Scouting is an inexact science as there are so many things, which canít be predicted or seen how they will translate at the next level. This is especially so, when dealing with 15 year old kids, who are under immense amounts of pressure as they play for travel teams in high pressure situations, in hopes of getting on the maps of OHL and NHL scouts. Compounding the issue is that these kids are also put into the unenviable position of having to decide their next 4-5 years of their life and potentially their professional futures at the age of 15 years old, as they decide between the CHL or NCAA hockey and go through the ringer in the process. Some kids are meant to deal with the pressures of going through the wringer, while some are not, some kids will be ready to live with billets away from home and prepare to be professionals, while just as many will fizzle out and see their dreams fall short of expectations. All that being said, the fact these youngsters are able to balance their lives of school work, social and family obligations, practices, pressure of playing in major tournaments in front of scouts and preparing to make one of the biggest decisions of their young lives, means all of these kids are exceptional so far and have a lot of drive and tenacity to be successful in the future, whether itís in hockey or not.
The OHL draft every year is one of those pressure cookers, where lists are made, scouts are at games, players move around to other teams to best position themselves to be better picks, and this year itís looking like a bumper crop of young prospects and players, who will lead the OHL in the upcoming years and more than likely be NHL players in the near future.
As the season has progressed the players have played in a number of tournaments in the early going such as the Toronto Titans early bird tournament, and a number of league games, before the halfway part of their journey is marked by the second biggest moment of the OHL scouting season, the Toronto Marlboros Holiday Classic.
With the Classic now in the books and a clearer picture of a draft, which has a series of question marks on eligibility for the draft, some big strong skilled forwards, some smaller but super skilled forwards, a deep bumper crop of defenceman and a handful of future stud goaltenders, weíre able to make our official mid-season OHL first round mock draft.
2013 OHL Mid-season Mock Draft (Jan. 13, 2013)
1. Ottawa 67ís
*** D-Sean Day (ON/MI) Detroit Compuware U16
Sean Day is the hands-down choice here if heís in fact granted ďExceptional StatusĒ like expected by the CHL. Heís an Ontario-born kid, who grew up around the world and currently lives in the Detroit-area playing for the Compuware U16 program. Heís a big kid, is physically mature and quite frankly skates like the wind! Itís more often than not the name Paul Coffey comes up when people are trying to describe what he does. Ottawa is in the enviable position here of getting a younger aged prospect to keep in their system for an extra year, and a potential future first overall draft selection in 2016. Regardless of the players available here, Ottawa will go with the best player available and having Day available gives them a top first defensive pairing of Jacob Middleton and Sean Day for the next few years.
2. Peterborough Petes
*F-Nikita Korostelev (ON/RUS) Toronto Jr. Canadiens
The Petes are quite frankly a mess right now. They canít seem to get anything right these days and maybe picking the most offensively skilled player on the draft boards will help out the Petes enough to get points on the board, so their blueline and keepers can be ahead of the game as they scramble to keep the puck out of their own net. Korostelev has a laser of a wrist shot and is a dynamic scoring option for any team. He may not make his teammates around him that much better, but none-the-less he is a lethal weapon to have on your wing. A player of Korostelevís offensive pedigree should also prove a big jolt in the arm to a first line, which would now consist of Korostelev, Eric Cornel and Nick Ritchie. All this is dependent on the Russian-born centre, winger being given residential status, as he has been living and playing in the Toronto-area for the last couple years.
3. Erie Otters
D-Zach Werenski (MI) Detroit Little Caesars U18
Erie has a great option here, to have a handful of talented players, from which to choose. Do they find centre Connor McDavid a future linemate? Or help add some all-round skill in their back-end to compliment McDavidís lethal offensive game. In this case the best option would be picking up Little Caesars U18 blueliner Zach Werenski, who has spent the season playing up an age group and should be an anchor for the Otters future power play attack. Werenski is a strong skater, has good size and a decent frame and should have no problems jumping up to the OHL to be a contributor in his first year in the league. Heís often compared to fellow Detroit area prospect Cam Fowler, who in his short NHL career thus far has already made a good name for himself. An Otters attack with Werenski at the point and McDavid leading the attack up front could give opponents night terrors for the next couple seasons.
4. Windsor Spitfires
Windsor forfeits draft choice due to non-compliance with league rules.
Nobody likes to see this sort of thing, and many wish they laid out all the findings and named players, who had been illegally signed which led the Spitfires to not only lose this high first round choice, but also first round draft choices in 2014 and 2016, but thatís not how things unfolded. That being said, Windsor misses out on a local area kid in Travis Konecny of the Elgin Middlesex Chiefs, who could have brought a familiar Taylor Hall type game to the team. This will sting for the Spitfires and itís loyal legion of fans.
5. Kingston Frontenacs
F-Travis Konecny (ON) Elgin Middlesex Chiefs
Todd Gill and the Kingston Frontenacs are smiling ear-to-ear because of the scenario with Windsor, which allows Konecny, who many thought may be the first overall pick this year, to fall into their laps at fifth overall. Kingston has a team full of young studs, and a very deep blueline, meaning forward has always been their target and Travis Konecny fits the bill. While he may not be very large in size, he plays much bigger and uses his blazing speed and fearless demeanor to hit everything that moves, while also being an offensive buzz saw around the net. Konecny would fit in well with Sam Bennett and Spencer Watson up front for the Fronts, as long as the team adds some size and physicality later in the draft or through trades to supplement their embarrassment of talent on the roster.
6. Mississauga Steelheads
D-Matt Spencer (ON) Oakville Rangers
The Steelheads already have a good group of young forwards up front, which allowed them to look to their defence to shore things up for the future. Spencer is a big kid, whose a solid skater and already has a pro frame. Many compare his game to Cody Ceciís however heís more likely a more complete player on that front, who is quicker and smarter with his decisions. Spencer doesnít have far to go from Oakville to Mississauga and should possibly serve an apprenticeship under an overager such as Dylan DeMelo or Stuart Percy for a season before taking over as the teamís main blueliner.
7. Saginaw Spirit
F-Dylan Strome (ON) Toronto Marlboros
Saginaw is a very young team, which is poised to turn the corner next season and possibly be a team with which to be reckoned next season. All thatís missing is a little star power in the lineup, which seems to fit Dylan Strome perfectly. The younger brother of Islanders centre Ryan Strome, Dylan is in many ways a similar player and should possibly avoid the short pratfall Ryan suffered after being drafted and forced to waste away on a fourth line before being traded where he got more of a chance to play. The fact the younger Strome worked out with fellow Oakville boys Matt Moulson, John Tavares and Ryan Strome, should mean heís ready to jump in and be a player immediately. Heíll bring a great offensive ability, while also being responsible in the neutral zone and will make his teammates better to boot. This would be a great fit for Dylan Strome.
8. Brampton Battalion (North Bay Centennials)
F-Brett McKenzie (ON) Oakville Rangers
This is a bit of a wild card for the OHL draft. Is long tenured head coach Stan Butler remaining with the team when they move to North Bay after the season? Will there be any change in management or philosophy? Will the new surroundings and first season mistakes a team is bound to make scare off current or potential or returning players? Either way, all of that will play a factor for the Battalion as they make their pick. While there are a handful of players who would be possibilities here, Brett McKenzie is the safe choice as he is originally from the Ottawa-area and not that far from North Bay in the grand scheme of things. In addition, McKenzie, having played this season with a powerhouse OMHA Oakville Rangers team, showed his skills and inflated stats werenít just a product of a weaker Ontario East Minor Hockey Association league. Heíll also fit in well with a group of big forwards who can skate and hopefully provide a nice pivot to feed the likes of Brandon Robinson and Blake Clarke in the next few seasons.
9. Sudbury Wolves
F-Mitchell Stephens (ON) Toronto Marlboros
Over-exposure is a factor a lot of times when scouting and Mitchell Stephens could definitely fall into that niche. When scouts have an extra season to watch and critique a player, they often find more and more weaknesses or fall in and out of love with the player. Stephens at the beginning of the season was considered a good bet to be a top-five selection in the OHL draft and still could, but a bit of a slide is likely. He played for the Marlboros as an underager during last yearís OHL Cup, and looked good and this season he has taken on a more dynamic role-playing in all kinds of situations for the Marlboros. While only average in size, Stephens has some good quickness and gets plenty of practice time as a member of the Premier Elite Athlete Collegiate (PEAC) school for elite athletes out of Toronto, which also brought us Connor McDavid. Heís gone from a more offensive player, who showed wowed scouts in bursts last season into a more complete player, where he works hard and takes his role as a two-way forward very seriously. A lot of scouts argue heís peaked or he doesnít have as much upside as others in his class, but a lot like Ryan OíReilly he has all the necessary skills to play any role you need him to for your team to succeed. A player like that would go a long way in Sudbury as they already have a good core from with which to build.
10. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
F-Blake Speers (ON) Soo Thunder
Soo sticks with the hometown boy, and nobody can fault them for it when heís as skilled as Blake Speers. Heís not the biggest forward out there, but he has a ton of skill and is very speedy. While some of the Northern Ontario kids often face a bit of an unfair comparison to their counterparts given the rigors of scouting and less competition, the Greyhounds have the goods in their own back yard, where as other teams do not, and can see him whenever they choose. Speers has an abundance of skill, but itís his drive and personal discipline, which makes him even more desirable to not just his hometown team, but also the whole OHL. He has been trying to watch, what he eats and follow an organic diet, and playing on a rep team from the far reaches of the province, he has not only gained a lot of big game experience, but a lot of the rigors of being on the road. Greyhounds coach Sheldon Keefe likes matching big time skill with grit on his lines and Speers should fall into that mix nicely.
11. Niagara Ice Dogs
F-Michael Davies (ON) Southern Tier Admirals
Niagara stays home with the big forward Michael Davies from the Southern Tier Admirals. While it was originally thought that his teammates Connor Walters would have been the rallying point of the Admirals team, Davies has also heeded the cry. The thick power forward likes throwing himself around the rink into anything that moves and still has a nice speed level to beat opponents up the middle or to the outside. Davies brings a skilled offensive repertoire to the table and his hard-hitting style should be a hit with the hometown Ice Dogs, especially when he learns to play the power position more skillfully and with a better temperament. There are elements of Todd Bertuzziís game in his repertoire, however they are still very different players.
12. Guelph Storm
F-Lawson Crouse (ON) Elgin Middlesex Chiefs
Year after year Guelph has quietly gone out and gotten good kids through the draft and plugged them into a system and has been a competitive team. This year should be no different, except the selection of Lawson Crouse would also bright some, size and aggression along with his immense skill to the lineup. Guelphís forwards are all moderate to a little undersized, but all work very hard, the one piece they have been missing over this time is a little size on the wings to help out this team when it comes to playoff time. Crouse is exactly that type of player. Heís played on a very good Elgin Middlesex team and where he easily could have been overshadowed by highly ranked teammates Travis Konecny or Cole Mayo, he seems to have taken it as a personal challenge to compete with them and prove heís not to be overlooked. Where as it would be easy for him to defer to the two stars, he goes hard night in and night out and often has looked like the best player on the ice for the Chiefs. Heíll be a great addition to the Storm.
13. Plymouth Whalers
D-Troy Henley (NJ) Oakville Rangers
Plymouth is super-excited to be able to pick up the big and athletic Troy Henley with the 13th overall selection in the draft. The Cherry Hill, New Jersey-native is a big kid, who has been playing against the best competition available for years and this year made the jump to the Oakville Rangers to continue the trend as he aims to play in the OHL this season. Henley is very athletic and very thick, both of which should be great building blocks for a defenceman. He has some good offensive skills and is physical in his own end too, but the best part about the prospect is you get the feeling he hasnít even scratched the surface of his potential yet. He has a big shot, but doesnít always use it, he works hard, but looks like thereís a lot more to give and he could be a huge steal for the Whalers, who would be happy to add him to the likes of Connor Carrick and Gianluca Curcuruto next season. His game reminds me a little of Dustin Byfuglien.
14. Oshawa Generals
D-Cameron Lizotte (ON) Copper Cliff Redmen
Oshawa has a nice team on paper and seems to have the ship turned in the right direction, however their defence still needs help and instead of going with a pure offensive dynamo on the point, they go with the one with the highest level of compete, Cameron Lizotte. The big Sudbury-area resident has made a name for himself with his tough play and hard-nosed mentality on the ice. Every team needs someone to keep the oppositions top forward in check and Lizotte will fill that role nicely in the Ďshwa. The big, tough blueliner does have a solid offensive skill set, but itís not as developed as that of others like Cole Mayo or as flashy as Garrett McFadden, but he is exactly what the doctor ordered for the Generals. Heíll be the teamís captain before you know it.
15. Belleville Bulls
D-Garrett McFadden (ON) Grey Bruce Highlanders
McFadden is exactly the type of player the Belleville Bulls will love to have as part of their roster. Heís not the biggest kid, but heís super quick and excels offensively on the point, and on the rushÖ something, which should come often on the large ice surface at Yardman Arena. He reminds some of Ryan Murphy with his ability to rush with the puck, but playing on a weaker midget team than Murphy did, he may have a better ability to play an all-round game since it was a necessity. McFadden should be able to jump into the Bulls line-up and fill second-pairing duties, which will be vacated by overager Stephen Silas. If not for the youngest Subban brother, Jordan who is still on the team, McFadden could have slid nicely into the teamís first power play unit next season.
16. Kitchener Rangers
F-Jordan Greenway (NY) Shattuck St. Mary Sabres Prep
Greenway is the ultimate boom or bust pick for the OHL draft. Heís a huge forward, who is a good scorer and knows how to protect the puck as he comes ups the ice. He has good on ice vision to find open teammates and uses his huge frame in corners and in front of the net, however is it too good to be true? Heís another New York State kid, out of Potsdam (less than an hour from Ottawa) and could be NCAA or USNTDP bound, but if he were to come to the OHL thereís little doubt he could excel. Heís a little bit of an unknown as heís playing prep hockey at Shattuck St. Maryís academy, where Sidney Crosby played, but heís a guy to watch. Kitchener laughs all the way to the bank, since no other team before them had the guts to make the call on him and heíll make them pay.
17. Sarnia Sting
F-Denis Yan (RUS/MI) Detroit Belle Tire U18
Yan was born in Alaska, lived in Russia, now lives in the Detroit-area and played for Lambton (near Sarnia) last year, all which are factors, which leave his OHL draft status in question. The Igor Larionov client is a good bet to be ruled eligible and him ending up in Sarnia, where fellow Larionov clients Nail Yakupov and Alex Galchenyuk went seems like a match made in heaven. The young forward is very gifted offensively and has a good frame to his body. He is going to be a professional, thereís little doubt of that, and itís just a matter whether heíll be a better pro then OHLer. This could end up being the steal of the draft, especially if the Sting can put some other skilled offensive stars around him.
18. Owen Sound Attack
D-Cole Mayo (ON) Elgin Middlesex Chiefs
Owen Sound should have quite the team coming back next season, with the majority of its players expected back. That being said they will be losing a pair of strong defenders in overagers Keevin Cutting and Nathan Chirlitti, meaning a defenceman would be their preferred course of action. Owen Sound also would have liked offensive dynamo Garrett McFadden of the nearby Grey Bruce Highlanders, but instead had opt for the slightly bigger and more diverse Cole Mayo of the Elgin Middlesex Chiefs. Mayo is a key cog on a very strong Elgin Middlesex team, who has played in big tournaments and big games over the past few years and his mix of offensive dynamics, while running the point and strong positional play make him a great selection to step in as a key defenceman on a strong team next season.
19. Barrie Colts
D-Tyler MacArthur (ON) Barrie Jr. Colts
If thereís anyone who could be considered a bit of a late-bloomer this season in the OHL draft race its Tyler MacArthur. The Barrie native, is a homerun for the local Colts as they not only keep their fans happy, but get a big punishing defender, who brings a touch of offensive skill to the mix as well. MacArthur has always had the size, but he was somewhat overshadowed by other players in the OMHA, but his play this season has been a rallying point for his Jr. Colts teammates and has helped his team to be a tough opponent night in and night out and had them in the OHLís top ten teams rankings a few times. MacArthur also serves as a good apprentice to Aaron Ekblad, who likely will be leaving the team after being a top 5 pick in the 2014 NHL draft.
20. London Knights
F-Luke Kirwan (NY)
The kids from New York State are usually a little harder to judge, given the level of competition they play and the fact a lot are expected to be players more likely to take the NCAA route. All that being said, Luke Kirwan is a stud of a hockey player and a guy capable of being a top 10 selection this season. He is well beyond physically mature and is a workout warrior and true athlete. He should be a good pick for the Knights a potential future pro. The only concern is some of the players who tend to be too physically mature and have started getting pro bodies through their gym work at earlier ages, have little extra room to develop at later stages, as well as have left their bodies more prone to strains and injuries, which could hamper their development. This is what the Knights do bestÖ pick the player they feel is the best player available.
Coach Dave Dickenson
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