OHL action has started and picked right back up from an exciting finish last season. Many 2020 NHL Draft entrees are making noise and jockeying for (early) draft positioning. We’ll take a look at a few names that will be read in Montreal this summer as well as a few others that already have their rights owned by NHL organizations.
Merkley Dealt to London
After a disappointing ending with Peterbourgh, coaches and management did not want Ryan Merkley around. The team put him on the trade block before the season started and the London Knights ended up winning the bid. They gave the Petes two draft picks in future OHL Priority Selection drafts (a third in 2022 and a conditional second in 2024).
He is experiencing tremendous success with the Knights as he has one goal and six assists in three games. His goal and four of those apples have come with a man advantage. He showed tremendous ability to carry the puck from end to end during the Sharks preseason, he just needs to bulk up so he does not get knocked off the puck against bigger men.
His London teammate and Washington Capitals draft pick, Connor McMichael, has been lighting it up this season as well. He has eight tallies (which leads the OHL) and 12 points in five games thus far. He doesn’t have much size, but he plays a very smart game and seems to always make the right decision away from the puck.
2020 Draft Watch
Quinton Byfield will be a top-three pick in the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft (our own Cam Robinson thinks he could be the first name read at the podium in Montreal).
He has the size, 6-foot-5 and 215 pounds, to be a dominant force down the middle. His coach, Cory Stillman, is a former first round selection himself and says of Byfield, “He can be the whole package.”
He uses his big frame to protect the puck and is able to hold onto it for that extra split second. He also uses his long reach to poke check defenders and keep the puck on his stick, as you can see below. He’s used these skills to rack up a whopping seven goals and 16 points in just seven contests.
Arguably the top defenseman in the draft, Jamie Drysdale is on a torrid pace this season. His points per game production have almost tripled in comparison to last season, as he has posted two goals and 11 points through the first seven games. Additionally, the biggest improvement has been in his own end. He has been getting quicker jumps this season that help him break up plays in the defensive zone.
The Oshawa Generals remain the only undefeated team in the OHL as they are a perfect 7-0. They have outscored their opponents 33-17, averaging almost five goals a game. Offensively, they are led by Allan McShane and rookie Oliver Suni.
McShane was a fourth round selection of the Montreal Canadiens in 2018. He is a two-way center who has the potential to be a middle six NHLer and it is a good sign to see him up his goals from his first season and be a point-per-game player in the playoffs. This season is no different as he has 11 points in seven games.
Suni is an OHL rookie and has two goals with 10 points. He looks to be a late first, early second round pick in this summer’s draft. He can skate and handle the puck with the best of them at his age and has tremendous vision for a first-timer on North American ice.
The Central Division is led by Byfield and the Sudbury Wolves with a 5-2 record. The Midwest is led by the Erie Otters with a 4-3 record and the Saginaw Spirit have a 4-3-1 record to lead the West Division.
Other News and Notes
Thomas Harley signed his entry-level contract before getting sent back to the Mississauga Steelheads. He has three goals and eight points in four games since returning from the Dallas Stars training camp. Stars head coach Jim Montgomery loves his game and thinks he has a big future in Dallas alongside John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen.
Toronto Maple Leafs draftee Semyon Der-Arguchintsev has 12 assists and 14 points since being returned to junior. He was one of the Leafs first cuts this fall so he is playing this season with a chip on his shoulder. He has tremendous upside as a skilled top-six forward, but he needs to add some weight to his frame as he was constantly getting knocked off the puck against stronger competition.
Who has been some of your surprises early on? Let me know on Twitter @LAM1926