The OHL is looking at another strong draft crop in 2010. The first overall pick in the past three drafts has hailed from the OHL, and it’s a near guarantee that this year will make it four. There also seems to be a good chance that, for the second time in three years, the top three picks of the draft will all be from the OHL.
1. Taylor Hall, LW, Windsor Spitfires
Ever since his rookie season in 2007-08, many people assumed that Hall would be selected first overall in 2010. He took the OHL by storm, as his team-leading 45 goals helped transition Windsor from one of the worst teams in the league to one of the best, virtually overnight. Hall was awarded the OHL and CHL Rookie of the Year awards for his efforts.
The following season, Windsor went from just one of the best, to the best. Hall led the team with 90 points in 63 games on a Windsor club that won 57 games, not including the OHL Championship and eventually the Memorial Cup. Hall continued to rack up the hardware, including MVP of the playoffs with an additional 36 points in 20 games.
Despite all of this, a strong season from Plymouth’s Tyler Seguin has left Hall’s status as the consensus first overall selection in a bit of doubt. Hall has done about as much as he can to hold onto the top spot, putting up 59 points in his first 34 games. He still sits second in the league in scoring despite missing the past few weeks at the World Junior Championships. Hall’s strong performance with the Canadian under-20 team should be enough to cement him on the top.
Hall finds a way to put up the points because of his blazing speed. He is constantly moving his feet and finding open ice for himself. He’s also got highlight reel stickhandling skills, which he can sometimes overuse. His wrist shot is especially lethal as well, with a quick release and the ability to find corners from improbable angles.
Hall is a one-dimensional player at this point, playing a purely offensive game. His speed makes him useful as a penalty killer, as he loves to rag the puck, but he is still working on developing his two-way game to become a more complete player. That should not be too much of a concern though. Hall is a hard-working player with a great attitude who is always fighting to be the best player he can be.
2. Tyler Seguin, C, Plymouth Whalers
While Hall has been atop 2010 draft rankings for years, Seguin is a bit of a late riser to his position. Seguin was an undersized player in the midget ranks who added a few inches as well as some much needed weight in his OHL draft year and rookie season. Prior to the season, he was not considered by many to be a top-five pick, but he’s quickly found a way to challenge for the top spot.
Seguin’s offensive totals are not too surprising. After a slow start last year, Seguin was one of the hottest Whalers in the second half of the season, playing with veteran linemates in Chris Terry (CAR) and Matt Caria. Some felt that Seguin’s numbers were inflated playing on the top line, but Seguin’s continued to produce as Plymouth’s top offensive threat. He’s currently leading the OHL in scoring with 61 points in 36 games.
Seguin is considered by most to be this draft’s top playmaker. His vision on the ice is top-notch. Despite being a little undersized at 6’0, he possesses very good puck protection skills and it’s difficult for even the biggest defensemen to separate him from the puck. He doesn’t shy away from physical play either, as is the standard when playing in Mike Vellucci’s system. Seguin is considered to be more of an all-around player at this point of the season, although he lacks the same natural goal-scoring touch of Hall.
3. Cam Fowler, D, Windsor Spitfires
Fowler rounds out the top grouping from the OHL, likely to be the first three selected in June. Fowler is a rookie in the OHL this season, having walked away from a commitment to Notre Dame to play for Windsor. He spent last season with the U.S. National Under-18 Team, enjoying an especially productive World Under-18 Championships that really solidified his spot as a top pick heading into this season.
This season, Fowler steps onto an already loaded Windsor team trying to become the first team to repeat as OHL champions since Sault Ste. Marie did it in 1991 and 1992. Fowler has already recorded 40 points in his first 32 games. He also appeared at the World Junior Championships with the United States, where he also logged major minutes.
Fowler is the complete package as a defenseman. He’s an elite skater, with the same effortless stride that draws comparisons to that of Scott Niedermayer. Fowler moves the puck extremely well, able to keep his game simple but not afraid to use a finesse move when in danger. In his own end, he also keeps things simple, using positioning to angle players off as opposed to delivering a big hit. He does possess the size to hit when necessary, at 6’2 and still filling out.
4. Erik Gudbranson, D, Kingston Frontenacs
While he’s not getting the same consideration as the trio ahead of him, Gudbranson has a unique blend of skills that will make him a valuable asset to whoever lands him, likely still in the top ten. Gudbranson is in his second season as a member of the Frontenacs, able to play big minutes on a team that lacks depth throughout the roster.
Any hopes Gudbranson had of rising up this list have been put aside with a bit of bad luck. He’s been limited this season by an MCL sprain as well as mono, which have kept him out of all but 25 games. When healthy, he’s been able to manage 17 points. He’s also an alternate captain for the Frontenacs.
Gudbranson has good size, a 6’3 frame that could add more weight. He’s very mobile for his size, capable of rushing the puck. He’s more defensively-oriented at this point in his career, but he does have talent handling the puck that could come with a little more confidence. In his own end, he’s a physical force who’s smart about picking his spots. Despite his run in with the injured list, there’s little he can do to play himself out of the top ten of the draft.
5. Alexander Burmistrov, C, Barrie Colts
Bursting onto the scene as an import from Russia this season was Burmistrov, who needed no time to adjust to the North American game. Burmistrov was picked up by Barrie 12th overall in this past summer’s CHL Import Draft. They had no trouble getting him over to North America and he’s been able to contribute immediately to a very strong Colts club.
Burmistrov is an explosive offensive player. His speed makes him noticeable on each and every shift, and is the source of most of his offense. He’s extremely skilled with the puck, with quick hands that give him the ability to come out with the puck from the unlikeliest of situations. He is not a puck hog by any means, but he does at times overhandle when a simpler option is available. The downside to Burmistrov’s game is his size – he’s listed at 6’0, but he seems to play a little smaller, giving him that slippery, waterbug-type look when he’s going full speed.
Before leaving to represent Russia in the World Junior Championships, Burmistrov put up 41 points in 32 games. He was also a +21. Burmistrov looks to be a safe bet to land in the top half of the first round, and will only need a little bit of strength to make it to the NHL.
6. John McFarland, C, Sudbury Wolves
Falling off the radar a little bit is the former first overall pick from the 2008 OHL Priority Selection. McFarland enjoyed a successful rookie season in the OHL with 21 goals and 52 points in 58 games on a Sudbury team that was among the five worst in the league. He hasn’t broken out offensively as many expected him to, with 12 goals in 35 games, but his offensive touch is likely enough that a team will take a chance on him early.
McFarland is a natural goal scorer and has many qualities of a power forward. He loves to shoot, and possesses an NHL-quality shot already. He has average size, but he is much stronger than most of his competition in the OHL, allowing him to drive to the net without issue. It also helps him carry the puck, something he’s very adept at. He has an arsenal of slick moves as well, something people don’t always expect from a power forward type. His skating ability is also elite, giving him all the tools he should need to be a dominant OHL player.
Inconsistency has been McFarland’s downfall this season, as he’s gone long periods without a goal several times this season. His defensive play has suffered, and his physical edge is lacking. He is counted on to lead the Sudbury attack, so 12 goals had to be considered a disappointment at this point in the season. However, the power forward skill that he has is hard to find, and teams tend to grab those types early in the draft. He should be a first-round pick.
7. Austin Watson, RW, Windsor Spitfires
While not of the same caliber as the other two Spitfires on this list, Watson is an impressive blend of many skills that scouts look for in second or third-line players. At this point in his career, he is still very raw, as he still needs to fill out and develop his offensive skills further. But he was the youngest player on the Memorial Cup-winning Spitfire roster, and he was able to contribute.
This season, still overshadowed by Hall and high NHL draft picks, Watson hasn’t been needed to produce a lot of offense. He’s still managed to pass his rookie totals, with 31 points in 40 games.
Watson’s best attribute is his size, at 6’3 but only 177 pounds.
Despite his weight, he still manages to play a very physical game, and he already has the strength to dominate along the boards. He competes very hard and is an excellent defensive player already. His offensive upside is very much untapped. He’s a good skater who could gain that extra gear with a little more leg strength. He doesn’t have dazzling hands, but he’s good around the net and anticipates the play very well.
8. Ivan Telegin, C, Saginaw Spirit
In a deep year for Russians at the draft, Telegin secured himself a high draft spot by coming over to play in North America. He wasn’t selected in the CHL Import Draft until 42nd overall, but his game is made for North America. Perhaps no player on this list has put themselves on the radar with a strong first half as quickly as Telegin.
Telegin has good size as 6’3, and plays a very straight-forward game that has seen him rack up 31 points in 32 games to start the season. He lacks the finesse of some of the other players on this list, but projects well as a second-line winger anyway. He’s strong, and he protects the puck very well. He’s very good around the net, staking out his ice and picking up rebounds with his long reach. His playmaking skills are also quite good, and he seems to be most comfortable in the offensive zone.
Telegin has been a little streaky though, as he’s cooled down considerably after a red-hot start. He doesn’t give a complete effort on every shift and his two-way game could use a little bit more development. He’s also not always physical despite the size and strength he already has. Especially in the OHL, where he is one of the bigger forwards, he would do well to assert himself in that aspect of the game as well.
9. Jeff Skinner, C, Kitchener Rangers
Any team looking for pure offense from the OHL would benefit from taking a long look at Skinner. He’s been a mainstay among the OHL’s top scorers, currently sitting sixth with 54 points in 39 games. His production is already an improvement over his already impressive rookie season, when he recorded 51 points in 63 games.
Skinner is a slippery forward with great speed and overall agility. He excels with the puck, able to pull off high-level moves with regularity and he sees the ice very well. He loves to carry the puck and take shots, but could utilize his teammates a little more. Despite being listed at 5’10, Skinner plays with a lot of edge to his game and is able to get under the opponent’s skin. He’s very competitive and won’t back down from a confrontation. It hasn’t been a huge issue for him, but knowing where the line is and knowing when not to cross it will be important moving forward.
Skinner’s impressive offensive totals will certainly be enough to land him in the top two rounds of the draft. He could go much higher if he ironed out some of the wrinkles in his game. At times he lets his attitude get the best of him and tries to go for the high-skill play instead of the simple one. He’s earned a reputation around the league as a bit of an embellisher to draw penalties, and has been called for diving a few times this season. Still, these things can be coached out of him, while the high level of skill will always be there.
10. Tyler Toffoli, RW, Ottawa 67s
Toffoli has already had an up and down season, but if his recent streak continues, he should easily find himself among the OHL’s top ten. Toffoli had one goal in his first ten games this season, but has since exploded for 23 in his past 28. He currently sits at 42 points in 38 games.
A neck injury contributed to part of Toffoli’s slow start, but credit can also be attributed to Toffoli’s placement on the wing of the top line, with fellow 2010 eligible prospect Ryan Martindale. While he lacks the elite skills of many on this list, Toffoli is a smart player who will be successful at this level because of how he reads the play. He’s got a big shot and his finish is good, but both his stickhandling and speed need some work to be a complete offensive player.