January 2019 – TheOilKnight.ca

Month: January 2019


Being a GM in the NHL is not easy despite what many Armchair GM’s and bloggers will try and lead you to believe. Sure, GM’s make poor decisions but it’s usually not because they are incompetent. In most cases, they are hired because they are qualified for the role. But, they are competing against each other so someone is usually going to get the short end of the stick in trades, or at the draft, or be forced to overpay in Free agency – it’s just the nature of the business. Perfect trades for both teams are uncommon. GM’s are in the business of trying to produce positive results within a relatively short window, while balancing a budget & trying to get ahead of their competition. Sometimes, they are forced to take calculated risks while relying on the professional resources and people that surround them. They feel the pressure of rabid fan bases to make moves as they constantly struggle for balance between achieving maximum results and maintaining building blocks for the future. Then by the end, they’ve backed themselves so far into a corner they have no way to get out. This was the case of Peter Chiarelli.

Did I support Peter Chiarelli when he was hired in 2015? Hell ya, I did. Like it or not, he still had a Stanley Cup ring on his finger as a GM. You can debate to what degree the role he played in that in Boston, but it still doesn’t take that ring off his finger. That mattered to me. He also wasn’t part of the “Old Boys Club” in Edmonton, which to me meant a breathe of fresh air away from the “same old, same old“. When Peter Chiarelli was hired, he seemed to be the antithesis of previous regimes that preceded him in Edmonton. Smart, bold, and a winner as a manager. That’s why I supported him. I wasn’t alone either. Almost every other Oilers fan at the time I recall, did so also…. at least until “The Trade”.

When Taylor Hall was traded, I certainly wasn’t one of these fans who was butthurt over the trade, and let that haunt me for years like some nasty smoking addiction. The truth is, I was never a Hall fan living in London and watching him play for Windsor. I just wasn’t. I rooted for him to have success in Edmonton and I admit he tried really hard but it was clear something needed to change when Chiarelli arrived. So when Hall got moved I was totally cool with him going. The trade was what it was – a one for one deal trying to deal from a perceived area of strength, to fill a decade long gaping weakness. In terms of value, even the biggest advocates for the trade admit that more should have come back to Edmonton, even if it was just draft picks. What is often overlooked however is, in that 1 week period, not only did the Oilers sign Milan Lucic but they also drafted Jesse Puljujarvi just days before the trade. So while the Oilers lost Hall from their roster, they added Lucic, Larsson & Puljujarvi which appeared at the time to be a win for THE TEAM depth. Did anyone think Looch would fall off a cliff after year 2 of that deal? NO. Would things have been different if the Oilers traded down and drafted a guy like Tkachuk or Sergachev instead? Maybe. Most people that follow me know I was all over Tkachuk and DeBrincat that year. Regardless, Hall was seen by some as an electric, one-dimensional winger who had controversy surrounding him, but ultimately could be replaced. The problem is, Chiarelli never really did.

Now that season following the trade, did I go on a banter, bashing all the anti-Chiarelli fans by rubbing the Hall trade in their faces? Absolutely. Part of it was because I was new to Twitter and felt the need to antagonize the “smart fans” who thought guys like Jason Demers, Cody Franson, Martin Marincin, and Zach Redmond were bonafide defenceman. Most of them were pompous & ignorant pricks anyways (and still are judging by their reaction to Chia’s dismissal). But more importantly, while many still chose to complain and be negative, I chose to stay positive and support the team and GM regardless. I became Team Larsson not Team Hall. After all, Hall was only one player. The core of he, Eberle & Nuge hadn’t done a thing in Edmonton up to that point, so if management decided that McDavid & Draisaitl would make up the new core instead I was totally cool with that. The Oilers proceeded to make the playoffs that year in what turned into a magical season. They were finally constructed to dominate a division that dominated them and ran them out of the building so many times it was great to get some pay back. That was a great “team” that year so no apologies. Chiarelli was up for GM of the year, life was good as an Oilers fan for once. Unfortunately, it didn’t last.

The Eberle trade was another necessary deal as he was too expensive and underperformed under McLellan especially in the playoffs. How can you justify keeping a $6 Million player who gets your ZERO goals in 13 playoff games, while ending up on the 3rd line? Combine that with Hopkins ($6 Mill) & Pouliot ($4 Mill) who were also on that line and who went goal-less those entire playoffs – clearly someone had to go. I understood the need to get better value with that money especially with McDavid and Draisaitl contracts on the horizon. Pouliot got bought out and rightfully so. I don’t care what the analytic nerds say; he was awful and hurt his team more than he helped, and was always in TMac’s doghouse. Surely, if Chiarelli could have talked some sucker into taking him & his contract instead he would have (looking back now, did he even try? Hmmm). Now, did the GM get enough back in the Eberle for Ryan Strome trade? Hell, no. I was never a fan of Strome to begin with.

What that trade basically did was free up money while acquiring a perceived solid player back in return. What it also did was remove a second, established scorer from a team that suddenly was really young and short of established scorers. Most “glass half-full” fans assumed with that extra cap space saved that Chiarelli would bring in someone to help out with the scoring by the trade deadline at the latest. But, that never happened. Like the Hall deal, talent was removed from the lineup but not adequately replaced either in the trades themselves, or separately. Rookies and fringe players were asked to step up and take on bigger roles. That was a big mistake as young players like Puljujarvi and Yamamoto simply weren’t ready yet to make the jump so the team regressed. Plus, the NHL changed. The big tough team Chiarelli built to win in it’s division in 2016, suddenly became that slow team that couldn’t keep up in today’s NHL in a couple short years.

What ended up happening over the next year and half as General Manager, was the constant overpaying of players, over projecting young player’s contributions, and overall cap mismanagement. The confidence of fans like myself who felt “don’t worry he’s got a plan, he’ll figure it out” started to wane especially by the end of last season. Other than Maroon for a bit (who he ultimately traded), Chiarelli was unable to add any forward who could make any real contribution in the Top 6 consistently. He started repeating mistakes of adding fringe players & forcing young players to be inserted into the lineup prematurely. He did not adequately replace the injured Andrej Sekera for two years in a row. Basically, he ran out of options.

The absolute breaking point for myself and many others was this season when it seemed everything Chiarelli did – was a mistake. Trading Ryan Strome who was at worst, a serviceable 3rd line player for Ryan Spooner who was having an awful season in New York made no sense. Spooner has subsequently sent to the minors.

Then, when the team needed defensive help he traded away a useful forward in Drake Caggiula who played with a lot of jam that is sorely lacking in Edmonton right now for Brandon Manning who has another year left on his contract and will by default be the #8 – #10 best defenceman on the Oilers when everyone is healthy.

There were several other head-scratchers too but that’s the gist of it. His time in Edmonton was clearly over. He had backed himself into a corner with no real solution on how to get out of it. Every trade got worse, every signing or re-signing drained the cap more. His moves became indefensible and the frustrations of Oilers fans overbearing. He had to go.

When Chiarelli took over as the General Manager of the Edmonton Oilers he didn’t have a lot to work with. The team’s defence and goaltending was awful, and the farm was bare. He and his staff did do a good job of drafting, fixing the leftorium and replenishing the farm during his tenure. I give him some credit for that. But in the end, a lot of the mistakes he made in Boston like trading away talent and not properly replacing it, and loosely spending against the cap – ending up being his downfall again this time in Edmonton. I supported Chiarelli right from the beginning and I really thought once we got McDavid he would turn the Oilers into a Championship team……but I was wrong. He made a lot of mistakes, then compounded that by making more mistakes and he deserved to be fired. I and many other fans put our faith in the wrong guy.

Despite his downfall, the future of the Oilers is still very bright in my opinion. The building blocks of a solid core are already in place, and there are plenty of quality prospects either on the cusp or on their way. You could argue the hardest pieces of the puzzle are already in place. But, the team is in salary cap hell right now and need someone to come in and undo the damage Chiarelli did. All is not lost, it’s not all doom and gloom. Just ask Islanders fans if you don’t believe me. But it will take time. Something that Peter Chiarelli ran out of.

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To comment please do so via Twitter @TheOilKnight

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A lot has been made of the lack of quality depth within the Edmonton Oilers prospect pool over the past few years. “The Cupboard is bare” was an all too familiar theme among pundits and social media last season, as Edmonton was ranked near the bottom of the NHL in terms of organizational depth outside of its NHL roster. However, after last season’s strong Draft results for the Oilers, what was once considered a weakness has now become a strength.

Edmonton is starting to reap the benefits of quality drafting under it’s current regime with the likes of Jesse Puljujarvi, Caleb Jones, Kailer Yamamoto, and Ethan Bear all cracking the lineup at some point over the last year. On top of that, guys like Tyler Benson, Cooper Marody, Cameron Hebig, William Lagesson, Stuart Skinner & Dylan Wells are all 22 or under playing in the minors currently while trying to develop their skills. That’s 10 quality prospects playing Pro hockey. Add a couple of talented players in Filip Berglund & Joel Persson who had really good seasons in Sweden, along with USHL players Phil Kemp & John Marino, and you’ve now got 14 prospects to get excited about.

It doesn’t end there either. Evan Rodrique and Ostap Safin are two excellent prospects currently playing in the QMJHL. Safin will be AHL bound next season, and Rodrigue the year after that. But this article will focus on the four OTHER prospects in the Oilers pipeline all playing in the OHLEvan Bouchard, Kirill Maksimov, Ryan McLeod & Dmitri Samorukov.

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Photo courtesy of Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 194 lbs Shoots: R

15 GP5 goals, 13 assists, 18 Points

When you talk about EDM prospects the #1 player on most people’s lists is Evan Bouchard. “Bouch” as he’s known by many, is the RH Powerplay Quarterback of the future for the Oilers. He has terrific poise, a hard accurate shot, and is an excellent puck-mover. Plus, as mentioned he is a Powerplay specialist. One area he needs to continue to work on to get better is defensively. Evan can be guilty of puck watching at times in his own zone. He does a decent job at tying up opponents sticks but you’d like to see him be a bit more aggressive boxing out players & aggressively challenging shooters. He needs to bulk up a bit and be tougher to play against which is something you would expect him to do even more once he turns pro next year.

Bouchard currently plays for the London Knights who are one of the favourites to win the OHL title this year. They are loaded on defence led by Bouchard who plays regularly with Alec Regula (DET 3rd rd) at even strength, and Adam Boqvist (CHI, 1st rd) on the PP. London plays a fast paced style led by their Defence who like to routinely push the pace and jump up into the rush. Up front, they recently added OHL vet Kevin Hancock at the trade deadline to go with NHL draftees Liam Foudy & Alex Formenton. Hancock, has 32 goals and 66 points in 39 games so far. This year’s draft eligible Connor McMichael also plays in the Top 6. He has 25 goals in 37 games for London.

After starting the season in Edmonton, then getting sent back to London, Bouchard played for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship. His performance overall was a bit of a mixed bag as he showed flashes of brilliance, but also showed he needs to continue to work on his defensive intensity. Here’s examples of both:

Both clips show the strengths and weaknesses of the player pretty clearly. Bouchard has a very high offensive ceiling but is still young and needs to continue to get better in his own zone. He still projects as an eventual John Carlson type with experience & more consistency but Oilers fans need to be patient and let him develop at his own pace otherwise it may turn out like Justin Schultz did in Edmonton.

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Photo courtesy of Craig Abel/Getty Images

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 194 lbs Shoots: R

37 GP27 goals, 28 assists, 55 Points

Easily the most underrated and least talked about Prospect in the Edmonton organization, Kirill Maksimov is finally starting to gain recognition among fans as a big time scorer in the OHL. “Maksi” as he’s known by many, is the best natural shooter in the Oilers pipeline without question. His slapshot & one-timer are elite. His wrister which has almost no back swing is deadly and accurate. He is a threat to score every time he touches the puck in the offensive zone. He also have great vision and poise which allows him to set up his teammates if teams take away that shot. His 200 foot game is also a strength. He is physical and aggressive on the forecheck, he plays both PP & PK, and will sacrifice his body to make a play. Maksi is a hard-worker who keeps getting better.

The knock on Maksimov when he was drafted was his lack of speed & explosiveness. He has since worked extremely hard on getting stronger on his skates, something that EDM skating coach David Pelletier praised him for here. He can still be guilty of coasting at times but can really skate once he gets going. Acceleration and first step are better but can still be worked on. Something he should continue to focus on when he turns pro next year.

Maksimov currently plays for the Niagara Ice Dogs who are another popular choice to challenge for the OHL title this year. They are loaded up front with NHL draftees Jason Robertson (DAL 2nd rd), Akil Thomas (LA, 2nd rd), Jack Studnicka (BOS, 2nd rd), and Ben Jones (VGK, 7th rd). Their goaltender Stephen Dhillon is an OHL veteran who is very solid and capable of stealing a series himself. The defence will be the question mark moving forward. Are they good enough to get this team to the finals? Time will tell. As for Maksimov, check out these highlights from last season and pay attention to that one-time shot.

Highlights from last season

The future for Maksimov is in a Top 6 role at the NHL level. While he could fill in as a bottom 6 forward initially because of his strong defensive game, ultimately his career will make or break based on what he does in the Top 6. Simply put, he’s a scorer who plays better with talented centers. He’s not a driver so can be taken out of games unless he’s playing in an offensive role. He’s the perfect complimentary winger who a sports a legit NHL shot and release while maintaining a strong 200 ft game. Still a sleeper among pundits at this point of his career. Should be a LW as a Pro.

For a more extensive breakdown from earlier in the year, check out this article from The Cult of Hockey.

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Photo by Natalie Shaver/OHL Pucks & Stripes

Height: 6’3″ Weight: 208 lbs Shoots: L

35 GP13 goals, 29 assists, 42 Points

In today’s NHL, you need players who can really skate and Ryan McLeod might be the fastest prospect in the Oilers pipeline. Blessed with tremendous skating and agility, there is no question McLeod has the potential to be a solid NHL‘er. He has very good awareness, is defensively sound and can play in all situations. He has good offensive instincts but doesn’t always go hard to the net and still plays a bit of a perimeter game which can limit his effectiveness. His shot can be classified as good not great. He has a quick release and soft hands in close but tends to be more of a pass first type than a natural scorer.

McLeod currently plays for the Saginaw Spirit who loaded up at the trade deadline by acquiring he and former teammate Owen Tippett from Mississauga. He’s flanked by OHL vet Cole Coskey and this year’s draft eligible Cole Perfetti. They also have Bode Wilde on defence and a strong goaltender in Ivan Prosvetov. They’re in tough against some powerhouse teams in the OHL but they have a chance and should at least advance a round or two giving McLeod some much needed experience. Here’s a clip of him showing off his speed and soft hands:

McLeod is smart, fast & has an excellent 200 foot game. I just wonder about his hands at the next level. His shot is good not great. He could be a 15-20 goal scorer in the NHL eventually but seems destined to be a bottom 6 role player. When I watch him now I see so many similarities with a former Oiler Todd Marchant – a very solid, valuable #3 center who can win faceoffs and penalty kill while chipping in the odd big goal, which would seem to align up perfectly with Edmonton’s needs.

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Photo courtest of Terry Wilson/OHL images

Height: 6’2″ Weight: 180 lbs Shoots: L

33 GP3 goals, 17 assists, 20 Points

“Dima” as he’s known by many, is a very intriguing defensive prospect in that there are a lot of different tools in his toolbox. He is a very good skater who loves to rush the puck. He also has a cannon of a shot. He excels at retrieving the puck and making a good first pass out of his zone. He can also make that nice stretch pass tape to tape. Dima even has a little shake and bake in his game where he can walk a guy if they’re not paying attention. Defensively, he uses good positioning to keep guys in front of him and will sacrifice his body to block a shot. He also plays a lot on the Penalty kill unit. He hasn’t had a lot of Powerplay time in the past despite the big shot and does seem to be too tentative & unsure of himself when he does get an opportunity – something that can be worked on at the next level. Plenty to like about his game as he can be described as a “toolsy” player.

Despite the skill-set there are flaws in his game that need to be addressed. As mentioned, he has a cannon of a shot but really struggles with accuracy. If the hitting the glass counted as a goal he might have 50 by now. Also, the physical part of his game seems to have disappeared for long stretches. Dima has become more of a stick-checker defensively now than a punishing, physical defenceman even though he has shown flashes of that in the past especially in his draft year. His defensive awareness and play recognition appear to have improved over the course of this year which is a positive. Here’s that shot though when it does hit the target:

Samorukov currently plays for the Guelph Storm who absolutely loaded up at the trade deadline especially on defence. Markus Phillips, fresh off a Team Canada appearance was added. So was OHL vets Sean Durzi (TOR, 2nd rd) and Fedor Gordeev (TOR, 5th rd) giving Guelph a talented and experienced Top 4 D-core all of the sudden. That’s good for Dima as he has plenty of help, but it also takes away some PP opportunities and ice time. Up front they added Team Canada alums Mackenzie Entwhistle and Nick Suzuki too which means Guelph is going for it all this year. That will prove to be a great challenge for Samorukov who I feel needs to prove he can play tough, consistent, defensive hockey.

In the past, I have often referred to Good Dima vs. Bad Dima when describing his game as consistency seems to be one of his biggest weaknesses. I have personally witnessed games live where I thought he was one of the worst players on the ice. Questionable decision making, lackadaisical efforts and just not enough intensity. Then, there are other times where I think he looks fantastic and a looks like bonafide prospect. Take the World Junior Championship for example. Playing for Team Russia I thought he had a very strong tournament. I broke down his game versus Canada below:

Since coming back from that tournament, Dima has been very good. The defensive intensity appears to still be there and he looks fully engaged. It helps his team is loaded now as they make a run at an OHL title. He is certainly an intriguing prospect with some nice tools but ultimately if he does make it to the NHL after a few years of AHL seasoning, he probably won’t be anything more than a 3rd pairing guy. But, he can skate and move the puck so he has a chance. The skill is there but the big question still remains….does he have the will?

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So as you can see, there are plenty of prospects in the Edmonton Oilers organization to get excited about. Not all of them will make it obviously, and not all them will necessarily will be Top 6 or Top pairing guys. However, there are several prospects with interesting skill-sets that Edmonton doesn’t really have right now on their NHL roster which means some of these guys could end up being nice complimentary pieces. When you already have stars like Connor McDavid & Leon Draisaitl, sometimes that’s all you need. Cheap, young players on Entry-level contracts who can contribute and fill a variety roles. The cupboard is far from bare now folks. The prospect pipeline has now been built.

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To comment please do so via Twitter @TheOilKnight

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NHL Mock drafts at this point of the season are pretty much useless. I mean, they give enthusiasts a starting point to see who is ranked where and why, but for me the scouting season really begins now.

Last season around this time for example, there was talk of Filip Zadina going ahead of Andrei Svechnkikov. Vitali Kravtsov was a late first round pick and Liam Foudy was projected to go in the 3rd round. Akil Thomas and Ryan McLeod were sure fire 1st rounders while Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Barrett Hayton weren’t even close to Top 5 players.

Needless to say, I don’t really pay attention to Mock drafts before the New Year as so much changes over the course of the 2nd half of the season. The World Juniors are still going on plus there are other tournaments that happen during the second half of the year, All-star games, plus playoffs and the stretch run for Junior teams. Much can change between now and June, and the reality is, many 17 yr olds don’t break out till the second half of their draft year.

So, I always like to start ranking players in one league at a time and compare them to their peers in that same league. That gives me a good starting point then I work towards comparing players of other leagues later in the year. As most readers are probably aware by now, I do so by breaking down each prospects individual skills and determine how they translate to the NHL. Points are great but I care more on HOW you got them – not how MANY you got necessarily. Red flags are also a huge thing for me. To see exactly what system I like to incorporate in my evaluations, you can check it out here.

That being said, here is my 1st edition of the Prospect List for the OHL. I rank players in order of how effective I feel they will be at the next level, not strictly by who’s the best offensive player in their league. Enjoy.

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Top Forwards


Height: 6’0

Weight: 170 lbs

34 GP – 25 Goals, 18 assists, 43 pts.

Shoots: L

McMichael is a highly intelligent, all around player with very good speed, quick, soft hands and an excellent 200 ft game (like most of Dale Hunter’s players). His great vision and anticipation makes him very good at burying rebounds and tipping the puck. It doesn’t appear that he has a big shot, instead he uses his quick hands and release to catch goalies off guard. Averages 4 shots a game. He’s not a burner like Formenton or Foudy but is a very good skater with good edge work who can beat you one on one with some nifty moves. He’s also a very efficient faceoff guy. McMichael plays a very smart, determined game. He excels at creating turnovers, capitalizes on rebounds and always seems to find the open ice. He doesn’t shy away from contact but can be pushed off the puck at times due to lack of strength. He can dangle in shootouts and on breakaways. The major difference between he and Suzuki I see, is McMichael plays a more determined game in the offensive zone and is a constant scoring threat, where Suzuki is a little more tentative and waits for plays to develop. Important to note, Connor drives his own line and usually doesn’t play with the other Top forwards 5 on 5 in London either. He already has 25 goals this season and could explode in the 2nd half. A Barrett Hayton type jump up the draft boards is possible. He already has more goals now then Robert Thomas did his entire draft year.

Projected Round: Top 10 Pick

McMichael highlights

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Height: 6’0

Weight: 171

34 GP – 11 Goals, 27 assists, 38 pts.

Shoots: L

Suzuki is an excellent skater with tremendous vision and awareness. His head is always up. He is also a terrific playmaker with soft hands capable of making tape to tape passes regularly. Not a burner, but has real quick feet and acceleration. He has elite hands and playmaking ability which makes him very dangerous whenever he has the puck. But, he’s definitely a pass first type player who does pass up shots almost too much. Can play a very patient game waiting for plays to develop which does lead to unnecessary turnovers sometimes. Excellent 200 ft player can play all situations. Averages just over 2 shots per game. His shot and release appear to very good when he decides to use them. Does tend to shy away from puck battles whereas McMichael is more determined. Needs to get stronger. Very creative and dynamic center who with more determination and assertiveness in his game could catapult to top of this list by end of season. Just a little too much “cuteness” and “tentativeness” in his game right now for my liking to rank him #1.

Projected Round: Top 15 Pick

Suzuki Highlights

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Height: 6’2″

Weight: 185 lbs

37 GP – 26 goals, 28 assists, 54 points.

Shoots: L

Kaliyev has a lot of tantalizing offensive skill. He has a big time slapshot and an excellent one-timer. He can also make some sweet passes with his soft hands. His offensive instincts are elite and he is the purest shooter of all the draft eligibles in this draft hands down. I’ve heard some Svechnikov comparisons but Kaliyev is more of a complimentary winger than a driver like Svech was. Plus, Svech’s physicality was a huge part of his game and is lacking in Kaliyev’s. If all that mattered when it came to scouting was offensive numbers, then Kaliyev would easily be the best of the crop in the OHL this year. However, as we know that is not the case. There are some red flags with this player that are a serious cause for concern. For one, he appears to take shifts off and looks disinterested at times. In the playoffs last year for example, he completely disappeared for long stretches despite being on a stacked Hamilton team.

I also seriously question Kaliyev’s work ethic. He too often looks to get by with his pure talent and won’t work hard enough to win puck battles, or on the defensive end. The term “lazy” has thrown around by some draft experts. Bottom line, despite the offensive talent, McMichael and Suzuki are excellent 200 ft players but Kaliyev is not right now in my opinion. That is why he is #3 on my list. Loads of skill but I question the will. That is something I can’t ignore. Bust potential.

Projected round: 1st round

Kaliyev Highlights

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Height: 5’8″

Weight: 157 lbs

22 GP – 11 Goals, 11 assists, 22 points.

Shoots: L

Nick is the younger brother of Dallas Stars 2nd rd pick Jason Robertson. He’s not nearly as big but he is much quicker for sure, displaying tremendous quickness in short bursts. His top speed isn’t great but his motor is non-stop. His shot is also ridiculous which should make him an attractive prospect in June. The fact he performs well in big tournaments like the Hlinka-Gretzky and now the World Juniors should also bode well for his draft status. Ty Dellandrea had similar performances outside of his OHL league play and went 13th overall last year. Make some highlight reel plays but also turns the puck over more than you’d like. Creative, dynamic but needs to be more durable.

I see a lot of Alex DeBrincat in Robertson especially with that elite shot, diminutive size, compete level and ability to find open spots on the ice. However, injuries have slowed him down so far in his OHL career so Nick is still a bit of a question mark for me. 1st round talent for sure but might slip to 2nd round if continues to get banged up.

Projected Round: 1st-2nd round

Robertson highlights

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Height: 6’3″

Weight:185 lbs

35 GP: 14 goals, 9 assists, 23 points

Shoots: L

Murray was originally my #1 Prospect in the summer when projecting for this upcoming year based on his size/skating/skill. Unfortunately, he has underwhelmed this season so far.

His competitiveness is a glaring issue but there is talk he may still have some lingering shoulder issues. Not sure if that is an excuse or a legit concern but there is no question Murray has a ton of skill. He’s big, he can skate and he has a real quick, hard shot. He’s also a surprisingly good playmaker too. A lot of that will help him at the next level but he’ll never get there if he doesn’t compete harder every night and work on his consistency. I swear I saw flashes of a young Jamie Benn last year but at this point I’m just not sure. A couple games I watched this year I thought he was awful. Just looked slow and disinterested. Perhaps its a lack of endurance, confidence, injuries or just a lack of will that is holding him back but he doesn’t look like the same player from last year as a 16 yr old.

In terms of NHL translatable skills, he has a lot to like so he stays in my Top 5 OHL prospects for now but I need to see a big 2nd half of the season from him if he is to remain there. All the tools are there to dominate if he wants to.

Projected round: 2nd round

Blake Murray showing off his NHL shot

Best of the rest

Philip Tomasino (Niagara) – With blazing speed and a nice offensive skill-set, I wouldn’t be surprised if he skyrocketed up draft boards in the 2nd half. Should probably be higher than Blake Murray at this point. He’s good defensively and he makes a lot of smart plays all over the ice.

Matvei Guskov (London) – Slick forward who is a good 200 ft player, Guskov has been good but not great in London up to this point. A little tentative offensively, he appears to be transitioning slowly to the OHL but has gotten better recently. Has soft hands and can good playmaking ability but not seeing anything elite from him at this point. Should improve over 2nd half of season.

Graeme Clarke (Ottawa) – Not the best skater in the world which is why he is not Top 5. Also, questionable work ethic at times. But, boy can he dazzle and shoot the puck. Offensive dynamo who needs to work on everything away from the puck to become a more complete player including consistency.

Nicholas Porco (Saginaw) – Might be the fastest player in this draft eligible class which always gives a prospect a chance. Also has 15 goals showing off some nice finishing ability. Consistency will be key as will his desire to go to the net instead of staying on the perimeter. Enough there to warrant this spot.

Joe Carroll (The Soo) – While teammate and fellow draft eligible Cole McKay has been the more productive of the two so far, Carroll posesses more NHL translatable skills IMO. His shot is elite and his size/skill is very intriguing. Has some highlight reel potential but needs to continue to work on his skating and defensive game. Has been banged up a bit too.

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Top Defencemen


Height: 6’2″

Weight: 181 lbs

26 GP – 0 goals, 15 assists, 15 points.

Shoots: L

I had the pleasure of watching Kolyachonok live during training camp and preseason in London, and I can honestly say he absolutely blew me away. He did things in those few days I have never seen before from an OHL defenseman. Now, that’s not to say he is the next coming of Bobby Orr, but it does tell me that there is a lot more to this player than meets the eye. For a complete breakdown of his game from earlier in the year please click here.

Kolyachonok is a tremendous, puck rushing defenceman first and foremost. He can take the puck and go end to end with it. He also has the speed to come back on the defensive end quickly. He is also blessed with wonderful agility. He can turn on a time and moves so quick laterally it is quite impressive. Acceleration and foot speed is top notch.

He is also a very intelligent defenceman who appears to take great pride in his defensive abilities. He defends the 2 on 1 beautifully and is extremely difficult to beat one on one. Has a very active stick which he uses to break up plays. Despite his skinny frame, he’s not afraid to engage physically and wins more than his share of puck battles. Very adept at zone exits by either skating it out or making a quick pass. His offensive instincts are also very strong. He can pinch in from the point and make that back door pass if you’re not careful. He really has all the tools you’d want in a prospect. His shot might be the only thing he needs to work. Like most prospects, he needs to get a bit stronger too.

His Flint team is a disaster defensively, but every time I have watched him he has more than held his own. Some people will look at that team’s record, his plus/minus and the fact he has zero goals and think he is overrated. Au contraire mon amis. He has the perfect NHL translatable skills. He is so smart, fast, and excels at both ends of the ice at worst he is a good puckmover in the NHL. If he was still in London he would be a Top 10 pick in my opinion. Don’t sleep on this kid, he is a legit prospect. My favourite Prospect in this draft so far.

Projected Round: 1st Round

Kolyachonok game tape breakdown by the OilKnight

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Height: 6’3″

Weight: 183 lbs

36 GP – 6 goals, 23 assists, 29 points

Shoots: L

Harley is a solid all round defenceman. Big and steady probably best describes him. He’s not going to wow you with his big shot but his excellent speed and puck moving ability make him an intriguing prospect. His shot is below average. Quite often he’ll choose that longer wrister instead of a big slapper which limits him as a Powerplay QB. Defensively, he still needs to improve but is a good decision make. Despite his size he doesn’t always use it to his advantage as he is more of a stick checker than anything. He does however excel at zone exits and in today’s NHL that is extremely valuable. Add in his terrific skating and you’ve got yourself a legit defensive prospect with some upside if his offence continues to evolve and he gets stronger.

Projected Round: 2nd Round

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Height: 6’0″

Weight: 185 lbs

34 GP – 5 goals, 15 assists, 20 points

Shoots: L

Constantinou is an offensively dynamic defenceman who offers more upside than Harley but at a higher risk. Offensively, he can join the rush thanks to his great skating and is a threat to score thanks to his good hands and quick shot. Defensively, he can be a major liability at times. He does however move the puck very well from the back end. He just needs to cut down on his turnovers and up his defensive intensity. Decision making is an issue with this player which is a red flag for me.

I’m not sure if he is the kind of player I would trust at the next level but his skill-set and offensive ceiling might be worth the risk. Is he your prototypical Junior defenceman who loves to play offense but doesn’t put in the work to improve his overall game? Time will tell.

Projected Round: 2nd-3rd round


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Best of the rest

Michael Vukojevic (Kitchener) – Overrated by many IMO. Defensive defenceman who plays an effective game but has questionable decision making.

Andrew Perrott (London) – Probably the most underrated defenceman in this draft. Terrific defender, excellent speed, good puck mover, pain in the ass to play against. He is buried on the depth chart in London but based on NHL translatable skills alone – he has the goods. He also has the pedigree; his dad is former NHL’er Nathan Perrott.

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Height: 6’4″

Weight: 194 lbs

32 GP – 19-13-0, 2.78 GAA, .919 SV%

Shoots: L

The only time I saw him live was in London and he let in 4 goals in the 1st period and was yanked. I specifically tried to scout him on tape the other day against Kingston and he let in 5 goals and was yanked after two periods. I’ve watched him periodically previously and it appears he gets as much work as Dylan Wells did. Capable of making some outstanding saves but lets in his share of softies like Wells used to.

I need to see more of him and goalies are like voodoo anyways. So, I’ll just say the book is still out on him. Not a good couple impressions though.

Projected Round: 4th-6th round

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