OHL Writers’ Final Draft Rankings

If you’ve followed us in the past, you’ll notice a couple of different things we’ve done for the 2018 National Hockey League Draft. In the past, we’ve only ranked Ontario Hockey League players.

But, for the first time ever, we are including players that played in the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) and three players make our list. They are Jack McBain, Mason Snell, Dustyn McFaul and goaltender Jett Alexander.

Andrei Svechnikovof the Barrie Colts. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Andrei Svechnikov of the Barrie Colts. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

In previous years that we’ve done these lists, we’ve only included players eligible for the National Hockey League Draft for the first time. Usually, the number of players re-entering the draft (and getting drafted) are few, but in 2018, there are as many as half dozen with a legitimate chance of being selected on day two in Dallas.

Beginning with goaltenders, there are two netminders re-entering the draft that make NHL Central Scouting’s list: Christian Propp and Anthony Popovich but do not make our list.

Five skaters re-entering the draft made our OHL players list. We had two, Linus Nyman (26th) and Sean Durzi (32nd) ranked a season ago.

Two other re-entry players were ranked on our 2016 list. Brandon Saigeon and Justin Brazeau were on our list at 48th and 50th respectively two summers ago. Four others made Central’s list of top 50 OHL players but not ours: Albert Michnac, Mac Hollowell, Joey Keane and Hugo Leufvenius. Adam Mascherin re-entered the draft after Central Scouting released it’s final list.

Six first time eligible players are on Central’s top 50 OHL players, Riley McCourt, Oliver True, Andrew Bruder, Hunter Holmes, William Ennis and Adam Liska. However, they too are on the outside looking in. Tyler Tucker does not make Central’s top 50 but makes the cut on this list.

As much as Andrei Svechnikov is the consensus top player from Ontario, and may I add from start to finish, Evan Bouchard is the consensus number two pick and Barrett Hayton is the consensus third pick. But from there on, lists are going to vary.

You can click on most of the player’s names to read their profile, written at different points throughout the season.  This season, we’ve done the top 46 skaters and top 4 goaltenders. These are the players we feel should be drafted.

Players with an asterisk (*) are re-entering the draft for the second time. Players with two asterisks (**) are re-entering for the first time. The NHLCS column is the player’s rank (North American) on Central Scouting’s final ranking.

 

RK PLAYER POS TEAM NHLCS
1 Andrei Svechnikov RW Barrie Colts 1
2 Evan Bouchard D London Knights 4
3 Barrett Hayton LW Soo Greyhounds 9
4 Serron Noel RW Oshawa Generals 10
5 Ty Dellandrea C Flint Firebirds 25
6 Rasmus Sandin D Soo Greyhounds 11
7 Akil Thomas RW Niagara Ice Dogs 15
8 Ryan McLeod C Mississauga Steelheads 16
9 Liam Foudy C London Knights 19
10 Jack McBain C Toronto Jr Canadiens- OJHL 35
11 Kevin Bahl D Ottawa 67’s 29
12 Ryan Merkley D Guelph Storm 45
13 Sean Durzi** D Owen Sound Attack 37
14 Allan McShane C Oshawa Generals 50
15 Kody Clark RW Ottawa 67’s 34
16 Alec Regula D London Knights 72
17 Cam Hillis C Guelph Storm 67
18 Adam Mascherin* Kitchener Rangers *
19 Nico Gross D Oshawa Generals 56
20 Blade Jenkins C Saginaw Spirit 26
21 Giovanni Vallati D Kitchener Rangers 57
22 Aidan Dudas C Owen Sound Attack 68
23 Mitchell Hoelscher C Ottawa 67’s 62
24 Curtis Douglas C Windsor Spifires 63
25 Declan Chisholm  D Peterborough Petes 52
26 Pavel Gogolev RW Peterborough Petes 79
27 Semyon Der-Arguchintsev C Peterborough Petes 82
28 Carter Robertson D Ottawa 67’s 78
29 Caleb Everett D Saginaw Spirit 84
30 Merrick Rippon D Ottawa 67’s 85
31 Linus Nyman ** Kingston Frontenacs 89
32 Maxim Golod LW Erie Otters 97
33 Billy Moskal C London Knights 99
34 Riley Damiani C Kitchener Rangers 100
35 Sam Bitten C Ottawa 67’s 106
36 Nathan Dunkley LW London Knights 109
37 Mason Snell D Wellington Dukes – OJHL 173
38 Dustyn McFaul D Pickering – OJHL 164
39 Tyler Tucker D Barrie Colts 171
40 Matthew Struthers C North Bay Battalion 124
41 Connor Corcoran D Windsor Spifires 123
42 Peter Stratis D Sudbury Wolves 139
43 Brandon Saigeon* Hamilton Bulldogs 147
44 Justin Brazeau* North Bay Battalion 142
45 Connor Roberts C Flint Firebirds 146
46 Dennis Busby D Flint Firebirds NR
GOALIES
1 Jacob Ingham G Mississauga Steelheads 13
2 Jordan Kooy G London Knights 15
3 Nick Donofrio G Hamilton Bulldogs 31
4 Jett Alexander G North York Rangers 30
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Dustyn McFaul – Pickering Panthers – Player Profile

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 185 Pounds

Date of birth: August 4, 2000

Hometown: Waterdown, Ontario

Position: Defence

Shoots: Left

OHL Draft: Round 13, 259 overall, 2016 Priority Selection; Round 3, 37 overall, USHL Entry Draft 

NHL Central Scouting pre-season: C Prospect

NHL Central Scouting mid-term: 196 North American Skaters

NHL Central Scouting final rank: 164 North American Skaters

Like fellow Ontario Junior Hockey League defenceman Mason Snell, Pickering Panthers blue-liner Dustyn McFaul has gained some attention as a potential late round find for the 2018 National Hockey League Entry Draft.

With an August 4, 2000 birthdate, McFaul is one of the younger players eligible for the NHL Draft. He attended the training camp of the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League, but that was a tough roster to crack. When he didn’t make the cut with the Frontenacs, he needed a place to play and the Panthers came calling.

Dustyn McFaul
Dustyn McFaul of the Pickering Panthers. Photo by Ray MacAloney/OJHL Images

McFaul was named to the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s Top Prospect Game, Junior A’s version of the CHL and USHL Top Prospects Game but an injury prevented him from taking part. Being named to participate, along with the improvements he’d shown throughout the season, led to an offer from Clarkson University and a full scholarship from the Division 1 NCAA school. But it is said that it was at the Annual Governors Showcase in Buffalo N.Y. that he first caught the attention of Clarkson.

That commitment and scholarship doesn’t take effect until the 2019-2020 season leaving McFaul to make a decision for next season. He’s likely to return to the Panthers and one more season of Junior A hockey. But the USHL is still an option for him.

McFaul appeared in 38 games for the Panthers – missing 16 games due to injury and a suspension. He scored 4 goals and 15 assists during the regular season and adding a goal and a helper in 7 playoff games. He received the Ryan Annesley Award as the team’s Defenceman of the Year and named to the OJHL First All-Prospect Team.

What McFaul accomplished as a rookie in the OJHL came as quite a surprise. He quickly became a player who could eat up large minutes, averaging 28 minutes per game when I saw him. As a youngster, he was thrown into every situation, be it penalty killing, powerplay and 5v5 against the top players the opposition could throw out there.

Not only was McFaul a leader on the blue line, but he showed excellent leadership qualities on a young Panthers squad. He is very coachable and seems to absorb what the coaches are telling him. He’s also very humble and puts aside any personal achievements and goals for those of his teammates.

At 6’2”, McFaul has good size, but will need to put in some work to add much needed bulk to his frame, something that he is aware of. It can only help him in the defensive zone when it comes to battling in those hard areas. He has an above average wing span for a player of his size and he uses it effectively. His mobility is very good and in combination with his stick skills and size, keeps players from getting to the danger areas.

Offensively, McFaul is very good at joining the rush, making very good first passes and has shown he can quarterback a powerplay. He needs to improve his shot, but it can also come along when he adds some muscle.

Above all else, the thing that stood out to me most, and talking to those around his game, it is his work ethic. It may have been a blessing in disguise for McFaul not to make the Frontenacs and the OHL at the time, and he realized that he needed to put some work in and he did. And his attitude tells him just making it isn’t good enough, he’ll continue to put that work in to improve throughout his career.

McFaul, like Snell, isn’t one of those guys that you draft hoping he can make your squad in a couple of years. He’s a project that you will need to put in some time with and realistically, if he develops into his full potential, you’re looking at 5 or 6 years away. If you are a team with a deep prospect pool, he’s the type of player you look for in the late rounds.

Mason Snell – Wellington Dukes – Player Profile

Height: 6’0”

Weight: 185 Pounds

Date of birth: June 18, 2000

Hometown: Clarington, Ontario

Position: Defence

Shoots: Left

Junior Draft: Round 3, 54th overall, 2016 OHL Priority Selection: Round 8, 123rd 2017 USHL Draft

NHL Central Scouting pre-season: C Prospect

NHL Central Scouting mid-term: 185 North American Skaters

NHL Central Scouting final rank: 173 North American Skaters

There is an impressive list of OJHL alumni who, although weren’t drafted out of the OJHL, kicked off their junior careers in the OJHL (or the previously known as OPJHL). The list includes the likes of John Tavares, Brent Burns, Corey Perry, Ryan O’Reilly, Mark Giordano, James Neal, Mike Fisher, Josh Bailey and many more.

The OJHL is a stepping stone to other, higher leagues, usually prior to their draft years. But a few do get drafted right out of the OJHL.

Which brings me to Wellington Dukes’ defenceman Mason Snell.

Snell is committed to play NCAA Hockey with Penn State University for the upcoming 2018-2019 season. As you are all aware, the NCAA considers Major Junior players professionals, so the OHL was not an option for him and his desire to get an education. His only other alternative would have been to play with Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League, who drafted him in 2017.

Mason Snell
Mason Snell of the Wellington Dukes. Photo by Ed McPherson/OJHL Images

Snell played his Minor Midget AAA hockey during the 2015-2016 season with his hometown Clarington Toros. He appeared in 28 games and put up impressive numbers with 5 goals and 24 points and 96 penalty minutes. That was impressive enough for the North Bay Battalion to use the 54th overall pick at the 2016 OHL Draft to select him. That’s a high pick in the OHL and for a defenceman on a Stan Butler team.

The following season, Snell made the jump to the OJHL and the Whitby Fury. He appeared in 45 games as a rookie and scored 3 goals while assisting on 13 others. He would add another goal and two helpers in seven playoff games.

This season, Snell scored a goal and 3 assists in 13 games with the Fury before the Dukes, who were poised to make a championship run came calling and made a three-for-one deal to acquire the blueliner.

And the rest as they say, is history.

Snell led the Dukes from the back end and in 30 games scored 5 goals and 13 helpers to go along with 62 penalty minutes. But it was during the Dukes big game playoff runs that Snell stood out the most. In 25 playoff games he scored once while adding twelve assists and finished tied for fifth among blueliners during the playoffs en route to an OHA Buckland Cup Championship.

Next up was the Dudley Hewitt Cup. The three Junior A Champions in Ontario and a host team compete in a tournament to determine the champion with the winner moving on to the RBC Cup and the national Junior A Championship. The Dukes steamrolled their way through to a championship with Snell setting up four goals in six games. He was named to the All Tournament Team.

The Dukes made it to the final, losing 4-2 to the host Chilliwack Chiefs. Snell made quite the impression on watchers with his play. He scored twice in six games at the championship, but it was his all-around game that drew the attention and thus nominated for best defenceman at the RBC Cup.

So, what does Snell bring to the table?

He’s a bit of a project, and with potentially four years at Penn State and a couple more in the American Hockey League, he could be the perfect example of a late-round find for a team who has plenty of time and other options in their system already to allow him to develop at his own pace. It’s just my opinion, but I would rather spend a pick on someone like that then one you hope develops quicker, if at all.

Snell is a smooth skating blueliner who plays the game with a lot of confidence. He doesn’t rattle under the pressure of the opposition forecheck. Instead, he surveys his options and can skate the puck out of danger or deliver the puck with a perfect pass up ice. He’s not afraid to jump up into the play and he picks his opportunities well.

Snell has been an excellent powerplay quarterback at the OJHL level. He possesses a very good shot that is hard and accurate and he delivers with a purpose – putting it in spots for a rebound opportunity or where his teammates can get a stick on it. But he is most dangerous setting up teammates. He finds open lanes and delivers the pass quickly, sometimes without looking.

On the defensive side, Snell positions himself well. His skating allows him to keep players to the outside. He gets his stick into lanes quickly but relies on his skating to get there. At 6’ he’s not small but needs to add some strength for those 50-50 battles along the walls. He boxes out opponents well and gets plenty of PK duty because of his abilities. He can also create offence from the backend on the PK.

When it comes to Snell, NHL teams are going to have to have some patience.

Stat page from Elite Prospects

Riley Damiani – Kitchener Rangers – Player Profile

Height: 5’9”

Weight: 164 pounds

Date of birth: March 20, 2000

Hometown: Mississauga, Ontario

Position: Center

Shoots: Right

OHL Draft: Round 2, 29th overall, 2016 Priority Selection

NHL Central Scouting pre-season: C Prospect

NHL Central Scouting mid-term: 119th North American Skaters

NHL Central Scouting final rank: 100th North American Skaters

Kitchener Rangers center Riley Damiani completed his second season in the Ontario Hockey League and will be on his way to Dallas for the 2018 National Hockey League Draft next month.

Damiani has always been known as an offensive threat. He played his Minor Midget AAA hockey during the 2015-2016 season with the Mississauga Rebels, posting 34 goals and 41 assists in 71 games. At the end of his season, he appeared in 4 Ontario Junior Hockey League games with the Georgetown Raiders, scoring twice and adding an assist. During the prior season, he scored 25 goals and 21 assists in 34 games in Bantam AAA with Mississauga.

The scouting report from OHL Central Scouting at the time of his OHL Draft read as follows:

Riley is a skilled center that never takes a shift off and is constantly working. He is a very good skater and is extremely quick off the mark with good explosive stops and starts. He uses his skating and skill set to generate offense each and every shift. You always know what you are going to get with him because of his work ethic and compete level. Riley is not a physical player, but he will go up against anyone at any time. He battles hard for pucks and wins a lot of races for loose pucks.

During the 2016-2017 season, Damiani appeared in 62 games for the Rangers. He scored 9 goals while adding 13 assists. He would add one more goal and a helper in 5 playoff games. He would also represent Canada at the World Hockey Challenge Under-17, where he scored once and added two assists in 5 games.

Riley Damiani of the Kitchener Rangers. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Riley Damiani of the Kitchener Rangers. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

During his just completed draft year, Damiani scored 19 goals and 18 assists in 64 games. This came while playing predominantly third line minutes. In 19 playoff games, he scored 5 goals and 7 assists for the Rangers, who came within a game 7 in double overtime from reaching the OHL Championship. He was considered by many to be one of the Rangers’ best players in the postseason.

Whether you go by the OHL listing him at 5’10”, or NHL Central Scouting listing him at 5’9”, Damiani is small in stature. But he has an impressive skill-set.

First and foremost, Damiani’s skating stands out. His first steps and acceleration are almost at an elite level. Once he gets that jump, he’s hard to catch which makes him a shoe-in to get to loose pucks first. If you are lucky to catch him, he will never shy away from taking the hit to make a play.

Secondly, there are few players that play with the intensity and work ethic that Damiani does. With the size disadvantage he has, he knows he needs to outwork his opponents at every opportunity. While he will never be mistaken for a physical player, he will never shy away from battling along the walls for possession. Surprisingly, he wins many of those battles.

Finally, you can’t help but be impressed with his hockey smarts, which include his vision and anticipation skills. His ability to see plays developing make him a threat on the offense. He’s just okay at keeping possession, but when pressured he finds teammates with accurate passing abilities. Combines with his skating, he jumps into open areas quickly so that teammates can find him. And he can beat a goaltender with his deceptively good shot and quick release.

Damiani uses those same attributes in the defensive zone. His anticipation and skating allow him to be in excellent position while defending. He closes lanes quickly and will not shy away from putting his body in front of shots. Add that to a very active stick, and he’s above average at creating turnovers. And all that combined, makes him one of the best penalty killers, if not the best, the Rangers have.

Obviously, getting bigger and stronger will be important for Damiani. He can’t control his height, but he can control adding some much-needed bulk and muscle. Knowing his work ethic, he’ll put in the necessary work needed to achieve that.

The other thing Damiani needs to work on, if NHL teams see him as a center at the next level, is faceoffs. He was just 46% on the dot during the regular season. That number took a huge hit in the playoffs where he went 90 for 256 or 35.2%.

Stat page from Elite Prospects

Jordan Kooy – London Knights – Player Profile

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 190 Pounds

Date of birth: April 30, 2000

Hometown: Bradford, Ontario

Position: Goaltender

Catches: Left

OHL Draft: Round 8, 160th overall, 2016 Priority Selection

NHL Central Scouting pre-season: Not listed

NHL Central Scouting mid-term: 13th North American Goaltenders

NHL Central Scouting final rank: 15th North American Goaltenders

The National Hockey League Draft is often referred to as an “inexact science.” Looking for a more challenging task? Try ranking goaltenders.

London Knights Goaltender Jordan Kooy entered this season not listed on NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch List. By the time January rolled around and Central’s Mid-Term Rankings were released, he had climbed all the way to thirteenth among thirty-one ranked goaltenders. He ended the season ranked fifteenth among thirty-one North American Goaltenders.

By comparison, fellow Ontario Hockey League draft eligible goaltender Jacob Ingham entered the season as a B Prospect and moved all the way up to third on the mid-term list. By the time the final list was revealed, he dropped to thirteenth. Christian Propp, who is re-entering the draft, was missing from both Central’s Players to Watch list and their mid-term rankings yet he finished as the top ranked OHL goaltender, 11th on the North American list.

In the end, you may have better luck throwing darts blindfolded at a board this season.

Kooy.Jordan
Jordan Kooy of the London Knights. Photo courtesy of the Ontario Hockey League

Kooy played his Minor Midget AAA with the Central Ontario Wolves during the 2015-2016 season where he posted 3.33 goals against average in 18 games. The Knights would use the 180th overall pick to select Kooy.

The following season was somewhat of a whirlwind for Kooy, playing with three teams in three different leagues, including the Knights.

Kooy appeared in 16 games with the London Jr Knights Midget AAA squad and posted an excellent 2.22 goals against average. He also appeared in 5 games for the St Marys Lincolns of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League posting a 3.63 goals against average and .896 save percentage. He also played in 11 OHL games for the Knights and finished off with an excellent 2.45 goals against average and .927 save percentage. He retained his rookie status for this season.

Kooy appeared in 24 games this season for the Knights. His numbers dropped from last season to a 3.11 goals against average and .904 save percentage. However, he won the Dinty Moore Trophy with the lowest goals against average among rookie goaltenders and was named to the second all-rookie team.

Kooy showed a lot of promise during his 11-game stint with London his first go around in the OHL. The Knights were prepared to run with Kooy as the number-one to start the season, but a slow start by Kooy and his teammates forced management to acquire Joseph Raaymakers and move Kooy to the backup role.

Kooy is an extremely athletic goaltender but he makes his bread and butter with his sound technique, which is a step or two ahead of where it should be at his age. He possesses excellent edges and once he gets stronger, he’ll be able to push off even better then he can, and it’s already at a very good level.

There’s been enough improvement this season for Kooy from start to finish. He worked on and improved his rebound control. He was tracking pucks better then at the start. He was seeing pucks through bodies, and when he wasn’t, he was making the “positional save.” At 6’2”, he has decent size and was making himself big in the crease.

I’d say the biggest difference from a year ago to the start of this season is confidence. A season ago, he played with plenty of confidence, almost a cockiness. That was lacking at the start of this season. And I don’t think he was ready to be a starter this season.

Bringing in Raaymakers may have been the best thing for Kooy’s development.

Stat page from Elite Prospects

 

Maxim Golod – Erie Otters – Player Profile

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 160 pounds

Date of birth: August 18, 2000

Hometown: Concord, Ontario

Position: Left Wing

Shoots: Left

OHL Draft: Round 13, 216 overall, 2016 Priority Selection

NHL Central Scouting pre-season: C Prospect

NHL Central Scouting mid-term:  118th overall, North American Skaters

NHL Central Scouting final rank: 97th overall, North American Skaters

What is it with the Erie Otters and their love for smaller players? They seem to find them repeatedly and that’s where winger Maxim Golod comes in. There’s teammate Kyle Maksimovich who previously went undrafted and re-enters the draft for 2018. And of course, there is Alex DeBrincat who had an excellent Ontario Hockey League career and is coming off a very good National Hockey League rookie season.

That’s not to suggest Golod is in the same class as DeBrincat, he’s not. But the Otters certainly do not shy away from the undersized player with skill and they nurture them along and allow them to develop into the best players they can be.

Standing at 5’11”, Golod is not the smallest player to lace up the skates. But at a measly 160 pounds, he has some serious meat to add to his frame.

Golod.Maxim
Maxim Golod of the Erie Otters. Photo courtesy of the Ontario Hockey League

Golod played his Minor Midget AAA hockey during the 2015-2016 season with the Mississauga Senators of the GTMMHL. In 33 games, Golod scored 5 goals and assisted on 11 others. The Otters wouldn’t select Golod until the 13th round of the 2016 OHL Priority Selection, making him the 216th overall pick.

The following season, Golod would go on to play Midget AAA hockey with the Markham Majors of the GTHL. He would have an excellent offensive season notching 25 goals and 57 helpers in 48 games with the Majors.

This season, his rookie OHL season, Golod would appear in 61 games for the Otters, scoring 12 goals and 21 assists. Those aren’t bad numbers for a Rookie in the OHL, finishing tied for eighth. Up until trade deadline, he wasn’t always put in the best offensive situations, yet he still managed to score 6 goals and 13 assists in 36 games. Once the Otters dealt away Taylor Raddysh, among others, Golod received more opportunities, yet his points-per-game remained relatively unchanged on 6 goals and 8 assists in 25 games.

So, who is Maxim Golod?

Off the ice, he is a mature, intelligent young man. He speaks three languages fluently. His parents are natives of Russia, so it is only a given that Russian was his first language. Of course, growing up in Canada, more specifically Ontario, English is at the top of the list. And finally, French, after spending almost all his education years in French Immersion Schools. This is a fine piece by Hali Hetz of the Hockey Writers.

On the ice, Golod displays that same intelligence often showing excellent reads, anticipation and vision. Despite the small stature, he is extremely hard on the puck, does not shy away from battles along the walls – often winning those battles, and a strong tendency to head to the dirty areas, especially in front of the opposition net. Adding the much-needed muscle can not only add to his confidence, and to the already good success rate in those areas.

Golod is an excellent skater with good acceleration and top end speed. He is very good on his edges and can move well in any direction. He handles the puck extremely well at top speed and is a magician with the puck in tight quarters.

The defensive game continues to be a work in progress for Golod. While he showed improvement as the season progressed, it is an area he will need to continue to work at. He has the smarts, the skating and the work ethic to put in the necessary work but will have to show he can put it all together.

While the NHL is changing, size still plays a role. And that may cause Golod to fall lower then his skill set says he should be taken. That said, there will be several teams interested in him. He will need a lot of development time. You don’t find his skill set that often in the later rounds. A team that has the time to develop and an already strong prospect pool may just jump earlier.

Stat page from Elite Prospects

Tyler Tucker – Barrie Colts – Player Profile

Height: 6’1”

Weight: 203 pounds

Date of birth: March 1, 2000

Hometown: Longlac, Ontario

Position: Defence

Shoots: Left

OHL Draft: Round 1, 14th overall, 2016 Priority Selection

NHL Central Scouting pre-season: C Prospect

NHL Central Scouting mid-term: 104 North American Skaters

NHL Central Scouting final rank: 171 North American Skaters (pdf)

When it comes to the 2018 National Hockey League Draft, Barrie Colts’ defenseman Tyler Tucker may just be one of the biggest enigmas there is. Coming into the season he was on NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list as a C prospect – typically a fourth, fifth or sixth round pick.

When Central Scouting released its mid-term rankings, Tucker was just outside the top 100 among North American Skaters at 104. When their final rankings were released, we were somewhat surprised to see him ranked 171st. That ranking, if that is where NHL Teams view him, would leave him outside the draft looking in when you consider Europeans and Goaltenders.

So, the questions that come to mind are: did Tucker do enough in the second half to maintain the close to top 100 pick among North Americans? Was his second half worthy of dropping out of the draft? Did 67 players show that much improvement in the second half and thus surpassing Tucker?

We will try and shed some light on the topic. But first, some history.

Tyler Tucker of the Barrie Colts. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Tyler Tucker of the Barrie Colts. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

Tucker played his Minor Midget AAA hockey with the Toronto Titans during the 2015-2016 season where he posted 6 goals and 12 assists in 39 games. There was a lot to like about the big, physical, in your face defenseman. Even OHL Central Scouting had some love for him prior to the OHL Draft:

Tyler is a big, physical stay-at-home defender that loves to look for the big hit. He is a good skater with good mobility and stride, which allows him to take away time and space. Tyler makes a solid outlet pass and keeps his game simple for the most part. Tyler will be a player that coaches love to have on their team because of his high compete level and solid defensive play. 

Last season was Tucker’s rookie year in the OHL and he appeared in 62 games for the Colts scoring once and adding 13 assists with 51 penalty minutes. His minus-12 raised some eyebrows, but after all, he was a rookie.

Tucker showed the improvement needed this season. In 59 games, he scored 3 goals and 20 assists while piling up 87 minutes in penalties and a very good plus-27. Among draft eligible players, he finished tied for eighth among defensemen in points, third in plus/minus and first in penalty minutes. He raised his offence in the playoffs to .5 points-per-game on 3 goals and 3 assists in 12 games.

Tucker will never be accused of being an offensive defenseman that will rack up a lot of points. What he is, is a stay-at-home-defender who can take care of business in his own zone against top players. He is a bruising blueliner who relishes the physical part of the game. He is not the world’s fastest skater, but he possesses a powerful stride that allows him to keep his gaps closed or close them sufficiently. He is hard to beat one-on-one and rarely gets overpowered in the physical department.

Tucker will also never be known for making end-to-end rushes or skating the puck out of danger and up ice. What he does do because of his never-ending work ethic is do what ever it takes and outwork his opponent to get the puck back onto his stick and then make a smart heads up pass to clear the zone.

Tucker is very good on the penalty kill. He knows how to use his stick effectively, box out opponents and is a force in front of his own goal. He makes it difficult for opponents to take away his goaltender’s vision. He uses his long reach to take away options.

Skating is an area Tucker can improve on. While he possesses good mobility and that strong stride, adding some speed could be advantageous to him. It could add to his confidence in skating with the puck more and could help him in the offensive zone.

Tucker is not the “new breed” of defensemen that act as a fourth forward, which may be the reason he has dropped on Central Scouting’s list. But where exactly do you select a defensive defenseman of his calibre? That question will be answered in June. Or maybe not.

Stat page from Elite Prospects

Giovanni Vallati – Kitchener Rangers – Player Profile

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 178 pounds

Date of birth: February 21, 2000

Hometown: Ottawa, Ontario

Position: Defence

Shoots: Left

OHL Draft: Round 1, 16th overall, 2016 Priority Selection

NHL Central Scouting pre-season:  B Prospect

NHL Central Scouting mid-term: 38th North American Skaters

NHL Central Scouting final rank: 57th North American Skaters

When it comes to the 2018 National Hockey League Draft and defencemen available from the Ontario Hockey League, this season is no different then any other. There are three distinct groups: those projected to go in the first round, the next group, and those that will get drafted but have a tough road to the NHL. Kitchener Rangers’ blueliner Giovanni Vallati is in that second group.

Depending on who you ask, Evan Bouchard, Rasmus Sandin, Kevin Bahl and Ryan Merkley are in that first group. The next wave is made up of Vallati, Declan Chisholm, Nico Gross and Sean Durzi. Vallati has the benefit of a deep playoff run although that is not reflected in NHL Central Scouting’s rankings as their list was finalized long before the playoffs ended. Yet they still managed to drop him 19 spots from their mid-term rankings to their final rankings.

Giovanni Vallati of the Kitchener Rangers. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Giovanni Vallati of the Kitchener Rangers. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Vallati played his Minor Midget AAA hockey during the 2015-2016 season with the Vaughan Kings. He played in 64 games and scored 9 goals while adding 27 assists. The Rangers selected Vallati with the 16th overall pick at the 2016 OHL Priority Selection. A year earlier, he was the 17th overall pick by the Gloucester Rangers at the CCHL Bantam Protected Draft.

OHL Central Scouting’s report at the time of the OHL Draft read as follows:

Giovanni is a smooth skating defender that isn’t shy to join the rush when given the opportunity to do so. He is a very strong skater with excellent mobility which allows him to beat a forechecker by himself. His defensive game has really improved since the beginning of the season and he has really simplified his game. He has very good skills and a hard, accurate shot from the point. Giovanni was relied on heavily by his team to help get them into a playoff position and to play in the OHL Cup. 

Last season, Vallati joined the Rangers out of camp and had a pretty good season for a rookie defenceman. He played in 59 games for the Rangers and scored 5 goals and 16 assists. He would add two more helpers in 5 playoff games. He also won a silver medal with Canada Black at the World Hockey Challenge Under-17 where he had two assists in 6 games. He would be named to the OHL’s Second All-Rookie Team.

The question coming into this season was whether Vallati could take the next step offensively while continuing to improve other aspects of his game. He played in 65 games and scored just 3 goals but added 23 helpers, with 4 more in 19 playoff contests. Still, he managed to finish fourth among first time draft eligible defencemen in scoring behind Bouchard, Merkley and Sandin.

There isn’t much of anything in Central Scouting’s report you could argue with. Vallati is in fact an excellent skater with terrific mobility and very good speed. As mentioned, he can beat the forecheck with his skating alone. But he’s also very good at reading the play and is very capable of making a crisp, clean pass to exit the zone.

In the d-zone, Vallati has shown improvement from year-to-year. He has decent size and uses it well, although he is going to need to add some muscle. Despite that, he wins more then his fair share of battles and will only improve with the added mass. He anticipates extremely well and possesses an active stick – he will close lanes with his positioning or his twig.

Although Vallati plays a very safe game, he uses that same skating ability and decision making in the offensive zone. He is not averse to taking risks, however, he picks his spots. He can pinch to keep the puck in the o-zone. He can move any-which-way to find lanes and set up teammates. He walks the line extremely well and he has a rocket of a shot from the blueline that he takes with a purpose. He gets it through regularly but isn’t always trying to score but put pucks in places where there is going to be a rebound for his teammates. He has shown he can quarterback a powerplay at the OHL level, but the NHL is a different animal.

For Vallati, the draft in June will be interesting to say the least. He has size, the skating and the skill set. For him it’s just a matter of putting it all together. To be more specific, it will come down to whether an NHL team believes they can help him put it all together.

Few have seen Vallati as much as Kitchener Rangers analyst then Mike Farwell of 570 News. I asked Mike if he could share a sentence or two to describe Vallati. This is what he had to say:

I’d describe him as a smooth skater with an excellent first pass and a defenceman who thinks the game well. He picks his spots to pinch and does so very effectively.

Stat page from Elite Prospects

 

Nathan Dunkley – London Knights – Player Profile

Height: 5’11”

Weight: 188 pounds

Date of birth: March 5, 2000

Hometown: Campbellford, Ontario

Position: Left Wing

Shoots: Left

OHL Draft: Round 1, 17th overall, 2016 Priority Selection (Kingston Frontenacs)

NHL Central Scouting pre-season: C Prospect

NHL Central Scouting mid-term: 132nd overall, North American Skaters

NHL Central Scouting final rank: 109th overall, North American Skaters

Where London Knights’ winger Nathan Dunkley gets selected at the 2018 National Hockey League Draft is one of the more interesting things to watch in June when NHL Teams assemble in Dallas to make their selections.

While Dunkley has climbed 23 spots from NHL Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings to their final rankings, ending up 109th among North American Skaters, there are some big discrepancies from their ranking and where some of the public rankings have him ranked. Including yours truly.

Look no further than TSN Bob McKenzie and his list, which is based on surveying 10 NHL Scouts. “Bobby Mac’s” list has Dunkley 71st on his mid-term rankings which include all skaters and not just North Americans. Breaking it down further, Central has Dunkley ranked 34th among OHL players while McKenzie has him ranked 17th. It may be a case of Central Scouting’s continuing bias towards bigger players. Then again, maybe not.

Dunkley played his Minor Midget AAA hockey during the 2015-2016 season with the Quinte Red Devils. In 34 games with the Devils, he amassed 24 goals and 23 assists. He would add another goal and 4 assists in 5 games at the OHL Cup.

OHL Central Scouting’s report on Dunkley read as follows:

Nathan has a very strong and low center of gravity which makes it very difficult to knock him off the puck. He is a powerful skater with a very strong 10-foot game which allows him to gain a step on players in every zone. Nathan is a skilled center that is good offensively in every aspect. He sees the ice well and can beat players one-on-one. He shoots the puck well and has scored a lot of nice goals this season. He is like a bulldog on the ice and will fight through anything to score a goal. 

Dunkley broke onto the OHL scene a season ago with the Frontenacs and had a good rookie season. He appeared in 58 games for the Fronts and scored 6 goals while adding 25 assists. He was very effective in the playoffs scoring 4 goals and 3 assists in 11 games.

He got off to an excellent start this season posting 13 goals and 20 assists in 31 games. The Frontenacs began to load up for a postseason run and on January 4 Dunkley was dealt to the London Knights along with a pair of draft picks for Cliff Pu.

Nathan Dunkley of the Kingston Frontenacs. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Nathan Dunkley was acquired by the London Knights from Kingston Frontenacs on January 4, 2018. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Dunkley would finish the season appearing in 29 games for the Knights posting 8 goals and 16 assists making his season totals 21 goals and 36 assists in 60 games. He finished 9th among draft-eligible players in assists, 8th in plus/minus, 3rd in faceoff percentage and 3rd in shooting percentage. Those are some pretty good finishes.

Dunkley’s skating ability doesn’t get the credit it deserves. He is a strong skater with excellent mobility and excellent speed. He also has very good hands and stick handling abilities when in top flight. He gets in on pucks in the offensive zone and is very good on the forecheck. He also doesn’t shy away from the physical game and is willing to make contact despite the size difference he encounters.

Dunkley is an accomplished two-way player who uses his excellent speed to regularly be the first player on the backcheck. He has an excellent work ethic and uses that as much in the d-zone and the neutral zone as he does in the O-zone.

Dunkley has good vision and hockey sense. He can slow the game down while maintaining possession and can wait for options to develop. He is especially effective with the man advantage where he has more time and space to make plays. He also has a decent shot but could stand to improve on it and is willing to crash the net and pounce on loose pucks – which shows in his high shooting percentage.

Stat page from Elite Prospects

Colts’ Andrei Svechnikov named OHL Rookie of the Year

OHL Announces First and Second All-Rookie Teams

Toronto, ON – The Ontario Hockey League today announced that forward Andrei Svechnikov of the Barrie Colts is the 2017-18 recipient of the Emms Family Award presented to the OHL’s Rookie of the Year. 

Svechnikov led all OHL rookies with 40 goals and 32 assists in just 44 games for a point total of 72 that ranked 25th overall in league scoring and a points-per-game mark of 1.64 that was fifth best. 

Andrei Svechnikovof the Barrie Colts. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Andrei Svechnikov of the Barrie Colts. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

“I am extremely happy to accept this award as the OHL’s Rookie of the Year,” Svechnikov said. “I’d like to thank my coaches and teammates for all of the help they have given me this year to achieve this goal. I am very excited.” 

The 18-year-old from Barnaul, Russia, is the top ranked prospect for the 2018 NHL Draft among North American skaters as listed by NHL Central Scouting.  He joined the Colts as the first overall pick in the 2017 CHL Import Draft and becomes the club’s fourth player to receive Rookie of the Year honours following Aaron Ekblad (2011-12), Bryan Little (2003-04), and Sheldon Keefe (1998-99). 

“We are really proud of Andrei for the season he had with our club,” said Colts General Manager Jason Ford. “He came into the lineup and made an immediate impact. We feel that the composure he showed on and off the ice, really excelled his game to this level, which ultimately earned himself this award. We could not be more proud of him for what he did this past year and we wish him the best of luck at the NHL Draft this June in Dallas.” 

Svechnikov was an OHL star from start to finish in 2017-18 beginning with a two-goal performance in his debut against the Ottawa 67’s on September 21, right through to season’s end where he carried the league’s longest point-streak at 23 games from January 18 through the final game of the regular season on March 17.  He recorded 24 multi-point games including a stretch of nine-straight in January and was named OHL Rookie of the Month four of the six times the award was announced.  The Russian National Junior Team member was also recognized in the annual Coaches Poll where he was voted Best Skater and second Best Shot in the Eastern Conference.  His 72 points are the most by a Colts rookie since Mark Scheifele produced 75 in 66 games back in 2010-11, while his 1.64 points-per-game mark is the best among OHL rookies since London Knights Patrick Kane and Sam Gagner posted 2.50 and 2.23 figures respectively in 2006-07. 

First presented in 1973, Emms Family Award recipients include Wayne Gretzky (Sault Ste. Marie 1977-78), Joe Thornton (Sault Ste. Marie 1995-96), Rick Nash (London 2000-01), John Tavares (Oshawa 2005-06), Taylor Hall (Windsor 2007-08), Connor McDavid (Erie 2012-13), Travis Konecny (Ottawa 2013-14), Alex DeBrincat (Erie 2014-15), Alexander Nylander (Mississauga 2015-16), and Ryan Merkley (Guelph 2016-17). 

The Emms Family Award was donated by Leighton “Hap” Emms, former owner of the Barrie, Niagara Falls, and St. Catharines OHL franchises.  The award is selected by all 20 member club General Managers.  Teams were asked to submit only one nominee from their own club for consideration on the ballot and were not permitted to vote for the player from their own hockey club.  Voting was conducted in two stages beginning with a Conference only vote followed by a Final ballot that included the top three candidates from the initial Conference phase.  Players received five points for a first vote, three points for a second place vote, and one point for a third place vote. 

Svechnikov earned 86 of a possible 95 voting points ahead of forward Cam Hillis of the Guelph Storm who finished second with 37 voting points and forward Arthur Kaliyev of the Hamilton Bulldogs who finished in third place with 31 voting points. 

The Emms Family Award will be formally presented to Svechnikov at the OHL’s annual Awards Ceremony at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto on Wednesday June 6.  He will be the OHL’s nominee for CHL Rookie of the Year to be announced at the Mastercard Memorial Cup on Saturday May 26 

Svechnikov was also announced to the OHL’s First All-Rookie Team at right wing along with Hillis at centre and fellow NHL Draft eligible forward Blade Jenkins of the Saginaw Spirit at left wing.  Rasmus Sandin of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Alec Regula of the London Knights comprise the First Team defence corps, with Mack Guzda of the Owen Sound Attack between-the-pipes.  Kaliyev was among the Second Team honourees voted behind Svechnikov at right wing and joined up front by first overall Priority Selection pick Ryan Suzuki of the Colts at centre, and Maxim Golod of the Erie Otters at left wing.  Oshawa Generals Mitchell Brewer and Nico Gross were both voted Second Team defenders, with the Knights’ Jordan Kooy in goal. 

The OHL All-Rookie Teams were also selected by the OHL’s General Managers.  Players were voted on initially by position within their conference receiving five points for a first place vote, three for a second place vote, and one for a third.  Top vote getters in each position made up the final ballot that was then circulated to all 20 teams. 

2017-18 OHL All-Rookie Teams (voting points in brackets): 

First Team:

Centre – Cam Hillis, Guelph Storm (68)

Left Wing – Blade Jenkins, Saginaw Spirit (84)

Right Wing – Andrei Svechnikov, Barrie Colts (95)

Defence – Rasmus Sandin, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (87)

Defence – Alec Regula, London Knights (57)

Goaltender – Mack Guzda, Owen Sound Attack (55) 

Second Team:

Centre – Ryan Suzuki, Barrie Colts (53)

Left Wing – Maxim Golod, Erie Otters (36)

Right Wing – Arthur Kaliyev, Hamilton Bulldogs (59)

Defence – Mitchell Brewer, Oshawa Generals (34)

Defence – Nico Gross, Oshawa Generals (32)

Goaltender – Jordan Kooy, London Knights (50)