2014 NHL Draft Rankings: Top 30 OHL Players

Photo credit: OHL Images

Photo credit: OHL Images

By Todd Cordell (@ToddCordell)

With the draft quickly approaching, it’s time to release my NHL draft rankings of the top-30 draft eligible players from the OHL.

Tough decisions had to be made and some players I’m relatively high on were left off the list as a result, but ultimately I’m pretty pleased with the final product.

One thing I really stressed this year was ability to play with the puck. Players who have puck skills and defensemen who can skate and move the puck were given high priority on my list.

Below are my rankings as well as blurbs on each of the players ranked.

Sam Bennett showed me enough in the 2nd half to surpass Aaron Ekblad as the OHL's top skater.

Sam Bennett showed me enough in the 2nd half to surpass Aaron Ekblad as the OHL’s top skater.

Notes: The in-depth scouting reports I wrote are hyperlinked into the player’s names…Only first year eligible players are ranked.

No. 1 – Sam Bennett (C), Kingston Frontenacs

Bennett is an elite skater who has great acceleration and goes from 0-100 very quickly. He’s an excellent puck handler, and he has the ability to rush the puck end-to-end to create a scoring opportunity when necessary. He has a very high hockey IQ, makes smart decisions with the puck, and plays the game very fast. Bennett has a great release, and is his shot is both hard and accurate. He’s also a good playmaker, has great puck skills, and without the puck plays with a fiery edge. He plays a 200-foot game, and has potential to be a No. 1 center that many teams crave.

Photo credit: CHL Images

Photo credit: CHL Images

No. 2 – Aaron Ekblad (D), Barrie Colts

At 6’4″ 220lbs, Ekblad is already a load on the blue line, and has the potential for more growth. He’s a very good skater for someone his size, and is regularly carries the puck out of trouble when necessary. Ekblad has a bomb of a slap shot and a very hard, accurate wrist shot so he’s capable of scoring a variety of different ways. He’s a power play shooter, and produces at an elite rate with the man advantage. Defensively, he’s continually improving and he could be dominant if he uses his size more.

No. 3 – Michael Dal Colle (LW), Oshawa Generals

Michael Dal Colle might be the most pure offensive talent in this year’s class. He’s the definition of a game breaker. On any given shift he can blow by defenders and score using his elite shot that’s both hard and accurate. He protects the puck well, can make plays in tight spaces and he’s very creative with the puck. He’s virtually unstoppable if given any time to make a play, and he’s a surprisingly good skater. Combine his lethal shot with his patience, vision, and ability to play in traffic and you have a scary talent.

No. 4 – Nick Ritchie (RW), Peterborough Petes

Ritchie is big, strong, in your face and he moves surprisingly well for a player of his stature. He’s very good cycling the puck, is a load to defend when driving the net, and hits like a tank. Ritchie has good hands and the ability to create his own shot, which is a huge plus given he has one of the best releases in this draft class. He embraces one-on-one battles with opposing team’s top players, is defensively responsible and has the ability to take games over when he’s on his game. In a perfect world, think Jamie Benn.

No. 5 – Nikolay Goldobin (RW), Sarnia Sting

Goldobin is one of the best offensive players in this year’s draft. He’s an excellent skater who’s very shifty and tough to contain. He’s elusive with the puck and does a great job avoiding checks and finding holes in the opposing team’s zone. He has excellent hands, and some of the best puck skills in this draft. He’s an exceptional passer who sees the ice very well, and he makes smart decisions with the puck. Goldobin also has a good shot, and can put up points in bunches.

Photo credit: Claus Andersen | Getty Images

Photo credit: Claus Andersen | Getty Images

No. 6 – Jared McCann (C), Soo Greyhounds

McCann is one of the top two-way forwards the OHL has to offer. He’s a good skater who gets up and down the ice quickly, and he always takes care of his own zone. He reads plays exceptionally well, and has great vision with the puck. While he’s a playmaker first and is a great passer, he also possesses an excellent wrist shot that can beat defenders from a distance. He’s relentless in pursuit of the puck, and given his talent and consistently good decision making, good things happen when he gets it.

No. 7 – Brendan Perlini (LW), Niagara IceDogs

Perlini is easily one of the best skaters in this draft. He has a very fluid stride, and reaches his top speed in a hurry because of his first three steps. He has the ability to consistently carry the puck up ice and into the offensive zone with possession. He’s a good playmaker and has an underrated shot, which makes him very tough to defend, especially on power plays. His shot is quick, accurate, and he has good hands so he can step around defenders to give himself more space to make a play. Perlini processes the game at a high speed and can read/react quickly, which is something he probably doesn’t get enough credit for.

No. 8 – Robby Fabbri (C), Guelph Storm

Fabbri may be small in stature, but don’t tell him that. He’s not afraid of anyone and is more than willing to go to the dirty areas of the ice, finish his checks and battle for loose pucks against much bigger opponents. Fabbri is a very good skater who reaches top speed in just a few strides. He plays a 200-foot game, and always comes back to be an outlet out of the zone. He’s elusive with the puck, and has the ability to skate away from opponents and buy time before making a play. Fabbri’s crafty with the puck, has good hands and sees the ice well. He’s a very creative player who’s tough to defend because of his unpredictability. Fabbri plays the game at a very fast pace which makes him tough to contain and tends to lead to tired defenders.

No. 9 – Josh Ho-Sang (RW), Windsor Spitfires

Ho-Sang is one of the most electric and dynamic offensive players in this draft class. He’s an explosive skater who reaches top speed in a hurry. His hands are unbelievable, as he has the ability to consistently dance around defenders to create chances. Ho-Sang has very good vision, and sees plays develop well before they happen. He’s an excellent passer on his forehand and backhand, and regularly sets up his teammates for good looks. He stops/starts extremely fast, and has the ability to loose defenders with ease. On top of his high-end speed and excellent playmaking ability, he also owns a good shot, which gives him a full offensive arsenal to work with.

Photo credit: Terry Wilson | OHL Images

Photo credit: Terry Wilson | OHL Images

No. 10 – Brendan Lemieux (LW), Barrie Colts

Lemieux may be looked at as a pest because of the name and blood lines, but he’s much more than that. He’s a good skater who’s improved steadily in that area. He likes to go wide with speed to gain a step past defenders before crashing the net hard and generating a scoring opportunity. He has very good hands in tight, and is very good deflecting pucks in front. Lemieux has an excellent shot which makes him dangerous from a distance as well. He’s physical, finishes his checks and is best described as a guy you love on your team and hate to play against. Even when he’s not scoring, he still makes an impact by knocking opposing players off their game.

No. 11 – Anthony DeAngelo (D), Sarnia Sting

DeAngelo is one of the best offensive defensemen in this draft. He’s an excellent skater who consistently jumps into the rush to help generate offense. He makes a good first pass, and has no problem rushing the puck up ice, either. DeAngelo has a good shot, and is excellent running power plays. Despite a smallish frame, he hits hard and is more than willing to throw his weight around.

Photo credit: Aaron Bell | OHL images

Photo credit: Aaron Bell | OHL images

No. 12 – Roland McKeown (D), Kingston Frontenacs

McKeown is a smooth skating defenseman who makes a good first pass, and likes to jump into the rush to help create offense. McKeown is good skating the puck up ice eluding opposing players while safely carrying it into the offensive zone with possession. He’s a good cross-ice passer, has a pretty big shot and is quite capable of running a power play unit. Defensively he uses positioning and an active stick to shut down opposing players.

No. 13 – Spencer Watson (RW), Kingston Frontenacs

Watson is one of the best goal scorers in this year’s class. He has an exceptional release and gets the puck off his stick in a hurry. Watson skates very well, as he has a quick first three steps and has a high top speed. He may be small, but he battles hard in the corners and along the wall for loose pucks. He’s not afraid to go to the net, either. While he is effective on the power play, only five of 33 goals were scored with the man advantage. That means he was able to consistently score goals at full strength, which is encouraging when dealing with any player; especially one who’s undersized as they sometimes rely on extra space to make plays.

Photo credit: Aaron Bell |OHL Images

Photo credit: Aaron Bell |OHL Images

No. 14 – Eric Cornel (RW), Peterborough Petes

Cornel is a big winger who skates relatively well for his size. He has good vision, and is effective creating chances for his teammates coming off the half wall. He possesses a powerful shot that’s pretty accurate, which makes him a threat to score from a distance. He’s strong on the puck, and does a good job protecting it and skating through stick checks. Cornel isn’t afraid to throw his body around, and is pretty good cycling the puck. His defensive game has steadily improved, too, and he’s beginning to become a guy who can be relied upon in all situations.

No. 15 – Ryan MacInnis (C), Kitchener Rangers

Like his father, Ryan has a booming shot he utilizes to beat goaltenders from afar. He’s a very good skater, and has shown good creativity with the puck in the offensive zone. He sees the ice well, and does a good job of exploiting holes in the opposing team’s defense. He’s still pretty raw, but the tools are there for him to become a very good center at the NHL level.

No. 16 – Michael Amadio (C), North Bay Battalion

Amadio isn’t flashy, but he’s quietly become an effective two-way center. He’s a very smart player with a high hockey IQ, and he always makes smart decisions with the puck. He sees the ice well, and does a good job of changing angles to create lanes for him to feed teammates the puck or get a shot off. He has a pretty underrated shot as well, and can play in all situations of the game. While he didn’t put up big numbers with North Bay this past season, I think there’s some untapped offensive potential to go with his excellent defensive game.

No. 17 – Blake Siebenaler (D), Niagara IceDogs

Siebenaler is a smooth skating defenseman who’s among the most fluid in this year’s draft class. He makes a good first pass, but when pressured by oncoming forecheckers he can regularly carry the puck up ice without issue. He’s confident skating the puck, and generates good speed through the neutral zone. Siebenaler is effective in skating the puck into the offensive zone with possession of the puck, and because of his vision and passing ability he’s able to help create scoring chances once setting up shop. Defensively he’s still a bit of a work in progress, but he’s getting better in that aspect and he has a lot of potential offensively.

Photo credit: Aaron Bell | OHL Images

Photo credit: Aaron Bell | OHL Images

No. 18 – Alex Peters (D), Plymouth Whalers

You wouldn’t know it from looking at his extremely low point totals, but Peters is a very good skater for his size (6’5″), makes a good outlet pass out of the defensive zone and has a pretty powerful shot. I believe there’s some untapped offensive potential in his game, but I don’t think he’ll ever be a big point producer. He reads the play well, and does a good job of keeping things simple, moving the puck up ice and avoiding turnovers. His positioning is very good, as he does a good job of closing gaps and rubbing players off the puck. Peters also likes to use an active stick to break up passes and make it difficult for oncoming forwards to get around him. He likes to be physical, but he does a good job of being patient rather than chasing players around looking for a big hit.

No. 19 – Dylan Sadowy (LW), Saginaw Spirit

Sadowy is a good two-way player who has a lot of natural ability when it comes to scoring goals. He managed to score 27 with the Spirit this season, and of the 27 a grand total of zero were scored with the man advantage. He has a good shot and his ability to consistently produce at full strength bodes well for his future. Sadowy is a good skater who can get around the ice fairly well. He’s not afraid to go to the dirty areas of the ice and while he’s not an overly physical player, he doesn’t shy away from contact. He’s defensively responsible, can play on the penalty kill and finishes his checks whenever he can.

No. 20 – Michael Bunting (LW), Soo Greyhounds

Like most players who play for Soo’s program, Bunting possesses good puck skills and shows good creativity with it on his stick. He always seems to make the smart play with the puck, and reads/reacts fairly quickly. As a winger, Bunting has displayed good speed going north south, as wingers often get to avoid the traffic in the middle of the ice. Bunting back checks hard, and is regularly used as an outlet for Greyhounds defensemen to get the puck out of the zone. While my viewings of Bunting were limited due to him playing out West and missing 1/3 of the season, he showed good potential and did enough to catch my attention.

No. 21 – Alex Nedeljkovic (G) – Plymouth Whalers

Nedeljkovic is a very quick goaltender who can move side-to-side in a hurry. He’s very athletic, and his reflexes are excellent so he’s able to make stops on pucks at the last second even when struggling to track it. His positioning is very good, and though he’s not a big goaltender in terms of size he does a good job of cutting off the angles, taking away the net and making himself look bigger than he is. At times he struggles to limit his rebounds, but because of his athleticism and speed he’s often able to reposition himself or sprawl to make the 2nd and 3rd saves.

Photo credit: Terry Wilson | OHL Images

Photo credit: Terry Wilson | OHL Images

No. 22 – Brent Moran (G) – Niagara IceDogs

Moran is a big goaltender who moves around in his crease well for a guy his size. His positioning could use some work but coupled with his size, he takes away a lot of the net and doesn’t give opposing players much to shoot at. Technically speaking he’s still pretty raw, but he’s big, athletic, and he has all the tools necessary to develop into a starting goaltender at the NHL level. There’s lots of room for growth and he’s a bit of a project, but the talent is certainly there. He showed in the playoffs vs North Bay that he is capable of stealing games.

No. 23 – Matt Mistele (LW), Plymouth Whalers

Mistele is a big winger who likes to be physical and use his solid frame to his advantage. He wins more than his share of puck battles in the corners, and is tough to handle in front of the net. He has a good shot that’s both hard and accurate, and has shown the ability to finish plays off and put pucks in the back of the net. After a very slow start to the season, Mistele started putting it together towards the end as he was just under a point-per-game player in the 2nd half of the season.

No. 24 – Kyle Jenkins (D), Soo Greyhounds

Jenkins is a smooth skating defenseman who can move the puck effectively up ice. He makes smart outlets, and if there’s nothing there he has the ability to skate the puck out of trouble. Defensively, he plays a Nick Lidstrom-esque game (not of that caliber obviously), meaning he doesn’t really rely on physicality.  Jenkins is positionally sound and uses his active stick to get in the passing lanes and cut off shooting angles. Jenkins is very effective running a power play, and is not only a quarterback but also a threat to score. I haven’t seen the numbers, but he strikes me as one of those possession driving defenseman who’s going to continue to get better. I believe he has quite a bit of untapped potential offensively, and his defensive game is more than adequate.

No. 25 – Nick Magyar (RW), Kitchener Rangers

Magyar is a smart two-way forward who can contribute in all situations. He has a good net front presence, as he’s not afraid to go to the paint and cause havoc around the net. He back checks hard, and is usually in good position in the defensive zone. Magyar always ensures the puck gets out before leaving the zone, and is there as an outlet should his defensemen need him. At 6’2″ and almost 200lbs, Magyar is strong on his skates and is very tough to steal the puck from. He’s good in the cycle game, and does an excellent job protecting the puck and keeping it away from oncoming defenders. He posted good numbers in part to getting lots of ice on a poor team, but I believe he has some untapped potential offensively and the best is yet to come.

No. 26 – Andrew Mangiapane (LW), Barrie Colts

Mangiapane is small in stature, but he plays much bigger than his size. He’s not at all intimidated by bigger players and is more than willing to throw his weight around. He’s very feisty, and actually regularly knocks opposing players off the puck. He has excellent hands, and is able to stick handle around defenders with ease at times. He’s a good skater who’s very shifty. Mangiapane sees the ice well and is a good passer. He’s defensively responsible, almost always in position and back checks regularly.  He can play in all situations of the game.

Photo credit: Terry Wilson | OHL Images

Photo credit: Terry Wilson | OHL Images

No. 27 – Kevin Labanc (RW), Barrie Colts

Like Mangiapane, Labanc is one of my favorite sleepers in this class. He doesn’t have any elite skills that separate him from the pack, but he’s a very effective two-way player. He has quick feet and generates good speed in his first three steps. He battles for every inch of the ice, and is relentless on the forecheck. He uses his non-stop motor to outwork opposing players and wins more than his fair share of battles. Labanc has good vision, and underrated playmaking abilities. He also owns a pretty good shot, and is confident skating the puck up ice and into the defensive zone with possession.

No. 28 – Christian Dvorak (LW), London Knights

Dvorak played a very limited role with the Knights due to their exceptionally stacked lineup, and he missed quite a bit of time due to injury so it was tough to get a good read on him. To me, he was very effective when he saw ice. He moves around the ice well, and makes smart decisions with the puck. He finishes his checks, is good on the cycle game and can create chances that way. I think he has an underrated shot, hands ability to play with the puck as a whole. He plays a 200-foot game and always back checks hard. Dale Hunter seemed to give him a lot of defensive zone starts when he played, so obviously Hunter was confident of his defensive work and ability to push the puck up ice. I think he has some untapped potential offensively, and I look forward to watching him progress in a larger role next season.

No. 29 – Aaron Haydon (D), Niagara IceDogs

Haydon is a sound defensive defenseman who puts high priority on taking care of his own zone. His outlet passes are fine, but he’s not overly gifted offensively and doesn’t project to be a big point producer. His skating is good for his size (6’4″) as he effectively gets around the ice, but he could use some more explosiveness in his stride. His best asset is his ability to play in his own zone. His gap control is good, and he brings a physical presence on the backend. He hits hard, and likes to knock players off the puck before making an outlet up ice and getting it out of the zone. He projects to be a third pairing defenseman who’s sound defensively and can play on the penalty kill.

No. 30 – Connor Chatham (RW), Plymouth Whalers

Chatham is a big forward who skates very well for his size. His top speed is good, and he generates good speed while going in a straight line. He finishes his checks, is good in the cycle game and will go to the dirty areas of the ice. Chatham plays a very north south game, and when he tries to go east west or be fancy with the puck it tends to end in turnovers. To me Chatham projects to be a bottom-6 forward who can chip in offensively here and there.

Follow Todd on twitter @ToddCordell

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