Detroit is another team who seems to really love drafting from the OHL. A ton of content here.
1. Filip Hronek - Saginaw Spirit
Fantastic rookie season for this one and done in the OHL. From first puck drop, Hronek established himself as one of the league's best offensive blueliners. The adjustment period was very minimal. As an offensive defender, Hronek has little to no flaws. Makes very good decisions with the puck in his own end and picks his spots well on when to lead the rush or make a safe pass. But he's also exceptionally aggressive in jumping up in the play, using his strong skating ability to be the third man in. Really like his vision overall, both 5 on 5 and as a PP QB. Also really like how he gets his point shot through to the net. Has a very accurate wrister and does a great job of using his skating ability to open up shooting lanes. Defensively, I thought he got better and better as the season went on. Was actually surprised with his physical intensity in the defensive end. Makes very solid reads in coverage and is a solid stick defender off the rush. It'll be interesting to watch him develop at the pro level, as he learns how and when to be aggressive against quicker and larger players. He'll start that pro journey next year at the AHL level, but I don't think he'll take long at that level. If he plays the whole year there, I can see him putting up 40+ points, just as Vince Dunn (an equivalent player and prospect IMO) did this past year.
2. Givani Smith - Guelph Storm
Quite frankly, I don't think it was a great year for Smith's development. On the good side (let's start there), I thought his skating looked better this year. Seems to have worked hard to improve his first few steps. And he's still a physical monster who can dominate the cycle game and wall pretty much whenever he chooses. But, his game is still largely the same as it was in his draft year. Bad penalties still plague his game. His physicality is a major asset. But he needs to learn how to walk that line so he's not putting his team at a disadvantage (especially since it seems like his penalties occur far too often in the offensive zone). Also still want to see him be more assertive with the puck. He has skill and he has good hands, better than his stats would indicate. But at what point do we question the goal scoring sense? Will his ability to carry the puck improve? All of that said, I'm still a big fan of this power forward. Players who play the game like Smith often take longer to develop than others because there are a lot of elements to their game and finding a way to balance them often comes with experience and confidence. Guelph should take a small step forward as a team this year and Smith will be at the fore front. I really think he ends up with 35+ goals and is a point per game player for the first time.
3. Vili Saarijarvi - Mississauga Steelheads
His season got off to a late start after offseason wrist surgery. Upon returning though, he didn't miss a beat. His skating ability is absolutely fantastic and there's a reason why Mississauga struggled without him in the lineup. They had a tough time getting the puck out of their end with him absent. When he came back, he really opened up the game for their offense because of his ability to transition up ice; Saarijarvi is a dynamic puck rusher. Defensively, I think his game did make strides this year, in particular his reads and ability to use his stick to disrupt passing lanes. Much more aware this year, less deer in the headlights. That said, I do think that his defensive game is going to continue to need work at the pro level next year. He still loses too many battles in the corners and in front of the net. He needs to do a better job of trying up his man near the crease and can be pushed around a bit. With stronger players in the AHL, he's going to have a tough adjustment. Lots of offensive potential though. I'd expect him to be at least a 30+ point player at the AHL level next year, even if they shelter his usage and minutes to get him acclimatized.
4. Zach Gallant - Peterborough Petes
Solid draft pick by the Wing this year. Really like the way Gallant plays the game. Also really like the progression he showed as a player this year. He struggled pretty mightily as a rookie in 2015/16, after being a high OHL draft pick. But he came back this year and really established himself as a great OHL player and cornerstone for the Petes. Gallant is already one of the toughest players to go up against in the OHL. He's one of the best body checkers in the league and is a terrific two-way player who's consistently one of the first forwards back into the d-zone and consistently wins one on one battles. He's also a great face-off man. Offensively, Gallant keeps things pretty simple. Drives the net hard. Works the cycle. Good hands in close. As he progresses in the league, it will be interesting to see his offensive game develop more. In particular, would like to see him get a bit quicker and improve his ability to handle the puck in transition. Peterborough will be one of the league's better teams this year and Gallant will once again be a key player for them. I could see him being a point per game player, or close to it.
5. Jordan Sambrook - Erie Otters
Sambrook responded very well to the increased responsibility he received from the Otters coaching staff this year. He played a top four role for the OHL Champions and was a solid contributor at both ends. Makes a lot of smart, simple plays in the offensive and defensive end. At the same time, he was a lot more aggressive in looking to jump up in the rush for scoring chances. He possesses a really solid point shot and does a great job finding holes back door for scoring chances. His 15 goals this year were no fluke. Defensively, he's a solid positional defender who will also throw his weight around and win battles in the corners. Moving forward it will be about improving his foot speed. I know that was something he came into the year looking to improve and I'd say that it's still a weakness. Next year, Sambrook returns to Erie where he'll be penciled in on the team's top pairing. He'll get first unit powerplay responsibility and a ton of ice time. I also see him as an eventual trade target as the Otters rebuild and look to recoup draft picks. My guess is he ends up around the 45-50 point mark.
6. Reilly Webb - Hamilton Bulldogs
Really savvy pick up by Wings brass. Webb is a highly touted young OHL player who has missed the vast majority of the last two seasons due to shoulder and ankle (laceration) injuries. The Wings are going to have to be very patient with Webb, but this is a big defender who is very mobile and possesses a lot of potential as a defensive stalwart. Just how much his offensive game can develop remains to be seen. Ditto for his ability to play a physical game and utilize his size. But big defenders with mobility don't grow on trees. Webb returns to Hamilton this year where he'll look to stay healthy, first and foremost. Otherwise he'll be part of a veteran d-corp, but the organization is high on him so he'll see a lot of ice time, likely especially shorthanded. In his first full year, I wouldn't expect a ton offensively, but if his defensive game can really grow, that's a start.
7. Brady Gilmour - Saginaw Spirit
Not the best draft year for Gilmour as he battled consistency and a juggling of younger linemates. The rebuilding Spirit weren't the easiest team to be on for your draft year and I'm actually a little shocked Gilmour got drafted. He's not a big kid, but he battles hard. Has potential to develop into a solid two-way playmaking center. In particular, his puck control can dazzle at times and he's certainly not shy about taking the puck to the net. That said, he needs to get quicker, especially as a smaller forward. If he can add that extra gear, it will make him more effective away from the puck and should improve his offensive consistency. He'll return to a Saginaw team which is in a bit of a cross roads; in between a rebuild and trying to make the playoffs. I suspect he'll have a pretty decent season and I could see him cracking the 55-60 point mark.
8. Cole Fraser - Peterborough Petes
Fraser is a real throwback player to the days of old. Not too many guys left in the OHL who really enjoy dropping the mitts regularly, but Fraser is one. He plays the game hard and loves to lay a big hit or stick up for a teammate. He saw time at both forward and defense this year, but defense is his natural position. Actually think he possesses some offensive potential back there. Makes the odd play with the puck, especially on the point, that makes you say..."hmm." Has a big point shot too. Puck skill and decision making will need to improve. Ditto for mobility. But he's an interesting draft selection. He'll return to Peterborough, who have aspirations of being one of the East's best yet again. And he'll get regular ice time on defense. He should be a part of the team's 3rd pairing, but could even be a solid #4 for them with a lot of PK time. Could see him hitting the 25 point mark as a defender only.