A new season is upon us and with that a new group to continue scouting heading towards their selection day in June.
2015 has been a bookmarked class for a few years now as some high-end talent emerged three years ago that had us, and the industry as a whole, excited and looking forward to this season of scouting.
Connor McDavid is a big reason why.
McDavid first jumped on our radar, along with most others, during his dominant final Minor Midget AAA season with the Toronto Marlboros when he was running mate to 2014 first rounder Josh Ho-Sang. After being granted ‘exceptional status’ by Hockey Canada to join the OHL a year early, McDavid was the unanimous choice for top pick in the OHL Priority Selection.
His playmaking ability, elite offensive vision, strong skating and edgework but mostly his ability to consistently think the game a step ahead of everyone else on the ice has him sitting atop this talented NHL Draft crop.
Joining McDavid as elite talents to watch in the OHL include Ottawa 67’s pivot Travis Konecny, who captained the Canadian U18 Ivan Hlinka entry that won its seventh consecutive title at this elite event. Konecny is a quick, smart and hardworking centre that takes control of a game with both his skill and his determination. Look for the smaller forward to really catch some attention early this season.
Import centre Pavel Zacha of the Sarnia Sting has the ability to become an early season riser as he brings his power game to the OHL this fall. After spending a season playing against men in the Czech Republic as a 16-year-old, he looks primed to utilize his strength and size advantage as well as his bullet shot and an underrated playmaking ability to really dominate OHL competition.
Another breakout prospect from the OHL is McDavid’s teammate in Erie, Dylan Strome. He is a big 6-foot-3 playmaking centre that all NHL teams covet and who has really worked on his shot to become a double threat as both a scorer and passer. He is off to a terrific start in Erie this season. The younger brother of Islanders forward Ryan Strome will have plenty of opportunity to show his abilities in front of scouts who make the trip to see McDavid.
London’s Mitch Marner, an offensively skilled pivot, is another prospect that made considerable noise last year, even though he was playing bottom six minutes for the Knights. He is a blend of creative smarts and flashy skill that makes the most of his opportunities.
The ‘out of the woodwork’ prospect for the OHL this season just might be Barrie’s Roy Radke. The 6-foot-2 physical power winger out of Shattuck St. Mary’s program has been impressive early for coach Dale Hawerchuk as a guy who will and can fill any role or style played.
Sarnia’s Nikita Korostelev came over to Canada at as a young teen to further his career and make himself eligible for the OHL Priority Draft, had a solid rookie season last year and looks to build upon that with his fast start on the top scorers list this season.
One of the highest pro potential prospects in the OHL is Kingston power forward Lawson Crouse.
Moving into a top six role for this season should help develop his projectable skills further. This 6-foot-4 wingers goal scoring ability, strong drive and willingness to go to the dirty areas has scouts very excited for his future.
Moving to the defensive position there are a few offensive minded guys leading the way and one stud two way threat.
Peterborough Petes defender Matthew Spencer is that guy who regularly contributes at both ends of the ice and he has plenty of talent to continue building upon. He is not afraid to play physical with his 6-foot-2 frame and he has impressed with his ability to make a strong first pass and join the rush with his strong mobility.
Oshawa’s Mitch Vande Sompel is a smaller puck-moving blue liner who thrives in the transition game. His vision and footwork allow him to distribute the puck effectively. He also plays responsible in his own zone showing good composure under pressure.
Erie’s Travis Dermott and Niagara’s Vince Dunn are two other offensively skilled blue liners to keep an eye on. Both makes strong passes and can handle the puck while rushing it through the neutral zone. 2015 looks like a strong year for NHL squads to looking for puck movers on the back end.
The OHL’s top available goaltender is Barrie’s MacKenzie Blackwood who actually wrestled the starters job away from his competition last season as a 16-year-old. The 6-foot-4 stopper has the size and natural coverage that NHL teams look for as well as the positional play and composure in net.
Prospects who really have stepped up their games early in their draft season included short but stalky build centre/winger Dante Salituro of the Ottawa 67’s who has been creating chances and scoring goals by the bushel basket full early this season.
Owen Sound Attack blue liner Thomas Schemitsch has been impressive as a raw but high upside two-way defender who has been producing points and gaining his coaches trust as an every-situation defender. He has the size and work ethic but must keep working on the many aspects of his game.
Sault Ste. Marie has a few who could be mentioned here but the most impressive has to be Blake Speers, a winger who has added to his physical strength from last season and is seeing the fruits on the score sheet.