Both for the potential hilarity of the pick and the player’s attributes, there are a lot of reasons to like Connor McMichael of the London Knights. He’s a rock solid all-around Ontario Hockey League scorer and one of the safer picks likely available to the Calgary Flames at 26th overall.
First of all, yes, McMichael is a real player and not something that NHL Central Scouting made up to troll the Edmonton Oilers.
Originally from Ajax, Ontario, he tore up midget hockey before splitting the 2017-18 season between the Hamilton Bulldogs and the Knights. He erupted offensively this past season, emerging as one of the more interesting 2019 NHL Draft prospects in the entire OHL.
Our pal Brock Otten of OHL Prospects has dug into McMichael’s game a ton this season. He wrote this regarding McMichael’s placement on his rankings of OHL players for this year’s draft:
He was equally dangerous on the powerplay and at even strength. He kills penalties. This is just a well rounded kid. His skating ability is top notch. McMichael has great top end speed. And because he processes the game so well, especially in the offensive end, he can use that speed effectively to track down loose pucks or get behind defenders to create or finish off scoring chances. McMichael is one of those players who isn’t extremely flashy, so you don’t notice him quite as much as other players on the ice. But by the end of the game, he finishes with a goal and assist. He has that quiet effectiveness about him.
Cam Robinson of Dobber Prospects had a similar assessment:
McMichael played a sizable role on a good but not great London Knights squad this season. The pivot brings across-the-board skills without really excelling in any one skill. His 36 goals trailed only Arthur Kaliyev’s 51 for first-time draft-eligible skaters in the OHL. His 72 points ranked third. The all-around pivot is not the biggest or fastest player, but he’s effective at finding seams and distributing the puck. He owns a quick and accurate release and can finish at a high rate. He’s not afraid to work into the high-traffic areas. He projects to be a safe floor NHLer with some top-six upside.
The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler (paywall warning) put a lot of the scouting communities anxieties about McMichael rather astutely: “he projects as a third-line forward more than a high-end scorer”. He’s a good player who doesn’t really have glaring holes in his game, but he also doesn’t have any really showy high-end attributes. He’s a guy that’s probably going to be pretty good as a pro, but might not be great, and the question is whether teams will want to use a first round swing at a safe player who might not have a sky-high ceiling.
McMichael had a strong offensive season on a London team that had a good amount of NHL-drafted prospects, but arguably no big difference-makers. He led the team in scoring with 36 goals and 72 points in 67 games.
Relative to this draft class, he was third in the OHL in points (behind Arthur Kaliyev and Ryan Suzuki), second in primary points and goals (behind Kaliyev), fourth in even strength points (Philip Tomasino, Kaliyev, Ethan Keppen), third in primary even strength points (Kaliyev, Tomasino), and third in even strength goals (Tomasino, Kaliyev).
From a production perspective, NHL teams would probably would rather have Kaliyev, Tomasino or maybe even Suzuki, but McMichael’s a damn good offensive player relative to his peer group (and his production isn’t severely propped up by power play time or a product of his teammates). He’s a legitimately good scorer at the OHL level.
Availability and fit
Based on the various rankings, McMichael is probably going to be available around where the Flames pick: ISS has him outside the first round, Dobber Prospects has him 34th, the Draft Analyst/Sporting News has him 22nd, my rankings at The Hockey Writers have him 22nd, Sportsnet has him outside the first round, The Athletic has him 51st and 46th, and The Hockey News has him 24th.
The dilemma with McMichael, as previously noted, is ceiling. All due respect, but Morgan Klimchuk was a similarly “safe” pick in 2013 that never really panned out. He had a very similar junior scouting profile: not huge, smart 200-foot player, a steady contributor but not a showy offensive presence. Klimchuk struggled to translate his skill-set to the AHL level and after that experience, maybe there would be concern there for the Flames development staff. On the other hand, maybe in the intervening years they’ve figured out why Klimchuk didn’t work out and have a plan to work around it.
McMichael’s a player with no holes in his game and thus would be a safe pick from a team that’s gone to the OHL for players quite often at the NHL Draft under Brad Treliving’s leadership, but the question is whether the team feels they can work with McMichael to elevate some aspects of his game at the pro level.
2019 first round targets