Thu. Nov 26th, 2020

By the OilKnight 09/16/20

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With the 2020 NHL draft just a few weeks away, here’s an early preview of the OHL draft class of 2021. As usual, NHL translatable skills & red flags are the bars here in terms of overall rankings.

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#1.

courtesy of ontariohockeyleague.com

Brandt Clarke – Offensive defenceman who is deadly in transition and rushing the puck. Very smooth, has great edges & terrific offensive instincts. Also possesses elite vision & hockey IQ. Very capable of deking opponents at top speed with his quick hands. Has great command on the PP and is equally dangerous as a shooter or puck distributor. Has all the makings of a top defenceman in his class. A true #1 & natural quarterback on the blueline.

The only real concern with Clarke at this moment is his top end speed. He got beat too often in foot races defensively. But, he’s so smooth with the puck he barely breaks stride as he weaves in and out of lanes, you rarely notice it. He still needs work in his own zone but so does pretty much every other defenceman in his class. Trending to be a sure-fire Top 10 pick in the NHL draft and maybe as high as Top 3.

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#2.

courtesy of ontariohockeyleague.com

Francesco PinelliComplete package. Smart, skilled, hard-working, great leadership qualities. Very good skater. Great hands. NHL shot. Reliable in all 3 zones. Plays a pro style game already. Pinelli can play the wing or center but should get more of an opportunity up the middle for Kitchener this upcoming season. He’s a dual threat with a very high hockey IQ & work ethic. He just needs to get a bit stronger.

Pinelli is a Top 15 NHL prospect for me right now and could slide into Top 10 by end of the year. He’s already one of my favourite prospects in the 2021 draft. Checks all the boxes as a future Top 6 NHL center.

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#3.

courtesy of ontariohockeyleague.com

Brennan OthmannSkinny good who can absolutely rip the puck. NHL shot and release. Also a terrific skater and playmaker. Likely has the best hands of this OHL crop and definitely one of the best shots if not the best. The favourite for me to lead this crop in goals next season. Real pesky player who likes to be vocal on the ice and has a chippy side to him. Solid in all 3 zones. Turnovers a bit of an issue.

Othmann should be a 1st round pick and could develop into one of the better snipers in this entire draft. Don’t rule him out of your Top 15 yet.

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#4.

courtesy of ontariohockeyleague.com

Mason McTavish – Your prototypical power forward. Good size and strength, and has the blistering shot. Always around the net. Real quick hands. 2nd in OHL rookies in shots behind Shane Wright. Sneaky good playmaker too. Not afraid to be physical. Needs to improve consistency and play away from the puck. Somewhat similar stylistically to Blake Murray and Will Cuylle as 16 yr olds last couple years but appears to have better vision & hockey IQ. Looked gassed down the stretch.

McTavish looks like a 1st rounder for sure right now. Just needs to round out his game and bring it every night to solidify it. Endurance a bit of an issue last season.

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#5.

courtesy of ontariohockeyleague.com

Connor Lockhart – While he might be the smallest player in this list (5’8″, 163lbs), Lockhart might be the most explosive. He might also have the best work ethic out of this group. Lockhart has blistering speed and plays with great pace and energy. He’s an overall terrific skater who’s always moving his feet. He’s also extremely creative with the puck and flashes some elite level puck skills. Very quick hands and is blessed with a dynamic shot and release.

Lockhart’s game is a bit reminiscent of Travis Konecny/Alex DeBrincat. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him explode this year and ultimately get drafted in the Top 2 rounds. He has that type of skill. Lack of size and strength will be an issue for some, but this kid is as talented as any in the OHL this year. Could catapult into 1st round if bulks up a bit.

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#6.

courtesy of ontariohockeyleague.com

Bryce Montgomery – The first thing you notice when you watch Montgomery, is how well he moves for such a big kid. He has a strong powerful stride with an impressive top speed. But he also has very quick feet, good acceleration, and is light on his skates. His crossovers are fluid and his edge work is excellent. He rarely gets caught flat footed or off balance which is a big problem for a lot of bigger defencemen. Montgomery also likes to carry the puck, especially in the neutral zone which makes him dangerous in transition.

Defensively, Montgomery excels at retrieving pucks as he can beats opponents with his size, speed & ability to move the puck which will definitely catch the eye of NHL scouts. He’s equally capable of a quick first pass or carrying the puck out for zone exits. He’s physical too and will quite often out muscled opponents off the puck, or shield them in puck possession. Montgomery tracks his man well in the d-zone and displays good overall fundamentals for the position (gap control, stick placement, awareness).

Despite being a late 2002 birthdate, there is still a certain level of “raw-ness” to his game. Which means, the potential for growth is still high for the big 6’4″ right shot defenceman – especially playing in a more primary role in London next season. He should be a hot commodity come NHL draft day next summer. Montgomery should rocket up draft boards as the season progresses.

courtesy of Billy Sullivan on Youtube

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#7.

courtesy of ontariohockeyleague.com

Chase Stillman – Smart, savvy player with an excellent work ethic. Very good hands. Quick shot and release. NHL bloodlines. Stillman doesn’t have as much natural ability as Othmann or Lockhart maybe, but could turn out to be the better pro. Does so many things well and is reliable in all 3 zones. A battler.

Chase is the son of former NHL’er Cory Stillman. Looks like a 2nd or 3rd round pick right now. Does so many things well he’s an easy player to like.

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#8.

courtesy of ontariohockeyleague.com

Daniil Chayka – Wore #5 last year for Guelph, and certainly look liked a former #5 in Dmitri Samorukov. Chayka is very active in the offensive zone, shows good offensive instincts and loves to join the rush. Also possesses good size and mobility. Moves the puck pretty well too. High energy guy who likes to be an offensive catalyst for his team. Prone to a few too many defensive gaffes though which might scare a few teams off.

Chayka is a late 2002 birthdate but should be the second highest scoring draft eligible defender from this league in 2020-21. That means there’s a good chance he’s a Top 50 pick.

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#9.

courtesy of ontariohockeyleague.com

Brett HarrisonAlready has good size and plays a pro style game. Harrison is one of the most complete players in this group and has silky mitts in tight. Excellent shot and release. Similar to Pinelli but not quite as good a shot but still a goal scorer. Very good down low. Plays a complete 200 foot game. Skating looks to be a strength. A lot to like and a bit of a sleeper for me. Need to see more.

Harrison is likely a 2nd or 3rd round pick right now but could easily climb this list by year’s end. No major flaws in his game from what I can tell so far.

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#10.

courtesy of ontariohockeyleague.com

Stuart Rolofs – First off, Rolofs has NHL speed. He beat Liam Foudy in the fastest skater competition in London last year so you know he can scoot. Rolofs also has a terrific work ethic and likes to drive hard to the net. He possesses good size and strength, which he often tries to use to his advantage in puck protection. His shot is one of the better ones in this class but he has some underrated playmaking ability too.

Like most 16 year old rookies in London, it will come down to confidence in his draft year for Rolofs. Like 2020 draftee and teammate Luke Evangelista, Rolofs didn’t score as a rookie. But, he flashed some high end skill especially late in the year and should get much more opportunity this season to boost his stock. He did show he was capable of being a reliable 200 foot player which bodes well for his chances for more ice time under coach Dale Hunter.

It’s a bit of a projection based on size, speed, skill combination but Rolofs has all the makings of a 1st or 2nd round pick. Now he just needs the production to go with it.

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Honorable mentions: Jack Beck (Ottawa), Wyatt Johnson (Windsor), Tristan Lennox (Saginaw), Max McCue (London)