the coverage that his teammate has but I won’t be surprised if he ends up being the top drafted HEO player come draft day. He’s an ultra-competitive winger who plays on top of the puck, hounding opponents on the forecheck and forcing turnovers. In possession, Quinn has impressed with his patience and instincts in traffic, hitting his targets and finishing difficult plays under pressure. This kid is a gamer and should be one of the top Ottawa competitors selected.

Simon Rose, RD/L, Cumberland U18 Grads (HEO)
Come draft day, it’ll be interesting to see which HEO defender goes off the draft board first – the high-scoring Alexandre Hogue or the steady, cerebral Simon Rose from Cumberland. Depending on team needs, their rankings can reflect daily but both are exciting prospects. Rose blends good length in a solidly built frame, which he actually appears larger than his sub-6-foot height suggests. He is a controlled, heads up blueliner who makes calculated offensive reads while maintain good defensive presence with assertive stick-on-puck defending. He’s not the flashiest or most physical but his all-around game will be appreciated sometime after the first round rolls around.

Carter Tresoor, LC, Kenora Thistles Midget (MMHL)
After family travel took me to Kenora and a quick couple pit-stops at the local rink to catch some Manitoba Midget action, Kenora’s Carter Tresoor quickly grabbed my attention. I was able to sit down with his coaching staff, gather video from them and even speak with Carter himself and quickly learned that he’s got some special qualities. He won’t be too well known and it will be fun to see who takes him but based on my several viewings, he has the makings of a excellent player. An outstanding skater who's backed by a quick, light skating stride that reaches top speed in just a few thrusts, Tresoor shines bright in every zone and every situation. He's a fantastic faceoff player and shows an ability to dissect defences on the rush with next-level passing abilities. He's ranked aggressively in the second round for us but we feel a team can really cash in on our sleeper pick if they've done their homework. As Tresoor continues to gain confidence and add size/strength, his hockey smarts and coachable attitude could carry him to a special level.

Owen Belisle, LW, Thunder Bay Kings (HNO)
A rising prospect who finished the season on a high note after an impressive OHL Cup showing, Owen Belisle looks to follow in his brother Brad’s footsteps as an OHL draftee. Unlike his brother, it appears Belisle is aimed at plying his trade in the Ontario League (his brother chose the NCAA route). He’s a competitive winger who can play all three forward positions and really leaves his mark off the rush, where he unleashes an impressive shot. His size and strength allows him to impact the cycle game and his straight-lined game affords him lots of scoring opportunities as he drives the net.

Christian Cicigoi, G, Thunder Bay Kings (HNO)
Named the HNO Player of the Year, Kings’ netminder Christian Cicigoi is a puckstopper who caught my eye in every viewing this season. His athletic ability is off-the-charts and allows him to compete in an exciting style. He can get a little aggressive at times but his ability to just flat-out stop pucks puts him into the top echelon of netminders, in my opinion. He shows excellent mental focus and rebounds perfectly from the odd mistakes he makes. Given his competitiveness, athleticism and track record, I’d certainly have Cicigoi high on my draft list.

Keighan Gerrie, C, Thunder Bay Kings (HNO)
Leading the Thunder Bay squad in scoring, Gerrie is arguably their top ‘skill’ player. He’s sneaky in his attacks and is aided by quick, creative puck control. He’s not a flashy attacker but has a good sense of timing in his challenges, and threatens as both a playmaker and shooter.

Camaryn Baber, C, Soo Greyhounds Midget (GNML)
The top 2001 scorer in the GNML loop, Camaryn Baber actually finished second (to top prospect Jack Hughes) among all tacked draft eligibles in points-per-game (1.94) with an impressive 32 goals and 60 points in 32 games. He’s an unique player who has a knack for capitalizing on his opportunities, which come from his persistent ability to push the pace. He’s not the quickest or finessed yet he finds ways to get on the other side of defenders and makes them pay.

Payton Vescio, D, North Bay Trappers Midget (GNML)
Out of the GNML region, Payton Vescio should be the top defenseman drafted. He’s a smooth skating intelligent defender who thinks the game quickly and makes strong reads. Projects safely to play at the next level thanks to his hockey smarts and easy-flowing mobile game. It will be interesting to see how his development goes because he has the ability to become a top pairing defender and if not, a damn good second unit stalwart.

Ryan Mills, C, North Bay Trappers Midget (GNML)
Mills is one of those players who impresses through his body of work and consistency. He’s a stocky, smaller forward capable of playing across the front lines and his smarts shines through as a go-to penalty killer. I’ve liked his ability to keep the pace high as he presses up ice with his feet constantly driving. He executes under pressure and shows creative touches, making me think he could be a good third line complementary type of forward.

Cole Craft, RW, North Bay Trappers Midget (GNML)
In terms of GNML forwards with appealing long-term potential, it’s Cole Craft who really peaks my interest. He’s been a productive and extremely valuable winger for the Trappers as he competes shift in and shift out. He’s a lanky attacker who comes off a bit erratic at times but his youthful enthusiasm radiates throughout the lineup and, truthfully, his intentions are always smart ones. He’s shown to be a force at creating turnovers and offensively, he does show some ‘Crafty’ mitts. There’s some long-term upside that has me thinking he’d be a shrewd 5th or 6th round pick. 

Joel Rainville, G, North Bay Trappers (GNML)
The top goalender from the Greater North Midget League, Rainville was featured on the big stage a lot this season. A competitive, average-sized goaltender who fills the net with his strong lateral coverage. While he doesn’t score as the most athletic or skilled puckstopper, his determination in stopping pucks earns him good success. As he continues to improve his rebound control and skating quickness, his effectiveness will also see significant improvements.

Joe Mazur, C, Sudbury Minor Midget Wolves (GNML)
A late December birthday adds to Mazur’s intriguing package. He’s a burly centerman who has slotted on the wing when he competed with Team NOHA in showcase events this season. His hard-nosed attacks will surely draw interest from teams looking to add some ruggedness to their lineup. Mazur’s style blends power and strength well yet he has exhibited nice finishing touch close to the net. He’s a player who offers up a lot of versatility and shows good development remaining in his game.

Carson McMillan, RW, Sudbury Minor Midget Wolves (GNML)
In a similar mold as Ryan Mills, McMillan comes in as an underheralded attacker who has caught my eye through his consistent play. Relying on smart hockey instincts and the ability to process the game quickly, McMillan is a strong possession player and one who can carry the play on the rush or slow it down as he lets plays develop. He’s the type of player who coaches will lean on because you know exactly what you’re getting each time he takes the ice. Come draft day, he will be a player to watch in the latter rounds and if he does happen to go undrafted, he’s a player I feel teams will eventually circle back on later.

Hayden Fowler, C, Greater Kingston Frontenacs (ETA)
There are players who take dozens of viewings before getting a good read on them and then there’s Hayden Fowler. It took one shift to immediately like what this competitive and dynamic pivot offered. Blessed with a fantastic motor and next-level instincts, Fowler shows the hunger you want in a top six pivot as he fights through contact (in a below-average frame) with fantastic success and then unleashes his outstanding snap shot. It’ll be interesting to see where Fowler ends up being drafted but I feel, he’ll eventually show his worth as a first round talent if he doesn’t’ actually land in that range.

Tye Kartye, C, Greater Kingston Frontenacs (ETA)
Let’s dub him a ‘sleeper’ and a worthy mention in this article because Kingston’s Tye Kartye often gets lost in a fantastic ETA draft class. Blending enthusiasm, puck hunger and two-way smarts, Kartye is a player that projects easily because of his versatility. He lacks ideal size (5-foot-8) but plays the game much bigger, showing a punch for attacking through traffic and battling below the dots as well. While Kartye might not tear up scoring charts at the next level, his near point-per-game pace (41 points in 43 games) this season shows that production will follow him thanks to his shrewd instincts and vision.

Michael Andrews, LW, Quinte Red Devils (ETA)
Competing on a deep Red Devils team, Andrews jumped off the page as a personal favourite of mine early in the season. His first step quickness could certainly be improved but it doesn’t hold him back too much. Andrews is one of those players who ‘feels the game’ better than his peers. He manages pace and possession as good as any top tier player and his knack for threading passes near the crease has resulted in some easy tap-ins for his linemates. It’s not a surprise that Andrews finished among the top scorers in the province and if a team is looking to add a player with touch and smarts, Andrews would be a great addition in the opening five rounds.

Ian Martin, RW, Ajax-Pickering Raiders (ETA)
Certainly one of my favourite players this season, Ian Martin just kept climbing and climbing our draft list. He’s a strong and powerful winger with the silky hands and offensive creativity of a playmaker. On top of those already impressive tools, Martin also packs one of the best shots in the age group and can threaten from all areas of the ice. He truly is one of the most rounded players in this draft and a player who’ll begin to dominate as his skating takes another step forward.

Emmet Pierce, RW, Quinte Red Devils (ETA)
Even without his surprising numbers (66 points in 42 games), Emmet Pierce would be high on our list based on his combination of size (6-foot-5) and skill. For a tall, lanky winger, Pierce is an impressive skater who covers ice with a cool, smooth skating stride. His upside is as appealing as any player in this draft because his playmaking abilities and skilled offensive reads ranking in next-level quality. If Pierce learns to play with some edge to round out his game, NHL teams will be rushing rinks to view him in a few years.

Emmett Sproule, RW/L, Grey Bruce Highlanders
Sproule is an interesting player because he immediately jumped out to me last season in my Bantam viewings. This year, he continued to show effectiveness in the opening months but it wasn’t until the calendar flipped to 2017 that Sproule really elevated his play. It sent teams into immediate excitement after he turned in an absolutely fantastic performance at the SCTA Qualifiers. He is a player whose skill will only continue to surface and gain appreciation as he plays with more skilled linemates. Sproule is a great skater with elusive lateral maneuvers and his ability to dominate possession are a result of his slick puck placement attacks and timely cuts through traffic. There’s no stats to back this but he has to be among the best players at forcing turnovers in the 2001 age group. Sproule’s rise has been so damn impressive that I’d consider him a potential 1st round candidate.

Carson Eden, LW, Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs
There’s two ways a team can approach Caron Eden – one, you sit back and hope he falls into the second half of the draft or, two, you step up and take a risk on him in the Top 100 picks. Eden is a hungry offensive attacker who skates very well, gathering speed through sharp edges and aggressive c-cuts. His approach can be somewhat erratic and even uncoordinated at times but he has a knack for getting on top of pucks, engaging physically and forcing defenders into poor decisions. He shows bouts of good skill as an on-the-rush attacker where he can use his stringy wingspan to hold pucks out wide before swiftly pulling them inwards as he drives the net. He’s a player who shows a lot of growth left in his game and if he can tap into that he could be a real star.

Lucas Peric, LD, Halton Hills Hurricanes
A potential 1st round selection, Lucas Peric led his offensively-starved Hurricanes in scoring…as a defenseman. He’s a top notch skater who attacks with grace and pace, allowing him to meander through gaps in coverage to gain the zone with ease. He is still somewhat raw as a puck mover and has room to grow in terms of polish in his passing. With that said, Peric’s upside is quite impressive and that’ll ensure he lands to a team in the opening few rounds. He plays the game with passion and is always looking for ways to involve himself, staying close to the puck in all three zones. As he develops his game, he has the ability to become one of the age group’s best blue-liners.

Matthew Dunsmoor, G, Guelph Jr. Gryphons
The tendency for teams to go after large goaltenders is no secret but sometimes you have to take a step back and truly appreciate goaltenders who find a way to stop the puck regardless of size. Meet Guelph’s Matthew Dunsmoor. After competing with Vaughan in Bantam, Dunsmoor starred on the 2016-17 Gryphon’s squad. An ultra competitive goaltender who combines elite athleticism and the swagger you want in a starting goaltender. He flashes quick reflexes in both his trapper and blocker, steering away pucks into safe areas very well. His strong skating base allows him to dart laterally quickly and regain his feet with impressive speeds. Teams might be shy to take a 5-foot-8, 205-pound netminder too early but I think whoever shows the stones to do so will be rewarded.

Trevor Zegras, C, Avon Old Farms (USA)
A near lock for the USA NTDP team (that’ll be announced soon), Trevor Zegras is a high skilled attacker who can bring fans out of their seats. Using elusive skating moves and instant quickness in his acceleration, he’s a player who can create space and lead the offensive attack. He’s committed to Boston University so his OHL draft stock will fall significantly but he’d be an instant top 10 selection if he choose the Ontario route.

Dylan Wendt, RW, Detroit Belle Tire 16U (USA)
One of my favourite American skaters in the 2001 age group, Dylan Wendt has improved each and every viewing I obtained this season and is among one of the smartest in the draft altogether. He’s an average sized attacker who uses sharp offensive instincts to process plays two-or-three steps ahead of the competition which allows him to exploit areas under tight timing. He operates with impressive confidence and is a player who elevates his teammates’ play through intelligent puck moving and his ability to create lanes. Wendt is an uncommitted player (at this point in time) and would be a lock for a Top 30 selection if I were picking a team.

Yegor Afanasyev, LW, Detroit Little Caesars 16U (USA)
With so many committed players south of the border, I’m glad to see our US scout Matt Grainda
touch on Arthur Kayilev, a player I’ve been a huge fan of and appears to be destined to come to the OHL but I also want to highlight Yegor Afanasyev. Playing for a good Little Caesars program, Afanasyev looks like he’ll also welcome OHL suitors and his intense north-south attacking style. His hunger for generating shooting chances is extremely consistent and he’s done well to really use his skating and physical strength to plough pucks into scoring areas. He won’t be mistaken for a ‘possession style’ of player but he does show good skill in executing passes and smarts in supporting the puck. He just won’t be the ideal candidate to slow the game down as ‘his thing’ is driving the net hard and pushing the pace.

Ryan Siedem, RD, Avon Old Farms (USA) 
It was tough to gather views of Ryan Siedem (and above-mentioned teammate Trevor Zegras) but he’s a player who immediately jumps out as a next level budding star defender. For those familiar with the 2000 age group, Ryan Siedem reminds me so much of Sudbury’s Owen Lalonde, who was taken 2nd overall In the 2016 OHL Priority Selection. He displays such poise and conviction throughout his game and his skating is something to marvel. With such impressive edge control and a long, smooth stride, Siedem finds open routes and quickly bursts into them. He has yet to develop his offensive punch yet but he owns all of the tools to produce at the next level. The Boston College commit is a long-shot OHLer but he’s a player people will want to familiarize themselves with as one of America’s top defenders.

Alex Vlasic, LD, Chicago Mission 16U (USA)
There have been times this season where Alex Vlasic’s game showed a lot of rawness to it, notably in the beginning months. With that said, Vlasic looked like the top prospect in the draft at his recent USA NTDP Evaluation Camp, a program he’ll surely be spending time at as a lock for the team. He’s a towering pillar who has shown more offensive flare in his recent game, hitting teammates with outstanding seem passes up the gut. He’s an astute defensive defender who smartly uses his length to shut down gaps and eliminate rushes before they gather too much steam. As a Boston University commit, he’ll fall in the draft but he’s a top 10 selection based on talent and that’ll see him drafted in the middle rounds.

Marcus Gretz, LD, Detroit Belle Tire U16 (USA)
It’s been a pleasure following a deep and talented Belle Tire team this season and stalwart defender Marcus Gretz is one of the major reasons. Like many of these Americans, he is committed to the NCAA route with Ohio State University but my gut thinks that he’d be willing to reconsider his plans if the right team calls his name. He plays a style conducive to the CHL as he flashes great strength, smart puck movement and can be a little bit nasty at times. His footwork has room for some improvements but other than that minor flaw, he’s the perfect minute munching defender who can play in all situations.

Cameron Rowe, G, Team Illinois U16 (USA)
Illinois’ goaltender Cameron Rowe climbed the ranks of the American goaltending crop and likely has played his way into a NTDP spot, much to the demise of OHL teams. He’s a legit pro-style of goaltender who owns good size, coveted technical skill and consistently establishes a presence in the paint where he looks like he’ll stop every puck thrown his way. I’m a huge fan of his current skill and long-range projection and if he somehow, doesn’t get named to the NTDP program, he’ll be highly sought after in the OHL market.

Nick Wong, C, Mississauga Senators (GTHL)
In all my passings with OHL personnel, Nick Wong is a player who I always seem to get asked my opinion on. For me, he’s a player I’ve been extremely high on (higher than most) most of the season and I think he should be a lock for the 1st round, despite others who question his skating. While his feet aren’t overly explosive or dynamic, Wong manages speed well and he rarely gets pinched into a bad situation. His best asset are his magician-like hands – a true sight to marvel. Ranking against his top tier peers, Wong is arguably the most gifted puckhandler and that stems from outstanding misdirection maneuvers. His ability to create in tight spaces and execute when defenders think they have him trapped is mesmerizing. He’s the one player I’m most intrigued to see where he gets picked in the draft and a prospect I will be following closely, because his skill is fun to watch.

Jack Hughes, C, Toronto Marlboros (GTHL)
It’d be a mistake not to give Jack Hughes some love in this article for OHL Prospects Blog and since we’ve covered this outstanding talent a lot this season, I promise to give you the Coles notes. Hughes is an American player who’s been developing his elite level skills in the GTA region (with the Rebels and Marlboros, respectively) since a young age. He’s hands-down the best prospect in the 2001 OHL Draft class and seems to be all the talk heading into the draft next weekend. Why? Well, Hughes has yet to decide on his preferred development route and has options south of the border with the NTDP. It places Barrie in a very difficult spot as they’ll need to decide on whether to take him 1st overall (without a commitment to come) or to step down a tier and grab a sure-fire player to report (albeit, a very good player as well). He’s a dynamic attacker who saved some of his best play down the stretch showcasing that he can ‘break ankles’ on the rush with his elite skating and dazzling puck skills. Selfishly, we’re all hoping he chooses the OHL route.

Kosta Manikis, C, Vaughan Kings (GTHL)
Easily the most underrated player in the draft, Kosta Manikis has been a player that’s needed little convincing on this season. An average skater with an unique stride, Manikis often gets knocked for his ‘look’ yet he shows us consistently that he’s a brilliant two-way player. The Kings’ pivot is one of the best faceoff players in the draft and blends his smart instincts to leave his impact in all three zones. He’s deceptively good as a possession player, finding creative targets with his vision and executes with precision using easy-to-receive deliveries. Manikis is a tough player to describe in words and it never does his game justice. With that said, his combination of skill, smarts, competitiveness and elements of grittiness creates an extremely valuable player.

Lucas Rowe, C, Mississauga Reps (GTHL)
Conversations in the rink about Lucas Rowe typically leave OHL scouts hemming and hawing about him, neglecting to show their true feelings. Sometimes it’s a smoke scree but others seem to have concerns about his 1st round projectability. For myself and our team, Lucas Rowe has consistently landed in our opening round and it’s for good reason. His on-the-rush attacks have been dangerous all season and while some argue that he uses his north-south style too much, we don’t have an issue with him slowing the game down either. He’s a player who shoots to score and has done a good job (with Jamieson Rees) as one of the Reps top two centerman. He battled through some injuries down the stretch and even played through a crippling lower body injury (remaining competitive at an elite level despite the pain) in the Reps’ OHL Cup Championship winning game. Add bonus points for that perseverance.

Billy Constantinou, D, Toronto Marlboros (GTHL)
Depending on which  game you catch of Constantinou, he can look like a first round lock at times or a mid-round selection with serious defensive flaws during other times. The honest projection likely lies somewhere in between but there’s no denying that he’s probably the most offensively gifted blueliner at this age level. Actually, it’s been thrown out there that he actually might be worth trying at the forward position. He’s blessed with creative, strong puck handling ability and good first step explosiveness, which allows him to attack quickly off the offensive blueline and strike. He can often make plays more difficult by forcing passes and skating himself into trouble but we did like his play throughout the final few months, where he was letting the game come to him more. One of several players who I am eager to see where exactly he gets drafted to. His upside and skill set is tantalizing at times…and frustrating at other times.

Ryan Dugas, G, Mississuaga Reps (GTHL)
One of four goaltenders who I’ve come to really, really like this season, Ryan Dugas capped off a great season by defending the cage for the OHL Cup Champs. Gifted athletically and dialed in on every challenge, Dugas’ has the ‘look’ of a next-level star. He gets faulted to playing deep in his crease at times yet always snatches up pucks with ease. As he works out minuscule hitches, Dugas has the ability to become one of Canada’s top goaltenders and I truly feel he’ll be looked at for international competitions moving forward.

Grayson Ladd, RD, Chatham-Kent Cyclones (ALLIANCE)
Similar to Nick Wong above, Grayson Ladd is the one defenseman I’ve received dozens of questions on. It’s all about upside with Chatham’s Grayson Ladd as he owns arguably the best tools of any defender in the draft. He navigates the ice so effortlessly as his long, controlled stride covers ice quickly in one powerful thrust. He’s a player who is still finding himself as a player and as he starts to settle into that role, he has the potential to impact the game as an offensive puck mover and/or a strong defensive rearguard as well. For us, it’s exciting to see how he turns out. Ladd has played on a team that lacks skill at times which has been tough for him to get a lot of pucks back to display his gifts. He’s actually performed better as a call-up in Jr. B action and that bodes well against bigger, quicker competition. He’s the draft’s top wildcard and could get selected anywhere from the 1st round to the 4th round.

Liam Van Loon, C, London Jr. Knights (ALLIANCE)
Occasionally, we come across a player who consistently plays above his skill level and can overtake a game through sheer work ethic and determination. Liam Van Loon is that exact player and because of his impact, he's a safe player to select at any position outside of the opening round. Van Loon displays the work ethic and energy that can spark an entire team and really set the tone for a game. Few players can set the offensive pace like Van Loon and despite lacking high end skill, he's extremely productive through shear determination. He lacks ideal size but is a fierce forechecker who will challenge all defenders, and usually comes out of the corner with the puck on his stick. He's shown to be a tremendous special teams player who gets right on top of the puck, forcing turnovers and quickly transitioning pucks into his skilled teammates' hands. Van Loon has that 'farm boy' workmanship and he has been arguably the most valuable role player on one of the best London Jr. Knights minor midget teams in the history of the program. Don't sleep on his shooting ability as he wastes no time with his quick trigger release and has shown to produce high velocity, high accuracy off his snap shot. Van Loon is a gamer.

Brayden Krieger, C, Waterloo Wolves (ALLIANCE)
An off the rush attacker who reads and adjusts on the fly extremely well. Krieger draws defenders towards him showing patience and control in possession then uses his excellent hockey sense and instincts to spot arriving teammates in prime scoring. The type of player who elevates his teammates with his passing ability but he will need to add serious strength to handle larger defenders at the next level. His current size holds him back from sustaining attacks for long periods yet he shows all the skill to really carry an offence. I am higher on Krieger than the majority of OHL scouts it seems but his hunger to create, situational awareness and ability to get pucks into scoring areas (despite a scrawny frame) are impressive accomplishments. Adding another gear to his shooting velocity will help him convert quicker around the net. Given Krieger's natural skill and desire to compete, we feel he will be a strong top-six OHLer if given the opportunity to play that role.

Aidan Pitre, G, Sun County Panthers (ALLIANCE)
Potentially the top goaltender selected from the Alliance (he’s got company in Jet Greaves, in my opinion), Pitre offers up all the tools that teams seek in starting netminders. He’s an extremely technical blocking style of goaltender who relies on strong positioning to take away options. He’s very controlled in his movements laterally which has been important as he’s faced a ton of rubber and has needed to conserve energy. He appeared fatigued down the stretch but always showed up to play. I do have some concerns about his natural athleticism and recovery quickness, as he can get exposed on second and third chance opportunities from time to time. Pitre has a knack for consistently stopping initial shots with such a mature confidence and should end up a top 10 goaltender (possibly even as high as #1) in the 2017 draft class.
 

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