Lodnia, Maksimov standouts for Aleong

Special To FC2017 Draft Center, OHL, Scouts Series

Future Considerations’ Ontario-based scout Joseph Aleong gives his thoughts on who from the 2017 NHL Draft class left him impressed, who disappointed and who his sleeper is on draft day.

Who Impressed?

Ivan Lodnia of the Erie Otters was inconsistent at times, but had several multi-point games where he looked like one of the most talented players on the ice. He’s short and stocky, skating with powerful, quick strides that give him great top speed and good acceleration. He has good puck skills and shows a diverse collection of dekes that allow him to create space in the offensive zone. He has good vision as well, showing the ability to thread the needle to set up a teammate. He is a hound on the puck both on the forecheck and in his own zone, giving consistent effort in his defensive zone and showing the defensive awareness needed to fill in at center if needed.

Lodnia was buried on a very deep veteran squad in Erie, but he was invaluable to the Otters as a source of secondary scoring in limited minutes. Lodnia will get an expanded role next season and should continue to gain confidence as he matures.

He could wait to hear his name called on draft day due to his rocky playoff stint, but could prove to be an offensive force with a breakout performance next season.

Who Disappointed?

Nathan Schnarr of the Guelph Storm had a great opportunity at the beginning of the season to step into a prominent role on a young team, but he struggled with a revolving cast of linemates and a porous team defense. The tall, skilled pivot who won GOJHL Rookie of the Year the season before showed flashes, but also showed inconsistent effort down the stretch.

Schnarr has impressive athleticism and puckhandling ability for a 6-foot-3 center, but he also isn’t afraid to use his long reach and size to protect the puck and drive to the front of the net. He still struggles with his foot-speed and can get lost in the defensive zone at times, but he has good smarts and is a dangerous player when transitioning the puck up ice.

With the NHL placing a higher emphasis on skilled centers who are tall and physical, Schnarr looks like he could eventually carve out a role in the NHL.

Who Surprised?

Few players in the entire Ontario Hockey League benefitted more from a midseason trade this year than Niagara IceDogs forward Kirill Maksimov. He struggled to produce with a poor Saginaw Spirit team, but shot up the draft rankings after being shipped to Niagara and paired with fellow NHL prospects Ben Jones and Akil Thomas, who could be a first round pick in next year’s draft. Maksimov is a big winger (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) with good puck possession skills in the offensive end and soft hands around the net reminiscent of Wayne Simmonds or James Van Riemsdyk.

Maksimov truly took off after leaving the offensively-starved Spirit, more than doubling his career OHL goal total in just 29 games. He processes the game very quickly and is a threat on the power play when he can set up around the net and make a nice move in close to the goalie or make a play to an open teammate. He’s still learning to use his size and could stand to be more aggressive physically, especially in his own zone. He has the length and strength to be a difference-maker in the defensive end, but he needs to put in a consistent effort to become an all-around threat.

Still, the demand for a big forward with great skill is always high for NHL teams, and Maksimov’s second-half surge could result in him sneaking into the top three rounds.