We’re back! The OHL has so much potential in this year’s NHL Draft, we had to split the OHL portion of our series with Brendan Ross, Director of Scouting for TheScout.ca, into two parts.
Yesterday, we covered six potential picks from the OHL alone the Flames may draft at sixth overall. Today, we’ll take a look at the rest: those who might be around at 35th overall, who might fall further; the sleepers, the steals, the over and underrated.
CR: Alex DeBrincat is a bit of a polarizing figure in that he’s torn up the OHL in back-to-back seasons yet doesnt get much first round love. Is that purely due to his 5’7 stature?
BR: Alex DeBrincat has spent his short hockey career proving his doubters wrong and most of his criticisms come from his diminutive stature. I will say that I don’t think it’s necessarily true that he “doesn’t get much first round love” because he’s ranked inside the top 30 on almost every independent’s list. With that said, DeBrincat isn’t as high on my personal list and that’s no slight to the young Erie Otter but moreso a reflection that I prefer some other players and styles to his.
Goal scorers are hard to find and DeBrincat has proven that he’s as good a scorer as this draft class offers (outside of maybe Laine and a few others). Yes, he’s benefited from playing alongside top talent over the past few seasons but he’s also proved that he can score without their help so that doesn’t worry me. He’s small at 5’7 but he knows how to survive and is built much bigger than his attributes suggest, meaning that he can withstand pushback that other leaner prospects may not be able to. NHL scouting staffs will pause with his size but again, his scoring potential more than makes up for that and that’s why he’s likely to be selected somewhere between 15-40. I like him in the 20-30 range personally.
CR: It really is ridiculous how many top 30 prospects could come from the OHL this year. Who are a few others I haven’t touched on that could go in the first round that you really like?
BR: There’s a lot of verbiage on Michael McLeod of the Mississauga Steelheads and rightfully so. He’s a top skater in this draft class and his ability to create off the rush has really taken a step forward this season. Pleasantly, McLeod has become a more offensively aggressive attacker this season and his willingness to challenge defenders inside has benefited him greatly. He’s still a hard player to peg in terms of upside at the next level but I think it’s safe to say, he’ll have a career in the NHL and even if he eventually falls into a third line role, he’ll be a valuable member due to his work ethic. In today’s NHL, speed creates a lot of havoc for opposing defences and McLeod is exceptional at generating speed.
It was during the U17 World Hockey Championships in Sarnia that Max Jones jumped into my good books as a player I really liked. The big London Knight sniper possesses all the tools to become an excellent top six complementary winger. His compete level is nearly unmatched as he flies up and down the rink providing pressure on the forecheck as well as the backcheck. Jones loves to be involved in the play and he’s a really hard winger to play against. Dating back to his early days, I pegged him as a true “throwback” power winger that NHL scouts will love and his shot has always been above his peer group’s. I am actually surprised that he only scored 28 goals this season but then you have to remember that he wasn’t on the big line of Dvorak-Marner-Tkachuk that ate up all the prime offensive minutes. With Dvorak and Marner likely leaving, Max Jones is a prime candidate to see his goal totals soar and I wouldn’t be shocked to see him clear 50 tallies in 2016-17 as the Knights ice another Memorial Cup contender.
Logan Stanley is a rangy defender who has spurts of nastiness that is receiving first round love. He’s a shutdown type that has improved his skating since his minor midget days and while he could tap into some offensive tools, I personally would be more comfortable selecting him outside of the opening round.
Ottawa’s William Bitten from the Flint Firebirds will draw a lot of suitors as the second half of the opening round comes because of his speedy, intelligent and hard-working two-way style. This kid brings it every single shift and is the exact type of player that teams win with when big games are on the line.
Jordan Kyrou from the Sarnia Sting is a player I feel should be selected in the first round but he’s more comfortably projected as a second round player. Like his teammate Chychrun, Kyrou didn’t have the most productive draft season and I expected him to contribute more often. However, in all of my viewings, I’ve seen elite skill level with Jordan Kyrou and he introduced himself to the national level at the recent U18s with a strong showing. His vision, playmaking ability and puck skills are top notch and he’s got a real elusiveness to his attack that makes him hard to contain. He’s prone to overcomplicating plays but I think he’ll iron out those wrinkles in his third OHL campaign. For me, Kyrou is a top 30 skill player.
Boris Katchouk is another prospect I’ve liked and that started way back when he was a member of the Waterloo Wolves minor midget team. He brings a healthy compete level and plays such a sound two-way game. Kyle Dubas pushed extremely hard for him during his Sault Ste. Marie days and it’s turning out to be one of his best selections at the major junior level. He’s firmly inside my top 30.
Cliff Pu, Adam Mascherin and Cam Dineen are three other OHLers to keep an eye out for as the end of the first round comes due. The former, Pu, is a speedy, smooth skating two-way forward who can line up on the wing or at center. While he’ll never be casted as a go-to scorer, he’s got a good scoring touch and reads plays developing well. His outside-inside speed and maneuvers are hard to contain and he’s always competing full out, making him worthy for first round consideration.
Adam Mascherin has been a favourite since his days playing with the Vaughan Kings. Almost exclusively considered a pure sniper in his early days, Mascherin continues to threaten goaltenders with an elite shot but has also added a playmaker’s touch and vision to round out his offensive toolbox. Overall, Mascherin has developed into a solid two-way player and despite his shorter stature, he’s built like a truck and is extremely difficult to knock off of the puck.
Cam Dineen finished his rookie OHL season as the top scoring draft eligible scoring defender (59 points) and only finished behind Calgary Flames prospect Rasmus Andersson in total points. There seems to be a lot of differing opinions on Dineen and where he projects at the next level but his first year accomplishments will surely see him considered inside the top 40. He’s a smart defender who controls the puck with poise and has a knack for operating as the quarterback on the powerplay. He moves well enough but it’s an area that he could improve to reach similar production at the next level.
CR: The Flames hold three second round picks and a third. Are there any OHLers you could see being available in that area of the draft that could prove to be real value choices for Calgary?
BR: The Adam Mascherins, Cliff Pus, Jordan Kyrous and Cam Dineens mentioned above would be worthy selections with the Flames’ 35th overall selection. Mississauga’s Nathan Bastian is another name to throw into the hat as well. With the Panthers’ 54th and Dallas Stars’ 56th overall sections, Calgary has a number of options from the OHL including Memorial Cup-winning goaltender Tyler Parsons, slick skating defenseman Victor Mete and hard-working scorer Taylor Raddysh just might be available (projected slightly higher).
The much talked about Sean Day is a player that Calgary should consider with multiple picks in the second round because his talents and natural abilities would be worth the gamble.
In a similar situation is Sudbury Wolves import winger Dmitri Sokolov, a talented sniper who didn’t have the greatest draft season but started to trend in the right direction as the season progressed.
Soo Greyhounds have a pair of forwards to consider with Tim Gettinger and Jack Kopacka as well. Saginaw defender Markus Niemelainen is a big defender who moves well and has shown good offensive potential.
CR: Tyler Parsons is far and away the top goaltending prospect in the OHL this year. Where could you see him being taken and is he someone to get excited about after an excellent Memorial Cup showing?
BR: I am not sure I completely agree with the statement that “Tyler Parsons is far and away the top goaltending prospect in the OHL”. Parsons had a tremendous run with the powerhouse London Knights and he was one of the main reasons that they won the Memorial Cup, but in terms of long-term upside and projecting success at the next level, he’s got company with goaltenders like Evan Cormier (Saginaw), Dylan Wells (Peterborough Petes) and Joseph Raaymakers (Sault Ste. Marie).
Sure, Parsons likely leads the group because of what he accomplished this season with great results, but Cormier and Wells have great tools and despite underwhelming draft seasons, I like their upsides as much as Parsons’. Raaymakers is a goaltender that’s often forgotten and that’s just because he had the unfortunate circumstance of having to play backup to Brandon Halverson (NY Rangers) this season. Keep him on your radar as a potential sleeper due to a lack of playing time, but certainly not a lack of skill.
CR: Who has been your biggest surprise this OHL season?
BR: Cam Dineen has to take the biggest surprise this season after leading all draft-eligible defencemen in scoring. I remember liking his puck-moving style back when he played for the New Jersey Rockets in his OHL draft year but I don’t think anyone expected him to leave such a big impact in his rookie season.
CR: Who has been your biggest disappointment?
BR: Heading into the season, I had high hopes for Saginaw forward Tye Felhaber and thought that he might take a step forward offensively, but he only improved on his point totals by a single tally (38). It’ll be interesting to see if a team selects the former 10th overall pick in the 2014 OHL Draft when players converge in Buffalo later this month. Felhaber is a skilled forward who shows flashes of good offensive potential and maybe he’ll take advantage of increased opportunities in 2016-17.
CR: If you had to choose a most overrated and most underrated prospect for this year’s draft from the OHL, who would they be?
BR: The designations of most overrated and most underrated prospects are a bit extreme but there are players who fall into the categories for sure. As previously mentioned, I am not as high on Spitfires defender Logan Stanley as others are and see him more as a second or third round selection. He hasn’t shown me the defensive attention that I want from a blueliner who best projects as a middle pairing option.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, players like Jakob Chychrun, Max Jones, and Sean Day seam to get over-scrutinized but the player I feel who’s flying under the radar is the Kitchener Rangers’ Adam Mascherin… and, to a lesser degree, Jordan Kyrou. If you take a second and compare Mascherin’s abilities to Alex DeBrincat’s there’s not much difference. Sure, DeBincat’s totals trump Mascherin’s this past season but looking down the road, one could argue that Mascherin may find success easier at the next level.
CR: Lastly, who’s your favourite OHL draft eligible and why?
BR: With no elite OHLer for the upcoming 2016 NHL Draft, finding a personal favourite prospect is all that much harder. In the past few drafts, I’ve easily identified some of my favourites including Alexander Galchenyuk (2012), Jonathan Drouin (2013), Nikolaj Ehlers and Robby Fabbri (2014), and Mitch Marner and Travis Konecny (2015).
As someone who watches the Ontario League closely, it’s hard not to pull for every player to do well and the 2016 class is especially difficult because I like so many of them – Tkachuk, Nylander, Chych/Juolevi/Sergachev, Jones, Bitten, and the list goes on and on.
For these types of questions, I normally try to pick a not-so-obvious prospect and always resort to my gut instincts. Logan Brown is the player who always seems to land positively. Sure, he’s not without his warts but his mobility and his touch on the puck are just so rare for a player with such outstanding physical gifts. I think that five years down the road, Logan Brown has the potential to be one of the better pivots from this draft class and Canada may miss him in international play.
Honourable Mentions: Matt Tkachuk and Alex Nylander – two players with outstanding pro potential.
We thank Brendan again for taking the time to share his insights on a very, very deep class of NHL Draft eligible OHLers, and I strongly recommend you follow him on Twitter leading up to, and beyond the 2016 NHL Draft.
NHL Draft Scout Series
- OHL (Part 1)
- OHL (Part 2)