One of the most interesting parts of any draft year is the start. With initial lists released and expectations set, players enter the season with either an opportunity to establish an already set pedigree, or to blaze a trail as an unknown.
Last year at this time Mark Scheifele was an unknown rookie from Waterloo who was just scratching the surface of his NHL potential. Players like Brandon Saad, who where expected top draft picks, eventually fell past their initial ranking. Everything can change, and everything is up for grabs.
With the first month of the Ontario Hockey League season moving towards a conclusion, its time to take a quick peek at some players that have impressed and struggled, as well as some names to watch for future drafts.
What is there that needs to be said about Nail Yakupov that has not already been said? Throughout the first 10 games of the season, Yakupov has displayed all the offensive tools and abilities that have made him the top draft eligible player for the age group. His mix of puck handling and mobility, his aggressive nature and his vision with the puck are all key strengths. With 25 points in his first 10 games, he is leading all OHL players in scoring, without injured centre Alex Galchenyuk. At this point, I’m not sure if there is anything that will prevent him from being the first Ontario based player selected.
Slater Koekkoek may be the one player out of Ontario that has impressed me the most this month. Not only does he display top end puck skills and an ability to generate offense through the neutral and offensive zones, he also continues to display strong defensive awareness and an ability to play a strong defensive game. He may have the highest ceiling of any draft eligible defenceman that I have seen this season. It is early, but it may be time to start mentioning Koekkoek in the upper echelon of draft eligible players.
A player that has really impressed over the first month of the season is Matt Finn. Heading into the year, Finn had proven that he had the defensive abilities and positioning that would make him an interesting mid round selection, however in the first nine games of the season he has really shown an improved offensive side to his game. He is confident with the puck and shown an ability to generate offense from the back end. If he continues to show this improved offensive ability, one could expect him to be a name talked about with the likes of Gianluca Curcuruto, Olli Maatta and Michael Matheson.
On the other hand, Matthew Campagna has been a frustrating player to watch in the first month. He has all the skills that you look for in a top end offensive player, but is struggling with making quick decisions with the puck in the offensive zone. He still displays good positional play and intelligence, however he really has struggled offensively to this point, and could see his draft stock fall if he doesn’t start to show more offensive output.
Trevor Carrick is not going to be someone who gets a lot of press. He is a quiet, efficient defenceman who goes about his business without much fan fare. He makes smart plays with the puck, displays sound positionally and can play both ends of the special teams. Although not on the radar now, he could be this years Brennan Serville, the Junior A prospect who rose from anonymity to be a third round draft selection of the Winnipeg Jets.
While some have shone and others stumbled, all still have time to make their mark on the 2012 NHL Entry Draft .
Sean Lafortune is a scout for Future Considerations and can be found on Twitter. For all the latest Future Considerations news and posts, follow FC’s Official Twitter Feed, on YouTube and on Facebook!