Initial OHL Rankings for 2013 Released
It’s the dog days of August, and with no live hockey on the horizon for a while, I figured this would be as good a time as any to dust out my notes and take a peek at the top 20 players for the 2013 NHL draft, based on last year. This list is an Ontario Hockey League only list, so players like Curtis Luzar and Seth Jones are not included. Also keep in mind, this is more for fun then anything else. There is no doubt that players will rise, players will fall, but its a fun way to take an early look at the 2013 NHL Draft.
*Qualifier: This list does not include players like Ryan Hartman and Justin Bailey, who are high-end talents scheduled to play this year in the OHL. It also does not include Import selections like Nikita Zadorov and Sergei Tolchinsky, who also have the potential to be top selections.
1. Sean Monahan / Ottawa 67′s / Centre / 6’2″ / 193 / Oct. 12, 1994
The progression of Sean Monahan has been something that is hard to grasp at times. As someone who has been following his development since his days with the Mississauga Rebels, its almost hard to imagine that he is easily the best 94 aged player in the OHL, and showed a phenomenal development curve over the past 3 and a half years. It started in the second half of his OHL Draft year, where he finally seemed to ‘get it’ so to speak, showing strong puck skills and a lethal shot. His play elevated him into the top 20 of the OHL Draft, but at the time there was some real debate as to the player he could become. Since joining the 67′s, Monahan has absolutely dominated. He has shown elite offensive puck skills, and has the best vision of any draft eligible player in the OHL.He has the rare ability to elevate the players around him, making an entire line better in the process. As previously mentioned, he has an excellent shot that is effective within 10ft of the net. He’s one of the rare forwards who can beat goaltenders (with his shot) clean in the offensive zone. He has elite hockey sense, can read a play far in advance and make quick adjustments. He will be without top end wingers Shane Prince and Tyler Toffoli next year as the 67′s will be in more of a rebuilding phase, however I have no doubt that whomever Monahan does line up with will benefit him. As long as he continues his current high development curve, he should prove to be the best prospect in the 2013 NHL Draft from the Ontario Hockey League, and could challenge to be taken in the top 5 of the draft.
2. Kerby Rychel / Windsor Spitfires / Left Wing / 6’1″/ 200/ Oct. 7, 1994
Kerby Rychel was easily the most improved player last year in the OHL. He showed great growth in his offensive ability, showing an ability to finish off plays that he had yet to show in the OHL. He showed great development in his vision with the puck, and displayed some good vision in the offensive zone. He has an extremely high compete level, willing to play an aggressive game down low, as well as work himself into open ice in the offensive zone. He has made some significant strides in his skating ability in the last year, but needs to continue to develop that side of his game. He has a very effective skating stride, but now needs to continue to work on his first few steps, adding explosiveness to his first few steps. Next year will be interesting for him, he will be without centre Alexander Khokhlachev, so he has the opportunity to prove that he can be effective offensively without a top end centre.
3. Max Domi / London Knights / Centre / 5’10″ / 184 / Mar. 2, 1995
Since a young age, Max Domi has been a high potential forward. Since joining the Knights, Domi was one of the top performing 95 aged players in the OHL this season, showing a lethal mix of speed and skill. He generates most of his offensive based on his top end skating abilities. He may be the best and most agile skater in the age group, and has the ability to change direction on a dime, moving either east to west or north to south effortlessly. He has top end offensive abilities, showing an ability to finish off plays in close, or make a quick pass in the offensive zone. He has strong individual puck skills, and one of the better one on one players in the age group, again based on his speed. He is a smart player who has the ability to read a play 3-4 plays in advance, and is a player who seems to hate to lose. He needs to work on his vision and ability to use his teammates effectively. He is a shoot first type of player, and at times can be a bit of an individual. He is strong on the puck, but can cause turnovers because at times he can hold onto the puck too much. Heading into next year, Domi has the potential to be the top centre on the Knights, and could be in for a really impressive season.
4. Ryan Kujawinski / Kingston Frontenacs / Centre / 6’2″ / 195 / Mar. 30, 1995
Last year was the tale of two Ryan Kujawinski’s. Starting the season in Sarnia, Kujawinski saw limited ice with the veteran Sting. When he was on the ice he showed some interesting potential, but was inconsistent and really didn’t have a lot of opportunities to grow given his limited ice time. The turning point for his season was the U17 tournament in Windsor, where he worked his way up the depth charts, and was one of the more impressive players for team Ontario. From there, he was traded for Ryan Spooner, where he blossomed in Kingston. His skill set is impressive. He has an excellent work ethic and is a player who relies on his intelligence and compete levels, in conjunction with his puck skills. He has one of the best shots in the draft, with a very quick release and has the ability to beat goaltenders clean within 5-10 ft of the net. He has a very strong, active stick, one that he uses to bat down passes in the offensive zone. He is an above average skater who has a good first few steps and good 4 way mobility. At this point, the key for Kujawinski is to continue to develop, work on his positional play in his own zone, and prove that the second half of last year is the player who he is, not the
player that we saw in Sarnia.
5. Jason Dickinson/ Guelph Storm / Left Wing – Centre / 6’1″ / 165 / Jul. 4, 1995
Dickinson was one of the most improved players this season. He has always been a player who has shown strong potential, and despite typical early rookie struggles, he has really shown strong progression this season. Every game that I was able to see him, he seemed to get better and better. He has some very underrated puck skills, and has very soft hands in close and around the net. He has the ability to finish off plays, or make an intelligent read of the ice and make a skilled stick to stick pass. At first he was a little timid physically, however as the year moved forward he showed a willingness to play aggressively and willing to sacrifice his body to make a play. He’s going to garner a lot of ice time next year, and will have to show that he can maintain a high level of performance all year long. As long as he continues to add bulk, improve his strength and work on his two way play, he could be a really impressive prospect leading into the 2013 NHL Draft.
6. Spencer Martin/ Mississauga Steelheads / Goaltender / 6’2″ / 186 / Jun. 8, 1995
Martin has a high potential level, although is a bit of a wildcard at this point. He is always been a goaltender who has relied on his strong positional play mixed in with good athleticism and lower body movement to stop pucks. Last year was a bit of a challenge for him, as he was limited to only 15 starts in Mississauga, and although he showed flashes of brilliance, was not as consistent as one would have hoped, mainly due to the fact that he rarely earned starts as Mississauga was pushing for a playoff spot. As things stand now, it would appear as though the newly branded Stealheads will have to rely on the 17 year old to hold the crease this year, so he should have all the opportunity to capitalize on that potential. I wouldn’t focus on wins, losses or stats to judge the success of failure for Martin, as Mississauga’s stingy defensive system will probably help him, but if he displays good composure, strong compete levels and is aggressive within the crease, he could be one of three potential goaltenders selected in the first round of the NHL Draft.
7. Nicholas Baptiste / Sudbury Wolves / Right Wing / 6’2″ / 200 / Aug. 4, 1995
Baptiste is a player with high upside. Dating back to his days with the Ottawa Senators of the OEMHL, he’s been known as a winger who can skate the puck into the offensive zone, assessing the play and making a skilled pass. He has very strong hands, and has the ability to either makes a skilled pass once he finds an open lane, or use his body to drive the net with the puck. He is more then willing to play and aggressive, physical game. Be it playing aggressive on the forecheck or or in puck battles down low, he is a player who is willing to do the dirty work in order to win puck battles, and has a very strong compete level. He needs to continue to develop his confidence and poise with the puck, as well as his ability to make quicker, more decisive decisions with the puck. He also has room to grow with his positional play, however that’s a fair statement for most 16 year old players on the OHL.
8. Darnell Nurse / Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds / Defence / 6’4″ / 180 / Feb. 4, 1995
I absolutely love the potential that Darnell Nurse brings to the table. To date he has been used primarily as a defensive specialist, playing against the opposition’s top offensive lines. He quickly showed an ability to limit offensive chances, use his wide wingspan to force opposition forwards into the boards, and use his stick in passing lanes. His biggest assets are his natural ability. He is one of the better skaters in the 95 age group, uses his skating stride well and is very strong on the puck. His biggest area of growth and development this year was his offensive puck skills. As the year played out, he showed more confidence in his puck skills and started to make more effective and skilled decisions with the puck on his stick. He still has some room to grow, but the long-term offensive upside is there. An additional asset is his leadership abilities, which have been present since his Don Mills Flyers days. Although I was not there live, I have been told by some of my peers in the industry that Nurse was one of the best players on the ice for the U18 World Championships this past April, which is a lofty accomplishment for an underage player. I would still like to see him be more aggressive in his own zone, and continue to grow the offensive side of his game, but as I mentioned, I love the potential that he has. He should be slotted into the a the top 4 defensive core for the Greyhounds, and hopefully sees some significant powerplay time. If he continues his level of development, he could really be a riser come June 2013.
9. Bo Horvat / London Knights / Centre – Left Wing / 6’0″ / 198 / Apr. 5, 1995
Although he probably has not received the same amount of attention that some of his peers have received, London’s Bo Horvat has first round NHL potential. Drafted 9th Overall from the Elgin Middlesex Chiefs program, Horvat is a smart, two way forward who brings a high character, and strong compete levels. He is the type of player who does what it takes to win, and will do what it takes in order to win, even if it means personal sacrifice. He is a good skater who has good overall for way mobility, with some room to grow with his first few steps and transitional footwork. He is strong down low and along the boards, using his thick frame and body to protect the puck along the boards. He continues to show good positional play in his own zone, and is effective at playing smart in the defensive zone. As he year starts out, the expectation is that Horvat will play a third line role with the Knights, and needs to continue to show some growth offensively. Last season he was used primarily in a depth role, and needs to display an ability to generate offense and improved puck skills. IF he does that, then he has the potential to be a top 30 selection next season.
10. Stephen Harper / Erie Otters / Left Wing / 6’1″ / 195 / Mar. 25, 1995
A player who has really turned in on in the past 14 months has been Stephen Harper. Originally slated by most to be a mid second round pick in the 2011 OHL Draft, the Otters rolled the dice on the Burlington Eagle 12th Overall, and 12 months later, it’s looking like the steal of the draft. In his first year in the OHL, Harper flourished in Erie. He led all 95 aged players in goals, despite being on a bit of an island at times offensively. He is a big, strong forward who made a strong transition due to his strength and puck protection skills. He is excellent down low and along the boards, cycling the puck down low and into open space, and has the ability to make crisp take to tape passes in the offensive zone. He is good at finding open space in the offensive zone, and uses his lethal shot to his advantage. He was also one of the better performers for Ontario at the U17 tournament in Windsor in December. He has room to grow with his consistency, as well as his positional play, but I love the development curve that he has shown this year. If he develops chemistry with 1st overall selection Connor McDavid, he could be a 30-goal scorer next year, and push himself into the top 20 of the NHL draft.
11. Jordan Maletta / Windsor Spitfires / Right Wing – Centre / 6’3″ / 201 / Apr. 30, 1995
A lot of people will be surprised to see Jordan Maletta this high on the list. Full disclosure, I’ve always been a big fan of Jordan Maletta. Dating back to his time in St. Catharines with the Falcons, he has been a player who I always thought has one of the highest ceilings of any 95 aged player. His combination of size, mobility, intelligence and untapped offensive skills really make me think that he could be a very strong NHL player. This year he struggled at times with the pace of play and his lack of time, and looked to be more of a depth player for the Spitfires. Towards the end of the season (when he was healthy), he showed good growth offensively, and really seemed to ‘get it’. He made quicker, more intelligent decisions with the puck, and was effective within 5ft of the net with the puck. He needs to continue to get stronger and remain healthy, grow offensively and be much more decisive with the puck in the offensive zone. Another issue that I have seen is a lack of consistency from game to game, which you hope he grows out of as he matures. I expect him to move down the middle this year with the graduation of prospect Alexander Khokhlachev and the recent announcement that top 96 Josh Ho-Sang will move to the wing. If he is back down the middle and continues to grow, he could be a in for a really nice season in Windsor.
12. Jordan Subban / Belleville Bulls / Defence / 5’9″ / 170 / Mar. 3, 1995
Subban is one of the better puck moving defenceman available in the 95 class from Ontario. Right away, Subban showed a willingness to skate the puck up the ice, make a smart read of the ice and either gain the offensive blueline or make a skilled play. His biggest assets as a defenceman is his speed and elusiveness. He is great in open ice, forcing opposition forwards flat footed and going wide on them. He showed some solid poise on the point on the powerplay, and was good at reading the ice. He needs to continue to work on his positionally play in his own zone, as well as ability to make intelligence plays with the puck. At times he is a bit individualistic, and tries to skate through players as opposed to making quick passes and keeping the puck moving. He should be a top 4 defenceman in Belleville next year, and could have a Ryan Murphy type of impact next year.
13. Chris Bigras / Owen Sound Attack / Defence / 6’0″ / 176 / Feb. 22, 1995
Chris Bigras grew leaps and bounds for the Attack, something that seems to be a common thread for rookies in Owen Sound in recent years. His main attribute is his intelligence and positional play, as he knows when and when not to pinch, how to control gaps and when or when not to pinch. What surprised was his offensive growth. He showed an ability to move the puck smartly, making good reads of the ice and distributing it with poise. He needs to continue to show that good offensive ability, while growing and developing his ability to make crisp stretch passes at a higher speed. He also needs to work on improving his core strength and physically engaging more often down low. I expect him to play a top 4 role on the Attack’s blue line this year, and could really rise on this list if he continues his path of development. He could be a candidate to play on Canada’s entry in the 2012 Ivan Hlinka tournament.
14. Alex Fotinos / Barrie Colts / Goaltender / 6’0″/ 165 / Jan. 2, 1995
It takes a lot for a 16 year old goaltender to come into the Ontario Hockey League and make an impact. Alex Fotinos was no different. Originally, the Colts had planned to keep Fotinos as a third goaltender and allow him to play Jr B in Thorold, however his play in the GOJHL was just too good to keep him at that level. Eventually the Colts traded Clint Windsor to Saginaw to make room for him. Once he was a full time OHL goaltender, he almost split time with goaltender Mathias Niederberger. What impresses so much about Fotinos is his calm, cool demeanor in the face of a high amount of shots. He is extremely strong positionally, shows good aggression within the crease, and is effective at keeping his shoulders square to the puck. He simply needs to continue to develop as he has over the past two years. If he can do so, he could really challenge to be selected in the top 40 of the 2013 NHL Draft.
15. Zach Nastasiuk / Owen Sound Attack / Right Wing / 6’1″/ 174 / Mar. 30, 1995
Nastasiuk has been a favorite of mine for some time. I’ve loved the potential that he showed dating back to his days in Barrie, and really showed strong growth in his first year in Owen Sound. The big bodied, north to south forward played depth minutes in Owen Sound, however he showed a lot of progression as the year moved forward. He was aggressive down low and along the boards, and one of the better 95 born players at cycling the puck into the offensive zone. He should progress into more of a regular, top 9 role with the Attack, while working on his footwork and 4 way mobility. Developing his footwork and acceleration, improving his agility, is a key for him.
16. Stephen Nosad / Peterborough Petes / Right Wing / 5’11″/ 173 / Jan. 25, 1995
One of the most underrated players in the OHL last year, in my opinion, was Stephen Nosad. Coming into the year, he was projected as a smart, defensive winger who may one day score 20-25 goals. He didn’t score 25, but had a much more effective offensive season than I had expected. Injuries to some key forward, as well as trades to veterans, Nosad was able to see more time than most 16 year old rookies, and flourished. He showed an ability to skate the puck into the offensive zone and read the ice. He struggled with a lack of time and space, but that’s extremely common for 16 year olds. He will have to continue to show that offensive development, as its the only thing that could hold him back in my opinion. If he continues to show improved finishing skills, works on his strength and plays a smart two way game, he will no doubt garner attention in June. He should be slated to be a top 9 winner this year, and should be spotted powerplay time.
17. Hunter Garlent / Guelph Storm / Centre / 5’8″ / 159 / Feb. 4, 1995
Garlent is a player who has always had an upward fight. His size and strength have always left you wondering about his long term upside, however every time I have seen him challenged physically, his intelligence and compete levels always overcome it. Every time I have seen him play, be it his time in the U17′s in Windsor, his time with the Welland Tigers or in Guelph, he is the hardest working, most competitive player on the ice. Outside of that, he has strong puck skills, good vision and strong footwork. His size and strength will always be an issue, but thus far it has not let it limit him. Obviously, it’s going to be a very big year for Garlent, one that he’s going to have to build on last year and once again prove that his size is not an issue. I wouldn’t bet against him.
18. Brent Pedersen / Kitchener Rangers / Left Wing / 6’1″ / 197 / Jul. 5, 1995
I have to admit, when the Kitchener Rangers selected Brent Pedersen in the 1st round of the 2012 OHL Draft, I was a bit surprised. I felt that he was a bit of a stretch selection for where I had hi rated, and thought that he didn’t have the upside of some of his peers. Well, one year later, Pedersen has forced me to eat my words. He didnt play a lot this season, however when he did, he showed some nice finishing skills and an ability to finish off plays around the net. He has one of the better players at the 2011 World Under 17 Challenge, after injuries forced him into Ontario’s top 6. Mobility, specifically his first few strides and his four-way mobility are areas of development for him. This year I expect him to take that next step, take more active role with the Rangers and develop into a good top 9 forward.
19. Jake Evans / Erie Otters / Centre / 6’0″ / 185 / Feb. 18, 1995
Evans is player who really took hold of the opportunities that he had this season. Injuries, trades and other issues saw the Otters with limited depth, which was a big opportunity for Evans. He showed good puck skills, good overall vision with the puck, but most importantly, strong finishing skills. Despite being 16 years old, he was willing to fight through defensive checks in order to get to open ice. He fights for positioning in front of the net, and was one of the better finishers around the net for the Otters last year. He has room to grow with his mobility and three zone positional play, but I like what he showed last year. This year in Erie it’s fair to say that he will be a top 9 forward, with potential to be a top 6 forward with powerplay time.
20. Sergey Kuptsov / Belleville Bulls / Right Wing / 6’2″ / 214 / Oct. 6, 1994
Kuptsov came into the league with a bang. The skilled Russian was one of the most skilled and impressive players on the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors last year, showing some strong individual pucks skills and strong mobility. As the season moved forward, he really struggled with his compete level, and really tired as the season came to a close. That wasn’t exactly unexpected, given that he had yet to play that many games at that level of intensity. What I like about him is his creativity, size and puck skills. He has a high potential level, but needs to be more consistent and prove that he can play at a higher level for an entire 68 game schedule. Hopefully this year’s experience will help him be more prepared for next year. Also, Id love to see him play a more aggressive, North American style of game. He has the size, just needs to be willing to use it more often. In the offseason, he was traded to the Belleville Bulls, where he should be slotted in among their top 6 forward core. If he can utilize the big ice in Belleville, he could have a breakout season.
Other names to watch
Adam Bateman / Windsor Spitfires / Defence / 5’10″ / 180 / Jan. 5, 1995
Heading into the season, Bateman was considered one of the better puck moving defenceman of the age group. He had a solid, but unspectacular season in Windsor. He has the potential to really jump up this list based on his skill set.
Cole Cassels / Oshawa Generals / Centre / 6’0″ / 165 / May. 4, 1995
Cassels is a forward who always looks to be a hard working, high compete forward with some untapped puck skills. A big issue for him will be finding time in behind Boone Jenner, Scott Laughton and Michael Dal Colle. He could be moved to the wing, or traded for an update on the back end.
Carter Verhaeghe / Niagara Ice Dogs / Centre / 6’0″ / 165 / Aug. 14, 1995
In my opinion, Verhaege is the best player no one knows about. He has strong mobility, good vision and some strong puck skills. He didn’t see a lot of ice this season playing on a deep Ice Dogs team, however he could be given more of a role as players like David Pecan, Andrew Agozzino and Alex Friesen move on.
Jordan Dekort / Windsor Spitfires / Goaltender / 6’4″ / 185 / 08/08/1995
DeKort is probably the third best 95 aged goaltender in Ontario. I didn’t get to see him as much as I would have liked last year, however he has the size, composure and positional play to be one of the top goaltending prospects in Ontario.
Mitchell Dempsey / Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds / Left Wing / 6’3″ / 210 / Feb. 27, 1995
Dempsey is an aggressive, physical north to south winger. He played more of a depth role last year in Plymouth, and may be asked to contribute more offensively. He has some untapped offensive potential, but plays a hard, high compete game.