I realize the OHL regular season is coming to an end, but I still haven’t really gotten a strong sense of what Liam Arnsby of the North Bay Battalion could turn into at the next level. I say that because so many aspects of his game have improved from his rookie season of 2019-2020 except the production. Maybe the lost season of a year ago plays a role.
Arnsby has shown improvements in key skills like skating, puck skills and shooting and that has risen the confidence level of the 9th overall pick at the 2020 OHL Priority Selection. But the lack of improved production might suggest he’s more of a middle round pick destined to top out as a bottom 6 forward at the next level. There’s nothing wrong with that, teams need those types of players as well.
Despite being 5-foot-11-inches and 181 pounds, one might be surprised by the physicality Arnsby brings to the game. He is incredibly strong for his size and he often separates the opposition from the puck with his physicality and strength.
Arnsby has often shown very good hockey IQ and an ability to react instinctively without over thinking – and they are usually the correct decisions. He reads the ice well and is able to find soft spots to make himself available so that he can get off a heavy NHL caliber wrist shot.
Defensively, Arnsby is pretty accomplished. Again, he reads the play quickly and instinctively reacts which enables him to get into passing lanes and break up plays and lead the transition the other way. He comes back to help his defencemen and is not shy about using the body down low to separate the opposition from the puck.
Arnsby isn’t a bad skater but he has shown improvement since his rookie year. He has superior strength in his legs which allows him to take off in his first strides quickly to reach his top speed. It’s that top speed or separation gear he will need to continue to work at as he progresses along. Another asset Arnsby has is his ability to play down the middle or on the right side.
Coming into the 2019 OHL Priority Selection, Arnsby was tagged with having untapped offensive potential. Registering 22 points in 43 games isn’t bad, I had just hoped for more. Maybe a leg injury that forced him to miss 20 games played a role. He hasn’t scored a goal in 10 games since his return and has just 4 helpers in that time.
North Bay will be heading to the OHL playoffs in just over a week. A strong performance by Arnsby at both ends of the ice can only help his stock.
The 2020 Hlinka Gretzky Cup, the precursor to the 2021 National Hockey League Draft, was cancelled because of the COVID-19 Pandemic, but that didn’t stop Hockey Canada from naming the 46 players that would have been invited to the selection camp.
Hockey Canada released that list today and it includes 12 Ontario Hockey League players with a possible 13th, depending on whether goaltender Matteo Drobac makes the Hamilton Bulldogs roster when the 2020-2021 season takes place.
Five of the six players on our Players to Watch List have made the cut with Russian Daniil Chayka the only exception, so of course, he’s not eligible.
Here is the full list of invites by Hockey Canada: