September 2017 – TheOilKnight.ca
 

Month: September 2017

 

 

I am very fortunate to have access to every OHL game something that most if not all fans in Edmonton do not have. The whole point of my website (check out the About section) was to provide diehard fans like myself as much access as they can handle. I’ve been following the OHL for 25 years and while I’m not a professional scout I’d like to think I know a thing or two about scouting Prospects (check out Scouting tab for more info) and do a pretty good job projecting to the next level.

So throughout the year I will try to provide weekly updates on the Oilers prospects in the Ontario Hockey League. Unfortunately, there are only 3 currently – Kirill Maksimov, Dylan Wells and Dmitri Samorukov. Fortunately, that makes my job easier so I will touch on all 3 each week as well as any other players that may catch my eye (especially draft eligible players). @EdProspectWatch does a great job of posting highlights of all Edmonton Oilers prospects. If you don’t follow him on Twitter or Youtube I highly recommend you do here. It’s important to remember though that often when we see these highlights of a guy we form an opinion solely based off of that. While I will certainly try and show you all the good plays I will also attempt to illustrate potential deficiencies I see in a prospect’s game too either in writing or thru video and track their progress. Most of the games are not HD so a lot of the tape will be raw but should give you valuable insight into a player’s overall game. The more information you have the better in my opinion. Now time for my Number 1 ranked OHL Prospect….

 

Kirill Maksimov (#13), Niagara Ice Dogs

There are definitely some similarities between he and Draisaitl’s game in my opinion. They almost look like the same player at times on the ice in different jerseys. Maksimov shows great poise, is very patient with the puck and has a blistering one timer. He has a great knack for finding open spots on the ice. On the PP, he is always on the left half wall just waiting to unload his cannon one-timer from the top of the circle.  He is a threat every time he touches the puck. He’s good along the boards and is an aggressive forechecker. He’s not the fastest skater in the world can get caught floating at times but like Draisaitl when he wants to he can accelerate. Just needs to keep his feet moving. Here are his highlights against Hamilton where he scored once but could have easily had three:

 

What. A. Shot. I raved about him before the draft, during the draft and now post draft. I’m telling you folks, get excited because this kid is an NHLer. What I’ve really noticed having followed him since last year is how much more patient he is now. The game just slows down for him. Last year, I compared him to Anton Slepyshev in that he was a forechecking demon with a blistering shot. Now, he conserves his energy more doesn’t just go blindly into a corner he slows down, tries to read the play. He appears to be much more confident (getting drafted does that to many) is bigger and stronger and is a very smart player with great positioning adept at finding the open ice. He’s not quite the passer Draisaitl is he is more of a shoot first type of player but his wrist shot, slap shot and one-timer are all elite and NHL caliber. He shows a much more willingness to get back and help out defensively too which is a great sign. This kid is dynamite.

 

Dylan Wells (#30), Peterborough Petes

Good goalie on a bad team.

One thing to keep in mind with Wells is his team is pretty bad defensively. In my “Rating the Top 5 OHL Goalies” I talk about how he makes some tremendous saves some nights then will let in a softie. I worry about him staying focused and developing bad habits behind such a porous defence. It has to be a mental grind facing 30+ shots a night over and over again. No doubt though the kid has talent. Quite often he keeps his team in games they have no business being in making him one of the best goalies in the OHL.

In the season opener vs. Erie, Wells played good not great. He gave up a shorthanded goal late in the 2nd period that was a real back breaker pretty much sealed the game. Had a few really nice saves probably would have liked to have a couple goals back. 27 saves on 31 shots. Highlights here if you’re interested:

http://ontariohockeyleague.com/video/sept-2817-osh-2-pbo-5

Against Peterborough he made 20 saves in the 1st period 4 or 5 of which were outstanding. The two goals against on 6 shots in the second were both re-directs he didn’t have much of a chance on either. Overall it was an excellent performance that night. 33 saves on 35 shots.

A home and home versus Niagara this weekend means we get to see Maksimov versus Wells at least once. I was going to wait till Monday to post my weekly wrapup but decided to do it now then will again on Monday. Looking forward to see both players go head to head.

 

Dmitri “Dima” Samorukov (#5), Guelph Storm

Has the skill but does he have the will? Samorukov is a big guy with a big shot. The problem with him is he is very inconsistent and at times just looks plain disinterested. That is a huge red flag in my books as we all know you can’t teach heart and passion. He makes mistakes defensively not because he’s young but because quite frankly….he’s lazy.

The season opener vs. Sarnia he was barely noticeable. He was paired with SJ 6th rounder Matt Shoemaker (#3). Didn’t do anything offensively and defensively made a few lazy plays, one decent hit and that was about it. Didn’t get any PP time it was all Merkley and McFadden on the point. -1 for the night.

Against Guelph, Dima and Shoemaker were on the ice for all 4 goals against (one was a PP goal). On the 1st goal, Shoemaker loses a puck battle easily and doesn’t hustle to get back in the play while Samorukov casually just kinda stands there and watches it happen. Goal. The 2nd was a PP goal he was just protecting an area, the 3rd was an atrocious play by Shoemaker again as he gets beat at the blue line, tries to hook the guy that beat him then just totally gives up. Samorukov just stands there makes it look like he’s tying up his man. Goal. Ugh, that was pathetic. 4th goal Dima chases his man to the blueline hacking him along the way shot from point goes in thanks to a Shoemaker screen. Goal. Brutal showing for the pair. Here’s the video of all 4 goals:

 

Against Oshawa, I didn’t watch him a lot live to be honest I was more focused on the Niagara game. I did tune in for a few mins here and there caught his nice assist then went back and watched some more tape. He had a nice rush made a man miss that set up a goal. He also made a real nice outlet pass that led to a good scoring chance but that’s not really the issue I have with his game.  I feel like Guelph wants Samorukov to work on the defensive side of the game but his lack of desire to do so is going to render him rather ineffective. Too often he just stands there defensively giving up easy scoring chances. He doesn’t challenge shooters or make it hard for them to go to the net he just conveniently gets out of the way. It’s very frustrating to watch a guy with that size play such a casual defensive game.

Brock Otten tweeted out earlier this month that he picked Samorukov as a potential 40 point guy this year due to break out. I respect Brock Otten’s opinion very much he’s the best at what he does but there is just a good a chance this kid becomes Markus Niemelainen 2.0 and regresses this year if they don’t change things up. Why? For one, he’s not getting powerplay time right now and his partner is awful. More importantly though, his willingness to compete is spotty at best. The best case scenario in my mind would be to pair him with talented rookie Owen Lalonde who is a RHD and give Dima looks on the Top PP. That should boost his confidence and give him a bit of a leadership role mentoring his 17 yr old partner instead of running shotgun with the 19 yr old Shoemaker. He has the skill he just needs to be motivated.

Again, it’s early it’s only been 3 games but judging by how he ended last season and now started this one – it’s not looking good so far. Hopefully he can turn it around and find some passion and determination in his game. I’ll be watching closely and keep you updated as always if and when he does.

 

To Comment please do so via Twitter @TheOilKnight

 

Michael McNiven won the award for 2016-17 season.

 

Every year the OHL coaches and General managers hand out an award to the Top Goaltender of that given year. You would think that the majority of those players who receive that award would go on to have at least mild success in the NHL but that simply has not been the case. Since 2006 when Steve Mason won it with London the winners have been Mike Murphy (2x), Chris Carozzi, Mark Visentin, Michael Houser, Jordan Binnington, Alex Nedeljkovic, Lucas Peressini, Mackenzie Blackwood and most recently Michael McNiven. The jury is still out on a couple of those younger guys but the overall list certainly isn’t comprised of household names. The OHL has produced some of the biggest stars in the world but rarely do any of them turn out to be goalies for whatever reason. Regardless, every once in awhile a goalie does come along who may not dominate the OHL but go on to have a successful career in the NHL.

Of all of the 31 projecting starting goalies in the NHL this year only FIVE played in the OHL – John Gibson, Craig Anderson, Robin Lehner, Petr Mrazek and Matt Murray. (Lehner actually only played 1 year there). Anderson has had a nice career, Gibson looks to be good and the book is still out on Mrazek and Lehner. Murray however has turned out to be quite an anomaly.

Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

 

Matt Murray played 4 seasons for the Soo Greyhounds from 2010-2014. The first three years he had GAA’s of 3.79, 4.08 and 3.67 with SV% of .887, .876, .894. Hardly numbers that would suggest he would excel at the next level. In the 2013-14 season The Soo had a great team. Darnell Nurse was their top defenceman as they went on to a 44-17-7 record. That year, Matt Murray stepped up in a huge way after a fantastic season posting a 2.57 GAA & .921 SV%. All career bests by a mile compared to the previous 3 seasons. Something just clicked for him that year as he continued that to the AHL where he dominated and now NHL where he’s already won 2 Cups.

So looking at the Goalies this year it is hard to project whether a guy has what it takes at the next level. What I do know, as far as talent goes there are a number of players who should have good seasons and have potential at the next level. Whether that happens or not is anyone’s guess but for now let’s take a look at my Top 5 best goalies of the OHL this year:

  1. Michael DiPietro, Windsor Spitfires – Drafted in the 3rd round last year by Vancouver, DiPietro is such a terrific player. He had as good of a season in the OHL as any 17 yr old I can remember in the last 20 years. The thing I like about him the most is he is a bit undersized but so athletic. He has great fundamentals, excellent lateral movement & such quick recovery. He moves as fast as any goalie I can recall in a long time. He’ll be down and out and a split second later is up and in good position. For an OHL goalie, that makes him very tough to beat. From an NHL perspective his size is not ideal but if he does make it, it will because of his fundamentals and athleticism. Also seems to have that calm, confident demeanor that all teams look for.

  2. Matthew Villalta, Soo Greyhounds – If it weren’t for DiPietro, Villalta would have been the first OHL goalie selected in this year’s NHL draft. Drafted by LA in the 3rd round Villalta is a skinny kid (165 lbs) but has a lot of tools along with a bonafide defence in front of him. Voted best rookie goaltender in OHL for 2016-17 season, Central scouting had him ranked as the 16th best North American goalie but LA clearly saw something they liked in the kid. As far as an OHL goalie goes, he may not be the most fundamentally sound goalie yet but manages to keep the puck out of the net with excellent recovery ability. He’s still a bit raw in terms of technique but clearly he will benefit from the team in front of him and should post big numbers this year.

  3. Stephen Dillon, Niagara Ice Dogs – Undrafted. I’m really surprised Dhillon didn’t get drafted last year as he looked really good especially down the stretch. He did get invited to St. Louis’ camp this year after a brief tryout with Detroit a season ago. Someone just needs to sign this kid. Why? First off, he is 6′ 4” so he checks the “size” box for scouts. Second, he had a lousy defensive core in front of him finishing with a miserable 3.46 GAA yet managed to finish with a .914 SV%! Not surprisingly, they led the OHL in shots given up by almost 300 shots over the next closest team. Third, Niagara should be much improved this year despite the loss of Ryan Mantha. If St. Louis doesn’t give him a contract this summer he could be a steal for someone. His positioning still needs work (he’s scrambling too much) but he has a terrific glove and size that takes away a lot of the net.

  4. Dylan Wells, Peterborough Petes – Drafted in the 5th round by Edmonton in 2016. Wells is a good goalie on a bad defensive team as indicated by his 3.07 GAA but .916 SV% last year. He has good size & athleticism, is very calm and cool but I do worry about him developing some bad habits though. His year overall was very good but I’ve seen him a few times look absolutely awful (7-0 loss in Game 4 vs. Mississauga comes to mind) letting in goals that just shouldn’t go in. Hopefully he doesn’t lose confidence with little defensive support and further develops into a bonafide keeper I’d just be a little leery as an Oilers fan. The bad goals are concerning. Some are more bullish on the player than I am but regardless, he should be a Top 5 goalie in the OHL this year.

  5. Jacob Ingham, Mississauga Ice Dogs – Draft eligible this year the 17 yr old Ingham should be the first goalie taken out of the OHL in this year’s NHL draft. He’s already 6’3” 181lbs and is coming off a rookie season where he posted very respectable numbers in 31 games – 2.69 GAA, .907 SV%. Now with overager netminder Matthew Mancina out of the picture, Ingham is expected to be the workhorse for a very talented team.

Sleeper: Jordan Kooy, London Knights – Make no mistake Tyler Johnson will likely get the bulk of the work to start the season until it is known for sure if Parsons will be back or not. Johnson is an athletic goalie with some upside who posted decent numbers last year 3.25 .900 SV%.  He needs to work on his rebound control & better positioning but is capable of some highlight reel saves. Kooy impressed as a 16 yr old last year posting much better numbers 2.45 GAA & .927 Sv% albeit in only 11 games. He has very good fundamentals and looks to be the better goalie as the season progresses. Would not be surprised if he takes over the #1 job from Johnson and runs with it…all the way to the NHL draft.

 

Final note:

If Tyler Parsons or Michael McNiven are returned to the OHL they immediately jump to the top of the list. I don’t anticipate that happening especially in McNiven’s case but it is a possibility for both. Calgary is stacked at the G position in their organization it is possible they decide it is best for Parsons to play in London again but that seems unlikely at this point. 

 

To comment please do so via Twitter @TheOilKnight

There have been many dynamic duos over the years in the OHL like Galchenyuk & Yakupov, Trocheck & Saad, Ryan Strome & Brett Ritchie, Shane Prince & Tyler Toffoli. Some go on to have great NHL careers while others turn out to be good OHL players but not so good NHL’ers. You can never really tell for sure but one thing I do know is regardless of whether they produce at the next level or not, I enjoy watching these dynamic duos rip up the Ontario Hockey League.

 

V.Trocheck of the Plymouth Whalers led OHL in scoring in 2012-13 with 109 pts.

 

In the last few years 2 perennial powerhouse teams in particular – Erie & London routinely have players at the top of the league’s scoring race each year. Erie has had Connor McDavid, Dane Fox, Connor Brown, Dylan Strome, Taylor Raddysh and Alex DeBrincat all over 100 points in the last 4 seasons. London meanwhile has had Christian Dvorak, Mitch Marner, Matthew Tkachuk and Max Domi all achieve that mark. Aside from those 2 teams however, there haven’t been many other teams that had 2 players put up 200 points total.

The benchmark for an Elite Duo typically is 200 points. If two teammates can surpass that amount combined it usually makes them the highest scoring pair in the league. The OHL however is usually pretty top heavy with really only 4 or 5 teams generally considered serious contenders each year making it even harder to reach that mark. Here is a list of the top scoring pairs from last year:

2016-17

Alex DeBrincat & Taylor Raddysh (ERIE) 236 pts combined.

Nick Suzuki & Petrus Palmu (OS) 194

Ryan Moore & Kole Sherwood (FLNT) 175

Michael McLeod & Owen Tippett (MISS) 148

As you can see only one duo managed to surpass the 200 point mark. That’s not to say those other pairs listed did not have great seasons. Two of those players Suzuki and Tippett were Top 15 picks in last year’s NHL draft while MacLeod was 12th overall the year before. It just shows how hard it is to achieve that elusive 200 point mark as a duo in this league. In 2014 & 2015 a few others did manage to surpass it:

 

2015-16

Mitch Marner, Matthew Tkachuk, Christian Dvorak (LON) 344 combined. (All 3 over 100)

Kevin Labanc & Andrew Mangiapane (BAR) 233

Strome & DeBrincat (ERIE) 212

2014-15

McDavid, Strome, DeBrincat (ERIE) 355 combined. (All 3 over 100)

Andrew Mangiapane & Joseph Blandisi (BAR) 216

Christian Dvorak & Max Domi (LON) 211

 

In the 2012 and 2013 seasons however only 2 pairs of teammates achieved that mark:

2013-14

Dane Fox & Connor Brown (ERIE) 235

2012-13

Charles Sarault & Reid Boucher (SAR) 203

 

As you can see, it hasn’t been the easiest mark to hit for 2 players on the same team and even if they do it doesn’t automatically mean those players will be bonafide NHL’ers as we see with guys like Sarault, Boucher & Fox. Regardless, they all managed to do what few others could so they at least deserve the recognition.

This year there is no guarantees any 2 teammates will again achieve that elusive 200 point total but that shouldn’t deter you. There is a load of talent again in the OHL and a bunch of exciting players to keep an eye on.

Without further adieu here are a few deadly duos to watch:

 

Andrei Svechnikov & Kirill Nizhnikov – Barrie Colts

No forward duo will be more dynamic and exciting to watch this year in the OHL than these two. Svechnikov looks to be the complete package – a forechecking demon with world class moves and elite speed who never gives up. He was drafted 1st overall in the Import draft this year and could go #1 in NHL draft next year. Nizhnikov may be the next Yakupov in that he doesn’t play a lick of defence but when he has the puck he is a wizard with it and has a CANNON of a slap shot. He was traded to Barrie last year from Mississauga for 10 draft picks after being drafted 7th overall in OHL draft.

Now Barrie was in rebuild more last year under Coach Dale Hawerchuk, but he is a proven winner in this league so expect this year’s Barrie team to be much more competitive led by their two dynamic Russians up front. I’d compare them to a Ovechkin & Semin duo.

 

Nick Suzuki & Petrus Palmu – Owen Sound Attack

Their coach Ryan McGill may be gone but the majority of the Attack….are back. I would expect this year’s team under new coach Todd Gill to not only be as dangerous as last year but even better. C Suzuki (who was a 1st rd pick of Vegas) and RW Palmu (6th rd Vancouver) had 96 & 98 pts respectively last year and both should surpass 200 combined this year with the emergence of LW Jonah Gadjovich (2nd rd Vancouver). That should be the highest scoring line in the OHL this year though Kevin Hancock is a pretty good player in his own right & might get some time there too.

Michael MacLeod & Owen Tippett – Mississauga Ice Dogs

Both high 1st rd picks in NHL draft (MacLeod – 2016 to NJ), (Tippett – 2017 to FLA) would be guaranteed to light it up again in OHL after 158 combined points last year. Problem is, one if not both might make their respective NHL club. Michael’s brother Ryan is also a Center on Mississauga so if Michael does make the Devils a Tippett/Ryan MacLeod duo would be fun to watch. Tippett’s shot is absolutely unreal be interesting to see if he can develop the other aspects of his game while Ryan MacLeod is a 17 yr old eligible for this year’s draft.

 

Robert Thomas & Cliff Pu – London Knights

Thomas is as complete a player as you will find this year in the OHL. He’s fast, has quick hands, great vision, can play center or wing, is very responsible defensively and plays on the PP & PK. He is also a good faceoff guy. Last year, he started on the 3rd line only to be promoted to the Top line late in the year and in playoffs where he flourished. This year with Mitchell Stephens moving on, Thomas becomes the #1C on a still very talented Knights team. Cliff Pu had 86 points last year and he can fly also. In fact, if Alex Formenton were to also play on that line it might be the fastest line in OHL history. LOL. Thomas & Pu should push 200 points and help lead a very young but talented group challenge again.

 

Taylor Raddysh & Kyle Maksimovich – Erie Otters

If Alex DeBrincat were to return to the OHL he & Raddysh would jump to the top of this list. However, I expect him to make Chicago and at least hang around till his 20th birthday in December when he can then be sent down to AHL. Maksimovich is an undrafted 19 yr old but has skill. Raddysh is coming off a 106 pt season though without several players from last year playing with him will likely have a drop off. Still a terrific OHLer capable of putting up big numbers.


 

So who is a sleeper duo to watch out for?

 

Akil Thomas & Kirill Maksimov – Niagara

Both of these players are loaded with skill and are due for breakout seasons. With overager and newest team Captain Johnny Corneil returning & recent 7th rd pick C Ben Jones also back I would expect Akil Thomas who is a C/RW to start at RW this year as will Maksimov. Jones will likely be the #1C with Corneil on left wing & Thomas on the right. Maksimov played with Justin Brack & Oliver Castleman a lot last year and in the playoffs so I would expect that to be the 2nd line. It remains to be seen how new Head Coach Billy Burke will deploy his two young stars but I certainly wouldn’t rule out the possibility that as the season goes along Thomas takes over the #1C role & the dynamic Maksimov ends up on his wing. Jones is a nice player but Thomas is clearly the more talented. Expect Niagara to be a much tougher team to play against especially with Goalie Stephen Dhillon back. Thomas & Maksimov clearly are the two most talented and dynamic players on the team it should just be a matter of time before they end up torching the league together. 

To comment please feel free to do so via Twitter @TheOilKnight

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