Tuesday, August 19th
Congratulations to Team Canada on winning it’s seven consecutive Ivan Hlinka Memorial gold medal after defeating the Czech’s 6-2 last weekend! The Canadians remain a dominant force at the Hlinka tournament sending it’s best (well, nearly their best) to this event every year. With Hockey Canada’s established rules, Connor McDavid was not in the lineup despite being eligible because he has already played with the U20 squad. Imagine how silly he’d make the opposition look? Regardless, this event provides scouts with its first scouting outing of the 2015 NHL Draft season and there were certainly some standouts that came to the surface.
Matthew Barzal – Playing on a line with 2013 OHL 1st overall pick and Rookie of the Year, Travis Konecny, Barzal racked up two goals and six points to place second in Team Canada in scoring. The Seattle Thunderbird is a 2012 1st overall pick of the WHL’s Bantam Draft and has been a highly touted prospect for several years now. He’s in the discussion as a potential Top 5 pick for the upcoming 2015 draft because of his quick hands, creativity and lethal playmaking abilities.
Mitchell Marner – Anyone who follows my work, knows how much I raved about this undersized forward last year during his outstanding OHL rookie campaign. It took Marner some time to find the game sheet with consistency at the Hlinka tournament but he was a threat everytime he touched the ice and eventually launched himself to the top of Canada’s scoring charts (5-2-5-7). Slippery and creative, he enters the 2015 draft as one of the elite playmakers and his ability to create chances with astonishing consistency is very rare.
Travis Konecny – As mentioned about, Konecny is known for his dynamic skating abilities and weapon of a shot, that he unleashes in top flight. With five goals and six points, Konecny was among the leading scorers and should challenge for the 2nd OHL player selected at the draft (McDavid has #1 locked up).
Lawson Crouse – Another personal favourite of mine, Crouse was ranked highly by me heading into his OHL draft season because he owned the size, smarts and power that you want in a player of his stature. He’s excelled already in his young OHL career earning more ice time than many felt he would simply because he does everything well and can adapt to so many roles. Penalty killer, net front presence or a bullish possession player – he does it all. My leading candidate for breakout OHLer of the year this season also finished tied for first in tournament goals (6).
Dylan Strome – The younger brother of high Islanders draft pick Ryan Strome, Dylan is an advanced playmaker with slick puck skills. He’s not as graceful of a skater as his older brother but his instincts and size are admirable qualities. Playing on the same team as Connor McDavid shouldn’t hurt his totals either.
Tyler Soy – Helped his early draft stock at the Hlinka tournament where he was able to show just how smart of a player he is. Projected to be a two-way player that can play anywhere in a team’s top-nine, Soy uses strong puck skills, astute vision and deceptive delays to exploit opposing defenses. Soy was one of six Canadians who registered six points (2G 4A)
Thomas Novak – The Americans never send their USNTDP players to this tournament but that doesn’t mean the squad was void of talent. Novak led the entire tournament in scoring with 11 points in five games helping his nation to a bronze medal. Projects as a 1st round prospect.
Sebastian Aho – Not to be confused with the skilled Swedish blueliner who went undrafted at the 2014 draft (he shouldn’t have), Finland’s Sebastian Aho (’97) is a two-way forward who finished 4th in the Jr.A SM-liiga scoring with 59 points in 44 games. Aho started a bit slow in the tournament but really found his groove as the tournament progressed finishing with five goals and seven points.
Petrus Palmu – Fun to watch because of his skill and the fact that he skates at a mere 5-foot-4, Palmu led the Finnish squad in scoring with eight points (T-2nd in tournament). He was drafted by the Owen Sound Attack in the 2014 CHL Import Draft (22nd overall) and will bringing his skillset to the OHL.
For more reading on some highly touted 2015 NHL Draft prospects, you can catch my Top 10 OHL eligible players for the draft here (my latest Youngblood feature).
It is NCAA decommitment time of the year and the biggest and latest news come out of Boston College where Columbus Blue Jackets’ 1st rounder Sonny Milano has officially told BC that he won’t be attending school and has opted to join the Plymouth Whalers of the Ontario Hockey League.
Big loss for BC is Plymouth’s huge gain. It was well documented how much Milano struggled with this decision. He has always dreamed of playing for the Eagles but understands that the OHL’s lengthy schedule will better prepare himself for the NHL game. I am looking forward to watching Milano’s ridiculous offensive skill set in the OHL but feel for the kid as this was a very difficult decision.
“Since being drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets at the NHL Draft in Philadelphia on June 27, I have been asked many times about whether I would continue with my plans to attend Boston College, or play junior hockey instead. In an effort to avoid controversy and further questions on the subject, I responded that I was looking forward to attending BC in the Fall. While I have had every intention of playing for Coach (Jerry) York and joining the best college hockey program in the country, since the end of my hockey season at the USNDTP I have been questioning whether going to school was the best situation for me.”
“I think that BC is the best choice for those players who wish to go to school and play hockey. Every player’s path to achieving his goal of playing in the NHL is different, and the best route for some is not necessarily the best route for others. For me, the opportunity to play in the OHL is the right decision.”
Still awaiting Kevin Hayes to choose his destination after the Chicago Blackhawks chose not to sign the high-scoring sizeable forward.
From GM Stan Bowman,
“We offered Kevin what we believed was a generous and fair contract. Unfortunately, he felt it was in his best interests to become a free agent. We are looking forward to the compensatory draft pick we are receiving and are focused on the excitement surrounding the start of training camp next month.”
Hayes was the Blackhawks’ 2010 1st round selection (24th overall) and is coming off an outstanding season at Boston College where he finished second in the nation (behind linemate Johnny Gaudreau) in scoring with 27 goals and 65 points (40 games). While almost every NHL team likely has interest in the big winger’s services, one would have to bet that Calgary (where Gaudreau will play), Florida (brother Jimmy plays here) or Boston (hometown) have to be among the front-runners.
The Toronto Maple Leafs signed 2014 1st round pick (8th) William Nylander to a three-year entry level contract. While Nylander has several options of where he will play in the upcoming season (Maple Leafs, Marlies, SHL or Mississauga Steelheads), I would have to think that the best spot would be either the Marlies or heading back to Sweden to continue in the SHL.
Some video of the Maple Leafs’ scrimmage (game in 6 minutes):
On the topic of the Toronto Maple Leafs, NHL.com continues to release it’s series of Top 10 Prospects from each franchise and the latest is on the blue and white. Not surprising, Tyler Biggs (a player I was very outspoken on at the 2012 draft as a bad pick) is not included.
I plan on doing my own version of these lists as the season unfolds but I can’t argue with the Leafs’ ranking here starting with Nylander and ending with one player I really like – Tom Nilsson.
One of the most appealing fantasy prospects from the 2014 NHL Draft was New York Islanders selection of Joshua Ho-Sang. The Isle traded up into the first round to get a second 1st round pick and used it to land this dynamic offensive forward. Ho-Sang has been knocked for his selfish play and one-dimensional game but I witnessed him virtually make both of these issues a thing of the past as he drastically improved last year in Windsor. He is still prone to overhandling the puck which leads to turnovers but it’s these type of bold aggressive plays that makes him such a game-breaking talent.
For those who aren’t overly familiar with Ho-Sang, he has been among the best of his age group for several years but these question marks and concerns about character (whether rightfully warranted or not) were part of the reason he fell to the Windsor Spitfires at the 2012 OHL Priority Selection Draft when the team used the 5th overall pick to take the high-scoring Toronto Marlboros forward. Those players who were selected ahead of him were no-brainer pick Connor McDavid (1st – Erie Otters), Roland McKeown (2nd – Kingston Frontenacs; Los Angeles Kings), Eric Cornel (3rd – Peterborough Petes; Buffalo Sabres) and Jared McCann (4th – Soo Greyhounds; Vancouver Canucks).
Interesting story by TSN on how Josh Ho-Sang continually gets left off of Canada’s national squads and the young forward speaks his mind on the issue.
“The fact that I haven’t been invited to a camp, it’s insulting,” Ho-Sang said frankly. “I’ve done nothing to them (Hockey Canada). It’s not like they invited me to U17 and U18 and I messed up at all that stuff. I haven’t been invited back since my first year in the OHL in December. It’s been a year and a half; I haven’t been a part of any Hockey Canada stuff.”
He’s certainly not short on confidence in his own abilities,
Prior to the 2014 NHL Draft, Ho-Sang told Sun Media and TSN’s Steve Simmons that, “In three years, I’ll be the best player in this draft. And I have no doubt about that.” When asked if he still feels that way, Ho-Sang quickly responded, “Yeah.”
“I believe in myself and I know what I can do,” Ho-Sang continued. “I don’t really care if nobody else does, I’ll show them and that’s all just a part of the process. At one point, people didn’t know who Patrick Kane was, at one point people didn’t know who Sidney Crosby was.”
Ho-Sang is certainly bold in his statements but he actually does possess the ability to become one of the best players from this draft so don’t take his comments too lightly. It’s important to realize (especially in fantasy circles) that draft order doesn’t dictate success. His passion and confidence is admirable.
Josh Ho-Sang scores a spin-a-round goal at BioSteel Camp. Worth watching:
In case you missed Austin Wallace’s recent ramblings, you might just want to give them a read!
Accepting Dobber’s #ALSIceBucketChallenge
With it being the offseason, feel free to use the comment section to ask any prospect related questions. We encourage the interaction.
Thanks for reading,