Inside the OHL: Power Rankings and Early NHL Draft Standouts
By Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungblood)
The New Face of the OHL…
Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters wielding a hot hand.
The Erie Otters’ have a new face of the franchise and it happens to be 15-year-old sensation, Connor McDavid, who was the most recent player to be granted the elusive “Exceptional Status” tag by the Canadian Hockey League. After going pointless in his OHL debut, Connor McDavid has registered points in six consecutive games including three multi-point contests elevating his statistical output to four goals and nine points in seven games. He currently sits tied for the team scoring lead with Maple Leafs’ prospect and sophomore Connor Brown.
McDavid truly is a rare talent that emits elite hockey skills each and every shift. His vision is off the charts and his ability to consistently and accurately execute pin-point passing and shooting leaves the nineteen other OHL franchise envious of Erie’s frontman. Despite being averaged sized (5’11”, 170 lbs), McDavid creates most of his scoring chances by engaging himself physically either along the boards or by driving hard to the net. The native of Newmarket is eligible for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and has plenty of time to solidify himself as one of the OHL’s all-time greats.
Erie Otter GM Sherry Bassin recently had this to say on the exceptional Connor McDavid,
“If there is a better player three years from now in the NHL draft, then there are two awfully good players in the world. I tell you, that is how good he is.” Bassin continued, “In my years I have been in the league, and I have been around since ice was in a glass, he’s as special as I’ve ever been around.”
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.
The Early Standouts
2013 draft eligible Max Domi (Photo credit: OHL Images)
Max Domi (London, C) – Knights’ Max Domi, a second-year OHLer, has jumped to third place in league scoring and top amongst all draft-eligible skaters with a strong week of action. London will continue to lean on Domi’s offensive creativity and prowess all season long so expect the small sparkplug to remain among the scoring leaders throughout the season. Domi is a fun player to watch on the offensive side of the puck but he will elevate his draft value tremendously if he can show scouts his attention to the defensive zone as well.
Draft Year Stat Line: 6GP-4G-7A-11P, +9, 10 PIM
Sean Monahan (Ottawa, C) –Sean Monahan’s individual start to the season has been good but the ultra-competitive pivot is likely devastated at his team’s poor start (1-5-0-0). Monahan’s elite hockey intelligence, deft puck skills and strong skating skills have been on display early as he attempts to carry this team to success but it has not been enough to earn wins. Look for Monahan to amp up his game and elevate his teammates’ play through pure will as his 67’s team looks to get back on track.
Draft Year Stat Line: 6GP-4G-6A-10P, -7, 0 PIM, 2 PPG
Ryan Kujawinski (Kingston, C) – Kujawinski has progressed the most over the past year more than any other draft eligible player in the OHL. Last December, Kujawinski began to show increased confidence in his skills and after a trade that sent him from Sarnia to Kingston, he dominated as a Frontenac posting point-per-game numbers. The northern boy has started his sophomore year strong as well and after just a few weeks his play has earned him his first OHL Player of the Week award for the 2012-13 season. Game-to-game consistency is one area of work that I would like to see Kujawinski improve on as he pushes to become a first round selection next summer.
Draft Year Stat Line: 6GP-3G-5A-8P, -1, 4 PIM, 2 PPG
Stephen Harper (Erie, LW) – Over the course of the first three weeks, Otters’ left-winger Stephen Harper has been one of the more impressive draft eligible skaters. Harper is really starting to trend upwards and riding shotgun with Connor McDavid certainly will not hurt his draft stock. He is a strong forward with great puck possession skills that understands the game at a high level.
Draft Year Stat Line: 7GP-4G-4A-8P, -2, 7 PIM, 2 PPG
Spencer Martin (Mississauga, G) – Goaltenders are a coveted position at the NHL Draft and one potential franchise netminder to keep an eye on is Mississauga Steelheads’ Spencer Martin. He suited up for Team Canada last summer performing well and now Martin is off to a hot start playing behind a defensive Mississauga team. The potential to become one of the OHL’s top goaltenders is a real possibility and he could find himself as one of the first puck stoppers drafted next June.
Draft Year Stat Line: 2-1-0-0, 1.93 GAA, 0.939 SV%
Jordan Subban (Belleville, D) – Early on, the Bulls have struggled to bury goals but sophomore defenseman Jordan Subban has carried his share of the load as he sits atop the team scoring lead with one goal and six points in a half-dozen games. The youngest of the Subban family, Jordan is an (often risky) offensive defenseman capable of passing or skating the puck to scoring areas and currently leads all draft eligible defensemen in scoring. Scouts have went on record to say he may be the best of the Subbans but his size remains a concern for many people.
Draft Year Stat Line: 6GP-1G-5A-6P, -1, 6 PIM, 1 PPG
Jason Dickinson (Guelph, LW) – It was in preseason action that I first noticed the considerable improvement in Dickinson’s game and a lot of that stemmed from increased confidence. The Storm winger plays the game smartly with an innate ability to read plays and execute precise passes or unleash a timely shot. Dickinson owns good size but he has yet to adopt the physical game that could take him to another level. Watch Dickinson closely as he has the potential to be one of the OHL’s top forwards for the upcoming draft.
Draft Year Stat Line: 7GP-4G-2A-6P, +4, 2 PIM
Darnell Nurse (Sault Ste. Marie, D) – A quick glance at Nurse’s body frame on the blueline and scouts will show signs of giddiness about this potential first round talent. A closer look at Nurse’s improved mobility, physicality and offensive skills from a year ago and it is a good bet that scouts have begun sliding Darnell Nurse up their draft charts. With the Greyhounds losing Ryan Sproul to a broken wrist/arm for up to three months, Sault Ste. Marie will lean even more on standout sophomore Darnell Nurse on both sides of the puck.
Draft Year Stat Line: 7GP-0G-4A-4P, +7, 21 PIM
Bo Horvat (London, C/W) – It should be an interesting year following Bo Horvat as this two-way forward who thrives on the defensive side of the puck will earn some tough minutes against the opposition’s best. Horvat is an impressively strong skater that has perfected the art of body positioning on both sides of the puck. He owns above-average offensive skills but on a deep London roster the coaching staff values him as a reliable shutdown forward. Horvat is certainly a player with first round talent and remains one of my favourite OHL players.
Draft Year Stat Line: 6GP-1G-4A-5P, +1, 9 PIM
Ryan Hartman (Plymouth, RW/C) – The former NTDP standout missed a few games due to his involvement in the All-American Prospects game where he stood out, but upon his return to the Whalers it was business as usual. Hartman is transitioning to a new league and also a new position as Plymouth tries him at centre. Hartman is an intelligent player that sees the ice well and it is showing early on as he debuted with two assists in his first OHL game.
Draft Year Stat Line: 4GP-1G-2A-3P, -4, 24 PIM
Hello, My Name is…
(players who are introducing themselves to the draft class with a strong start)
Jordan Maletta (Windsor, RW) - Maletta is a big scrappy winger that drives the net hard and owns a good net-front presence. Maletta’s upside is not all that appealing but he does have the potential to become a serviceable bottom-six player at the NHL level and a middle-to-late round draft pick, if he can stay healthy. He will need to continue to work on his skating as it can be choppy at times.
Draft Year Stat Line: 8GP-3G-2A-5P, -1, 6 PIM, 2 PPG
Chris Bigras (Owen Sound, D) – Attack defender Chris Bigras deserves a shout-out after showcasing his worth in the opening few weeks of action. From last year, Bigras appears to have put on some size and strength and that bodes well for the defender entering his draft year as he uses his strong positioning, good gap control and smooth skating to keep the opposition in check.
Draft Year Stat Line: 7GP-0G-3A-3P, +8, 0 PIM
Zach Nastasiuk (Owen Sound, RW) – The Attack have to be impressed with Nastasiuk’s impact during the early games this season. He is a big winger that competes well within his skill set. Nastasiuk is a gritty, hard hitting winger that battles well and takes the puck to the net with authority. He projects as a bottom-six player at the next level and a middle-to-late round draft prospect.
Draft Year Stat Line: 7GP-3G-2A-5P, +5, 10 PIM, 1 SHG
Anthony DiFruscia (Niagara, LW) – One of the early feel good stories of the OHL season has been the strong play of rookie DiFruscia. His offensive numbers have been impressive but his coaches also have to be thrilled with his plus-6 rating as a first year player.
Draft Year Stat Line: 7GP-3G-2A-5P, +6, 7 PIM
Jordan DeKort (Windsor, G) – The Spits have allowed 29 goals against in their opening seven games but it is no fault of rookie Jordan DeKort as three goals against in two starts is an impressive showing for this big agile netminder. If veteran Jaroslav Pavelka continues to struggle, Dekort could be waiting in the wings ready to snatch up the starting gig.
Draft Year Stat Line: 2.25 GAA, .925 SV%
Carter Verhaeghe (Niagara, C) – Taking advantage of more ice-time and opportunity in Niagara, Verhaeghe is another player off to a strong start in his first draft year. He’s a good skater with soft hands but really relies on his ability to survey the ice to produce his offensive numbers. If the Ice Dogs lose Ryan Strome to the NHL (upon the lockout ending) then Verhaeghe could be blessed with even more ice-time and is a player to watch.
Draft Year Stat Line: 7GP-1G-2A-3P, even, 2 PIM
Nick Betz (Erie, RW) – The Otters have plenty of young talent coming up their pipeline and the big tenacious Nick Betz is just one of them. He plays a simple style of hockey that revolves around smart decision making and a persistent work ethic. He crashes and bangs and is always willing to drop the gloves to defend a teammate. Betz’ upside is not as high as others on this list but he’s got the drive and hockey sense to develop into an impact depth player.
Draft Year Stat Line: 7GP-2G-3A-5P, -1, 9 PIM
Kyle Platzer (London, RW) – The Knights do a great job at drafting and developing talent and each season it always seems one surprise player emerges from their system as a standout. Kyle Platzer won a spot on this Knights’ roster after dominating Junior B last season and now he’s taking advantage of his opportunity. He’s a hard working forward that owns good vision and passing skills with a nice ability to find open teammates. His offensive minutes might be limited with London’s depth but we could be seeing another Josh Anderson (San Jose Sharks) as he works his way up the roster.
Draft Year Stat Line: 6GP-0G-5A-5P, +2, 2 PIM
Sergey Tolchinsky (Sault Ste. Marie, RW) – Big expectations were set aside for Tolchinsky as the shifty and dynamic Russian headed overseas to begin his journey to the NHL Draft. After seven games, Tolchinsky has already substantiated the hype surrounding this incredibly talented offensive winger. Posting point-per-game numbers have scouts justifying their early high rankings of the elusive youngster. In many ways, Tolchinsky is taking the reins from Nail Yakupov as the next top Russian talent to excite fans in the OHL.
Draft Year Stat Line: 8GP-4G-3A-7P, +4, 0 PIM, 3 PPG
Andrey Alexeev (Saginaw Spirit, RW) – One of the many smaller imports to grace the OHL rinks, Alexeev joined the Saginaw Spirit after being drafted in the first round (33rd overall) helping a team in need of an extra surge of offense after losing Brandon Saad to the AHL. Alexeev is coming off a fairly major shoulder surgery but his opening few points in the first few weeks of OHL action have to be encouraging for a talented player like Alexeev as he tries to condition himself to the North American game.
Draft Year Stat Line: 6GP-1G-2A-3P, -1, 4 PIM
Sergey Kuptsov (Belleville, RW) – Traded from Mississauga to Belleville in the off-season, Kuptsov came aboard the Bull-train hoping to inject some much needed offence into the lineup. Kuptsov possesses the offensive creativity and puck skills that make him consistently dangerous and if he can keep up his strong pace (something he struggled with last season) then he will see his name move up the draft rankings.
Draft Year Stat Line: 4GP-1G-2A-3P, +4, 4 PIM
Dominik Kahun (Sudbury, LW) – The miniscule German-Czech winger led his junior league last year in scoring and as one would expect, he thrives in hockey based on his above-average intelligence, crafty hands and slick passing skills. His transition to North America has been flawless and he’s a player to watch as this playmaker attempts to prove to scouts his scoring ability trumps his criticized small frame.
Draft Year Stat Line: 8GP-1G-4A-5P, even, 2 PIM
Dominik Kubalik (Sudbury, RW) – Kubalik shares the same first name as his fellow teammate and import buddy Dominik Kahun, but employs a rather drastically different playing frame at 6-foot-1. The Czech winger has looked dominant at times in his opening few games displaying the scoring touch that Sudbury drastically needed after losing OHL scoring leader Michael Sgarbossa.
Draft Year Stat Line: 8GP-3G-2A-5P, +1, 0 PIM
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.
- Oshawa Generals (6-1-0-0) – Losing Jensen has not hurt the offense as bad as some had expected as the league’s top scoring team has tallied a whopping 34 goals to start the season.
- Owen Sound Attack (5-1-0-1) – Cameron Brace has taken the reins on this hard-working team propelling them to a great start.
- Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (5-2-0-0) – The team from the North has shoved aside off-ice issues and started the season well considering their disappointing placing last season.
- Barrie Colts (5-2-0-0) – The Central leading Colts have high expectations for this season and, so far, they have met them with an impressive 5-2-0-0 record.
- London Knights (4-2-0-0) – Early in the season, the Knights are adjusting to winning some tough games against some unexpected opponents but the wins continue to file in.
- Sudbury Wolves (5-3-0-0) – After picking up three road wins in as many games this past week, Sudbury looks to ride the hot hand of OHL Player of the Week Josh Leivo (Maple Leafs) into a tough stretch of scheduling (BAR, SSM, LDN, BELV, NIA and OS).
- Niagara Ice Dogs (5-3-0-0) – Returning stars Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Strome and Brett Ritchie have certainly helped the ‘Dogs get off to a nice start but don’t underestimate the importance of rookie Anthony DiFruscia’s hot start (3G-5P, +6 in his first 8 OHL games).
- Guelph Storm (4-2-0-1) – On the back of goaltender Garret Sparks (Maple Leafs), the Storm have rocketed off four wins against some of the league’s top teams.
- Plymouth Whalers (2-1-1-1) – The southerly Michigan-based team has played the fewest games but sit just above .500 despite playing without some key talent (J.T. Miller). Overage defenseman Austin Levi’s return should spark this squad.
- Kitchener Rangers (3-2-0-1) – The blue shirts have a league best 13 goals against but have also scored the fewest (13). Look for the Rangers to start soaring once they end this nasty eight-game roadie to start the season.
- Belleville Bulls (3-2-1-0) – The Subban brothers, Malcolm in the net and Jordan on the blueline have been mules for this defensively thrifty team. The Bulls must improve on their success versus their rival Eastern Conference teams (1-3) if they want to challenge in the East.
- Kingston Frontenacs (3-3-0-0) – Todd Gill’s squad came out of the gates flying to a 3-0 start but after dropping three games last week the young Frontenacs return to the 0.500 mark.
- Sarnia Sting (3-3-0-1) – After facing some tough goaltending to start the season, Alex Galchenyuk and company picked up four of six possible points last week improving to a 0.500 record.
- Mississauga Steelheads (3-3-0-1) – Draft eligible netminder Spencer Martin sits near the top in most OHL goaltending statistics and their 3-3-0-1 reflects that.
- Windsor Spitfires (3-3-0-2) – The Spits have struggled to score goals early (19) without Alexander Khokhlachev and they aren’t exactly keeping them out of the net either with 31 goals allowed (ranked 19th of 20)
- Brampton Battalion (2-3-1-1) – With their future existence looming in Brampton, the Battalion are struggling to get goals and wins.
- Erie Otters (2-3-1-1) – Led by the exceptional play of rookie Connor McDavid, the Otters are looking to improve on their last place finish. The future remains bright for this young squad but it may not be their time yet.
- Saginaw Spirit (2-3-2-0) – In a tough West Division, Saginaw has only picked up six possible points of 14 but should improve as this young squad figures continues to develop chemistry.
- Peterborough Petes (2-5-0-0) – With GM Dave Reid fired, the Petes receive a breath of fresh air and hopefully gain some momentum in a close Eastern Conference.
- Ottawa 67’s (1-5-0-0) – Despite the strong early play of Sean Monahan (2013 draft eligible), Ottawa is surely missing the scoring that departed with Tyler Toffoli and Shane Prince last season as they have only one win under their belt.
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