Coaches and executives across the Canadian Hockey League’s three branches have cast their ballots, voting on the best of the best in the OHL, QMJHL and WHL.
According to the poll conducted by Sportsnet Magazine, Sarnia Sting defenseman Jakob Chychrun, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles center Pierre-Luc Dubois, as well as forwards Sam Steel of the Regina Pats and Tyler Benson of the Vancouver Giants were voted the top prospects of their respective leagues entering the 2016 NHL Draft.
Future Considerations scout Daniel Deschenes didn’t disagree with the Ontario Hockey League assessment.
“Chychrun is by far the most impressive player in his draft year and is someone that could step into the pro game right away,” he said of the Sting blueliner. “He is a player I would take on my team every day of the week. Has leadership ability as he was just given an ‘A’ in Sarnia with many believing he could have been named captain already.”
To kick off his sophomore OHL season, Chychrun has tallied a goal and three assists in six games so far with the Sting after recording 33 points in 42 games in his rookie season in 2014-15. He was the top pick in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection.
Dubois is off to a blistering start to the QMJHL season, scoring six goals and seven assists in 10 games. He’s represented Canada three times in the last year, including at the World Under-17 and Under-18 levels and the Ivan Hlinka Memorial in August.
In the Western Hockey League, Steel has tallied a goal and five assists for the Regina Pats while Benson has yet to make his 2015-2016 debut with the Vancouver Giants as he awaits surgery to correct a lower-body injury.
Zenon Hersaymiuk, a Future Considerations scout based in Calgary, got behind the suggestion that Steel and Benson are among the elite the WHL has to offer.
Herasymiuk added another to the conversation, too.
“Benson and Steel have been going toe-to-toe since they were the top two picks in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft and carried their success over to their rookie seasons. Benson has yet to play this year, but looked strong at the Ivan Hlinka for Team Canada. Steel has had a decent start to the year with five points in five games, although I expected him to be a little bit more productive early in the year.
“I believe Kale Clague is right in that group with Benson and Steel as one of the top prospects, and there is a strong argument that he is the cream of the crop. He’s a unique defenseman that plays the game with an amazing amount of skill and poise. You don’t find that much natural talent in a defenseman too often, which may put him above the other two to me.”
Respondents also voted on the top forwards of the three major junior leagues, naming Mitch Marner (OHL – London), Anthony Beauvillier (QMJHL – Shawinigan) and Brayden Point (WHL – Moose Jaw).
Point was voted best WHL forward by a wide margin, receiving 75 percent of votes while Marner and Beauvillier came in with 45 percent of the ballots cast.
Lawson Crouse (OHL – Kingston), Tommy Veilleux (QMJHL – Gatineau) and Ryan Gagnson (WHL – Victoria), were voted their league’s hardest hitters.