OHL draft eligible stars shine heading into playoffs, NCAA tourney kicks off, Jimmy Vesey, OHL Cup, college free-agent signings and Toronto Maple Leafs thoughts
Friday, March 27th, 2015
The Canadian Hockey League regular seasons have been completed and the playoff matchups dictated. On Thursday, playoffs throughout the CHL began as teams vie for their respective league championships and hopefully earn a berth into the illustrious CHL Memorial Cup that will be held in Quebec City.
Austin touched on the incredible finish to the OHL scoring race down the stretch as Erie’s Dylan Strome posted a four goal, six point final game to overtake London’s Mitch Marner, who held the lead for quite some time. It was a remarkable season for 2“015 NHL Draft eligibles in the OHL.
There’s obviously Connor McDavid, the prized gem of the draft. Mitch Marner (126 points in 63 games) and Dylan Strome (129 points in 68 games) continue to be heavily debated as the next best prospect from the OHL. Both players own tantalizing upside but play two very different games. Dylan Strome is a visionary with the puck and has the size, strength and plays the center position that NHL teams covet. Mitch Marner is a slick creative winger (who can also play down the middle) that dictates pace of the game but doesn’t come packaged in the “ideal” 6-foot-plus frame that scouts look for. At this point in time, it’s a coin flip and no one can say for certain who the better NHL prospect is.
BONUS READ: “Otters scoring champ Strome a humble kid”“
“Strome-Marner-McDavid marks 1st time #OHL Top-3 scorers are 17-year-old NHLDraft prospects. 2010 Top-2 were Hall/Seguin ahead of OA Pither” (via Paul Krotz on Twitter)
Beyond Strome, Marner and McDavid who finished 1-2-3 in regular season OHL scoring, Lawson Crouse is a two-way forward that possesses the physical size and strength, solid offensive skills and astute defensive awareness that comes with a high NHL certainty level. Former Elgin-Middlesex line-mate, Travis Konecny, has regained his form and is creeping up the draft rankings. He’s a natural competitor who plays at a high pace and owns an outstanding shot off the rush.
Rasmus Andersson had an excellent first year in North America scoring at a near point-per-game pace (64 points in 67 games) excelling as a puck moving defenseman for the Barrie Colts. Oshawa’s Mitchell Vande Sompel was in and out of the lineup but still managed to rack up 63 points in 58 games making him one of the best offensive defensemen in the draft. Niagara defenseman Vince Dunn entered his draft season as one of my hidden gems and despite a slow start, he has hit his stride finishing with 18 goals and 56 points in 68 games.
The draft eligibles from the OHL are certainly doing their part, especially down the stretch, to make decisions very tough. It’s a rather light year in the OHL outside of their top guys (McDavid, Marner, Strome, Crouse, Konecny, Pavel Zacha) but the second and third round depth from the ‘O’ will provide good value for NHL teams (Andersson, Vande Sompel, Dunn, Matt Spencer, Graham Knott, Mackenzie Blackwood, Kyle Capobianco, Nikita Korostelev, etc).
The opening night of OHL Playoffs was littered with strong performances from the OHL draft eligibles. Ottawa’s Dante Salituro posted a 5-point game, Travis Konecny had one goal and an assist, Jeremiah Addison added two goals and four points of his own, Vince Dunn’s four goals were impressive, and Pavel Zacha picked up his first OHL Playoffs points (one goal, one assist).
If you are looking for more information on the OHL Playoffs including players to watch and predictions, please feel free to give my newest YOUNGBLOOD article a read.
Your weekly Connor McDavid read – “Believe the hype: 2015 NHL Draft prodigy is tank-worthy”
“He wants to be the best,” Knoblauch said. “Maybe he’s the best right now. But he also wants to make sure he’s the best rookie next year in the NHL. He wants to be an MVP in the National Hockey League in whatever it is, two or three years, when he’s in the league. He wants to win a scoring title in the NHL. If he just quit right now in getting better, those things wouldn’t happen.”
Please give this hockey story a read/watch. For the Harkins family (Jansen Harkins is a top prospect for the 2015 NHL Draft), the most important lessons have come off the ice.
The NCAA Tournament is set to begin in an hour and here are some players to watch (including BU phenom Jack Eichel)
The Predators are watching Jimmy Vesey very closely after an outstanding season with the Crimson.
“The 21-year-old, soon to be 22, son of journeyman seven-year pro Jim Vesey (who played 15 NHL games with St. Louis and Boston between 1988 and 1992) leads the NCAA in goal-scoring, with 31 in 36 games. He was named ECAC player of the year, ECAC tournament most outstanding player and he’s a candidate to win the Hobey Baker Award as U.S. college hockey’s top player.”
With my teaching duties on hold over March Break, my free time over the week was dedicated to scouting the OHL Cup in Toronto as twenty top teams from across Ontario and Northern USA coverged in the annual showcase tournament. It features most of the top prospects eligible for the OHL and if you caught the Championship game between the Toronto Marlboros and Don Mills Flyers on Sportsnet One Monday then you will understand how good these young players are. Basically, you’re watching the future talent of the OHL and NHL. The Marlboros are a perennial contender in the minor midget loop and often feature a wealth of talented players. The ’99 Marlboros have some strong bloodlines including Matt Strome (younger brother to Ryan and Dylan Strome), Kody Clark (son to Leaf’s great Wendel Clark), Quinton Hughes (son of Leafs’ Director Player Development Jim Hughes) and Ryan McLeod (brother of Mike McLeod, 2014 OHL top 5 pick).
For more information on top performers from the OHL Cup, please give my summary a read.
Spending a week in an arena put me out of the loop of outside hockey news but after catching up…here are a few prospect storylines to watch.
Toronto Maple Leafs signed KHL free agent Nikita Soshnikov.“ The undersized late bloomer was recommended to Mark Hunter who took some trips overseas to watch the gifted player play. In the end, the Leafs flipped him an offer and he obliged. Who is Soshnikov?
University of Michigan captain Andrew Copp signed his ELC with the Winnipeg Jets. Copp, a 4th round selection of the Jets in 2013 scored 40 goals and 81 points in 107 collegiate games.
It’s college-free-agent-signing time…
Toronto signed Penn State forward Chase Bailey and he made his NHL debut Thursday against Florida, lining up with fellow rookie Sam Carrick and Joakin Lindstrom but also seeing time with Richard Panik and Joffrey Lupul as well. Bailey scored 22 goals and 40 points in 37 games with Penn State. In 11:49 minutes of ice-time versus the Panthers, Bailey registered one shot on goal and earned 46 seconds of powerplay time. The Leafs should do a lot of experimenting with their young guys down the stretch.
The Chicago Blackhawks won the bidding war on Colgate’s Kyle Baun, the grandson of former great Bobby Baun. Baun posted 14 goals and 29 points in 38 games with Colgate. The Red Wings, Flames, Jets and Oilers were reportedly trying to sign Baun as well.
The Hawks also locked up defenseman Michael Paliotta out of the University of Vermont. Paliotta was a 3rd round pick of Chicago’s in 2011 who finished his college career off with 19 goals and 83 points in 144 games with Vermont. There were talks that Paliotta may go the Kevin Hayes route getting to free agency but the Hawks avoided that.
The biggest fish in the college free agent market is Boston University goaltender Matt O’Connor. Buffalo, New York Rangers, Ottawa and Ottawa appear to be the front-runners according to TSN’s Bob McKenzie. Matt O’Connor plays his final game versus Vale today at 2pm and won’t decide before then. He’s more than likely to take a few days to make his decision. It’s believed that the team who can offer him NHL starts as soon as this season are the favourite to land the big netminder.
The University of Michigan program has become great at recruiting top talent but it’s a double edged sword. Many of their top talent are one-and-done players, meaning they leave for the professional ranks after one year of college hockey. Red Wings’ prospect Dylan Larkin is one of those players who might be in that situation. More on the depth of the Wolverines and potential departing players…
Good read for parents and young hockey players on emphasizing the journey and not the destination.
Fun read, “The Roomies”, on NHL Calder candidate Aaron Ekblad and him living with veteran Willie Mitchie.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT…
The Toronto Maple Leafs lost their seventh straight game Thursday versus the Panthers.
Toronto sits in 28th place in the NHL and Edmonton is now within five points off passing them in the standings.
With only seven games remaining (OTT, TBL, @BUF @BOS, OTT, @CBJ, MTL), Toronto eyes are securely fixed on the draft lottery.
They have six wins since December 17th in a 44-game stretch (14% win percentage). To start the 2014-15 season, Toronto won 19 times in their opening 31 games (61% win percentage). Had Toronto not have had the strong start they did and played at their current 14% win percentage, the Leafs would be sitting with 10 wins on the season and would have locked up the best chances of winning the Connor McDavid sweepstakes….or at the very least, guaranteeing themselves Jack Eichel.
Max Domi with a sweet lob goal:
Sam Carrick (Leafs) scores his first career NHL goal:
<iframe src=”http://video.nhl.com/videocenter/embed?playlist=791711&site=mapleleafs” frameborder=”0″ width=”640″ height=”395″></iframe>
Thanks for reading,