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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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Weight: 170 lbs
34 GP – 25 Goals, 18 assists, 43 pts.
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.
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34 GP – 11 Goals, 27 assists, 38 pts.
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
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Weight: 185 lbs
37 GP – 26 goals, 28 assists, 54 points.
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
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Weight: 157 lbs
22 GP – 11 Goals, 11 assists, 22 points.
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
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35 GP: 14 goals, 9 assists, 23 points
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
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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Weight: 181 lbs
26 GP – 0 goals, 15 assists, 15 points.
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
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Weight: 183 lbs
36 GP – 6 goals, 23 assists, 29 points
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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Weight: 185 lbs
34 GP – 5 goals, 15 assists, 20 points
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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Weight: 194 lbs
32 GP – 19-13-0, 2.78 GAA, .919 SV%
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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