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Scouting the OHL for the next Edmonton Oilers

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by TheOilKnight – Feb 12/2019

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This is the first installment of a 3 part series where I will breakdown every single draft eligible player in the CHL & rate the possibility of the Edmonton Oilers drafting them. I feel like by doing this it gives even the average fan an opportunity to learn more about Draft prospects without having to do the legwork of searching for them all online. Oilers fans in particular are extremely knowledgeable and I’ve found the more information you can provide them about their team at all levels the better. It is important to note, that while I am not a Professional Scout I do take this very seriously and have a system I have found that works well over the years. For more information on exactly what I look for please check out my Scouting Basics post.

The Oilers have done well the last few years drafting out of the OHL. Evan Bouchard (1st rd, ’18), Ryan McLeod (2nd rd, ’18), Dmitri Samorukov (3rd rd, ’17), & Kirill Maksimov (5th rd, ’17) have all blossomed and will head to the AHL next year after having successful OHL careers. Dylan Wells (5th rd, ’16) is also an OHL alum but Markus Niemelainen (3rd rd, ’16) has not panned out. There is a real need for speed and skill in the organization, along with guys who can makes plays with sheer determination. Keep that in mind when I project certain players as good fits for Edmonton. Also note, while I track all the prospect’s stats, I typically favour NHL translatable skills over Junior production assuming certain offensive thresholds are met. You don’t get to take your Junior points with you to the NHL. You start at zero. The reality is, some prospects games are just better tailored for the CHL rather than NHL so you can’t get too hung up on their stats alone. This is one of the biggest mistakes scouts continue to make when doing their evaluations.

Here is a list of all the Centers who are likely to be drafted this year. The first column is a general ranking based on where I think they should be rated roughly. Not every player is ranked by every system so I tried to list the most appropriate. I used a variety of resources: ISS (International Scouting Services), FC (Future Considerations), NCS (NHL Central Scouting) and my own rankings to determine where they could be drafted. The rankings will likely change by end of the year but this is a good measuring stick for now. I used hockeydb.com for the measurables and the player links all direct to eliteprospects.com.

Center

OVR RankShootsCENTERSSizeWeightGPGAP
NCS 18 L Ryan Suzuki 6’017161234871
FC 21 L Connor McMichael 6’017067363672
FC 27RPhilip Tomasino6’018067343872
NCS 30LJamieson Rees5’1017137102232
NCS 104LBlake Murray6’318566302050
NCS 113 L Mason Primeau 6’5 203 69 13 20 33
NCS 149L Keean Washkurak
5’10 184 66 16 31 47
NCS 152 L Petr Cajka
5’11 168 63 20 18 38
NCS 174LTyler Angle 5’9 168 58 20 24 44
FC 87RTag Bertuzzi6’119930459
NCS 217LDaniel D’Amico5’917867212546
NRRCody Morgan5’1118363152439
NRLDalton Duhart6’018064111223
NRLTye Kartye6’01846442024
NRRMitchell Russell6’018865131124

Who I like for the Oilers:

Philip Tomasino – A workhorse who is also a speedster, Tomasino is a dynamic player who makes plays all over the ice. He too can play center or wing and is an excellent 200 ft player. He passed McMichael as the #1 OHL forward this year as he continued to get better as the season went on. Tomasino is more of a east-west player than McMichael, and has more explosion in his game while still being able to beat you north-south. He has excellent agility with the puck and goes hard to the net with good hands in close. Terrific vision, knack for finding open ice. Aggressive forechecker, good at creating turnovers. 51.0 FO%. No one is more explosive and works harder in this group than Tomasino. Of his 34 goals, only 4 have come on the PP as he was buried behind guys like Jason Robertson, Akil Thomas, Jack Studnicka & Kirill Maksimov. Otherwise, he could easily have had 40+ goals. Speed, skill, smarts, work ethic, 200 ft game. He has it all. #1 in CHL in even strength Pts/60. Could ultimately be drafted as a RW. Reminds me a lot of Matthew Barzal. Should explode in Draft year +1.

Projected Round: Mid 1st round pick

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Connor McMichael – Blessed with terrific speed, vision, hands, and determination, McMichael was clocked as the fastest player with the puck at the CHL Prospects combine. He finished 2nd in the OHL for draft eligibles in shots (221). His shooting percentage was 16.2% which can be attributed to him going hard to the net looking for tips and rebounds. He had 36 goals playing mostly on the 2nd line in London with another 17 yr old (Guskov) & undrafted 19 yr Dunkley. He did hit a bit of a wall in the second half though, only scoring 4 goals in final 18 games which coincided with the return of Alex Formenton and addition of Kevin Hancock. Seemed to lose confidence & not play with as much intensity consistently which is a concern. He plays an excellent 200 ft game, wins faceoffs (55%) and can play center or the wing. He is also not afraid to battle along the boards or in front of the net to make a play. Overall, McMichael still needs to get bigger and stronger but he has the speed, skill, & hockey IQ to excel at the next level. Reminds me a lot of a young Ryan Smyth if he can keep his compete level high consistently.

Projected Round: Mid 1st round pick

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Jamieson Rees – Very similar to McMichael & Tomasino in that he is a fast player who is very responsible at both ends of the ice. Nice hands in close. Can dangle. Great vision, excellent passer. Aggressive forechecker who creates turnovers by outworking opponents. 51.5 FO%. Has had some injuries last couple seasons. Durability issues. Slight frame. Excellent value in 2nd round. Steal 3rd round or later. Performs well in tournaments. Dangerous penalty killer.

Projected Round: 2nd-3rd round pick

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Who I don’t like for the Oilers:

Ryan Suzuki – A talented playmaker, Suzuki can be described as a pass first player who doesn’t shoot enough and appears to not be willing to work hard enough in the dirty areas to succeed. Perimeter player type that shies away from contact. Gives up too easily on puck battles. Compete level an issue. Could be better in his own zone. 44.5 FO%. Highly skilled but probably better suited on a different team.

Projected Round: Mid 1st round pick

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Wildcard for the Oilers:

Blake Murray – Ranked as my #1 OHL Prospect going into the year, he struggled mightily with consistency early in the season. Was downright awful in a few showings first half of season. Looked lazy & disinterested. Subsequently he has dropped in the rankings. But, he started to heat up playing with 16 yr old phenom Quinton Byfield. Proceeded to score 12 goals in 12 games. Has subsequently cooled again. Murray is a big body but he doesn’t really play a physical game. His bread and butter is his shot & release. He’s got a cannon. He’s also a pretty good skater for his size. 4th most goals for draft eligibles behind Kaliyev, McMichael & Tomasino. 54.4 FO%. Performed relatively well in playoffs. His inconsistency continues and makes him a total wildcard in the draft. Late bloomer?

Projected Round: 2nd-4th round pick

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Left Wing

OVR RankShootsLeft WingSizeWeightGPGAP
FC 45LNick Robertson5’615254272855
FC 61
L Nick Porco
6’017567201636
NCS 74 L Ethan Keppen
6’221765302959
NCS 101R Joe Carroll
6’31956592231
NRLDanil Antropov
6’218363143549
NRLErik Cermak5’111546881725
NRLEmmett Sproule5’1016668132437
NRLJordan Frasca6’11766091423
NRLJacob Winterton5’1116167111021

Players I like for the Oilers:

Ethan Keppen – Probably the most underrated player in this draft crop at this point, Keppen is your prototypical power forward who goes hard to the net and has a big shot. Make no mistake though, he is a strong skater with good mobility. Also does a great job at shielding off opponents & fights through checks. He also has soft hands & is an excellent passer. He is so tough to stop at the OHL level right now based on his determination. His work ethic is off the charts, and he seemed to get better every time my Flint feed didn’t crap out on me. Had points in 16 of 17 games (14G’s, 8A, 22 pts) at one point for the worst team in the league, including goals in 5 straight games. This kid plays a pro game already & could skyrocket up draft boards. Reminds me a lot of Chris Kreider minus the top end speed. Currently, a steal in the 4th round. Worth a 3rd round selection.

Projected Round: 3rd-4th Round Pick

Highlights from last season (Only ones I could find)

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Players I don’t like for the Oilers:

Nick Robertson – There is plenty to like about Robertson. He’s a dynamic player who has a great motor and tremendous shot. He doesn’t have top end speed but is very quick in short bursts. He has great vision and playmaking ability. But, he’s very small and has had injury issues. Risky player with tiny frame. The Oilers already have Kailer Yamamoto who is a very similar player. Could be a nice NHL player but not the ideal prospect EDM should be looking for.

Projected Round: Late 1st-early 2nd round pick

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Wildcard for the Oilers:

Nicholas Porco – Speedster might be the fastest player in this draft crop. Can score too. Had 20 goals playing mainly on 3rd line in Saginaw. But, is considered a perimeter player who doesn’t go hard enough to dirty areas. Defensively responsible. Terrific penalty killer. Needs to get stronger but enough here to warrant a mid round pick. Reminds me a bit of Ryan McLeod.

Projected Round: 3rd-4th Round pick

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Right Wing

OVR RankShootsRight WingSizeWeightGPGAP
FC 28LArthur Kaliyev6’2185655151102
FC 97LMatvei Guskov6’117259121830
NCS 45Graeme Clarke5’1117255231134
FC 83Cole MacKay5’1118565273461
NCS 96Cole Schwindt6’317568193049
NCS 95LKeegan Stevenson6’117255191534
NCS 141Eric Uba6’019467192342
NRKyen Sopa5’918255191231
NRLBrayden Guy6’019460191332

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Who I like for the Oilers:

Matvei Guskov – A slow transition to the North American game hindered Guskov’s game earlier in the season. But, he has gradually improved and looks more comfortable than ever now playing with McMichael on the 2nd line. Guskov has a lot of nice traits; he’s a very good skater with excellent edge work, soft hands & good offensive instincts. He also plays a solid 200 ft game. Not sure he possesses any elite qualities yet but sneaky upside here. Type of player that could break out Draft+1 year. Wouldn’t take him in 1st two rounds but if he slips, then good value here.

Projected Round: 3rd-4th rd pick

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Players I don’t like for the Oilers:

Graeme Clarke – While he has some tantalizing offensive skill, I’d stay away from Clarke if I were the Oilers because of too many red flags. His game reminds me of Robbie Schremp back in the day minus the big production. Not the fastest skater & questionable work ethic. Offensive player who struggles with consistency & defensive responsibilities. Plays a too cute game, doesn’t go hard enough to the net. Only 116 shots in 55 games. Plays a selfish game, turns the puck over too much. Only 11 assists in 55 games for the best team in the OHL? Think that’s telling. Will likely drop in draft despite skill. Hard pass.

Projected Round: 4th-6th Round Pick

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Wildcard for the Oilers:

Arthur Kaliyev – How can a guy who has 50 goals & over 100 points be a MAYBE for the Oilers? Great question. Kaliyev is the type of player scouts fall in love with because of his skill and inflated numbers, while totally dismissing the weaknesses in his game. Oilers fans could use Nail Yakupov as a perfect example of why you should look past just numbers alone. Not saying Kaliyev will be a bust, but there are red flags anyone drafting him should be aware of.

For one, he struggles with consistency especially in his own zone and away from the puck. When the puck is not on his stick, he looks like an average player who is disinterested at times. Secondly, he doesn’t have the greatest speed in the world and is guilty of not moving his feet enough. He gives up on puck battles too much. Also, he has 20 goals & 44 points on the Powerplay. He likes to score and play on the PP but 5 on 5 he’s not dominant or always engaged. Kaliyev plays a ton of minutes for Hamilton on the Top line so he gets all the offensive zone starts & Top PP time. He is an elite shooter with great vision but you have to question his desire. Again, you don’t get to take your Junior points with you to the NHL. If he doesn’t get Top PP time in the NHL to start, how effective of a player will he be if his speed, work ethic & 200 ft game are all suspect? That’s the concern.

I’d still consider him late 1st round based on the high end skill but Kaliyev’s all-round game is nowhere near Andrei Svechnikov‘s was last year IMO. He will probably be drafted higher than he should as some team will overlook the red flags. Complimentary winger who relies on his teammates to do the heavy lifting while he floats to get open. Huge bust potential.

Projected Round: 1st Round pick

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Defencemen

OVR RankShootsDefencemenSizeWeightGPGAP
NCS 11LThomas Harley6’318364114758
NCS 31LVladi Kolyachonok6’21885442630
NCS 58RBilly Constantinou6’018566102333
NCS 55LMichael Vukojevic6’32066832629
NCS 125LMason Millman6’11756632225
NCS 148LLiam Ross6’21976872229
NCS 206LMitchell Brewer6’12056741418
NRRGrayson Ladd6’11714821618
NCS 182LNathan Staios5’81686492029
NRLSimon Rose6’01725731922
NRRAndrew Perrott6’02025331215

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Who I like for the Oilers:

Vladislav Kolyachonok – If you follow me on Twitter, you already know I am a big fan of this player. VK has tremendous agility & puck moving ability. He is a very smart and heady defenceman who is tough to beat one on one defensively. Has a very active stick & makes some tremendous defensive plays. Aggressive for his size, wins more than his share of puck battles along the boards. He always has his head up & is capable of transitioning from defence to offence quickly. Very adept at pinching in from the point. Not a big shot but quick hands. Smart, fast, 2 way defenceman on a bad team who is still underrated by many. Performed well at U18‘s in April where he was named Captain for Belarus. Huge upside. Doesn’t show enough offensively in Flint due to lack of talent around him but talent is there. Absolute steal if he somehow slipped to 2nd round.

Projected Round: Mid to late 1st rd pick

#7 Kolyachonok. Game 1 of the season vs. Erie

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Who I don’t like for the Oilers:

Thomas Harley – Probably one of the most overrated player in this year’s OHL crop. Harley is a great skater with good mobility, is excellent in transition & can make some great passes. Also very capable of running a Powerplay. However, his shot is just average which doesn’t make him a true PP quarterback at the next level, and his defensive game is very much a work in progress. He’s not physical at all & frankly can be a liability in his zone at times. Looks very tentative and unsure defensively. Plays very soft coverage. Turns the puck over a lot to avoid a hit. I see Harley with a lot of the same strengths and weaknesses as Evan Bouchard minus the big shot which is a huge part of Evan’s game. Good puck mover, fluid skater but offensively limited & a defensive liability. Not worth a 1st rd pick in my opinion but some team will likely reach.

Projected Round: 1st-2nd Round pick

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Wildcard for the Oilers:

Billy Constantinou – One of the more riskier players in this year’s crop, Constantinou first and foremost is a tremendous skater on the back end. His wonderful agility & effortless skating will attract teams. He also has very good offensive instincts. Loves to jump in the rush and does a good job running the powerplay. His achilles will be his defensive game where his decision making needs to improve. Turns the puck over too much, needs to be more patient. Skill-set is intriguing but book still out on him. Consistency and maturity should help him improve not sure if he is just a good OHL‘er or has legit NHL potential yet.

Projected Round: 3rd-5th Round pick

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7 Round Mock Draft (OHL only)

1st rd – C/RW Philip Tomasino

2nd rd – D Vladislav Kolyachonok

3rd rd – C Jamieson Rees

4th rd – LW Ethan Keppen

5th rd – RW Cole Schwindt

6th rd – D Mitchell Brewer

7th rd – D Nathan Staios

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RECAP:

The OHL draft crop may not have as much high end skill as last year’s group, but there are plenty of quality prospects that could have impact at the NHL level. Kaliyev, Suzuki, McMichael, Tomasino, Harley, Kolyachonok could all be 1st round picks. Guys like Rees, Murray, Guskov, Keppen, Porco, and Constantinou all offer great value in the middle rounds. There are also a few sleepers in later rounds that I will offer up later in the season. Goaltenders are voodoo so I will also update those later as well.

But for now, I’ve highlighted who I think are good fits for the Edmonton Oilers out of the OHL for this upcoming draft. They need more speed & skill but also guys who play a determined game. Guys who can chop wood and carry water sort of speak while also keeping up to today’s NHL. Next up, I will touch on the QMJHL in the second installment coming out soon.

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About The Oil Knight

Born and raised in London, Ontario area. Been an Oilers fan & London Knights fan for almost 30 years.

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