by David DickensonA lot has happened since the 2012 OHL Cup and 2012 All-Ontario Bantam Provincial Championships, when we published a “way too early watch list” for the 2013 OHL Priority Selection and as many will note the lists have changed quite a bit since then.
So far this season there has been a mass exodus of players on their regular teams with a couple “super teams” being formed with the likes the Toronto Marlboros and the Rick Vaive coached Oakville Rangers.
It’s still early to try to be predicting those who will be there when the 2013 OHL Priority Selection comes around next spring, but after a few more viewings it’s become pretty apparent who the main players will be.
Even without Connor McDavid, this year’s draft should be a fairly strong class, compared to previous years with strength at all positions, except goaltender and a higher than usual crop of potential offensive stars, especially those who will put the puck in the net.
Here is our updated OHL priority Selection watch list and Top 10 rankings.
Top 10 2013 OHL Priority Draft Selection prospects
1. C/LW – Travis Konecny (ON) Elgin Middlesex Chiefs
5’11” 175 lbs. (Compared to Taylor Hall)
Konecny is the most offensively dynamic player available in this year’s OHL draft. The average sized pivot is fearless on the ice and navigates through it like a pinball, hitting everything that moves and then using the flash to his game to make opposing defencemen look silly as he goes right through them. He’s lightning fast and possesses game-changing abilities with his offensive skill. When he learns to control his physical play a little better, he’ll be even more effective, which is a scary thought. There are a lot of similarities to Taylor Hall in his game and he should be a fun prospect to watch.
2.D – Zach Werenski (MI) Detroit Belle Tire
6’2” 175 lbs. (Compared to Cam Fowler)
Werenski is what has become a regular occurrence in the OHL draft a dominant Michigan area blue liner, who will have team’s salivating, but will also have them questioning if he’ll report or go to the US National Team Development Program and then the NCAA instead. There’s no doubting his skills as he looks like a man amongst boys on the ice as he navigates plays with ease. He’s a great skater and makes great first passes out of his own zone to set up breaks. He’s also a bit of a feared hitter, for forwards crossing the blue line. This guy is a stud, but may fall in the draft depending on how committed he is to coming to the OHL.
3. RW/C – Mitchell Stephens (ON) Toronto Marlboros
5’11” 165 lbs. (Compared to Phil Kessel)
Stephens played up on last year’s Toronto Marlboros team last year along with fellow under-ager Connor McDavid. Stephens didn’t look out of place last year and this year it should be his turn to shine as he brings a quick release and a great shot, which should make him the Marlboros offensive focal point. He has a good hockey IQ and skates pretty well.
4. C – Brett McKenzie (ON) Oakville Rangers
6’2” 175 lbs. (Compared to Eric Staal)
People have expected the tall, lanky pivot to become more of a power forward given his size and willingness to go anywhere on the ice to get dirty. He’s not likely a true power forward, though as she’s such a good skater for a big player and looks effortless out there when coming up ice. He’s a product of the Eastern Ontario Wild program of the OEMHL, but this year left to join the Oakville Rangers super team, where he should benefit from better competition and teammates, as well the chance to play in a number of high pressure situations on a tournament favourite team.
5. C/LW – Dylan Strome (ON) Toronto Marlboros
6’1” 165 lbs. (Compared to Ryan Strome)
Dylan is a player, who like his older brother Ryan possesses first class skill for the game, but it may take a little longer than others for it to translate into a top player in the league. He has good size and is very offensively gifted and a creative playmaker. At times he seems to disappear on the ice and needs to find some consistency to his game.
6. C/RW – Jordan Greenway (NY) Shattuck St. Mary Sabres
6’5” 185 lbs.
Greenway has been playing for the famed Shattuck St. Mary program the past few years, away from his home of Potsdam, NY. The young forward has benefitted from the daily on-ice regime like guys like Sidney Crosby and Zach Parise before him. He’s put up good numbers at the school and in the past year or so, has shot up to an impressive 6’5”, which has been a big addition to his game. He has great vision to find open teammates and has a good quick accurate release, which often is a benefit in front of the net for tip-ins.
7. C – Ryan Moore (MI) Detroit Belle Tire
6’1” 170 lbs. (Compared to Ryan Kesler)
Moore isn’t the flashiest player on the ice, but possibly the guy you’d most like to have on your team. He has a good offensive skill set, which includes a nice touch around the net and solid playmaking skills, but it’s his two-way game which puts him head and shoulders above other players his own age. He is always active with his stick on the ice and breaking up passes or blocking passing lanes. He does all the little things right and still is one of the better offensive players available.
8. LW – Denis Yan (MI) Detroit Belle Tire
6’1” 176 lbs.
Yan is an offensive dynamo. The Alaskan-born, Russian, who now resides in Michigan thanks to agent Igor Larionov, is a player to watch in this draft class and like Alex Galchenyuk before him, could rise up out of nowhere to steal the first overall draft position from some other very worthy candidates. He has great hands and a powerful skating stride, which compliments his on-ice awareness and ability to break down plays on the fly.
9. D – Matt Spencer (ON) Oakville Rangers
6’2” 185 lbs. (Compared to Cody Ceci)
Spencer is a big, tough physical player, who also has a great point shot and ability to impact the game. He moves very well for a big guy and excels on the pinch. He’s already strong enough to play in the OHL and is very smart when making decisions on the ice.
10. RW – Nikita Korostelev (ON) Toronto Jr. Canadiens
6’0” 175 lbs.
Korostelev possesses a great release on his wrist shot and does so with great accuracy. He has natural goal-scoring ability, which isn’t easily come by in today’s game. With a good season, there’s no reason he couldn’t be a top 3 pick.
D – Garrett McFadden (ON) Grey Bruce Highlanders
5’10” 185 lbs. (Compared to Ryan Murphy)
While not very large in size for a defenceman, the slick skater always manages to make an impact on the game. He has a great shot and finds ways to get his shot through traffic and manages to control the game when the puck is on his stick. He’s a threat from anywhere on the ice with his ability to rush and his strong passing skills.
LW – Lawson Crouse (ON) Elgin Middlesex Chiefs
6’3” 175 lbs.
The big winger has a nice touch around the net, where he uses his great size and love of physical play to his advantage. He is surprisingly agile for such a big player and seems to work well with his teammates like stud Travis Konecny.
D – Colton White (ON) London Jr. Knights Gold
6’1” 170 lbs. (Compared to Scott Harrington)
White is the type of player any team would love to have on their roster. He’s a responsible defenceman, who sees the whole ice and isn’t afraid to mix it up to get the puck. He has good lateral movement and seems to step things up in an up-tempo game, though the only drawback is the lack of offensive upside to his game.
D-Andrew Peski (ON) Ottawa Jr. Senators
6’1” 176 lbs.
Peski is typical of what Ottawa has been producing defenceman wise in recent years. He’s not a fancy player and can play physical when he wants to,; though he’s more of a simple two-way blue liner. Peski is a smooth on his skates and boasts a hard shot from the point, which doesn’t always translate into points for himself or his team, but he plays a big role in getting his team the opportunities they need to score.
RW – Adam Craivich (ON) Oakville Rangers
6’1” 190 lbs. (Compared to Ray Sheppard)
Craievich played up with the 97’s last year in Lambton and was among the leading scorers in the Alliance. There’s little doubt to his ability to get the puck in play and use his touch around the net to score goals, but he’s a bit of a choppy skater, which sometimes outweighs the many positives to his game.
C/RW – Blake Speers (ON) Sault Ste. Marie Jr. Greyhounds 96’s
5’8” 145 lbs.
The diminutive forward is a big-game player and one to watch when his team is depending on him. He sees the ice very well and has a nice touch on his passes and shots. He’s one of the most skilled guys in the class, but his size may hold him back a little, since the OHL is a very physical league. He should have a great OHL career, but without a growth spurt, his NHL futures may not be as bright.
C – Sam Harding (ON) York Simcoe Express
6’1” 165 lbs (Compared to Dave Bolland)
The offensive pivot is one to watch in this year’s OHL draft. He’s already stepped up his game in big tournaments this year and has helped his York Simcoe squad outduel the big boys like the Toronto Marlboros and Oakville Rangers. Harding has a good offensive flare to his game and is one of the hardest workers on the ice. He doesn’t mind going into the corners and getting dirty, which is a nice compliment to his soft hands and passing touch.
C/LW – Aaron Luchuk (ON) Greater Kingston Jr. Frontenacs
5’11” 175 lbs.
Luchuk has some nice high-end, offensive skills. He uses his skating-skills to break open games and help his team get his team on the score sheet. He plays for a Kingston team, which isn’t traditionally one of the strongest or deepest teams in the OMHA, but does the most with his skills and good vision. He could end up being a better player at the OHL level than a prospect, since there’s no telling what kind of offensive output he could put up with a more skilled set of linemates to play with.
D – Cameron Lizotte (ON) Copper Cliff Redmen
6’1” 170 lbs. (Compared to Justin Sefton)
Lizotte is another big defenceman from up north who likes to hit, and make life miserable for opposing forwards. He played up with the 96’s last year and didn’t look out of place. Once he improves his skating and lateral mobility his game should improve by leaps and bounds. He also has a solid offensive skill set, though it pales in comparison to his physical play.
D – Kyle Capobianco (ON) Oakville Rangers
6’0” 155 lbs.
Capobianco is a good all-around blue liner, as he makes good firs passes out of his zone, possesses a good shot from the point and has some good size, though he needs to add some muscle to his frame. He’s at his best skating with the puck up-ice and making reads. A full year of playing under Rick Vaive and hitting the gym with his teammates should be an immense help to his game.
D – Connor Schlichting (ON) York Simcoe Express
6’2” 175 lbs.
Schlichting is not a flashy defenceman, but one who plays the game the right way. He makes the smart plays, uses his size to his advantage and doesn’t get fancy on plays, where it’s not needed. He boasts a good shot from the point, and while he may never be among the blue line scoring leaders, he’ll likely be the most important defenceman on your team because of all the good things he does.
C/RW – Noah Bushnell (ON) Sun County Panthers
6’2” 185 lbs. (Compared to Boone Jenner)
Bushnell is one tough hombre. He has a good shot and hands around the net as he produces screens and takes a beating to score for his team. He’s not the best skater on the ice, but always gets to where he needs to be and he’s also a big physical presence on the ice.
D – Connor Walters (ON) Souther Tier Admirals
6’2” 190 lbs.
Walters is a great puck moving defenceman. He makes a quick, accurate first pass out of his zone and always has his head up to make the smart move. He is the captain of the Admirals program and leads by example on the ice and he’s always going 110 per cent and battling for the puck. He should be a good two-way defenceman in the OHL.
D – Troy Henley (PA) Oakville Rangers
6’3” 201 lbs. (Compared to Dustin Byfuglien)
Henley came up from Pennsylvania to join the Oakville super team this year and he should be a key player on this team. He’s a huge physical presence on the ice and once he turns some of his baby fat into core muscle he will be even more of an impact player. He sees the ice really well and handles the puck with ease.
G – Ben Blacker (ON) Brampton Jr. Battalion
5’11” 150 lbs.
Blacker is the best keeper in what is a weaker than average goaltender class this season. The Brampton keeper competes hard and handles the puck exceptionally well, forcing teams to change up their game plans against him. He possesses good lateral quickness and his instincts allow him to take over games.
Some other notable things to watch for the 2013 OHL draft are:
Three more think they’re “exceptional”?
Not one, but three rumours have already popped up about three separate (98) born OHL region prospects looking at seeking out “exceptional status” to enter the league a year early. If there are three players of that caliber, and that’s a big if, it’s likely none of them will receive the special exception. The three are F/D – Chad Krys (NY) Westchester Express, who is reportedly a better blue liner than a forward and boasts some pretty exceptional skills, which should translate into a good pro game, D – Sean Day (MI) Detroit Compuware, who’s a slick slating, puck-moving defenceman who scouts are comparing to a young Paul Coffey and F-Mikey McLeod (ON) Toronto Marlboros, who is a big strong forward, who is playing up with the 97 class and looking like he belongs with the big boys of the class.
Did new talent Sprong up in the OHL draft?
The status of C/W – Daniel Sprong (ON) Oakville Rangers is still in question amongst many people in the know. The Dutch native, who also has Canadian citizenship, is clearly going to be an elite player in the CHL, although it could be in the QMJHL or the OHL. The the All-Canadian game earlier this year, he was listed as a Quebec product, but played last season for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights bantam super team, which included some of the best 97 born prospects from around the world, and now has jumped ship again to play for the Rick Vaive coached Oakville Rangers super team this fall. There were disputes about his citizenship among many in Quebec, and now his family’s residency is a question to many, since if they move to Ontario as they are rumoured to do so, while Daniel is playing for Oakville, he could become OHL property and no longer be part of the QMJHL’s draft. Regardless whether it’s the OHL or QMJHL, the 5’11” 165 lbs. scoring forward likely to be a high draft pick and impact player in either league.
The son also rises
One player who should get some pretty good coverage as the season progresses is forward Matt Tkachuk of the St. Louis Amateur Blues 97’s, who is the son of former NHL power forward Keith Tkachuk. While his father was part of the power forward boom of the NHL, he also possessed some good skills with the puck and his son has definitely inherited some of those skills. Right now his size hasn’t caught up to him, since he’s around 5’9” , but with a growth spurt in the near future, the Little Tkachuk could be a menace in the OHL.
Getting Shankar-ed: an under the radar prospect
One player who maybe an under-the-radar prospect for the 2013 OHL Priority Selection would have to be defenceman Zach Shankar of the Upper Canada Cyclones of the OEMHL. While it’s a bit of a down year of the OEMHL prospect wise after Brett McKenzie left to join the Oakville super team, Shankar is a player who never gets the credit he deserves since he’s a very well-rounded prospect. He’s physically mature for his age at 6’1” 200 lbs. and isn’t afraid to lay a hit on opposing players, but he also has a nice offensive ability to his game as well. This season he’s already put up a goal and assist in three games to start the season. He was also thought highly enough to be protected by the Brockville Braves in the annual Central Canada Hockey League Jr. A draft. Given his status as a protected player for the Braves, it’s safe to say he’s also likely on the Kingston Frontenacs radar as well, considering Fronts head coach Todd Gill also owns the Braves franchise. There’s a little bit of a similarity to the Frontenacs Warren Steele in Shankar’s game, which for anyone who has seen Steele’s development with Kingston is a good thing. Shankar has the pieces in place to potentially come out of nowhere and be an off-the-radar choice in this year’s OHL draft.