Scouting the CHL –

Category: Scouting the CHL

By Tyler Campbell 02/25/2020



The first year that I attempt to focus on just the WHL solely, and I get about the worst possible year to rank their kids! Nobody is pulling away for me in this race and we are splitting hairs with so many of these kids. Guhle vs Schneider, Zary vs Finley, Wiesblatt vs Neighbours, anyone can rank these kids in pretty much any order and I’m not going to put up much of a fight. Which means the guy doing the rankings better put a HECK of a lot of time into research and going over everything with a fine-tooth comb (which is one reason I’m so late in getting this list out). This is what I’ve done, but it’s frustrating because I might look back at this in two weeks and start kicking myself and I don’t just give myself love taps, I kick hard!! It’s crazy. 

I won’t be the least bit surprised if there are no WHL kids who go in the top 15 of the draft.  All the top kids in this year’s class have noticeable warts. Having said that, I believe there are nine kids as of writing this who could then go in the 15-40 range.  You can make a legitimate case for any of the kids I have ranked 1-6 here being the top WHL draft prospect right now and I truly mean this that the gap from 1 all the way down to 14 is very small, so the depth here is just crazy.

I’ve decided to give you a top 20 this time around…just because I’m THAT good of a person. Added to that are 6 honourable mentions, and 4 more kids playing Tier II junior out west to bring the total to 30 players in the rankings this time around. I’m like the Oprah of the WHL. Souprah.



courtesy of

Previous Rank: 1

Kaiden Guhle remains number one for me yet again, though this is getting even tighter. I’ll tell you the one thing that drives me nuts this season though is anyone trying to make the case that Braden Schneider is a better prospect than him. By no measure (in my opinion) is Schneider better than Guhle. They are such similar defencemen, but Guhle is a better skater, not nearly as filled out at this point, just as physical, and a draft year younger. You’re talking about a big, physical, terrific skating defenceman who is miserable to play against in his own zone and moves the puck well. 

When you’re looking at his defensive game specifically, there isn’t anything I dislike. Positioning, angling, stick, zone entries, and puck retrievals are all high end for a draft eligible defenceman. He reminds me a lot of two different defencemen: Darnell Nurse and Brent Seabrook. Both guys never put up big offensive numbers in their draft years and yet one was a cornerstone for a three time Cup winner and the other is a 25 year old, top four defenceman, who just got 5.6 million per season. Pretty good company. 

If you’re looking at the here and now with Guhle, maybe you’re not as high on him. But I believe his upside is ridiculous. This kid has all the tools (and I consider IQ and work ethic in those tools) to become a terrific defenceman in the show someday.



courtesy of

Previous Rank: 4

The most skilled player to come out of this year’s WHL crop, Seth Jarvis checks in at #2 this time around, barely edged out for 1st by Guhle for me. All season I talked about how Jarvis is in that group of kids who could be ranked anywhere from 3rd to 9th for me, and I had him as the top kid in that group the last time around, but now Jarvis is starting to separate from that group. Skating, IQ, vision, compete are all very solid, but it’s the hands which are perhaps what I like about his game the most. 

There are a lot of players which Jarvis reminds me of. A bit of Jordan Eberle, a bit of Brendan Gallagher, a bit of Nik Ehlers, all players who are undersized, but all players who have a different skill set. 

Jarvis needs to improve his play away from the puck, but it’s not any worse than most kids his age. He’ll fly the zone quite a bit but that’ll likely be coached out of him in time. He’s not on the top of my list this time around, but if he continues trending how he has of late, I can’t imagine I’d have anyone higher than him the next time around.



courtesy of

Previous Rank: 10

Finley takes a very big jump up my rankings. I’m well aware that many won’t agree with this, and that’s fine. This is how I feel right now, and just hear out my POV on this. Obviously the tool kit stands out. He’s not just 6’5, he’s not just 207 lbs, he’s a good skater who is putting up impressive numbers when you factor in that he’s been seeing a ton of tough minutes in Spokane. His season is actually greatly replicating the season Ryan Johansen had in his draft year, and it took scouts a while that season until they started to really recognize Johansen. Finley is a kid who to me looks like a sure thing to play in the league, but the upside is still there. 

Of course, the one guy most noticeable who I’m ranking behind Finley is Connor Zary. When I break down Finley v Zary, I have all the edges other than raw point totals going to Finley.  Even strength scoring however, Finley is better PPG (0.78) than Zary (0.76). If Finley were the one playing with Zane Franklin and Orrin Centazzo (shout out to my fellow Marwayne Wildcats…) then would his numbers resemble Zary’s? In my opinion, they’d be as good or better. Is Finley going to make a lot of highlight reels? No.  He’s not overly dynamic. Luckily for Finley, I’m not big on players being dynamic. Being intelligent and constantly on the right side of the puck isn’t sexy, but production is production.



courtesy of

Previous Rank: 2

The work ethic and the IQ really stand out when you watch Connor Zary play and as I’ve said before the guy is a coach’s dream. You can put him in any situation and he’s going to thrive. My buddy Larry Fisher compares him with Bo Horvat and it really is a spot-on comparison. I’d say you’re at least getting a Jarret Stoll type with Zary (who was similar to Horvat but simply didn’t sustain the offensive production Horvat has and will). Captain material. He simply does everything very well. 

However, that can be viewed as a negative too, as a fellow contributor to the pointed out (I won’t say who, but I’ll just say he knows the QMJHL extremely well…) sometimes it’s not so much that they do everything well as it is they don’t do anything great. And that is fair with Zary is he doesn’t do one thing that stands out, and for me, the skating is a bit concerning.



courtesy of

Previous Rank: 9

As you can see, I am coming around on Braden Schneider. Way too tough on him in the summertime, I tend to do that with the kids who have the late birthdays. He’s a safe pick. As I said earlier, he’s very similar to Kaiden Guhle, I just don’t feel as though there is anything Schneider does a lot better, and I believe Guhle has some offensive upside where I’m not sure Schneider has much.

The comparison I’ve used all season though is Travis Hamonic, and no team is going to cry about getting a D-man like that. I like his skating, and he’s not just a physical guy in his own zone. Much like Guhle, good gap control, positioning, and stick. You can really see with Schneider that he takes pride in being that shutdown/throwback defender.



courtesy of

Previous Rank: 5

So if you’re looking at just the skill sets on the dub prospects who I have so closely bunched up (Wiesblatt, Jarvis, Neighbours, McClennon, Sourdif, etc), Ozzie Wiesblatt could be the least skilled of those kids. But on the other hand, he is perhaps the most likely to simply play in the NHL of the group. So how do you rank that?! It’s tricky, and I admit I do have to come up with more of a system to make such issues much easier to figure out.

Wiesblatt, is going to be the type of player who can play in any situation. Right now he’s playing the middle for the Raiders, though I see him as a winger down the line. Good skater, good motor, plays physical, plays a little greasy at times, he’ll be a fan favourite wherever he goes.



courtesy of

Previous Rank: 6

I get why some people love Jake Neighbours as much as they do. That’s never been lost on me. Neighbours plays a pro game, he can play a hard game, and he can play a bit of a greasy game at times too. His IQ is high end. I really worry about the skating though. It’s not that it can’t improve, but it’s much more to do with a theory I have. 

Neighbours is already pretty filled out at 5’11 and near 200 lbs. That doesn’t suggest he is going to gain a whole lot more strength. Maybe. I’m not saying he won’t. But I’m more willing to bet on kids making a big improvement in their skating ability who aren’t yet filled out.  If he can get his skating to where it needs to be, I love him just as much as everyone else seems to. But I’m just not sure he can.



courtesy of

Previous Rank: 8

Maybe the toughest kid to rank. On one hand, he has exploded offensively after a slow start. He recently went on an 11 game point streak and had 29 points in his last full 18 games played. Why did I say “full”? Because in his last game McClennon suffered a broken collarbone and will be out likely until the end of the WHL regular season, if not longer. 

The other thing some would point to in terms of his production was that he took off once Peyton Krebs returned from his Achilles injury. But let’s not pretend McClennon is playing on some offensive juggernaut in Winnipeg where he’s able to live off other’s accomplishments. McClennon is a lot like Kailer Yamamoto, not just in stature but also with his drive and fearlessness on the ice. He plays much bigger than his size. The skating isn’t where Yamamoto’s was at this point though. I personally believe it’s better than some have suggested, but there is no doubt it needs work. Opposite of Neighbours though, McClennon has a lot of weight and strength to pack on still, so it’s possible it could greatly improve as he does.



courtesy of

Previous Rank: 3

A big slide down my rankings for Justin Sourdif, but again, I have to stress that I don’t see anything of a big gap between 1st and 9th, and it’s an even smaller one between 6th and 9th.  The thing you have to remember with Sourdif that while the numbers aren’t where many believed they would be for him this season, it is the Vancouver power play that is killing his production more than anything. 

So while he’s down at #9 for me at the moment, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to go on a tear at some point and shoot back up into my top 3. It’s that tight. And with Sourdif, the skillset isn’t in question. I do worry though that the drive isn’t there though. He isn’t very assertive with the puck, and he doesn’t bring much in terms of physicality or gamesmanship.



courtesy of

Previous Rank: HM

Ridly Greig is an intriguing prospect for a lot of people. He plays a pro game and he has a lot of growing to do physically so that always will make people wonder where the ceiling is. I like his skating ability and feel as though there is room for that to grow quite a bit in the next few seasons. 

Greig has excellent hockey sense, is a decent playmaker, protects the puck well, and plays a solid 200 foot game. He is also willing to play a physical which simply makes him a very complete player. For me, I see him as potentially a terrific two-way centre as a pro.



courtesy of

Previous Rank: HM

Ronan Seeley‘s skating ability is his calling card. You’d think that with a defencemen sub 6’0 and a great skater that he’s a big risk-taker, but he’s playing for the Everett Silvertips who are the stingiest team in the WHL under Dennis Williams and former coach Kevin Constantine. 

Don’t let the numbers fool you either, this kid can move the puck very well and has a lot of untapped offensively ability. At this point, I don’t see Seeley going in the top 62 of the draft, but he is a sneaky good prospect who has been a personal favourite of mine. If I’m an NHL team, I’m not looking to reach to get him, but I’d slot him in the 63-124 range (3rd or 4th round) and hope he finds his way to our pick because there is a lot to work with here.



courtesy of

The first thing that stands out with Tristen Robins is his speed. This kid is a burner, but he combines that with a terrific compete level which makes him lethal on the fore-check, on puck retrievals, and on the back-check. He plays the middle for the Blades, but for me personally, I would be drafting Robins as a winger. But hey, if he can play the middle that’s even better! 

I do see Robins as a winger in pro hockey and while I question if he’ll have the skill level to produce at a top six level, he sure looks as though he has the speed and work ethic to be an effective top nine winger in the show at least. He’s also one of the OilKnight’s favourite players out of the WHL.



courtesy of

At the start of the year I have to admit, I didn’t like Dylan Garand mainly because of his size. And though the size hasn’t improved, and NHL organizations still prefer bigger netminders, it isn’t as though 6’1 is a size of goaltender which isn’t going to get a look in the league. Plus the season he’s having has now is so damn impressive! His numbers are right there with Team Canada’s Joel Hofer who is playing on a more dominant team in Portland. And it’s not as though Kamloops is some defensive juggernaut, this is a team who has played pretty wide open hockey this season. I love the way Garand moves in net.  He’s very technically sound with terrific reflexes. If this kid’s ability to track the puck can catch up to the rest of his game, he will be an NHL goaltender even at this size.



courtesy of

Previous Rank: 7

Before I get to Pavel Novak, what a mess it is in Kelowna this season.  As a Western guy and covering the WHL this year as I do, it is humiliating that this team is hosting the Memorial Cup this season. I thought 2013 was bad with the Blades being bounced in the 1st round, but it is nothing compared to what is going on with the Rockets. They are the last franchise I thought I’d ever type something like that about in the WHL

Ok, Novak. He’s the Rockets leading scorer as of writing this. He’s a very similar prospect to Wiesblatt, McClennon, Sourdif, etc. in that he’s a bit of an undersized guy who can produce. The thing that scares me with Novak is the skating ability isn’t great. He has the skill to succeed, but at the moment I don’t believe his skating is good enough to get him to the next level. If he can get it to where it needs to be, he will be pretty intriguing.



courtesy of

Something that keeps me up at night when ranking kids for their drafts: the late bloomer/overagers. I get so locked in on certain kids that I rarely give consideration to such things! Thankfully, I didn’t miss Alex Cotton‘s incredible 3rd season in the WHL that is getting more and more attention as the year has worn on. 

Cotton, moves the puck extremely well, has a great shot, and he showcases good compete. The play in his own zone needs work, but the big concern with him are the boots. His skating is just ok, but the positive with it is that he has improved it quite a bit over the last year. Can it continue to improve? If it can, the team which drafts him will have quite the prospect on their hands.


#16. Christoffer Sedoff

Sedoff is starting to get some love from the scouting community despite playing on a rebuilding Rebels club. He is their horse, chewing up a ridiculous amount of minutes a lot of nights for Brent Sutter’s club. He’s a very smooth skater, good puck mover, and despite not having stats that jump off the page he has displayed some pretty good offensive skills at times. He’s solid in his own zone also with good gap control, a good stick, and a willingness to compete down low and in front of the net. There is a lot to work with here. 

Another interesting tidbit is his size. Elite Prospects lists him at 5’11, 159lbs. The WHL‘s site has him at 6’1, 189lbs, a pretty damn big difference! When I’ve seen him, it appears to me like the WHL size is the correct one, at least in terms of height.


#17. Kasper Puutio

A very similar prospect to Sedoff, but in a very different situation (at least he is since his trade to Everett). The skating ability of Puutio, much like his teammate Ronan Seeley, makes him a very intriguing prospect in the middle to late rounds of the draft. He’s very raw at this point both offensively and defensively, but there is a ton of room for growth. He’s a kid who as I already said is a terrific skater, and he moves the puck very well. If he can refine his defensive game, there is no reason he couldn’t be a Jonas Brodin type D-man down the line.


#18. Josh Pillar

When you’re just simply looking at stats, Josh Pillar doesn’t stand out. But this kid has been a favourite of mine all season because of his wheels. I’m a big believer in taking kids later in the draft who have one terrific trait and looking to develop the rest, and Pillar has that in his skating. 

Very similar to Tristen Robins who is in his 18 year old season, and Pillar is already out producing what Robins did last season. Also like Robins, he’s playing the middle for Kamloops. If Pillar was playing the wing he’d likely have a lot more freedom offensively, and likely be getting a lot more attention than he has. 31 ES points on the season playing primarily in a
checking role for the Blazers this season. Can you say, sleeper?


#19. Simon Knak

A player who does everything well, but nothing great. Ok size, ok speed, ok hands, ok vision, ok hockey sense, an ok shot, he’s just ok. Now, if Knak has a great work ethic than he is just scratching the surface on what he can become. And what will help him a lot with that development is being a Winterhawk with Mike Johnston as his coach. I’m not sure if Knak has
shown enough to get himself drafted at this point, but he will have a lot more of an opportunity on a Winterhawks team which looks primed for a deep run into the WHL playoffs.


#20. Bryan Thomson

Dylan Garand gets love for the numbers he’s put up this season and the mystery of whether or not he will be just big enough to succeed. Bryan Thomson on the otherhand, has the size and ability but doesn’t have the numbers as he fluctuates above and below a .900 Sv% this season. But the upside is tough to ignore with this kid. I hate comparing him to a former Hurricane (because I worry about it coming off as lazy on my part), but he is very similar to Stuart Skinner when he was 17.


Honourable Mentions

Orrin Centazzo

This one is both interesting and fun for me to write. A kid who’s family I know well, I watched a ton of as he was growing up, played on a line with my nephews in their U-16 Midget season, and is tearing it up on the best line in the WHL this season along with Connor Zary and fellow Marwayne Wildcat (once again, shout out to my fellow Wildcats) Zane Franklin. Orrin has always possessed ridiculous skill, and now he seems as though he’s putting it all together and figuring out just how good he can be. 

No doubt, he benefits from having Zary and Franklin on his line. But there are some who feel it’s Centazzo who is the offensive catalyst of that trio. If I were a team, I’d give him a close look in the later rounds. I think the higher level of hockey this kid plays, the more he is going to elevate his game.  He has the skill to play in the show. Tough to rank at this point for me which is why he is in the HM section, but he’s an intriguing player to keep an eye on.


Michal Gut

Last time I said that Gut was a good skater, but I’m not sure that was very accurate as in my viewings since it has been the one thing about his game that has concerned me. He is however a kid who looks to do everything right out on the ice, a very responsible 200-foot player.  


Cross Hanas

Has some high end skill in his game scoring some highlight reel goals this season. But the hockey sense is very questionable. If he can learn to start playing a simpler game and improve his play away from the puck, he might be a player. Just as the case with his teammate Simon Knak, the one thing Hanas has going for him is that his head coach Mike Johnston has one heck
of a track record developing players and Hanas has a skill set Johnston can work with.

Daemon Hunt

Such a difficult kid to rank as he has been out since the 3rd of December (suffered a severe cut to his arm). He’s nothing flashy. Some might even say he’s boring. But he’s effective. Terrific in his own zone with his gap control, angles and stick, he was logging all the tough minutes for a weak Warriors squad. The PPG might look solid at first glance for a defenceman. Obviously having no goals in 23 games isn’t a great sign. But if we’re talking about statistical red flags, the one for me is that of his 11 assists, only two came at even strength, and one of those was a secondary assist on an empty net goal. On top of that, I don’t love the skating ability when I’ve viewed him.


Owen Pederson

Pederson plays on the top line in Winnipeg with Vegas Golden Knights 1st round pick Peyton Krebs. For what turned out to be a short period of time, Pederson was flanked by both Krebs and Connor McClennon and they were one of the hottest lines in the league before McClennon got hurt. As you can likely guess, it is Pederson’s skating that needs work. His assets are obviously his size, but also he isn’t afraid to use that size which makes him an effective player on the cycle and in front of the net. Finally, Pederson has very good hands too. So there is a lot to work with here, but the skating needs a lot of work.


Luke Prokop

Hey, what do you know! The night I do the write-up for Prokop is the night he busts out offensively! 1 goal on the season going in, 2 goals in the game!  But obviously that is not what Prokop is known for. He’s a throwback type of D-man. A bruiser in his own zone who will throw people around. The skating and the hockey sense are the concerns with him.  I think the skating is OK, it’s not great but I think it’s passable, and then the hockey sense is obviously a concern. He’s iffy to get drafted, but it wouldn’t surprise me given the tools he has in his arsenal. You get down to the later stages of the draft and sometimes it isn’t about how good the kids are but much more about how much you’ll have to work with as an organization attempts to
develop a kid.


Michael Benning (AJHL)

I’ve often pointed to the comparison in his numbers to Cale Makar‘s draft year this season (keeping in mind that Makar was in his 18 year old season vs this being Benning’s 17 year old season), so let’s do it again! As of writing this, 1.44 PPG for Benning vs 1.39 PPG for Makar. Now, as mightily impressive as that is for Benning, he’s not Makar. They are obviously very mobile offensive-minded D-men, but Makar was more dynamic than Benning is. Benning is much more of a cerebral player and not the skater Makar was/is (even though Benning is a terrific skater). But let’s look at other recent AJHL comparisons. 

Jacob Bernard-Docker (26th overall in 2018) had 41 points in 49 games. Ian Mitchell (57th overall in 2017) had 37 points in 53 games. If we are comparing their games, Mitchell’s most closely resembles Benning’s. And don’t say “yeah, but the teams they played on…” these four played for what are currently the 4 best programs in the AJHL. In a way, they really aren’t even AJHL teams, but rather minor league teams for NCAA programs.  Benning is also pretty solid in his own zone. Despite his stature, he does not get pushed around and is willing to battle in all the tough areas. It won’t be his calling card, but he’s not at all a liability in his own zone as the Crusaders lean heavily on him defensively.


Carter Savoie

The most anticipated game of the year in the AJHL was on January 18th.  Sherwood Park vs Brooks. At the time, the top two teams in the CJHL going head to head. A possible preview of the AJHL final. What did Carter Savoie do? Plays his best game of the year. Hattie, plus an assist (all points at even strength), Crusaders win 7-4. 

The knock on Savoie is his skating. From the get-go this season I didn’t have the issue with it that most seemed to, and as the season has worn on I feel stronger than ever in the opinion of him being a guy who just simply picks his spots and plays a much more cerebral game than most give him credit for. His skating doesn’t stand out, but it’s fine. He cranks it up when he needs to, and there is plenty of room for improvement. Also, he’s a miserable SOB to play against! He’s not afraid to go after a guy. 

Savoie is not overly physical, but he plays in the tough areas and will do what he has to do to create space. He can look lazy at times, but it’s the same type of thing you see out of most goal scorers that they’re always just looking for dead ice. 50 goals in 50 games, near 2 PPG on the season,
the kid has lived up to his hype in the AJHL this season. It’ll be interesting to see what he does in the playoffs.


Ethan Edwards

I’m not liking that my secret player is not being kept a very good secret!  Ranked 85th by NHL Central Scouting among North American players, only 15 spots back of Benning. Edwards plays at a quicker pace than Benning and might be a little bit better skater of the two.  Edwards can also (as you’d expect), really move the puck well. Despite all this, he really isn’t a big risk taker in my viewings of him. Again I am going to point out as I did last time, he isn’t a kid I’d be looking to take in the top 93 of the draft, but in the later rounds he could be a flat out steal.

Committed to Michigan, but not until the 21-22 season, meaning the team which drafts him would have as much as five seasons to allow him to develop before making a decision on him.


Ethan Bowen (BCHL)

He’s run into injury issues this season, likely are the big reason for his somewhat disappointing season to this point. I still worry about the skating with Bowen, but again I’ll point to how big and gangly he is at this point.  There are other kids in the BC league challenging Bowen for top prospect, but all of them seem to also have their warts. At this time I still believe Bowen is the most intriguing of them all, but it’ll be interesting to see where it stands once we’re a round or two into the post-season which starts soon.  Heading to North Dakota beginning next fall.



To comment please do so via Twitter @TheOilKnight or @Tj_Soups

By the OilKnight 01/08/20



Whenever I read draft rankings I always like to know context first. That is, where the evaluator is coming from so I can incorporate that into my own analysis. These rankings are not based on who is the best Junior player, but who appears to have the best chance of success in the NHL.

While reviewing the prospect’s profiles, you’ll notice at times I will be highly critical of a certain player’s game. Just so you know, it is meant to be constructive criticism and it is certainly not personal. I’m simply identifying potential red flags I see in a Prospect that I feel may hinder them at the next level. That doesn’t mean I dislike the kid as a person or don’t think he can improve in those areas. I simply try and call it as I see it from an NHL perspective (I am not affiliated with any NHL team). Where a prospect starts and where he ultimately finishes the year can be two totally different things too. I’m a bit of a draft historian and look for things that others may overlook or dismiss. Highlighting some negatives gives me a measuring stick in terms of progression for later in the year. Progression is an important tool in the evaluation process.

It’s important to note, all of this is subjective and everyone has a different way to scout these players. In terms of rankings, the #1 focus for me is to look for NHL translatable skills and potential red flags. The NHL translatable skills I value the most are: Speed, smarts, puck skills and compete level. If a player plays a complete 200 foot game it is considered a bonus at this age. The red flags I look for: Lack of compete, poor decision making, high risk plays/turnovers, lack of footspeed. What a player does without the puck is almost as important as what they do with it. That’s where things like 200 foot game and hockey sense come into play. Important tools to consider and much easier to track in person than on TV.

I don’t care what anyone says, there is absolutely a difference between playing a Junior style game and a pro style game. I typically don’t care HOW MANY points a player gets I care more about HOW they get them. Garbage goals on bad goalies look good on the stat sheet but do nothing to sway me that it will translate to the next level, as you don’t get to take those goals with you to the pros. Yes, there is such a thing as “Junior goals”, and playing good defence is an integral part of a defenceman’s evaluation – it is not overrated. Puck moving ability is also a must for any defencemen ranked in the top few rounds for me.

I don’t typically use advanced analytics in my evaluations at this age other than the basic scoring stats, though I do have certain offensive thresholds players need to hit. Once they achieve these they are grouped together in Tiers and evaluated on their NHL translatable skills & red flags from there. I compare each prospect among his peers in his specific league first and pull data from previous years (same league) to determine their league ranking. Once all the leagues are done, then I cross reference and rank accordingly to determine a final NHL draft list. In this case, it is an OHL list only and while I’m pretty much set in terms of rankings at the top, after the big 3 it is still very much a state of flux. So here we go:


1. Jamie Drysdale

courtesy of

Probably my favourite prospect to come out of the OHL since Robert Thomas. Drysdale is an elite skater and “thinker” of the game. Referred to by some as a “genius”, he possesses great offensive instincts but also is a fearless and determined competitor in the defensive zone. (a more detailed breakdown of his game can be found here.)

Drysdale can be a transition nightmare for opponents & is a natural at breakouts with his terrific vision and puck moving ability. A real student of his craft, Drysdale is a zone exit machine and closes gaps quickly in the neutral zone. He likes to direct traffic and quickly join the rush though is always cognizant defensively first. He appears to take great pride in being a reliable 2-way defenceman.

In terms of skating, Drysdale is a phenomenal skater with explosive acceleration. He is more than capable of keeping pace with guys like Liam Foudy in the OHL and shutting them down altogether. I would say he’s at least on par with recent 1st rounders Cale Makar & Quinn Hughes in the NHL. And while they may be considered better puck rushing offensive defencemen, I would say don’t underestimate Drysdale‘s ability to do so as well. He is the better defender already IMO, and takes great pride in his defensive game. But, can and likely will be coached in the future to take more chances offensively because he definitely has that ability in him. 

Though not overly physical, he displays great anticipation and an uncanny ability to beat attackers with superb positioning. He hasn’t flourished on the Powerplay but exhibits all the traits (ability to walk the line, get pucks on net, move puck quickly) that suggests he can be at the next level.

Drysdale is easily the best defenceman in this class and the most complete defender to come out since Drew Doughty. A future, #1 right shot dman very reminiscent of Scott Niedermayer but much more refined defensively at his age. He hasn’t been super productive offensively which may turn some people off, but I believe he has all the tools to explode statistically if and when he decides to open it up offensively. He’s the total package.


2. Quinton Byfield

courtesy of

Byfield has the size/skill/speed combination that makes scouts drool. He has quick hands and a heavy shot and release. He also have a very high hockey IQ and is reliable at both ends of the ice. He can beat you wide with his speed while shielding the puck with his big frame, or he can stickhandle right past you if you’re not careful. His vision & passing ability are also top notch. He possesses great offensive instincts & is very sound defensively. The agility and acceleration he displays at his size are also very rare. Byfield is always active on every shift as he has a great motor. He’s always moving his feet and using his long reach to pick off passes. He’s good at faceoffs and is an effective penalty killer.

The only real concern I have with Byfield is his real lack of physicality despite the large frame, and at times he tends to shy away from contact altogether. He loses more battles along the boards than he should. I would like to see a more willingness to fight through checks and not give up on plays as much. He is a bit of a gentle giant which is something teams could take advantage of at the next level.

That’s the main reason he is #2 on this list is because he doesn’t quite show enough grit and determination you would like to see from a Top pick. Plus, in the last 4 tournaments he and Jamie Drysdale have played together (U17’s, Hlinka-Gretzky, CIBC Canada-Russia series & World Juniors), I have felt Drysdale had the better overall performances in all four. Statistically, they are very close: 

  Jamie Drysdale   Quinton Byfield
Hlinka-Gretzky 0 goals, 5 assists, +6   3 goals, 2 assists, +1
U17’s 0 goals, 4 assists   2 goals, 1 assist
CIBC Can/Rus  0 goals, 1 assist, +2   0 goals, 2 assists, +1
WJC 2020  1 goal, 2 assists, +3   0 goals, 1 assist, -3


In fact, even if you go back to the 2017-18 OHL cup in Minor Midget, Byfield was outscored by his teammates Cameron Butler & Evan Vierling, despite destroying the ETAMMHL with 92 points in 34 games as team captain that year. In the 2nd round in last year’s OHL playoffs, Byfield registered 1 assist and was a -7 in 4 games as his Sudbury Wolves were swept by the Ottawa 67’s. Now he was only 16 yrs old then, but there’s a pattern developing here of Byfield not playing up to his full potential in big games and tournaments. 

Bottom line, despite the tantalizing skill-set & tremendously high ceiling, I do feel like Byfield is a tad overrated when projecting to the NHL level. People are enamoured by his skill at his size but he plays like a smaller player, so I don’t see that as a big advantage right now. Of course, he could fill out as he adds more strength and physically dominate eventually but that’s not his game. I don’t view him as a generational talent, but he will surely be a very good NHL player for many years. I compare him to Rick Nash in terms of his potential impact in the NHL. He won’t score as many goals as Nash did, but will certainly have more assists.


3. Marco Rossi

courtesy of

Marco Rossi might be the most “pro-ready” prospect in this draft. Despite his smaller frame, he is a bull on his skates and a tough player to knock off the puck. His work ethic is tremendous. He is always moving his feet and adjusting positionally it makes him very difficult to contain. He’s a very strong skater with excellent agility & edge-work but it’s that shiftiness that makes him hard to stop.

Rossi is a multi-faceted, dynamic player who can beat you with his shot, or his terrific playmaking ability. He has very good hands and a lightning quick release. I love how he reads the play and doesn’t force it if it isn’t there which is a sign of a very intelligent player. He rather circle back or attempt a different angle of attack rather than cause a turnover. He does not turn the puck over very often at all. He’s extremely responsible defensively and is a beast in transition which is a real treat to watch. Quite often you can even find him below the circles in the defensive zone battling for pucks and leading the breakout.

Rossi has all the traits of an elite playmaking center at the next level. He’s very quick, highly intelligent and skilled, and his motor never stops. He is committed to being a complete player and makes players around him better. He’s the type of player you notice on every single shift. Extremely high compete level.

Now, I could understand if some people rank him above Byfield quite honestly because he is such a complete player, though because he is almost a full year older he still ranks #3 for me. A future #1 center in the NHL, Rossi reminds of Sebastian Aho though even stronger on his skates.


4. Cole Perfetti

courtesy of

Cole Perfetti is an intriguing prospect in that statistically he is right up there with guys like Marco Rossi and Quinton Byfield. Plus, he appears to have very good hockey sense, terrific passing ability, and an excellent shot and release. On the PP, he’s always a shooting threat from the right circle with that deadly wrister. He also has very quick hands in tight and excels on breakaways and shootouts. He reads the ice very well, and is capable of threading the needle in tight passing lanes. Overall, he is a creative playmaker with excellent offensive instincts capable of posting some big numbers.

However, there are concerns I have about his game translating to the next level that I can’t ignore. Many people “assume” he’ll eventually improve in those areas but you know what they say about assumptions. For one, his skating leaves a lot to be desired. He does have good agility and edgework but his top speed is average and limits his effectiveness when it comes to things like zone entries, and driving the play thru the neutral zone. For this reason, he is definitely a winger at the next level for me.

His work ethic is also a major concern as too often he is viewed as floating, and not playing a determined enough game. Quite often he can go shifts, and sometimes even games where he is practically invisible until his team gets a powerplay then he shows up on the scoresheet. He can get away with that in Junior, but at the pro level will need to show much more consistency and competitiveness if he is going to stick in the lineup.

The other thing I worry about is his lack of overall strength and physicality. He appears to fall to the ice a lot and can be muscled off the puck especially along the boards where he tends to shy away from contact. That’s a concern and certainly a contrast to a guy like Rossi who is just a bull on his skates and tough to get the puck from.

Ranked by many ahead of Marco Rossi earlier in the year, the gap between the two prospects is huge now in my opinion. Some draft enthusiasts are conveniently overlooking obvious flaws which could hinder him at the next level which is a mistake. Now, it’s possible I will end up regret underestimating him but right now, I have too many concerns about Cole Perfetti‘s game to rank him any higher. I see a lot of Jordan Eberle in Perfetti which means he could be a very good player in the NHL but until his work ethic, skating & overall commitment to playing a 200 foot game improve, I can’t rank any higher than this. I consider Rossi a Top 5 pick, while Perfetti more in the 15-25 range. I really do like the player, I just don’t love him.


5. Jacob Perreault

courtesy of

Perreault is the son of former NHL‘er Yanic Perreault. His real strengths are his booming shot which is NHL caliber, his hockey IQ, and his ability to find open areas on the ice. He can pretty much snipe it from anywhere though he loves that one-timer from the left circle. He also likes to go hard to the net. That makes him a very dangerous scorer in the offensive zone. He has been extremely productive since he joined the league registering 30 goals last season as a 16 yr old, and is on pace for over 40 goals this year. That kind of production is hard to ignore. He’s also a very good skater with good top end speed who is aggressive on the forecheck.

Like Perfetti, I’m not a huge fan of Perreault‘s game away from the puck either, as he tends to float at times and is slow coming back in the defensive zone. He does also show some inconsistencies from shift to shift in terms of effort which is a bit of a concern. He can be physical at times but definitely needs to add more strength as he tends to get knocked down a lot. He’s not the greatest passer and does turn over the puck more than you would like at times as well.

In many ways, I see Perreault in the same light as I see Perfetti. In fact, I think they are very close in terms of strengths & weaknesses, and how they project as future NHL‘ers. After 100 OHL games, Perfetti has 59 goals. Having played only 1 less career OHL game, Perreault has 54 goals. They both need to get stronger, work on their defensive games, and show more consistency from shift to shift. Overall, they’re very similar though I give Perfetti the clear edge in terms of playmaking ability, which is why he is ranked 1 slot ahead of Perreault accordingly.


6. Antonio Stranges

courtesy of

Stranges is one of the biggest wildcards in this draft. Last season, you could see he oozed talent and would be a popular prospect in his draft year. This season however, it has been an up and down year so far as he has really struggled with consistency.

When he’s on, Stranges can be absolutely dynamic. His 10-2 skating is electrifying & it gives him that ability to blow by defenders if they’re not ready for it and set him up for a good scoring chance. He also has terrific vision & an uncanny knack for putting the perfect touch on passes right thru defenders with his lightning quick hands. His passing ability is certainly underrated. The backhand is also a weapon and easily the best in this draft. I’ve seen him score goals from 15 feet out with his backhand, as he is capable of generating a lot of power from it. He also loves to go backhand in the shootouts too which keeps goalies honest as he so strong on both ends of his stick. Stranges has real quick hands in tight & an excellent one-timer. Really, there is a lot to like in his game that could translate well to the NHL but again it all comes down to consistency.

He started the season hot with 5 goals & 7 points in the first 4 games. Then there was a 6 game stretch in December where he absolutely took over, registering 7 goals & 9 pts in those 6 games. But in between that, Stranges has struggled to maintain the consistency you would like to see from a top prospect and it has undoubtedly affected his confidence. Part of it I think, is his unique skating style that throws off his teammates as they seem to struggle to develop that on-ice chemistry. I also feel like he’s still adjusting to playing the wing a bit as opposed to the center of the ice where he looks most comfortable. His 200 foot game has been a work in progress & he needs to keep moving his feet in the defensive zone but he’s made noticeable improvements since the beginning of the year in those areas.

Because I have seen him at his absolute best for extended periods of time, I am probably more bullish on Stranges than most draft analysts who only catch him occasionally. One of the reasons Connor McMichael dropped in the 1st round last year despite registering 36 goals & 72 points, was inconsistencies in his game as he appeared to lose confidence down the stretch & in the playoffs. London is a unique situation where draft eligible forwards are typically forced to play second fiddle to 1st round picks and that can happen. But, if you are fortunate enough to catch them when they are at their absolute best, it gives you a better idea what they are capable of. And with experience, the confidence will come as we see with McMichael who is killing it this year.

Regardless, Stranges is a super talented player with obvious NHL translatable skills. He needs to keep pushing the pace, working hard, and committing to being a good 200 foot player (which is something he has improved on a lot this season already). It’s just going to take a bit more time for him to put it altogether – much like many former Knights before him. He could still explode at any time and I would expect a noticeable uptick in his offensive production in the 2nd half.


7. Tyson Foerster

courtesy of

In the summer, I would have anticipated Will Cuylle being slotted here but for whatever reason, he just can’t seem to put it together this season and has disappointed so far despite his natural skill-set. Foerster on the other hand, caught me by complete surprise.

Tyson Foerster is not the sexiest player at first glance, but he is the type of player who grows on you the more you watch him because he does so many things well. He’s consistent, reliable, hard-working, and very smart. His bread and butter though is his shot and release which is NHL caliber. His one-timer from left circle on the PP is a real weapon. He’s also an underrated passer who sees passing lanes develop & is capable of hitting teammates right on the tape. I love how he reads the ice and is able to weave in and out of lanes to find an opening.

Foerster is the type of player who always seems to be in the right place at the right time. He plays a very good 200 ft game and displays determination on every shift. He’s always around the net looking for a rebound, and quite often he is the first man back on the backcheck. He’s also aggressive on the forecheck and picks off a lot of pucks with his long reach. Thru 35 games he leads Barrie in points & hasn’t gone more than 2 games without a point all season. He’s a model of consistency and hard work, who plays a very smart & quietly effective game, but also possesses that big shot that he can hang his hat on.

Foerster skates well for a big man though his stride is a bit choppy. His top speed appears to be good though he will need to continue to work on his first few steps. Once he gains a bit more strength & explosiveness he could become a real dominant force. He’s still underrated because of that but gets an opportunity to shine at the upcoming CHL prospect’s game. Reminds me so much of James Neal in the NHL.


8. Ryan O’Rourke

courtesy of

O’Rourke is an easy prospect to fall in love with because he’s a leader and he’s a battler. He relishes being that tough, in your face defender who will block shots and do whatever it takes to win. He’s not afraid to scrap or jump in to defend a teammate which makes him a fan favourite.

Defence is really O’Rourke‘s forte, as he likes to take care of his own end first and foremost. He battles hard to clear out the front of the net, and makes opponents pay if they hang out there too long. He finishes his checks and uses his strength to separate attackers from the puck along the boards. He usually makes good reads in the defensive zone, and has an active stick to break up passes. Sometimes he can get running around in his own end and can get caught flat-footed here and there, but for the most part he is very strong defensively.

That doesn’t mean O’Rourke doesn’t have offensive ability either because he does. He owns a cannon of a shot from the point & while he isn’t on the same level as Drysdale in terms of passing ability, he still is a pretty good passer himself. At the WHC-U17 he was the leading scorer for Team Canada Black, ahead of guys like Drysdale and Byfield. In the OHL this season, he leads all draft eligible defencemen in PPG‘s with 4 goals and is tied for 6th overall. For the Soo, he’s also a +22, which is 2nd in the OHL among all defencemen. 

In terms of skating & puck moving ability, I would say O’Rourke is solid in both areas. He’s not a burner but has noticeably improved his skating since last year significantly. He also makes a good first pass on the breakout and is capable of jumping up and joining the rush on the attack. Typically though, he’s the last to leave the zone so we don’t get to see his transition game too often. 

Overall, O’Rourke is a reliable, well-rounded, tough to play against throwback defender who skates well, is a leader & is a very capable puck mover. He is clearly the 2nd best dman in this league IMO and will be a hot commodity come draft day.


9. Ty Tullio

courtesy of

Tullio should play for Hamilton because he is a bulldog. He’s listed at anywhere between 5’9″ and 5’11”, 161-166 lbs but he plays much bigger than that. He’s a warrior on the ice who never stops.

Tullio has a big shot, dynamite release & a relentless motor. He’s fearless going to the net, fights for his space and has a knack for getting open. He’s basically your prototypical power forward minus the size, but he has all the other traits NHL teams look for. He has a powerful stride and shows good agility skating east-west. His one-timer might be the best in his class as he generates so much power even from one knee. He has excellent offensive instincts. He knows how and where to get open and will take it hard to the net and battle for rebounds if need be. He’s an energetic kid who can skate, shoot and gives you a 100% on every shift. That’s why he’s on this list.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is never count out a player with his kind of determination, especially when he has the speed & skill to go with it. He might not be as natural a scorer as a guy like Jack Quinn, but he’s got as many points as him and is also 7 months younger than Quinn which is why I put him 1 spot ahead. Some will question Tullio‘s size at the next level, but I’m not betting against this kid. As long as his rambunctious style doesn’t cause injuries, he’s a surefire NHL‘er in my books.


10. Jack Quinn

courtesy of

Quinn is a late 2001 birthdate and didn’t have the most productive year last season which definitely plays a factor for me in this ranking. However, he also played a limited role on a stacked team so I also take that into consideration. If he were even 6 months younger doing what he is doing this year, he’d be a surefire Top 5 OHL‘er for me. Having said that, he could just be a late bloomer as it does appear he has improved in several areas dramatically since last season. Regardless, from a pure scouting standpoint, there is a lot to like in his game.

Skating was a bit of an issue with Quinn when he came into the OHL, but it appears he has made great strides (pardon the pun) in the area. He looks much quicker and explosive now. He’s very elusive with the puck too in the offensive zone. He also does a good job on the backcheck hustling back hard, which was another knock on him coming into this season.

Offensively, Quinn is putting the puck in the net which is what he projects at the next level – a scorer. He possesses soft hands and a dynamite shot & release on the wrister. His 7 PPG‘s lead the team and he has a team leading 125 shots on net in 35 games which puts him 4th overall among 1st year draft eligibles. He’s good in puck pursuit & creates a lot of turnovers with his aggressive forecheck. Size and strength could be a bit of an issue but he shows enough jam to limit those concerns.

Again, there is a lot to like about Quinn‘s game. Because he just missed last year’s cut-off & and had noticeable holes in his game coming into the year, I do worry about his age in this ranking. But, he has made noticeable improvements since then so he could just be that late bloomer that comes around once in awhile. Either way, I think he deserves to be in the OHL Top 10 & has potential to climb even more if he can keep up this offensive production.


Honorable Mentions:

Jaromir Pytlik – Does so many things, plays a pro-style game. Reliable in all 3 ones. Excellent stickhandler, Good not great skater. Plays power game. Just not sure about the offensive upside. Late 2001 birthdate not productive enough for me in OHL. Disappointing WJC too. Could carve out a bottom 6 role in NHL.

Will Cuylle – Big shot, good skater, sneaky hands. But, inconsistency & work ethic an issue. Reminds me of Blake Murray last year. Should be more productive than he is.

Jean-Luc Foudy – Elite speed, good vision, nice playmaking. But, a perimeter player who just doesn’t go hard enough to dirty areas. Lack of strength an issue. Reminds me of Ryan McLeod.



To comment, please do so via Twitter @TheOilKnight

By the OilKnight 12/05/19


courtesy of

Antonio Stranges fell to the 2nd round of the 2018 OHL draft mainly because he was committed to Michigan, but London took a chance on him anyways and it worked out. In terms of talent, he was highly considered as one of the absolute best in his draft class. As a 16 yr old OHL rookie, he had a very promising 13 goals & 34 points and looks to build off that success this season – his draft year. 



23 GP – 12 Goals, 9 assists, 21 points

Stranges got off to a hot start this season registering 9 points in the first 6 games, but has cooled somewhat offensively since then as he continues to work on other facets of his game. He started on the top line & the top powerplay unit with Connor McMichael, but was bumped down the lineup once Liam Foudy returned from injury. Since then, he has struggled to get going offensively and has been a bit of a liability defensively, which has subsequently landed him on the 4th line recently. However, in his last 4 games he has scored in all of them (5 goals, 6 points), played a much better 200 foot game, and has been one of the best players on the ice in each of those games. He’s also shooting the puck much more (19 SOG in 4 games) after going the previous 8 games with no goals and only 13 shots

Stranges is as skilled as almost anyone in this class and his ceiling is enormous. But, under Dale Hunter prospects typically are groomed to be better 200 foot players first before they get all the prime offensive looks. This is evident when you see 1 PPG in his stat line. Like many NHL prospects in London before him, Stranges is learning that the hard way. Buried behind a few high end NHL prospects and a bunch of seasoned veterans, patience is still required for the talented Stranges. But, by season’s end don’t be surprised if he’s much higher up the list as his confidence grows and he rounds out his game.



Stranges 10-2 skating style is the first thing anyone ever talks about with him and for good reason. His ability to blow by defenders while somehow skating almost laterally is a real treat to watch. Once he winds up and opens up those hips – look out. On shootouts, he is particularly dangerous when he attacks with that style as it makes him so unpredictable. Goalies don’t know if he is going to go forehand or backhand as both are equally viable options. That unpredictability keeps defenders off balance too, as they can’t tell if he’s going to pass or shoot since he changes skating angles so much. 

Speaking of his backhand, Stranges probably has the best in the draft. He can get such power on his release and has scored from the slot before – with his backhand. He’s scored plenty of times backhand top shelf too in tight which speaks to his quick hands & puck skills. He also is able to make precision passes with both sides of the stick that it really makes him a dual threat. Elite backhand is a rare skill nowadays.


One of the most underrated parts of Stranges game is his vision and passing ability. He is capable of putting amazing touch on passes while also threading the needle between several defenders. He sees lane develop extremely well & anticipates plays before they happen to find the open area in the ice. He has great offensive instincts & puck control which allow him to do pretty much whatever he wants with the puck. But that vision and passing ability really are special. 


As much as people are enamoured with Stranges‘ 10-2 skating style, sometimes I feel it works against him. For example, since he is a left handed shot and opens up his hips when he skates like that, it does make him more vulnerable to turnovers on the left side of ice with the puck exposed. Acceleration is an issue with that style in short spaces, so he does have a tendency to turn over the puck at times if attempts the 10-2 & doesn’t have time to wind it up first. Whereas, if he lowered his shoulder instead to shield opponents he would have better puck protection. Not a huge issue but does happen from time to time.

You also naturally worry about defenders lighting him up with a big hit with him being exposed like that. He is very agile and elusive but in the NHL not sure exactly how well that will translate if he continues to do it consistently. 

Shot accuracy is another area that could use some work and may be a result of the unbalanced skating. It is difficult to follow thru on your shot when your off-balanced. Stranges does have a pretty good shot and release but accuracy has been an issue at times when his momentum is taking him away from the net. More of a mechanics thing than anything that needs some refining. 

Lastly, to be considered a true Top 15 prospect, Stranges need to continue to work on his 200 foot game. Not to say the commitment isn’t there because he does show good effort in coming back and competes hard in board battles quite often, but more consistency and dedication would serve him well and round out his game. Fortunately, that is what Coach Hunter in London is known for. Once Stranges becomes more of a puck hound at both ends of the ice, and commits to taking care of his own zone – scouts will really start singing his praises. Here’s an example early in the year where more commitment was required (#40):




One thing to consider when evaluating prospects coming out of London is usage. London is typically one of the deepest organizations when it comes to NHL talent. Last season for example, Connor McMichael started on a tear the first half of the year. However, Alex Formenton was returned from his NHL club and the team traded for OHL veteran Kevin Hancock and McMichael then took a bit of a backseat to those players. His PP time was limited and he wasn’t used in nearly as many prime offensive situations as a player like Arthur Kaliyev for example. Which made his numbers even that more impressive. Yet he still went late 1st round – 25th overall.

In 2018, Liam Foudy didn’t really get hot till the 2nd half of the season when a lot of vets were traded. Before that, his offensive usage was limited. He ended up going 18th overall. Robert Thomas in 2017 was the 3rd line checking center till trades were made and he got a bump to the top line after the new year. He ended up being drafted 20th overall

Stranges should be considered a late 1st round pick right now, but has the potential to explode offensively at any given point in the season much like Foudy, Thomas & McMichael all did at various points in their draft years. There’s no doubting his natural ability but progression will be the key. With several key veterans likely headed to the World Juniors later this month, Stranges should get his opportunity to shine in a more offensive role. 




In terms of NHL translatable skills, his skating, passing and backhand are all elite which makes him a very enticing prospect. In fact, Stranges is probably the most naturally gifted player to come out of London since Mitch Marner. He is a dynamic player with just about as much upside as any other prospect in this draft. 

So the Marner comparison is an obvious one based on the natural skill-sets. However, it is hard to ignore the Jeremy Bracco comparisons as they both have similar strengths too (10-2 skating, excellent vision, terrific backhand) though at this point Stranges is a bit more dynamic I would say. Bracco is a very talented prospect who has excelled at the AHL level but is still looking to crack the big club full-time. Because of the system he is coming out of in London, I anticipate Stranges being a bit more refined in terms of playing a pro style game but like Bracco it might take him some time to get to the NHL as he continues to get stronger. 

Bottom line, there are areas of his game Stranges needs to work on to take his game to the next level no doubt. Given the amount of ice-time he is receiving right now it will take some time. But like many Knights before him – don’t sleep on the player based on the offensive stat sheet alone…’s all about usage and progression. 


Prediction: Mid-late 1st round pick


To comment, please do so via Twitter @TheOilKnight ©2020. All Rights Reserved.
Powered by WordPress. Theme by Phoenix Web Solutions