The 2019 OHL rookie class is likely going to be one that we remember. There are at least five that will be jockeying to be selected in the top-10 of what could be the most exciting draft class we’ve ever seen.
Stranges is among the aforementioned group of OHL rookies. He’s supremely talented but played in a somewhat diminished role on a deep, older London Knights team. Despite often being relegated to the fourth line, Stranges’ undeniable individual skill as well as his ability to use his teammates effectively make him a prime candidate to go early on draft day.
- Shoots: Left
- DOB: 02/05/02
- Height: 5’10
- Weight: 170
Stranges is one of the best and most unique skaters in the class. He employs a wide stance and immaculate edge work to weave in and out of traffic with the puck. Stranges’ ability to elude defenders this way allows him to take an otherwise harmless play and turn it into a dangerous scoring chance in ways that very few players can.
Here’s an example of how Stranges resets a play, beats two defenders and sets a teammate up in a dangerous area:
Stranges’ edgework is enhanced by his uncanny ability to weave. What does this mean? He loves to attack more than one defenseman. Generally, this isn’t a great idea, but he’s so slippery that he often gets away with it. His approach is simple– on paper. Once they’ve both engaged he taps the puck to a safe area, points his feet outwards in opposite directions and skates a semi-circle through the two defenders. He does this so quickly that defenders only hit him with glancing blows and he skirts through with possession:
Stranges’ fourth line role didn’t afford him the best opportunities out on the ice. As a result, his shot totals weren’t impressive– on the surface. But, when Stranges did shoot it was often dangerous. In fact, Stranges landed in the 93rd percentile in the entire CHL in Dangerous Shots/60, according to Mitch Brown’s CHL Tracking project.
He’s opportunistic around the net and his commitment to going where he is going to often result in him depositing the puck into an open net. His ability to change direction on the fly also allows him to readjust his positioning on the fly. This is particularly useful in a few situations. Firstly, if a teammate has skated himself out of a play with the puck, Stranges tends to recognize the situation and completely change course; opening up a brand new lane for the passer.
Watch here how Stranges realizes the passer won’t have the room to get him the puck, peeks at the defender and swings out wide to give the passer a chance at making the play:
Stranges possesses one of the sneakiest releases in the class. He’s adept at receiving passes and releasing a shot without having to handle the puck. Stranges needs little to no wind-up to get a hard and accurate shot on net. Goaltenders are faced with deciding to defend against this, leaving them vulnerable against his fantastic passing ability or vice versa. The value of being able to shoot as quickly as one receives the puck, thus, not allowing the goaltender any time to react can’t be overstated. It is a rare, but special talent.
Here’s an example of Stranges’ ability to receive a hard pass and in one motion get it on the net.
Now is where things get interesting.
Stranges’ backhand is, in my opinion, the best in the entire class. He produces nearly as much power from his backhand as he does with a typical snapshot. Defences, goalies even spectators are caught wholly unaware when he fires a backhand into the top corner from nearly 20 feet out.
Stranges sees the ice well and has a deep understanding of how to beat opposing defenses. He uses his soft hands, spatial awareness and timing to thread passes as quickly or as slowly as he needs to in order to have the puck land directly on his target’s tape. He has a particular affinity towards timed plays and once he’s found a partner capable of keeping up Stranges can create magic:
Stranges is a master at having his saucer pass land flat on the ice just before his target’s tape. This makes him particularly dangerous off the rush, especially if it’s an odd-man rush:
Stranges’ ability to handle the puck is the hallmark of his game. He could be the best individual puck handler we’ve ever seen come through the draft process. Stranges’ hands are unbelievably quick and soft and his innate ability to concentrate even through traffic or just before being hit is unmatched; certainly by anyone in this class. He made a name for himself well before he ever reached the OHL through his tendency to make opposing defences look utterly inept.
Stranges will routinely skate around opposing defences with the puck for upwards of 45 seconds. He’s so skilled with the puck and so capable of beating players one on one that it’s nearly become a detriment to his game. There are times where it feels more like the “Stranges show” than a hockey game:
With a little more restraint, Stranges is well on his way to being one of the best one on one players on the planet. Stranges’ uncanny ability to keep a play alive, though frustrating at times, is an asset that very few if any, players can bring to a team like he:
Stranges’ best defensive attribute is his ability to keep the other team from touching the puck. Whether it’s because he’s creating havoc in the offensive zone or he’s ragging the puck, the opposing team generally doesn’t get to join in on the fun. To his credit, he doesn’t often abandon his assignment to prematurely turn the play into offense. This is, perhaps, due to the fact that he’s playing in London where he’s fighting for ice-time; He’d already been a big fish in a small pond on most other teams.
Though he isn’t large in stature Stranges is unafraid of engaging physically along the boards to win a puck battle or force an opposing player off the puck. He seems to recognize that the more he defends, the quicker he can get back to dominating offensively.
Antonio Stranges has every tool to become a superstar at the next level. A combination of more ice-time, better linemates and some restraint with the puck is his quickest path to dominating on the junior and professional levels.
- WARNING: NO COMPARISON IS A PERFECT MATCH.
Some of the clippings in the above article were taken from ProspectShifts.com