As the dog days of summer come to an end, a new Ontario Hockey League season heads full steam into what will once again be another grind filled with ups and downs for NHL Draft eligible players.
Having 37 players selected in 2013 with Max Domi, Kirby Rychel, Sean Monahan and Darnell Nurse among eight going in the first round, the OHL season after season shows its ability to provide the next young stars to the NHL.
This season will be no different in regards to the number of talented OHL players selected by NHL teams come June, as there certainly is no shortage of talent. As the season begins and draft eligible players begin to understand the importance, now more than ever, that it is time to show NHL scouts just how talented, smart, and hardworking they are.
With ample talent available this season in the OHL there is no better time than now to mention a number of players to watch who will undoubtedly generate a lot of discussion for NHL teams.
The Kingston Frontenacs boast a trio of talented players who all have the ability to be first-round picks in 2014. Sam Bennett, who is in his second year with Kingston, is a silky smooth center, with high end talent and an unbelievable skating ability. He should improve immensely from his 40 points in 60 games, including 18 goals last season. He will be counted on by Kingston in all situations this year, not to mention being one the best skaters in his draft class.
Forward Spencer Watson will also be relied on heavily by Kingston this season, too. Watson has all the aspects of a true goal-scorer. His big shot and tenacious play are all aspects which NHL teams love. Watson’s strong showing at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial where he was the tournament’s leading scorer, made him even more noticeable. With a strong season in his draft year, Watson’s name could climb quite high come next June.
Roland McKeown, the third member of the Kingston trio, is without a doubt the leader on the back end for the Frontenacs. His high-end skating ability and tremendous mobility are something to marvel at, and is what separates him in his draft class. McKeown’s hockey IQ is very high and he has the poise of a veteran defenseman. He has all the tools that NHL scouts look for in defenseman and for that reason he is looking like he could be a top-10 choice on draft day.
If the Peterborough Petes are going to be competitive this season they will need to rely heavily on forward Nick Ritchie to play the complete game he is capable of playing. His high skill set, and physical aggressive play make him a strong two-way forward. If Ritchie can stay healthy this season, while staying out of the penalty box, he will be the catalyst on a young Petes team. His play will hopefully lead by example. A strong season on a team with not a lot of depth will go a long way in the eyes of NHL scouts.
And while the name Jaden Lindo might not be household yet, you can bet the Owen Sound Attack forward will be making a name for himself throughout this season. Lindo is one of the hardest working forwards in the OHL.
Lindo’s ability to get to the puck first, and close quickly on the forecheck make him a very difficult player to play against. He plays a complete 200-foot game, and competes hard every shift, he has a strong net presence and is willing to take abuse to score. He does all the little things that NHL teams look for in players. He puts the team ahead of himself, and that in itself says a lot.
Ryan MacInnis of the Kitchener Rangers, who is the son of former NHL’er Al, is giving the Rangers a lot to be happy about as the season starts.
Unlike his father, Ryan is a big powerful forward who has a lot upside to his game. However, just like his father, Ryan has a powerful accurate shot, which might just be the top of his draft class. His physical side make him a well-rounded forward who will garner a lot of attention from NHL teams as the season progresses.
With many more talented players playing in the OHL this season, not only will the players mentioned above have to play to the top of their games on a consistent basis, but it was also give the middle of the pack players in their draft year a reason to bring their “A” games as well.
The long bus trips and hard fought puck battles have commenced.