Inside the OHL Part II: Power Rankings and Standout Goaltenders

By Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungblood)

for Part I of Inside the OHL click here

Ontario Hockey League Goaltenders Becoming Relevant Again

It’s been quite some time since the Ontario Hockey League has witnessed one of its netminders go on to achieve NHL stardom. Former London Knight Steve Mason walked away with the 2008-09 Calder Trophy after his strong rookie NHL campaign, but he has struggled to take the next step in his development.  At the quarter-mark of the 2012-13 OHL Season, it appears that the league is turning a corner with goaltender development as some quality NHL prospects are beginning to show starting potential.

The Kitchener Rangers’ John Gibson has performed exceptionally well and is showing potential for the Anaheim Ducks as they continue to add strong goaltending talent to their pipeline.  The second round (39th overall) selection of Anaheim in 2011, Gibson currently sits third in the OHL with a sparkling 2.17 GAA and .937 save percentage and has an admirable 8-2-0-0 record.

The Belleville Bulls’ workhorse Malcolm Subban has also came out of the gates strong becoming one of the league’s premiere puck-stoppers.  Subban, a member of the Boston Bruins’ organization after being drafted 22nd overall (first round) at last years’ draft, is slated to compete for one of Team Canada’s goaltending spots for the 2013 World Junior Championships. The athletic and charismatic Subban boasts top five statistical numbers in both goals against (2.17) and save percentage (.930) carrying his Bulls teammates to a 7-3-1-0 record while patrolling the crease.

Coming to North America to compete in the OHL after the Columbus Blue Jackets selected him 31st overall (2012), Oscar Dansk has started to find his comfort zone, showing all the promise that the Blue Jackets witnessed in the big Swedish netminder. After starting the month of September with a less-than-impressive 5.47 GAA and 0.873 save percentage, Dansk has made huge advancements in his game. He has substantially improved his numbers to 3.04 GAA and 0.915 to end the month of October. Dansk fills the net nicely and owns the positioned, poised, and confident playing style that projects well to an NHL starter’s role.

St. Louis Blues prospect Jordan Binnington is in the groove as he sits atop the OHL in almost every category including a stellar 1.96 GAA, .940 save percentage, and an almost flawless 9-1-0-2 record for an underrated Owen Sound Attack team. Binnington’s strong start has placed him in serious contention for one of the two 2013 Team Canada WJC goaltending spots.

Lastly and most importantly, the Mississauga Steelheads are off to an unforeseen start, and the team’s success can be contributed to the incredible play of 2013 NHL Draft-eligible Spencer Martin.  A former first round OHL selection (18th overall in 2011) of the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, Spencer Martin has always possessed the size and skill of a franchise goaltender. Martin, 17-years-old, currently ranks second in the league in goals-against-average (2.00) and save percentage (.938), and has let in a league-low 18 goals for goaltenders with at least 10 starts. Martin is the top ranked draft-eligible goaltender in the OHL and has the potential to crack the first round at next year’s NHL Entry Draft.

Guelph Storm’s Garret Sparks (Toronto Maple Leafs), Sarnia Sting’s JP Anderson (San Jose Sharks), Plymouth Whalers’ Matt Mahalak (Carolina Hurricanes), and Oshawa Generals’ Daniel Altshuller (Carolina Hurricanes) have all been workhorses for their respective OHL squad coming up with good showings early in the season as well.

An Eye on the 2013 NHL Entry Draft

Over the course of the 2012-13 OHL season, the players eligible for the 2013 NHL Entry Draft will be closely followed and as they continue to battle to fulfill their dreams of being drafted by an NHL franchise, their progress (good or bad) will be tracked in this Inside the OHL series.

Rolling Along

Jason Dickinson (Guelph, LW) – In his second OHL season, Jason Dickinson started strong in preseason competition.  The young Storm winger began the season strong with four goals and six points in his first seven games but has recently skyrocketed up the leaderboards after a surge of five goals and 14 points over a ten-game point streak. Dickinson’s game possesses all of the qualities needed to succeed at the professional level – size, skill, vision and smarts, and teams will quickly realize that he is among the OHL’s best for the upcoming draft.

Draft Year Stat Line: 15GP-8G-9A-17P, +5, 2 PIM, 3 PPG

Photo courtesy of Chris Mikula / The Ottawa Citizen

Sean Monahan (Ottawa, C) – Sean Monahan has continued to remain extremely consistent (a highly regarded element of his game) as he has picked up points in all but two games this season. The big, smooth pivot is currently riding a five-game point streak producing 10 points in that span.  Monahan continues to play his smart two-way game that often lacks flash-and-dash but is filled with the intricacies that remain so important in developing successful professional hockey players – maturity, intelligence, work ethic and a well-balanced skill set. Monahan is the top scoring draft-eligible skater in the Ontario Hockey League.

Draft Year Stat Line: 14GP-6G-16A-22P, -4, 6 PIM, 2 PPG

Max Domi (London, C) – Domi was featured in the last Inside the OHL release as an early standout and his play continues to pique interest. The small, fiery pivot is placed second among all draft eligible with 20 points through 14 games. Domi’s 11-game point streak ended last week, but his offensive creativity, patience, and power play abilities have shown that he continues to remain an offensive threat. As long as he continues to put up points, he will be heavily considered for a top 15 draft spot, and possibly even a top 10 selection.

Draft Year Stat Line: 14GP-7G-13A-20P, +9, 18 PIM 

Jordan Subban (Belleville, D) – The undersized 5-foot-9-inch Bulls’ rearguard continues to trek along leading the offensive attack in Belleville.  Subban has remained consistently good at creating scoring chances and providing the Bulls with an offensive spark they desperately need as the team sits last in goals for. Jordan leads the offensively-challenged Bulls in scoring with 13 points in the season’s first 13 games, and has only been held pointless in three games this season.

Draft Year Stat Line: 13GP-3G-11A-13P, -1, 2 PIM

Darnell Nurse (Sault Ste. Marie, D) –Out of all of the draft-eligible OHL players, Greyhounds’ Darnell Nurse has easily made the biggest strides over the first half-dozen weeks as he’s adopted more responsibility in the absence of teammates Ryan Sproul and Colin Miller. Nurse has emerged as one of the most mobile defenders in the entire 2012 NHL draft class, and is tapping into his offensive skillset that many scouts questioned whether he had. Besides being a strong defensive defenseman, Nurse has stepped up huge as a puck mover and the Greyhounds desperately need him to continue his push as the team deals with missing bodies. The 17-year-old sits tied for seventh in OHL defensive scoring at the quarter season mark.

Draft Year Stat Line: 16GP-4G-9A-13P, +6, 41 PIM

Chris Bigras (Owen Sound, D) – The Attack organization continues to produce NHL-calibre prospects and their top ranked player for the 2013 NHL Draft is defenseman Chris Bigras.  As a member of Owen Sound’s top shutdown pairing, Bigras shows the ability to match up successfully to any OHL player, limiting chances with his good positioning and gap control. Bigras is an extremely instinctual defenseman who relies on his high intelligence and ability to read the play.  Boosting an already impressive plus-14 rating (third in OHL), Bigras’ value is certainly not restricted to the defensive zone as he is beginning to show why his offensive skills are underrated, with 11 points early on, and leading the Attack in scoring from the blue line. Bigras’ impressive work ethic, maturity, and adaptability will certainly garner first round consideration as he continues throughout his draft year. Chris Bigras is a player that holds tremendous professional value on both sides of the puck.

Draft Year Stat Line: 14GP-1G-10A-11P, +14, 4 PIM

Ryan Hartman (Plymouth, RW) – The arrival of Hartman from the United States Development Program was highly anticipated after he committed to come to Plymouth. Hartman is an extremely unique player, and plays a style of game that has proven to be quite successful at the NHL level in recent years. He is an offensively skilled player who loves to mix it up physically in the dirty areas of the ice. Hartman aggressively competes, and plays a fearless game that has proven to be successful early in his first OHL season. After 13 games for Plymouth, Hartman has tallied four goals and 11 points, including three goals and seven points as he currently rides a five-game point streak. Hartman’s offensive contributions have been welcomed in Plymouth as the team’s fourth leading scorer, and if he can prove to scouts that his below-average size can survive his rough-and-tumble playing style, he could crack the top 30 next June.

Draft Year Stat Line: 13GP-4G-7A-11P, +1, 43 PIM

Kerby Rychel (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

Kerby Rychel (Windsor, LW) – Spitfires winger Kerby Rychel could be the most polarizing potential first round player for the upcoming draft. The son of former NHLer Warren Rychel possesses all of the physical attributes that one wants in a NHL prospect, but his lapses in shift-to-shift responsibilities continue to frustrate. Rychel owns a potent shot and has shown to be an opportunistic scoring winger (the puck follows him) getting several prime scoring chances in every game.  The smooth-skating winger needs to show an increased awareness and work ethic inside his defensive zone, but his biggest weakness continues to be his inability to create his own offensive chances. This particular weakness of Rychel’s is very concerning, and it remains the sole reason that several other OHL’ers have surpassed him in my early draft rankings. The good news for Rychel is that he is starting to find the back of the net, with eight goals in his past 10 games. Continual scoring is vital to his success in his draft year. Kerby Rychel leads all draft eligible OHL players in goals (9) and powerplay goals (9; tied with Bo Horvat and Sergei Tolchinsky).

Draft Year Stat Line: 16GP-9G-4A-13P, -3, 9 PIM, 4 PPG

Hunter Garlent (Guelph, C) – Adding OHL Player of the Week honours to his resume will definitely help Hunter Garlent get noticed, after he exploded for eight points in three weekly games. Hunter Garlent has always been a treat to watch offensively (both internationally and in the OHL), as his smart well-thought out approach makes him a threat all over the ice. Garlent is small, but he retains the necessary attributes that little players need to survive – on-ice intelligence, drive, elusiveness, and offensive creativity to fool defenders. The Guelph forward should be considered a wildcard for the 2013 NHL Draft, but there will be a team to take a chance on him that fancies his work ethic and slick offensive skills.

Draft Year Stat Line: 11GP-4G-6A-10P, +5, 11 PIM, 1 SHG

Spencer Martin (Mississauga, G) – A few weeks have passed since the last release of Inside the OHL when Spencer Martin was among the most impressive players, and nothing has changed since then.  Spencer Martin continues to dominate the crease, driving his Mississauga Steelheads to an unexpected 9-4-0-1 record to sit third in the Eastern Conference. Martin possesses all of the attributes that teams covet in a franchise goaltender, including good size, impressive puck handling, poise, strong positioning, and the ability to make game-breaking saves. Spencer Martin has shown that he could become an opening round selection next June, and is currently ranked among the top OHL netminders in almost every goaltending category.

Draft Year Stat Line:  8-1-0-1, 2.00 GAA, 0.938 SV% 

Failing to Meet Expectations… 

Artem Kuleshov (Erie, D) – The Erie Otters opted to keep newly arriving import defenseman Artem Kuleshov over former Otter Sondre Olden for their second and last import spot as the team focused on their defensive needs.  Kuleshov’s early season play has left much to be desired, considering he remains pointless and owns a team worst minus-10 rating.  For a player who journeyed to North America to make a name for himself, Kuleshov will need to step up his game to receive NHL consideration.

Draft Year Stat Line: 11GP-0G-0A-0P, -10, 4 PIM 

Stumbling Slightly…

It’s important to remember that the players listed in the “Stumbling Slightly” category are not necessarily playing poorly but their play may have become somewhat inconsistent.  Most of these players are competing under the assumption from most scouts that they have the potential to become quality NHL prospects, and even the slightest hiccup could potentially derail them. Inconsistencies are expected of these draft-eligible skaters, but it’s important they right the ship quickly to prevent any slip in an ultra-competitive draft class.

Stephen Harper (Erie, LW) – After flying out of the gates to start the season with nine points in his opening eight games, Erie Otters’ sophomore winger Stephen Harper has slowed down, posting only two points with a minus-3 rating over the past seven games. Harper was beginning to receive first round consideration earlier in October, but he will need to display a consistent offensive attack to crack the opening round next June. Harper remains a promising power forward prospect with good puck skills, a powerful shot, and admirable intangibles.

Draft Year Stat Line: 15GP-5G-6A-11P, -5, 9 PIM, 3 PPG

Anthony DiFruscia (Niagara, LW) – The first year Ice Dog has cooled right down after riding the adrenaline of playing in his first OHL campaign. After tallying five points in his opening six games, DiFruscia went pointless in his next nine games and held an underwhelming minus-3 rating over that span. The second round draft pick (2011) of Niagara has the potential to become a middle-to-late round NHL draftee as early as this season, but he will need to produce in order to keep scouts’ eyes on him, as he lacks standout size.

Draft Year Stat Line: 16GP-4G-2A-6P, +4, 11 PIM

Players to Watch Closely…

Tyler Ganly (Sault Ste. Marie, D) – With the abovementioned injury to Greyhounds stud defenseman Ryan Sproul (Red Wings), and Colin Miller missing games due to injury and suspension, Tyler Ganly has received an increased role in the Soo and has taken advantage of it. Ganly, a 2011 5th round selection of the Hounds, has logged big minutes, and is showing that he can be trusted on both sides of the puck.

Draft Year Stat Line: 16GP-0G-6A-6P, +4, 22 PIM

Daniel Nikandrov (Sarnia, C) – “Nikandrov” is a relatively unknown name in draft talks, but the two-way specialist is playing important minutes for the Sarnia Sting. Nikandrov is a good-sized player with a strong understanding of the game. He has proven to be an important piece of the Sarnia Sting’s fourth ranked penalty kill and first ranked powerplay as he skates on the second unit.

Draft Year Stat Line: 13GP-2G-5A-7P, +2, 2 PIM, 1 PPG

Nick Moutrey (Saginaw, RW) – With more opportunity in Saginaw, Nick Moutrey has been given the chance to showcase his power forward game and the points are beginning to follow. He has picked up six points in his last six games after going pointless in his opening six.

Draft Year Stat Line: 12GP-1G-5A-6P, -1, 13 PIM

Jimmy Lodge (Saginaw, C) – Lodge is a player that has always caught my attention in competition. He has a good eye for his teammates and an uncanny ability to execute slick passes. Like teammate Moutrey, Lodge is receiving increased responsibility in Saginaw and he does possess the raw skill game that scouts seek.  At six-foot-one-inch and just 165 pounds, Lodge certainly has room to grow, and as he fills out his frame we could be looking at a late-bloomer.

Draft Year Stat Line: 13GP-3G-2A-5P, -7, 6 PIM, 1 PPG

Jonatan Tanus (Peterborough, C) – The Petes’ first round selection in the 2012 CHL Import Draft, diminutive Finnish forward Jonatan Tanus, is starting to find his legs in the OHL. Over Tanus’ last seven games he has picked up two goals and five points and improved his plus-minus rating to plus-3 (team leader) on a struggling Peterborough team.  Tanus is a creative forward with good puck skills who eludes the opposition with advanced puck protection skills, an important quality for smaller players to possess. At this point in his draft year, Tanus remains a wildcard given his 5-foot-9-inch stature, but he came to North America to turn heads, and he has certainly started to do just that.

Draft Year Stat Line: 14GP-2G-4A-6P, +3, 8 PIM

Josh Burnside (Mississauga, LW) – Burnside’s offensive upside may not project too highly, but his determination and focus on the ice certainly grabbed my attention. Burnside is a smart player who understands the game, setting up in the right spots and taking care of his responsibilities on both sides of the puck. Offensively, Burnside shows good puck pursuit and an ability to finish plays off with good puck skills and a solid shot. He is the type of player that coaches love to coach, as his versatility is invaluable.

Draft Year Stat Line: 14GP-3G-4A-7P, +1, 0 PIM

Cole Cassels (Oshawa, C) – Drafted 16th overall by Oshawa in the first round of the 2011 OHL Priority Selection Draft, Cole Cassels decided to join the OHL to chase his dream of playing in the NHL. After starting slowly (two points in the opening six games) in his sophomore season, Cole Cassels has amped up his game, registering three multi-point games, and elevating his totals to one goal and eight points. Cassels will soon pass his rookie totals, and he will need to continue to improve his offensive production as well as continue his astute two-way play if he hopes to hear his name called in New Jersey next June.

OHL Power Rankings

The Power Rankings are a ranking of the Ontario Hockey League’s top teams after the first three weeks of action. In constructing the Power Rankings, the difficulty of schedule (travel) and opponents were taken into consideration. Please check back as the OHL Power Rankings get updated twice a month.

1. Barrie Colts (11-3-0-1) – With only three regulation losses and two of the OHL’s top three scorers (Scheifele and Hall), Barrie jumps to the number one spot and sits atop the OHL Standings.

Last 10:  8-1-0-1

Last Rank:  4th (+3)

2. Owen Sound Attack (10-2-0-2) – To no surprise, Greg Ireland has the Attack playing their hard-working attacking style of game, and it has earned them the number two ranking with the fewest regulation losses in the OHL (2).

Last 10:  7-2-0-1

Last Rank:  2nd (no change)

3. Guelph Storm (10-4-0-1) – Guelph has stormed through the first quarter of the OHL season. Besting the OHL in goals (69) by a wide margin (+12), Guelph has surged to a winning percentage of 70%.

Last 10:  7-2-0-1

Last Rank:  8th (+5)

4. Mississauga Steelheads (9-4-0-1) – On the back of standout goaltender Spencer Martin (2013), the newly branded Steelheads continue to prove their critics wrong winning game-after-game to a current third place standing in the Eastern Conference.

Last 10:  7-2-0-1

Last Rank:  14th (+10)

5. London Knights (8-4-0-2) – With more depth than the Hunter brothers know what to do with, the London Knights are riding the hot sticks of Seth Griffith and Max Domi as the cavalry picks pluck away at opposing teams as well.

Last 10:  6-2-0-2

Last Rank:  5th (no change)

6. Belleville Bulls (8-4-1-0) – With the fewest games played in the OHL (13), Belleville continues to sit well above the .500 mark despite scoring the fewest goals in the league. Luckily, the Bulls are also the stingiest in the league, allowing only 30 goals against.

Last 10:  6-3-1-0

Last Rank:  11th (+5)

7. Sarnia Sting (8-6-0-1) – Coming off a weekend sweep, Sarnia is buzzing after Alex Galchenyuk and import rookie Nikolay Goldobin continued to wreak havoc on the opposition.

Last 10:  7-3-0-1

Last Rank: 13th (+6)

8. Plymouth Whalers (7-4-2-1) – With six skaters already in double-digits in points, Plymouth remains a tough opponent for any OHL club as they attempt to solve the Whalers tremendous depth.

Last 10:  6-3-1-0

Last Rank:  9th (+1)

9. Kitchener Rangers (8-4-1-1) – After a long, looooong road trip to start the season as their arena underwent construction, Kitchener eagerly returned home to shake their tough start. The Rangers are currently in the midst of a 5-0-1-0 streak and look to show the OHL that they are among the OHL’s elite by continuing it.

Last 10:  5-3-1-1

Last Rank:  10th (+1)

10. Oshawa Generals (9-5-0-2) – Boone Jenner has run cold and it has shown, with the Oshawa Generals as the team falls nine spots in the Power Rankings.

Last 10:  4-4-0-2

Last Rank: 1st (-9)

11. Niagara Ice Dogs (9-6-1-0) – Heading out on a long road trip proved to be a challenge as the Ice Dogs slipped in the rankings four spots, after failing to post more wins than losses. Niagara owns the league-worst penalty kill (71.2%) as well as the league-worst powerplay (12.1%), and that is no recipe for success.

Last 10:  4-5-1-0

Last Rank: 7th (-4)

12. Windsor Spitfires (7-6-0-3) – Despite a mediocre record, Windsor moves up the rankings slightly after a few teams fell below them. Kerby Rychel is starting to come alive, but the team is looking for more from players like Ben Johnson and Nick Ebert to propel them.

Last 10:  4-4-0-2

Last Rank:  15th (+3)

13. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (9-7-0-0) – The past few weeks have been trying for the Greyhounds as they continue to battle in the face of several key injuries and countless league suspensions. The Hounds’ inability to prevent goals (league-worst 63 goals against) only complicates matters.

Last 10:  4-6-0-0

Last Rank:  3rd (-10)

14. Brampton Battalion (5-6-3-2) – The second-lowest scoring team in the league combined with an average ability to prevent goals has left the Battalion in the middle of battlefield.  Traditionally known for their stingy defence, Brampton looks to find this form as they attempt to put a winning streak together.

Last 10:  3-3-3-1

Last Rank:  16th (+2)

15. Sudbury Wolves (7-8-0-1) – The Wolves have dropped three of their last four games, and slipped in the rankings after a strong start to the season.

Last 10:  4-5-0-1

Last Rank:  6th (-9)

16. Saginaw Spirit (5-8-2-0) – With the fourth-worst goals against (58) in the league, Saginaw’s young roster continues to experience an up-and-down season as they blow out teams one night, followed by disappointing losses the next.

Last 10:  4-6-0-0

Last Rank:  18th (+2)

17. Kingston Frontenacs (6-8-0-0) – The excitement from early season success has disappeared in Kingston after the Frontenacs dropped five consecutive games in the dying days of October. Kingston also sits in the bottom five in both Penalty Kill and Power Play statistics.

Last 10:  3-7-0-0

Last Rank:  12th (-5)

18. Ottawa 67’s (4-8-0-1) – Ottawa is having no difficulty scoring goals, especially on the powerplay (third-best), but the wins are not appearing, as the team is inept at preventing goals.

Last 10:  3-5-0-2

Last Rank:  20th (+2)

19. Erie Otters (4-8-1-2) – Exceptional player Connor McDavid continues to consistently put up points as he owns the OHL’s longest active points streak, but his team has shown an inability to prevent the opposition from scoring, as evident by the 19th-ranked goals against (61).

Last 10:  3-5-0-2

Last Rank:  17th (-2)

20. Peterborough Petes (4-7-2-1) – Injuries are not helping matters in Peterborough as Nick Ritchie remains out of the lineup, making it difficult to put up wins. Peterborough has struggled to find any sort of consistency on special teams. Their powerplay and penalty kill units place in the league’s bottom five.

Last 10:  3-4-2-1

Last Rank:  19th (-1)

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