Top 20 OHL prospects for 2008

By Jason Menard

The 2008 NHL Entry Draft has been pegged by pundits as one of the deepest in recent memory. If that’s the case, much of the depth comes from the wealth of talent found in the OHL.

Steven Stamkos is the obvious top selection – of that there’s little doubt. However, there’s a solid chance that four of the top five selections could come from the league. And with a draft heavy in North American – specifically Canadian – talent, 2008 looks to be a banner year for the OHL.

1. Steven Stamkos, C, Sarnia Sting

Feb. 7, 1990

There are very few sure things in the NHL entry draft – Stamkos’ selection as the first pick overall is the exception to the rule.

At 6’, 176 pounds, Stamkos isn’t blessed with overwhelming size, but he’s blessed with overwhelming two-way skill. The native of small-town Unionville has long been anointed the No. 1 overall selection (something he’s used to having been the first-overall selection in the 2006 OHL Entry Draft following a 109 goal, 208-point performance with Markham of the OMHA), and his play this season has done nothing to change anyone’s mind.

Stamkos played in 61 games this season, averaging almost a goal per game with 58. He added 47 assists for a total of 105 points. In his two-year stay with the Sarnia Sting, Stamkos has scored 100 goals and added 97 assists in just 124 league games. He’s also spent 144 minutes in the penalty box, showing a willingness to get his nose dirty. In nine playoff games this season, Stamkos added 11 goals, showing that even under the playoff spotlight, he’s able to shine.

Often compared to Steve Yzerman, Stamkos will make a welcome addition to any franchise as a solid two-way player blessed with elite offensive gifts.

2. Zach Bogosian, D, Peterborough Petes

July 15, 1990

For much of the run-up to the 2008 entry draft, the prevailing wisdom has the Guelph Storm’s Drew Doughty going second overall. In fact, at one point last season there was even a debate as to whether Doughty could overtake Stamkos for the top spot. That debate died down quickly – and a certain 6’2, 197-pound blueliner showed he wasn’t much for conventional wisdom.

Bogosian rocketed up the charts, finishing second on both the Central Scouting and ISS lists. In 60 games, the beefy blueliner accounted for 11 goals and added 50 assists for a slightly better than point-per-game pace.

Beyond being bigger than Doughty, Bogosian is also thought to have the greater potential upside. He plays the game with a bit more of an edge, which when complemented by his offensive prowess, could be more attractive to a team willing to invest a bit of time in developing the Massena, NY native.

3. Drew Doughty, D, Guelph Storm

Dec. 8, 1989

A caveat to the above – don’t be surprised to Doughty actually does go second overall. After all, for many, the choice between Doughty and Bogosian is a close proposition. While Bogosian’s has him beat vertically, at 6’, 220 pounds, Doughty is stocky and has NHL-ready size.

He’s also got elite puck skills, vision, and projects to be a power-play quarterback for years to come. He’s an excellent puck-moving blueliner and fits the prototype for the next generation of NHL defensemen.

This season, Doughty didn’t exactly dominate as expected. That said, he still performed at almost a point-per-game rate with 13 goals and 37 assists in 58 games. Doughty also earned several individual accolades at this season’s World Junior Hockey Championships in addition to the team gold Canada won. Doughty finished the tournament as a first-team All-Star and being named the tournament’s top defenseman.

In a league enamored with size – and with many scouts overly enamored with potential over production — Bogosian may end up the choice, but the team that ends up with Doughty will be more than satisfied with a potential top-two defensive stalwart for years to come.

4. Alex Pietrangelo, D, Niagara Ice Dogs

Jan. 18, 1990

Pietrangelo came into this season ahead of Bogosian on some draft boards, although questions lingered about his toughness. A season in which he more than doubled his penalty totals and played through a fractured kneecap wiped away all of those doubts.

The largest of the three elite defensive prospects, Pietrangelo also showed an increased nose for the net. In 60 games, the King City, ON native accounted for 13 goals and added 40 assists. This season he earned 94 penalty minutes and finished the year plus-24.

A rock on the blueline, Pietrangelo should be a solid top-four blueliner in the NHL, but does not have the same upside that both Bogosian and Doughty possess. That said, all expectations are that Pietrangelo will be selected in the top five.

5. Mikkel Boedker, LW, Kitchener Rangers

Dec. 16, 1989.

At this point, the list gets a little more interesting because of the potential of this Denmark native.

In his first season in the OHL, Boedker wowed scouts and Rangers fans alike by scoring 73 points in 62 games, including 29 goals. He continued to display his scoring prowess during Kitchener’s run to the Memorial Cup. In 20 games, Boedker scored nine goals and added 26 assists.

Boedker is the wild card of the early part of the draft. He represents elite offensive potential and could inject a spark into any dormant attack. In addition, he was a key member of Denmark’s WJC squad, scoring six points in six games. He also has had the benefit of playing in high-pressure situations under the coaching of the well-respected Peter DeBoer.

At 5’11 and 195 pounds, Boedker has solid NHL size with great hands and good speed. A tendency to prefer passing over shooting is one of the knocks against the Dane, but his elite offensive promise is sure to attract many suitors and could push Boedker into the top-10 selections.

6. Cody Hodgson, C, Brampton Battalion

Feb. 18, 1990

Hodgson is another talented forward who’s known for his offensive prowess. In 68 games this season, the 5’11, 185-pound center scored 40 goals and added 45 assists.

He’s a former teammate of Stamkos and has been a key cog for the Battalion. He was also the captain of Team Canada’s World Under-18 squad. An all-purpose forward, Hodgson plays in all aspects of the game and has shown an ability to play well in all facets of the game.

7. Joshua Bailey, C, Windsor Spitfires

Oct. 2, 1989

This was truly a breakthrough campaign for the 6’ Oshawa, ON native. In 67 games he scored 29 goals en route to 96 points. Most impressively he went from being a minus player throughout his OHL career to finishing the season plus-30. This represented a tremendous turnaround from his minus-24 rating in just 42 games following a move from the Owen Sound Attack.

Bailey’s got solid playmaking and skating skills and is a solid playmaker, but lacks elite offensive gifts. He’s a solid mid-first-rounder and will be a welcome addition to a club looking for a solid, dependable forward with an ability to make his teammates better.

8. Thomas McCollum, G, Guelph Storm

Dec. 7, 1989

The 6’1, 205-pound McCollum is the consensus top goaltender in this draft. His placement in this ranking is largely dependent the teams’ needs that fall in the mid to late first round.

In his second season at the Storm’s starter, McCollum posted a record of 25-17-6 with a 2.50 GAA and a .914 save percentage. These numbers reflect the Sanborn, NY-native’s consistency. Last season, his 2.39 GAA and .918 save percentage led him to post a 26-18-10 record.

McCollum was even better in the playoffs this season, posting a 1.91 GAA and .937 save percentage en route to a 5-5 record.

At 6’2, 208 pounds, McCollum fills a lot of the net. He’s also developed a sound positional game to help him maximize his overall effectiveness between the pipes. Without a doubt, McCollum should be the first goalie to hear his name called at the draft, but the question becomes ‘when?’

9. Michael Del Zotto, D, Oshawa Generals

June 24, 1989

Looking for an offensive sparkplug on the blueline? Del Zotto’s your choice. Looking for a rock-solid stalwart in the defensive end? Best to look elsewhere.

Del Zotto’s offensive numbers are impressive: in 64 games he scored 16 goals and added 47 assists. His plus-seven rating is good, but more of a result of his offensive prowess as he’s not the most responsible defensively.

That said, defense can be taught, and it is one aspect that he’s been working on over the past season, seeing some positive results. Offense is a gift – and one that’s greatly prized at the NHL level from the blueline.

10. Tyler Cuma, D, Ottawa 67’s

Jan. 19, 1990

Cuma is a solid two-way blueliner who leans more towards the defensive size of the equation. That said, he has shown an ability to contribute offensively from the blueline with four goals and 28 assists in 59 games this season.

Measuring in at 6’1, Cuma’s got good size for the next level. But at only 180 pounds, he’s going to need to bulk up to withstand the rigors of playing against men. He’s solid in all aspects of the game, but is not the type of player who will capture your attention with flashy play. Conversely, he also won’t draw attention for glaring gaffes made in any aspect of the game.

11. Greg Nemisz, C, Windsor Spitfires

June 5, 1990

Expected to be selected late in the first round, the 6’3, 200-pound center will be an excellent value pick due to the fact that he combines imposing size with a nose for the net.

In 68 games, he scored 34 goals and added 33 assists. He also finished the season a plus-28, which was a quantum leap from his previous minus-22.

What benefits Nemisz most is his size. He’s put on almost 40 pounds since joining the OHL, yet still he needs to add a bit more weight to fill out his frame. However, for a team looking to add size and depth up the middle – still an attractive commodity for every team in the league – Nemisz offers a tantalizing mix of imposing size and enough goal-scoring ability to keep things interesting.

12. Jamie Arniel, C, Sarnia Sting

Nov. 16, 1989

A mid-season trade (for Harrison Reid) didn’t impact Arniel’s production as after posting 13 points in 20 games with the Storm, he compiled 18 goals and 34 points in 40 matches with the Sting.

All told, the 5’10, 183-pound center has a solid, if less-than-overwhelming forward. He has good overall skating ability and can get to the net. Not an overwhelming talent, but he’s a solid contributor to the lineup. Arniel remains a solid but unspectacular first-round hopeful.

13. Jared Staal, RW, Sudbury Wolves

Aug. 21, 1990

The youngest Staal has the bloodlines – brothers Jordan, Marc, and Eric are already certified NHLers. Like his brothers, Jared also has size in spades – three of the four are 6’3 (Jordan’s listed at 6’5) and Jared’s a still-growing 198 pounds. He’s got plenty of space on his frame to become an imposing force in the offensive zone.

This season, after a quiet rookie year last year, Jared took on more of an offensive role with a young Wolves club and became a solid contributor. In 60 games, Jared scored 21 goals and added 28 assists.

Unlike his brothers, Jared is not expected to be taken in the first round, although a late appearance or an early second-round selection would surprise no one. The knock on Jared is his skating, but the rest of his game – plus the intangibles that run deep in the Staal family tree – will make the youngest Staal brother an attractive asset at this year’s draft.

14. Shawn Lalonde, D, Belleville Bulls

Mar. 10, 1990

In his second year with the Belleville Bulls, Lalonde stepped up and played a key role in powering the club from the back end. In 66 games, Lalonde accounted for nine goals and 31 points. Most impressively, the 6’, 195-pound blueliner finished the season a plus-28.

Unfortunately, Lalonde wasn’t able to maintain that level of play in the post-season. In 13 games, he only found the scoresheet twice (one goal, one assist) and finished minus-one. But there’s plenty of room for growth for this young defenseman from Orleans, ON.

15. A.J. Jenks, LW, Plymouth Whalers

June 27, 1990

The 6’1, 206-pound Jenks has dropped on many draft boards, but he still remains a solid top three round prospect. In 68 games with the Whalers, the Wolverine Lake, MI product scored 26 goals en route to 55 points. In an abbreviated post-season he scored one goal in four games.

Jenks projects to a checking forward style prospect with an edge, which was evidenced by his robust play resulting in 94 PIM this season. While not expected to be an offensive force, he will chip in with the timely goal through solid positioning and sheer will.

16. Adam Comrie, D, Saginaw Spirit

July 31, 1990

Teams love big defensemen and Comrie certainly fits the bill. At 6’4 and 205 pounds, Comrie already has a man-sized body, but just needs to develop a man-sized game.

In 58 games, Comrie had 10 goals and 28 points, but most impressed the scouts at the recent combine where he showed solid strength during the drills. Comrie’s displayed solid offensive aspects to his game but continues to need work on positioning and overall defensive play.

17. James Livingston, RW, Soo Greyhounds

Mar. 8, 1990

In his second full season with the Greyhounds, the 6’1, 200-pound Livingston broke out for a solid campaign. In 61 games, Livingston scored 21 goals and added 24 assists.

But what was most noticeable about the winger’s game was his willingness to get his nose dirty. He racked up 135 penalty minutes, up 40 from his rookie season in the OHL.

18. Adam Henrique, C, Windsor Spitfires

Feb. 6, 1990

A left-handed center, Henrique has displayed remarkable consistency in his two campaigns with the Windsor Spitfires. This season, Henrique accounted for 20 goals and 24 assists – numbers that were strikingly similar to his 2006-07 totals of 23 goals and 44 points in 62 games.

In his first taste of playoff action, Henrique comported himself nicely with two goals and three assists in five games. With average size, at 5’11 and 183 pounds, Henrique needs some more time to fill out his frame, but he has the potential to be a solid third or fourth-line contributor at the pro level.

19. Eric O’Dell, C, Sudbury Wolves

June 20, 1990
 
O’Dell only joined the Sudbury Wolves and the OHL ranks midway through the season after signing a post-secondary scholarship deal with the club. But once he suited up for the Wolves, he wasted little time in making an impact.

Named OHL rookie of the month his first month in the league, O’Dell finished the season with 14 goals and 32 points in 28 games. Previously, O’Dell racked up 23 goals and 33 assists in just 34 games with the Central Junior A League Cumberland Grads.

At 6′, 170 pounds O’Dell has a fair bit of space on his frame to fill out, but he should be a welcome mid-round addition to any club looking for solid offensive play.

20. Philip McRae, C, London Knights

Mar. 15, 1990

McRae came to the London Knights last year amidst much fanfare and a little controversy. Most teams passed on the talented center due to his stated intentions to stay stateside. London selected him late in the first round. Unsurprisingly, he arrived in London for last year’s camp – unsurprising due to the fact that father – and former NHLer – Basil McRae is a part-owner of the Knights.

McRae’s fanfare drowned out his actual production, though. In 68 games this season he scored 18 goals and added 28 assists, despite being counted upon to fill the offensive void left by departing players like Sam Gagner (EDM), Sergei Kostitsyn (MTL), and Patrick Kane (CHI). At 6’2, McRae has solid size and at only 189 pounds, he has plenty of room to grow. He’ll have more time in the OHL to show his latent offensive talents and could be worth a mid to late second-round flyer.

Other notables:

Josh Brittain, LW, Kingston
Anthony Nigro, C, Guelph
Nathan Moon, C, Kingston
Julien Demers, D, Ottawa
Chris Carrozzi, G, Mississauga