Brendan Ross gives his preseason OHL Player ranking for the 2014 NHL Draft.
Monday, August 19, 2013
As the 2013-14 Ontario Hockey League season approaches, prospects eligible for the 2014 NHL Entry Draft are already anxiously preparing for their most important hockey season of their lives. The draft class from Ontario is already projected as one of the strongest group of talents in recent years and features the likes of defenseman Aaron Ekblad, recipient of Hockey Canada’s exceptional status as well as established OHL forwards Jared McCann, Blake Clarke, Nick Ritchie and Michael Dal Colle.
Early indications have several teams boasting a number of top prospects including the Kingston Frontenacs (Roland McKeown, Sam Bennett, Spencer Watson), Sarnia Sting (Nikolay Goldobin, Anthony DeAngelo, Brett Hargrave), and North Bay Battalion (Blake Clarke, Brandon Robinson, Mike Amadio). The puck will drop on the season shortly and competition will showcase future talents on both sides of the US-Canada borders stemming from the shores of the beautiful Great Lakes region. In the world of scouting, there are few guarantees and the following list will unquestionably fluctuate as players step up and exceed expectations, while others struggle to take the next step in development. It is important to note that the differences between each of these respective players on the following ranking are relatively miniscule and serve as only a guideline to start the season.
Player list is not extensive and does not include potential commits (Kevin Labanc,
Connor Chatham, Alex Lintuniemi, Alexander Protapovich, Adrien Kempe, among others) or re-entry players.
1. Aaron Ekblad, D (Barrie Colts)
Granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada in 2011, Ekblad has had eyes glued to him as a 2014 top prospect for years now. The big blueliner has been rock solid defensively for the Barrie Colts and during his international showings. Ekblad has really rounded the corner in his offensive game showing that his first pass and point shot are capable of producing points at the next level.
2. Jared McCann, F (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds)
An extremely intelligent hockey player, McCann’s vision and ability to break down the play are elite which explains his successes at both offensive and defensive elements of the game. Look for McCann’s hard accurate shot to continue to get him looks as a potential top 10 selection.
3. Blake Clarke, F (North Bay Battalion)
The American born 2012 1st round selection of the Battalion, Blake Clarke, had a fantastic rookie campaign posting 19 goals and 51 points finishing second in team scoring. Clarke boasts a strong physical game with great puck possession skills and his shot features potent elements of accuracy and quickness.
4. Roland McKeown, D (Kingston Frontenacs)
Despite being ranked as a potential top 10 selection, McKeown enters his draft season somewhat undervalued. The Frontenacs’ 2nd overall pick at the 2012 OHL Priority Selection draft is a beautiful skater with striking four-way mobility. As good a skater McKeown is, his overall hockey intelligence is even more impressive. His flawless skating ability allows him to rush the puck up the ice with ease but he also operates the powerplay with veteran-like proficiency. Roland McKeown is my early favourite to move up the draft boards as he leads a young talented Fronts squad.
5. Nick Ritchie, F (Peterborough Petes)
Like brother of Dallas Stars’ prospect, Brett, Nick Ritchie is a big power forward who enters his draft year with a good pedigree (drafted 2nd overall). Unfortunately, Nick has battled countless injuries to start his young career (also happened to his brother) but there’s no doubt that his ability to play a complete game will be highly sought after. Ritchie is an intelligent two-way player who is an excellent skilled playmaker but his size and aggressiveness allows him to provide a physical presence as well.
6. Michael Dal Colle, F (Oshawa Generals)
Size and skill are two coveted attributes for hockey prospects and Dal Colle owns both. He is coming off a productive rookie season with the Generals and was successful at showcasing his ability to contribute both offensively and defensively. Despite playing on a veteran team last season, Dal Colle earned his ice time and displayed that his net front presence and advanced puck possession skills were valuable assets to the team. With several potential graduates, Dal Colle will have the opportunity to lead the offence in Oshawa and potentially transition back to playing his natural centre position, where he may find to be more comfortable.
7. Ryan MacInnis, F (Kitchener Rangers)
Dubbed a top-10 prospect coming into the 2012 OHL Draft, former NHLer Al MacInnis’ son, Ryan, wasn’t snatched up until the third round because of commitment concerns. The Kitchener Rangers are now reaping the benefits from drafting him after the young forward committed to the OHL last week. MacInnis is a big powerful projectable forward with loads of potential. He will challenge his draft mates as one of the best shooters in this class and the additional physical element he adds will assure that he remains a top selection.
8. Sam Bennett, F (Kingston Frontenacs)
One of several highly talented Frontenacs prospects in this draft class, Sam Bennett is a skilled tenacious forward who happens to be one of the OHL’s best skaters as well. His stride features elite acceleration and agility making him a difficult forward to contain on the offensive attack. Bennett’s puck skills and shooting arsenal are also very dangerous, adding another element of game-breaking ability to his offensive skillset.
9. Nikolay Goldobin, F (Sarnia Sting)
The Sarnia Sting continue to strike gold with their import picks and the latest treasure comes via Igor Larionov’s client Nikolay Goldobin, who led all OHL rookies in goals (30) and points (68) despite losing to Connor McDavid (25-41-66) for Rookie of the Year honours. Goldobin’s puck skills, vision, creativity and playmaking abilities are arguably the best in the ’14 draft class as he can make opponents look downright silly. Goldobin owns tremendous offensive skills but he’s an undersized forward and will need to improve his wavering compete level and defensive commitments to be remain a top-10 prospect.
10. Spencer Watson, F (Kingston Frontenacs)
Coming off a tremendous 2013 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament where he led the tournament in scoring, Spencer Watson exhibited a true goal-scorers’ instinct and ability to raise his game to star levels during big game moments. Among the OHL draft class, Watson packs as much scoring punch into his smaller frame as any other player and he will be relied upon heavily by Kingston this season.
11. Josh Ho-Sang, F (Windsor Spitfires)
Entering the 2012 OHL Priority Selection Draft, Joshua Ho-Sang was deemed the top skilled player of the draft class but fell to the Windsor Spitfires at the number five slot for a number of different reasons. He owns top-end individual puck skills, superb skating ability and can generate offence like few players can. The issue with Ho-Sang is his tendency to be too much of an individual at times as he looks off teammates and can be selfish at time. Ho-Sang is dynamic in possession of the puck but away from the biscuit he is a frustrating player to watch as he chooses not to engage. With improvements in team play and defensive commitment, Ho-Sang has the chance to surge up the draft charts like no other player can.
12. Anthony DeAngelo, D (Sarnia Sting)
After finishing his sophomore season third in defensive OHL scoring with nine goals and 58 points as a 17-year-old (trailing only NHL-drafted prospects Ryan Sproul and Cody Ceci), one would think Anthony DeAngelo should be ranked much higher on this list. However, despite possessing rare offensive skills, DeAngelo has elements of his game that need developing to be considered a top-10 selection. DeAngelo is a hungry and aggressive undersized offensive defenseman who salivates when the puck is on his stick and his confidence in possession is off-the-charts as he dangles up the ice. Unfortunately, the toe-drags and high risk maneuvers occur too often and in ill-advised areas of the ice, leading to costly turnovers and offensive chances for the opposition. He will need to pick his spots better and manage his hot-tempered personality, all while improving his defensive game, in order to hold onto a first round ranking. DeAngelo will be counted on as a leader in Sarnia and the offense runs through him so opportunity is plenty for one of the OHL's most exciting defensemen.
13. Matthew Mistele, F (Plymouth Whalers)
Mistele is your prototypical power forward and if draft history dictates anything, it’s that NHL teams yearn for these types of players. The former Whitby Wildcat is a hungry competitor who loves the puck pursuit and uses physicality and strong positioning to win battles. Mistele’s north-south style of hockey is effective in the tough areas of the rink (corners/net) but to take his game to the next level, he will need to continue to develop his one-on-one abilities. Mistele’s complete game and great touch around the net makes him a potential first round prospect.
14. Jacob Middleton, D (Ottawa 67’s)
Fresh off a 8th overall selection at the 2012 OHL Draft, Jacob Middleton entered his freshman year with the Owen Sound Attack but soon experienced some trials and tribulations after being injured early in the season. Eventually, the big defenseman from Stratford was traded to Ottawa where he could start new. Middleton is your typical complete two-way defenseman who can defend and create offence equally well, relying heavily on his strong hockey sense. He leads the rush well showing good reads and crisp outlet passes but is also a valuable commodity on the powerplay where his strong point shot and ability to walk the line really stand out.
15. Aaron Haydon, D (Niagara IceDogs)
Aaron Haydon is a big, rugged, hard hitting defenseman draft followers should familiarize themselves with as he has the potential to really climb the draft boards given his combination of rare skills and attributes. The IceDogs’ defenseman owns exceptional defending skills that feature great gap control, strong stick positioning and the intimidating physicality that keeps attackers honest. Haydon will really improve his draft stock if he can show scouts that his offensive instincts are as promising as his defensive skills, and I think his offensive game will take steps in the necessary direction.
16. Brendan Perlini, F (Niagara IceDogs)
Few players will have the opportunity to shine in their draft year as Perlini will, after the Niagara Ice Dogs graduated some key offensive weapons to higher levels (Ryan Strome, Brett Ritchie and Steven Shipley). Perlini will become one of the IceDogs’ go-to offensive players and with his size, skating ability and impressive puck skills, the ingredients are certainly all present. Physically strong and intelligent with the puck, Perlini can dominate down low and when he’s given the opportunity to unleash his accurate hard shot, he does so with proficiency.
17. Brandon Robinson, F (North Bay Battalion)
With two OHL seasons under his belt, the 6-foot-3 Brandon Robinson is one of the more experienced players from the Ontario League. In several viewings of him last season, I walked away very impressed with his ability to dominate using his size, soft touch and lethal shot; however, in other games, he was virtually invisible. Inconsistency is common with power forward style of players so his draft season will become very important to show that he can pull his game all together to become a constant offensive threat.
18. Robby Fabbri, F (Guelph Storm)
Fabbri is a dynamic forward to watch and really excites the crowd with his crafty puck skills and elusive quick skating skills. Despite being undersized, Fabbri possesses the hunger, aggressiveness and elusiveness to thrive as a smaller offensive player. His vision and playmaking creativity are elite offensive qualities and he uses them effectively to create scoring chances. Look for Fabbri’s overall compete level, work ethic and offensive wizardry to really flourish in Guelph this season and he is one sleeper player to watch rise up the draft boards.
19. Alex Nedeljkavic, G (Plymouth Whalers)
Standing at 5-foot-11 in his crease, Alex Nedeljkavic isn’t the most daunting physical presence in the net but he has quickly made a name for himself as one of the OHL’s elite goaltending options. He is coming off a simply outstanding rookie campaign, one where his poised play forced him into the Whalers’ starting goaltending position, pushing aside veteran Matt Mahalak. Nedeljkavic emits a calming presence in the crease and has developed a big-game reputation that stems from his unflappable mental strength and overall athletic ability.
20. Brendan Lemieux, F (Barrie Colts)
The highly competitive Brendan Lemieux, son of former NHL pest Claude, has had a very good year of hockey playing a key role for the Barrie Colts and providing tons of energy for Team Canada at the 2013 Ivan Hlinka Tournament. Lemieux is an intriguing prospect as he reminds me of a less polished Ryan Hartman (Blackhawks 2013 1st round selection). He is the type of player who will do anything to win and projects as a very versatile team-first forward.
21. Matt Schmalz, F (Sudbury Wolves)
22. Brandon Prophet, D (Saginaw Spirit)
23. Alex Peters, D (Plymouth Whalers)
24. Jaden Lindo, F (Owen Sound Attack)
25. Damian Bourne, F (Mississauga Steelheads)
26. Mike Amadio, F (North Bay Battalion)
27. Niki Petti, F (Belleville Bulls)
28. Patrick Sanvido, D (Windsor Spitfires)
29. Brent Moran, G (Niagara IceDogs)
30. Zach Bratina, F (Saginaw Spirit)
31. Dylan DiPerna, D (Kingston Frontenacs)
32. Devin Williams, G (Erie Otters)
33. Darby Llewellyn, F (Kitchener Rangers)
34. Brett Hargrave, F (Sarnia Sting)
35. Jonathan Duchesne, D (Ottawa 67’s)
36. Liam Herbst, G (London Knights)
37. Brook Hiddink, F (Niagara IceDogs)
38. Daniel DeSousa, D (Belleville Bulls)
39. Andrew Abou-Assaly, F (Ottawa 67’s)
40. Matthew Mancina, G (Guelph Storm)
41. Justin Felker, D (Erie Otters)
42. Kevin Spinozzi, D (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds)
43. Connor Cummins, D (Sudbury Wolves)
44. Dylan Sadowy, F (Saginaw Spirit)
45. Kyle Pettit, F (Erie Otters)
46. Ryan Verbeek, F (Windsor Spitfires)
47. CJ Garcia, D (Barrie Colts)
48. Tyler Hore, D (Sarnia Sting)
49. Josh Maguire, F (Peterborough Petes)
50. Alexandre Renaud, F (Sarnia Sting)
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