The OHL and the NHL Draft: Round 6
My trek down of the 2012 NHL Draft continues with a focus on the sixth round. Players who were selected from the OHL include Jesse Graham, Connor Brown, Ryan Rupert and Jake Dotchin, among others.
Jesse Graham – New York Islanders – 155th Overall
Niagara Ice Dogs – Defence – 5’11″ – 170 – May. 13, 1994
Graham is a player who a lot of people were promoting as a top 90 selection this year. I wasn’t as big of a fan as him as they were, simply due to the fact that I did not see too much growth in his game this year. Drafted out of the Toronto Young Nationals system, Graham is a skilled offensive minded defenceman who is at his best skating the puck up the ice. He has a very solid first season, and as I mentioned, many people had him as a potential top 60 selection for this season’s’ NHL Draft. The first thing that stands out with Jesse Graham is his skating. You can make the argument that he has some of the best mobility and footwork in the OHL. That said, I had two big concerns based on the live views that I had of Graham this season. First and foremost, he did not really get much better then he was the year before. He made the same decisions with the puck, took the same poor routes and made the same risky decisions with the puck. I was hoping that he would have improved a lot of his decision-making, but it just wasn’t there. Secondly, he is a one-dimensional player. He is excellent at skating the puck up the ice, but gets lost in his own zone. He is ineffective in puck battles, and is not strong enough positionally. He doesn’t use his stick effectively, and is very passive when controlling gaps. Does he have the potential to be an NHL level player? Sure, any player with that skating ability has potential, but he has a long way to grow.
Connor Brown – Toronto Maple Leafs – 156th Overall
Erie Otters – Right Wing – 5’10 – 160 – Jan. 14, 1994
Connor Brown is an extremely interesting case. When I first saw him in the GTHL, he was a role player in the Toronto Marlboros, playing 3rd line behind players like Scott Laughton, Matia Marcantuoni and Scott Kosmachuk. Drafted in the depth rounds, he won a spot on the St. Michaels Buzzars and quickly started to make an impact at the OJHL level. This year, he made the Otters out of training camp; I honestly didn’t think that he would be able to play anything more then a depth role for the Otters. Brown made the most out of his opportunities took advantage of some injuries and riding shotgun to Greg McKegg. What is there to like about Brown? A lot of teams and scouting directors love players who are on an upward trend. I’m not sure if there is a player who is on a higher upward trend then Connor Brown in the OHL. His development over the past two years had been extremely impressive. He went from the third line of a minor midget team to the first line of an the Erie Otters in less than 24 months. He has some impressive puck skills, and a high work ethic. I do have worries about his pro potential. I’m not sure if his puck skills will translate to the next level, and his size and strength are a big red flag for me. That said, if he continues to progress like he has over the past two years, he could have an interesting future ahead of him.
Ryan Rupert – Toronto Maple Leafs – 157th Overall
London Knights – Centre – 5’8″ – 186 – Jun. 2, 1994
One of the most polarizing player in the 2012 NHL Draft from Ontario is Ryan Rupert. Some fans and media members promoted him as a potential top 4 round selection, based on his style of play and his complete levels. In my personal rankings and viewings, I was a bit more reserved with my projections. I’ve been lucky enough to have watched Ryan and Matt Rupert progress for over 5 years. It started in 2008 when they played as underage players on the Lambton Jr. Sting, through this year in London with the Knights. I love Ryan’s compete levels and willingness to play a very abrasive level of hockey, however one thing that I wonder about is his long term upside. As well as he plays offensively in the OHL, I don’t see his offensive tools translating to the NHL. Also, I have to wonder how a 5’8 hockey player plays a physical, aggressive, high compete game in the NHL. As a 6th round draft pick, it’s hard to argue the selection, I’m just not 100 percent sold on his upside. I think he will be a very successful 4-5 year OHL player, but how much development he has left. Time will tell.
Jake Dotchin – Tampa Bay Lightning – 161st Overall
Owen Sound Attack (OHL) – Defence – 6’2″ – 207 – Mar. 24, 1994
This one was easy, I loved the selection of Jake Dotchin in the 6th round. Why? Well, he was one of the biggest developers in the second half of the season based on my live viewing, and is a player who I think has a low higher ceiling than most of the players selected in the 6th round of the NHL draft. He is a smart, positional defenceman who shows a lot of offensive growth in the second half of the season. He was good in his own zone at controlling his gaps, keeping an active stick and knocking down passes. He was good at controlling things in his own zone, and effective at engaging down low in puck battles. He is a good but not great skater who needs to continue to work on his footwork and 4 way mobility, however he has shown improvements. He also shows some good growth in the second half of the season with his vision with the puck. I’m not sure if his offensive will ever be a huge aspect to his game at the next level, but its still development that you like to see. He still is the definition of a project, but I think he may have the highest ceiling of OHL player selected in the 6th round.
Joseph Blandisi – Colorado Avalanche – 162nd Overall
Owen Sound Attack (OHL) – Centre – 5’10″ – 182 – Jul. 18, 1994
Blandisi is an interesting story. Originally passed over his first way through the OHL Draft, he was drafted out of Midget. He made the Attack right out of Midget. He had a bit of a adjustment period in his first few months, however once he was able to adjust his level of play to a high speed and make quicker decisions, he did display some interesting upside. He has some nice, soft hands around the net, and seems to be a good finisher. He is a nice skater with good overall mobility, but seems to be more of a north to south skater then a east to west. Has some room to grow with his positional play in his own zone. His body size will be questioned, but i don’t know how much it will limit him if he does move forward to the next level.
James De Haas – Detroit Red Wings – 170th Overall
Toronto Lakeshore Patriots – Defence – 6’2′ – 197 – May 3rd, 1994
If there is one player who you need to use the word ‘project’ with, its Detroit Red Wings prospect James de Haas. de Haas is a prospect who took an odd route to the NHL Draft. He never played AAA until the age of 16, and really was first noticed playing high school hockey on a high end Mount Carmel team in Mississauga. From there he moved to the Toronto Marlboros midget program, before heading to the OJHL this season and playing with the Lakeshore Patriots. So what should you know about de Haas? Well, he’s a raw potential defenceman who is all about the player he could one day become, not necessarily the player that he is. His size, mobility and raw offensive upside are intriguing. He is good in his own zone, shows an active stick, but is best down low and along the boards, playing an aggressive and physical brand of hockey. He can pin forwards out of the play, or simply use his size and frame to win puck battles. He still has a long way to go. He can struggle with his positional play in all three zones. He is a solid skater, but his lateral movement and 4 way mobility needs work, and I’m not sure on how much growth he has left with the puck, but at the same time, its hard to say that based on his limited playing time in a high end hockey program. The fact that he acquired a college commitment to Clarkson, without playing AAA hockey, is a pretty significant accomplishment, and speaks to the player that he could become. The current plan will see him head off to the BCHL for a year before heading off to Clarkson. Due to his college commitment, the Red Wings have 4 years to alow him to develop before signing him.
Artur Gavrus – New Jersey Devils – 180 Overall
Owen Sound Attack (OHL) – Left Wing – 5’9″ – 175 – Jan. 3, 1994
Gavrus is a player who based on skills alone, probably should have been selected a little higher then 175th overall. He has the skills that you look for in a top 6-9 forward at the next level, but has a lot of room to grow with his awareness and positional play in his own zone. Drafted by the Owen Sound attack in the 2011 CHL Import Draft, he came into the OHL and has an up and down season. For pockets of time he looked like a player who was ready to break out and become an offensive leader for the Attack, while other times he would seem to be going through the motions. It’s not uncommon for imports to struggle with consistency in their first year in the CHL, so its hard for me to hold that against him. What do I like about him? He is a very effective skater who displays some good footwork and agility. His 4 way mobility is impressive. I like his puck skills and creativity, and as he seems to be a natural finisher with some soft hands around the net. My concerns are his lack of strength and positional play. I’m not sure how well he could adapt to a defensive role at the next level, as he has a long way to go away from the puck. I also have concerns about his awareness, as he has consistently put himself in positions to be hit, and hit hard. He needs to be much more aware of his surroundings, keep his head up and make quicker reads of the ice. He could be a breakout player next year in Owen Sound, and wouldn’t be shocked to see him one day earn a professional contract.