There is no lack of fanfare over the talents and potential of some of the OHL’s top prospects for the 2013 NHL Draft.
Now two months into this new OHL season, there are a few players who, while not getting as much attention as the top prospects, are hoping to continue to build on strong starts to their seasons. If they do NHL scouts that they will have some tough choices to make come next June.
If there is anything to be said for size, Plymouth Whalers’ Ryan Hartman probably doesn’t care too much about what is being said.
Standing five-foot-11, Hartman plays much larger than his size indicates. He is a gritty, in-your-face type player who does not back down to anything or anyone on the ice. He can best be summed up as a pest, who does his job very well. He has an uncanny ability to get under opposing players skin with an ability to draw penalties.
He also possesses a sneaky set of offensive skills. In 16 games so far this year, Hartman has 14 points, including six goals. His physical, gritty style of play combined with his offensive skills, are something that NHL scouts love to see. Due to his late 1994 birthday, Hartman has an extra season to develop, which has only helped with his maturity on the ice.
The term net presence can be effectively applied to Sudbury Wolves winger Nick Baptiste.
Whether he is driving net hard with the puck or setting up a screen in front of opposing goaltenders on the power play, Baptiste causes havoc for opposing goalies. Standing six-foot-one and tipping the scale at 190 pounds, Baptiste plays hard and combines above average skating with good offensive skills.
Although not putting up the biggest point totals, Baptiste does the little things well, which are crucial to his team’s success. One of his biggest tools is his willingness to go hard to the net with or without the puck creating space for his teammates as well as scoring chances.
Playing in all situations this season, will only help his game develop. He possesses the tools which NHL scouts love to see and he shows a willingness to do whatever it takes to win. His play so far this season is an indication that he will be a sought after commodity next June at the 2013 NHL Draft.
Cole Cassels of the Oshawa Generals and son of former NHLer Andrew Cassels, is looking to make a case this season that he should be selected in the first round in 2013.
On a Generals team which is quite deep at the centre positions, Cassels is still managing to find ice time where he is making the most of the ice time which he gets. With only nine points through 18 games Cassels is not going to put up staggering numbers. His impressive defensive play and overall positional play are the aspects of his game which are most notable.
NHL scouts are always looking for strong defensive forwards who are able to put up modest points. Playing in the All-American Prospects game this past August will only help grow Cassels confidence on the ice.
Not all of the draft talent in Ontario is found in the OHL.
For all intents and purposes, Matt Buckles of the St. Michaels Buzzers in the Ontario Junior Hockey League would have been playing in the OHL this season had he not already committed to Cornell University starting in 2013-14. He is a player who deserves a lot more attention than he is getting. Buckles is a delightful blend of dynamic skills, size and an off the charts work ethic.
Before leaving the Buzzers to participate in the upcoming World Junior A Challenge, where he will be representing Canada East, Buckles tallied 25 points in 18 games – including 12 goals – while leading the Buzzers in almost every offensive category.
Buckles, unfortunately doesn’t garner a lot of attention from scouts, but will be on full display for them at the WJAC. His biggest asset is his NHL calibre shot, which he in not afraid to let go whenever he has the opportunity. It should also be mentioned that his puck possession skills as well as his work down low are something to marvel at.
If he keeps tearing it up in the OJHL this year, as he has been thus far, Buckles’ draft stock will only continue to rise, and more NHL scouts will be taking note of his name and more importantly how he plays the game. His game is quite similar to power-forward Devin Shore, who was taken 60th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft and also played his junior hockey in the OJHL.
With the hockey season in Ontario still relatively young, this crop of players knows they will have to continue to improve and grow as their season continue.