With hockey season getting underway, it’s time for scouts to start focusing on the 2018 NHL Draft. Future Considerations has piled up the scouting reports and here is a look at the top five skaters to play in the Ontario Hockey League last season, heading into 2018.
Ryan Merkley, D, Guelph Storm, 5’11”, 170, 08-14-2000
Merkley, eighth in Future Considerations’ preliminary ranking for the 2018 NHL Draft and the top-ranked skater from the OHL, had a strong rookie season for the Guelph Storm last year. He scored 12 goals and added 43 assists for 55 points in 62 games played and was named the league’s top rookie. “Merkley is a highly skilled offensive defenseman,” Future Considerations scout Dylan Galloway said. “He has quick feet and combines it with incredible creativity to make highly skilled plays in the offensive zone.” During the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial in August, Merkley continued to impress as he recorded six assists in his five games.
Evan Bouchard, D, London Knights, 6’2”, 185, 10-20-1999
Bouchard, 18th in the preliminary ranking, made a big splash in his third season with the London Knights. In 2016-17, he scored 11 goals and added 33 assists for 44 points in 68 games played. “Bouchard is a very smart, smooth skating defender,” Galloway said. “He utilizes his skating to transition the puck up the ice quickly. Bouchard is an opportunist with his offence though and doesn’t often make attempts that would put his team in a precarious position for an odd man rush the other way.” If there is one area that Bouchard needs to improve on heading into the season it would be getting stronger. “He possesses a solid shot, but could see improvement with some added strength,” said Galloway.
Ryan McLeod, C, Mississauga Steelheads, 6’2”, 190, 09-21-1999
Mcleod, 19th in the preliminary ranking and the third-ranked OHL skater, looks to build off of a decent 2016-17 campaign in which he scored nine goals and added 33 assists for 42 points in 68 games played for the Mississauga Steelheads. “He’s a solid sized center who is effective at both ends of the rink, just like his brother and New Jersey Devils first round pick Michael McLeod,” said Future Considerations scouting director Dan Stewart. “He protects the puck impressively with his frame and reach before showing off his strong vision and puck distribution ability, setting up his teammates for scoring chances.”
Akil Thomas, C, Niagara IceDogs, 5’11”, 165, 01-02-2000
Thomas, 21st in Future Considerations preliminary ranking could lead a young Niagara IceDogs team into the 2017-18 season after a very impressive rookie season in which Thomas scored 21 goals and added 27 assists for 48 points in 61 games. “He is a speedy, creative forward with a nose for the net. He’s got some slick hands and when combined with his quick steps and good edge work he can make some defenders look silly,” Galloway said. Thomas was impressive at the Hlinka Memorial, scoring two goals and four assists for six points in five games played.
Ty Dellandrea, C, Flint Firebirds, 6’1”, 180, 07-21-2000
Dellandrea 24th in the preliminary ranking and the fifth-ranked OHL skater, can build on a season last year in which he scored 13 goals and added 11 assists for 24 points in 57 games. “Dellandrea is a gritty, yet skilled, power center who can both set-up teammates as well as finish off the play himself,” Stewart said. “He’s aggressive and physical on the forecheck, plays in the dirty areas, always looking to use his body wherever he can.”