March 2018 – TheOilKnight.ca
 

Month: March 2018

 

This is the final installment of a 3 part series where I break down all draft eligible prospects in the CHL and look for potential fits for the Edmonton Oilers. It is interesting to note, that in the last SEVEN years the Oilers have drafted a grand total of TWO prospects from the “Q” (Marco Roy 2nd rd in 2013, Keven Bouchard 7th rd in 2014) neither of which ever played an NHL game for Edmonton. In fact, the Oilers have not had a player drafted from the QMJHL to play a game for them since 2008 when Philippe Cornet played a whopping 2 whole games. You have to go back even further to find a Prospect from the Quebec League who actually scored a goal wearing an Oilers jersey and that was Marc-Antoine Pouliot & J.F. Jacques both who were drafted in 2003….that’s FIFTEEN YEARS AGO!!!

So needless to say, the QMJHL has never been a priority for the Oilers come draft time despite being only 1 of 3 Major Junior Leagues in Canada. Who knows if they even bother to scout that league much. The reality is though it is a league full of potential quality NHL talent headlined by a couple of potential stars in Filip ZadinaNoah Dobson and Joe Veleno.

With that in mind here is a list of the draft eligible centers. I have highlighted the ones I like in particular for the Oilers in RED:

Rank

Shoots

CENTER

Size

Weight

GP

G

A

P

FC 12 L

Joe Veleno

6’1 194 64 22 57 79
FC 22 L

Benoit-Olivier Groulx

6’1 190 68 27 28 55
FC 24 L

Alexander Khovanov

5’11 179 29 9 19 28
FC 40 L

Philipp Kurashev

6’0 192 59 19 41 60
FC 62 R

Dmitri Zavgorodny

5’9 161 62 26 21 47
NCS 147 L

Luke Henman

6’0 150 61 9 38 47
NCS 158 L

Samuel Houde

5’11 148 54 16 16 32
NR R

Mathias Laferriere

6’1 174 67 12 29 41
NR R

Derek Gentile

5’8 179 67 23 38 61
NR L

Shawn Element

6’0 183 62 9 10 19
NR L

Cedric Desruisseaux

5’8 152 64 24 22 46
NR L

Edouard St-Laurent

6’0 170 61 14 12 26
NR R

Andrew Coxhead

6’2 185 68 11 14 25

 

Who I wouldn’t draft for the Oilers:

Joe Veleno (Top 15 pick) – It’s not that I don’t like Veleno but I don’t really see the Center position a big need especially with a Top 10 pick and he being a lefty. Veleno appears to be a very solid, 2 way forward who’s skilled, smart and fast. The fact he is the only player in the history of the QMJHL to get exceptional player status as a 15 yr old tells you how talented he is. He doesn’t appear to be a high scoring threat rather more of a playmaker who sees the ice very well. He really is a complete player but I wonder about his offensive upside and if there really is much of a difference between him and Ty Dellandrea who is projected to go some 20 or so picks later. I would not draft him for Edmonton unless we moved down and he dropped considerably.

Benoit-Olivier Groulx (Late 1st rd) – Groulx is a player I got to watch a couple times and frankly I wasn’t overly impressed. You can tell he has skill but he isn’t the greatest skater out there and he tends to play on the perimeter a lot. He does have a big shot which I saw more on highlight reels but something about this guy turns me off. I like his hands and he appears to backcheck well I’m just not sure how bad he wants it. Based on where he is projected the only way the Oilers would have a chance to draft him is if he dropped to the 2nd round and even in that case I think I would pass. I could be wrong about this player and probably need to see more from him but at this point it’s unlikely he falls within our range so I’ll go with my gut.

Alexander Khovanov (2nd rd) – Khovanov has all the talent in the world. He is very quick, has great hands and is an excellent passer. What I don’t like about Khovanov is he takes shifts off, takes selfish penalties and only really tries on the Powerplay. Those are big red flags for me to the point where I wouldn’t draft him unless he dropped several rounds and even then I’d question it. Not a fan of players who have all the skill but no will. Yes he reminds me of Nail Yakupov.

 

Players I like for the Oilers:

Philipp Kurashev (Late 2nd/early 3rd) – Next to Zadina, Kurashev might be my favourite forward out of the Quebec League. I love how he thinks the game. He has tremendous vision, poise and has terrific hands. He is an explosive skater and capable of undressing you with a variety of moves. Such a slick hockey player who is so crafty on the ice. I think there is still considerable upside with him too as a lot of times he passes up a shot trying to make a cute pass instead. He has such a dangerous release once he gets a little more selfish his goal totals could sky rocket. Not the greatest faceoff guy but is very good defensively. Has played LW and may ultimately end up there in NHL. I’ll call him a C/LW with tremendous upside. Should be available right where Edmonton picks in the 2nd round. Big fan of this kid.

Zavgorodny is talented but tiny I would put him in the MAYBE category. I’m not sure at his size he can stick in the NHL but he has some nice skill and can skate. The rest of the group don’t do anything for me.

 

Next up. The LEFT WINGERS….

Rank Shoots

LEFT WING

Size Weight GP G A P
FC 4 L

Filip Zadina

6’1 192 57 44 38 82
FC 47 L

Anderson MacDonald

6’2 205 58 27 18 45
FC 66 L

Gabriel Fortier

5’10 190 66 26 33 59
NCS 187 L

Tomas Ethier

6’4 209 65 15 18 33
NR L

Joel Teasdale

6’0 201 65 32 33 65
NR L

Thomas Casey

5’8 176 60 8 4 12
NR L

Yaroslav Alexeyev

5’11 152 63 20 33 53

 

Players I like for the Oilers:

Filip Zadina (Top 5 pick) – Zadina should be a star in the NHL. I compare him to Tarasenko as he is relentless on the puck and is a pure sniper. Excels in all facets of the game really he can skate, shoot, is smart and plays a great 200 ft game. There really isn’t much of a difference between he and Svechnikov other than the Russian is a bit more physical but make no mistake Zadina is a wonderful talent who would look awesome playing on a line with McDavid. Elite talent.

Gabriel Fortier (3rd rd) – Fortier is intriguing as he might be the fastest player in the Q and one of the fastest prospects in all of Junior hockey. He needs to do a better job of changing speeds & slowing the game down at times but his elite speed gives him a chance at the next level. He definitely needs to get stronger as he can be pushed off the puck easily but he has some nice hands and creates a lot of chances with that speed. Right now, I think he compares to an Andreas Athanasiou – a guy who can fly, PK and play on your 3rd or 4th line. If he is available when the Oilers pick in the 3rd rd he could be a nice fit.

Joel Teasdale (Late Round) – Teasdale is a 19 yr old who had a good season last year with 18-29-47 in 60 GP. This year, he finished with 32 goals. He is probably an average skater at best but he a relentless, hard working player who scores a lot of garbage goals, wins a ton of puck battles and fights for every puck. Could do a lot worse for a 7th round pick.

 

Who I wouldn’t draft for the Oilers:

Anderson MacDonald (2nd-3rd rd) –  MacDonald is a big man with some nice skill however I don’t think he should be a guy the Oilers target. Similar to a Patrick Maroon he actually has a pretty good shot but is a little slow afoot. He dominates the QMJHL due to his size but I’m not sure that will translate well in today’s NHL. Definitely would not spend a 2nd-3rd rd pick on this player.

Ethier would be a Maybe for me haven’t seen enough of him and Alexeyev is an intriguing 19 yr old who is skinny as a rail but has some skill. Both could be potential late round sleepers.

 

On to the RIGHT WINGERS….

Rank Shoots RIGHT WING Size Weight GP G A P
FC 37 R Vladislav Kotkov 6’4 203 61 21 28 49
NCS 120 R Nicolas Guay 5’11 176 68 29 26 55
NCS 122 R Jeremy McKenna 5’9 172 68 36 41 77
NCS 135 R Shawn Boudrias 6’5 205 60 28 32 60
NCS 174 L Matthew Grouchy 6’1 190 63 17 17 34
NCS 182 R Jordan Martel 6’1 185 66 39 38 77
NCS 207 R Bobby Lynch 6’2 172 67 28 39 67
NR L Bastian Eckl 6’2 176 46 3 15 18

It’s possible only 1 or 2 RW’s from the QMJHL get drafted. Martel is 20 yrs old and Lynch will also be 20 at the draft. GuayMcKenna are 19 yr olds who were eligible last year. Boudrias was also born in 1999 but doesnt turn 19 till September so technically he’ll still be 18 come draft time. Same with GrouchyEckl will be 17 still and hasn’t shown enough yet I think to be drafted.

Vladislav Kotkov (2nd round) – Kotkov is a bit of a wildcard for me. I haven’t got a chance to watch him much but from what I’ve seen he’s a big guy with a big shot who’s a pretty good skater and a load in front. How much does he differ from a Serron Noel? I think he’s not as fast but might be more of a pure shooter. I’m not sure he’s the type of player the Oilers will be targeting but he could make a big impact in the NHL. Some team will likely fall in love with this guy based on his size/skill combination. Probably the best player I know the least about in the CHL. I’ll call him a boom or bust candidate at this point.

 

Here is a list of draft eligible DEFENCEMEN….

Rank Shoots  DEFENCEMEN Size Weight GP

 

G

 

A P
FC 9 R Noah Dobson 6’3 179 67 17 52 69
FC 13 L Jared McIsaac 6’1 194 65 9 38 47
FC 54 L Nicolas Beaudin 5’11 172 68 12 57 69
FC 60 L Xavier Bernard 6’2 176 66 11 24 35
FC 74 R Xavier Bouchard 6’3 190 65 3 18 21
NCS 90 L Michal Ivan 6’1 183 48 3 14 17
NCS 168 L Adam McCormick 5’11 181 67 7 30 37
NR L Radim Salda 6’1 176 62 10 31 41
NR L Antoine Crete-Belzile 6’0 187 51 3 7 10
NR L Tomas Dajcar 6’4 209 42 2 3 5
NR L Chris McQuaid 6’1 168 68 5 9 14
NR L Dominic Cormier 5’10 165 66 9 38 47
NR L Leon Denny 5’8 185 60 6 10 16
NR L Mathieu Charlebois 6’2 212 61 0 4 4

Players I like for the Oilers:

Noah Dobson (Top 15 Pick) – Dobson is a 6’3′ RHD that can skate. At the CHL prospects game they did their Skills Competition and Dobson was 1st of all skaters in the backwards skate, 1st in backwards skate with the puck and 3rd in the forward skate. That means he won’t have any issues in the NHL with speed which is half the battle. At 6’3 he is also a very physical defender who can punish players along the boards and is a tough one on one defender. Defensively, he makes great reads and is excellent at clearing his man out in front. He also is an excellent passer and very capable of carrying the puck out on zone exits. Offensively, he has a big shot and can effectively run a Powerplay. Really, he can do it all. He is big, strong, fast and smart plus he is right handed which makes for the perfect combination. If you compare him to Bouchard, Dobson is a bit faster, a bit better defensively and a bit more physical whereas Bouchard has a bit better offensive capability right now but I think Dobson still has room to grow. If the Oilers don’t pick in the Top 5, Dobson would be my #1 choice for them. Not Bouchard, not Ty Smith who I like a lot but Dobson. Complete defenceman who I think will be a #1 Dman in the NHL very similar in style to an Alex Pietrangelo. May not be ready right away but will be worth the wait.

Who I wouldn’t draft for the Oilers:

Jared McIsaac (Top 15 pick) – LD. McIsaac is a silky smooth skater who is tough and a defence first kind of player. Those are nice traits to have but not really what the Oilers are looking for and certainly not someone they should take with their Top 10 pick. He does have a big shot but doesn’t use it nearly enough as he should. Will be a nice safe pick for someone but not Edmonton.

 

The rest…

Nicolas Beaudin looks to be the best of the rest. He is a bit undersized who isn’t very physical and is not overly flashy but seems to be a smart heady defenceman that could turn out to be ok at the next level. The rest on that list aren’t overly impressive.

 

FINAL WORD…

The QMJHL this year is a little top heavy with ZadinaDobsonVeleno and McIsaac all legit 1st rd prospects and a bunch others capable of going before the end of the 2nd round. After that, in terms of value I’m not seeing anyone with real sleeper potential. As far as a potential fit for Edmonton I really only like 2 players from this league in particular (unless Edmonton gets a Top 3 pick) in Dobson and Kurashev both whom I REALLY like. Fortier and Zavgorodny are other mid round possibilities:

8th Overall Oilers Mock Draft (WHL only)

1st Round – RD Noah Dobson

2nd Round – LW/C Phillip Kurashev

3rd Round – C Gabriel Fortier 

4th Round – C Dmitri Zavgorodny

5th Round – None

6th Round – None

7th Round – D Joel Teasdale

 

To comment please do so via Twitter @TheOilKnight

 

With the Regular season over, the OHL Playoffs are set so it’s time to take a look at the matchups starting with……

 

1st Round Matchup

#4 Niagara (35-23-7) vs. #5 Oshawa (36-29-3)

 

Quick Notes:

Niagara Ice Dogs finished the season on a 7 game winning streak. They split the season series 1-1 with Oshawa this year. Last time they met in the playoffs was 2014 when Oshawa led by Cole Cassels won the series 4-1. 

 

2017-18 Rankings:

PP: Niagara 19.5% (12th), Oshawa 18.8% (14th)

PK: Niagara 80.1% (8th), Oshawa 74.9% (18th)

Goals for: Niagara 240 (6th), Oshawa 250 (4th)

Goals against: Niagara 235 (4th), Oshawa 243 (6th)

 

Niagara Ice Dogs

Offensivelythe Ice Dogs Top 6 is very good. Unlike last year where they got swept in the 1st round, this year’s team boasts two legit scoring lines. Edmonton Oilers draft pick Kirill Maksimov (34 goals) spearheads the Top line at RW with C Ben Jones (LV 7th rd) & Captain LW Johnny Corneil (undrafted overager) rounding out the unit. This trio isn’t the flashiest but they are very strong defensively and have great chemistry together. The 2nd line is one of the best 2nd lines in the OHL if not the best. Trade Deadline acquisition LW Sam Miletic (36 goals) has had a huge impact on this team and on C Akil Thomas (59 assists) in particular since coming over from London. Those two have developed some nice chemistry and give Niagara a real dynamic 2nd unit tough for other teams to match up against. 19 yr old undrafted Daniel Singer (22 goals) rounds out the group.

Defensively, Niagara gives up a ton of shots and frankly is not very good on the back end. Going into the playoffs the Ice Dogs will have to try and eliminate those 2nd and 3rd chances that they have really struggled with this year. They are missing that leader and big presence on the back end which was exactly what Ryan Mantha was for them last year. Their goalie Stephen Dhillon is asked to play miraculously sometimes and he usually does which is why Niagara is where they are in the standings. He doesn’t make all the saves but usually makes the big ones when they need it. This is a prototypical bend but don’t break kind of unit.

#30 Stephen Dhillon. COURTESY OF OHL IMAGES

Top Players:

Sam Miletic – 36G, 56A, 92 pts

Akil Thomas – 22G, 59A, 81 pts

Kirill Maksimov – 34G, 46A, 80 pts

Stephen Dhillon – 27-16-4, 3.34 GAA, .899 SV%

 

Oshawa Generals

Offensivelythe Generals have a balanced attack similar to that of the Ice Dogs however they play a much more speed game who likes to be on the attack at all times. They are led by Boston Bruins 2nd rd pick Jack Studnicka (72 points) and Vancouver 7th rounder D Matt Brassard (51 points) on the back end but also boast nice group of young players in draft eligibles Allen McShane, Serron Noel and 17 yr old Danil Antropov. They transition the puck exceptionally well from defence to offence and do a great job of creating turnovers in the offensive zone with their aggressive forecheck. The Niagara defenders will have their hands full trying to contain this fast aggressive group. 

Defensively, Oshawa is well balanced on the back end with Matt Brassard leading the charge offensively and 17 yr old Nico Gross and the rest of the group holding the fort defensively. They are a big group who can be beat with speed so it will be interesting to see how they match up against the Miletic-Thomas line in particular. Their goalie Kyle Keyser is very solid capable of stealing a game or two himself the key is to get traffic in front of him and look for rebounds as he tends to give up his share of them. 

#38 Kyle Keyser. Photo by Aaron Bell / OHL Images

Top Players:

Jack Studnicka – 22G, 50A, 72 pts

Allen McShane – 19G, 45A, 64 pts

Serron Noel – 28G, 25A, 53 pts

Matt Brassard – 16g, 35A, 51 pts

Kyle Keyser – 28-13-4, 3.16 GAA, .904 SV%

 

Difference in Series:

The should be a very tight series but the difference for me will be Niagara’s PP and Sam Miletic in particular. He’s the best player on both teams I expect he and Thomas to have a big series. As long as Dhillon can keep them in the games I think Niagara’s Power Play will be able to take advantage of Oshawa’s awful PK units and ultimately prove to be the difference in what should be a close series. 

 

Prediction:

Niagara Ice Dogs in 7 games.

 

 

To Comment please do so via Twitter @TheOilKnight. 

 

Tonight I was fortunate to take in the Guelph storm – London Knights game live at Bud Gardens. I was really looking forward to this game to get a long look at Ryan Merkley up close again, draft eligibles Cam Hillis, Owen Lalonde and also Oilers Prospect Dmitri Samorukov. Not to mention all the draft eligible Knights in Evan Bouchard, Liam Foudy, Alec Regula and Nathan Dunkley. Here’s my recap:

London won the game 5-2 despite being down 2-1 with 4 mins to go. They got a PP late so pulled their goalie, scored to tie it then scored again a minute later and topped it off with two empty net goals. Alex Formenton and Evan Bouchard were the best players on the ice hands down but the Knights had plenty of guys that showed well. Formenton who has made tremendous strides since last year looks like he is going to be a heckuva NHLer. He has ELITE speed, ELITE skill, he’s physical and just so damn smart. Bouchard, continues to play like a seasoned vet. His two biggest assets are his poise and his ability to get his shot thru. It’s weird but I don’t see a lot of upside with him it almost seems like he has already peaked as he is mature beyond his years. He had a goal and 3 assists (2 of his assists were shots from the point that were tipped in) +3 with 6 shots. No big deal.

 

Courtesy of LFpress.com

Liam Foudy is a another guy who continues to impress with his blazing speed and terrific work ethic. I projected him in the 3rd round earlier based on several scouting services but at this point I find it hard to imagine he makes it out of the 2nd round now. He’s been on a 2 month tear. He’s fast, relentless, creates a pile of chances and never gives up on plays. He plays on the PP & PK. He reminds me so much of Formenton last year but is further ahead in his development than him I think at this point now. That’s a scary thought because Formenton is a dominant player this year. I’m not sure the Oilers will be targeting LH Centers in this draft but if they are serious about adding guys with a ton of speed and skill – Foudy fits the bill.

For Guelph, Isaac Ratcliffe was their best player by a mile. The London native who is a 2nd rd pick of Philadelphia last year clearly looks like an NHLer. He’s big, he’s strong, he’s skilled and he can skate. Every time he’s on the ice he’s making things happen. The rest of the Guelph team tonight however underwhelmed greatly. (Of note: Cam Hillis did not play) . I was specifically paying attention to Ryan Merkley & Dmitri Samorukov who at times were paired together. I scribbled down a bunch of notes every time they were out. Here’s what I saw:

 

Courtesy of GuelphStorm.com

Ryan Merkley – I thought Ryan Merkley tonight was borderline awful. In fact, this isn’t the first time I have thought that watching him live or on TV. If I had more time I wish I could show you his game shift by shift. Clearly, he can skate and he has great passing ability but boy is his decision making questionable and the attitude I keep hearing about? I saw and heard it up close. He swears A LOT on the ice and always seems to be visibly frustrated on the bench. Terrible body language and a real lack of poise. I was so disappointed of his performance (yet again I might add) I think at this point it is safe to say I wouldn’t draft him in the 1st round for sure and maybe not at all. Way too many Red Flags for me surrounding this player. It’s very possible he is nothing more than Anthony DeAngelo 2.0 in a best case scenario.

Offensively, he really didn’t do much tonight. A couple of weak wristers from the point, earned an assist chipping a puck over to a teammate but also had 3 or so bonehead passes or plays at the blueline resulting in offsides each time. Didn’t register a shot till halfway thru the 3rd period. On the PP you could tell that was where he was most comfortable and engaged. He made a few nice passes there but he still holds the puck too long trying to walk around the entire team one of which led to a 2 on 1 shorthanded chance the other way. While Bouchard looked like a bonafide Top 10 pick, if you didn’t know who #6 on Guelph was you would have just assumed he was maybe a late round pick at best.

Defensively, Merkley is pretty much a waste of space back there. I hate to say things like that regarding prospects but he is such a soft, disinterested player playing defence it really makes me wonder why he doesn’t just play forward. I counted at least half a dozen times where he actually avoided the puck or skated away from his Defensive partner altogether in his zone letting him fend for himself. Does a poor job at puck support for his dman and when he does get the puck he’s looking to get rid of it fast before he takes a hit. He literally looked like he didn’t want to have anything to do with the puck in his own zone it was bizarre. He tried a couple of stretch passes that didn’t work, got easily pushed around by guys like Foudy and did a poor job of defensive reads.

Overall, it was pretty much a piss poor effort from a guy considered the biggest enigma in the draft. Don’t get caught up in the stats folks, this guy is nowhere near an NHLer right now and may never get there in my opinion.

 

Courtesy of GuelphStorm.com

Dmitri “Dima” Samorukov

There’s not a lot to say about Dima’s game that I haven’t already said here.

Like Merkley, Dima likes to join the rush and get involved offensively. He is a good skater and has good power on his shot though accuracy is an issue. I counted 5 or 6 missed shots from him and the boxscore shows he only had 1 registered SOG. His passing was hit and miss nothing of significance there. Really, he wasn’t a threat offensively at all.

Also like Merkley, he shows a real lack of desire to play effective defence. Physically, I didn’t see a single hit from Samorukov. He’s a lazy stick checker. On the PK instead of fighting for position or clearing his man out in front he does this thing where he gives up position easily but turns sideways and tries to hook the stick of the defender LITERALLY EVERY TIME. Several turnovers in his zone, several poor reads. Guys got behind him regularly. ZERO intensity he was just kinda standing there all night playing zone a lot while swiping at pucks with his pokecheck. Very disappointing as at times last year he was a real physical force defensively. That part of his game is all but gone now it appears.

Overall, as I mentioned nothing really changed from the last time I saw him a month or two ago. I do not consider Samorukov a bonafide Oilers prospect despite the offensive skill. Too often he lacks intensity, consistency and an overall desire to perfect his craft instead just looks like a player going thru the motions. He is just another example of a guy with some skill but no will in my opinion.

To comment please do via Twitter @TheOilKnight

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