OHL Prospects – Final Rankings

By Bob Chery

What a difference a year makes. While the 2000 crop of
draft-eligibles had a few good players at the high-end, it did
not match what the 2001 crop has to offer, and the depth this
year is also impressive. From Guelph to the west, Oshawa to the
east, and scenic bread-and-breakfast country along the shores of
Georgian Bay in beautiful Owen Sound, it was a pleasure to watch
this year’s prospects. Expect to see 16-18 OHLers drafted in the
first three rounds of the NHL draft, and some interesting
long-shots in the later rounds.

We’ll start off by having a bit of fun as the make-up of this
year’s group has some things in common with the players taken at
the top of the 1998 Draft. Of course, this isn’t the exact order
in which I would rank the prospects, but it is interesting to
look at the similarities. Included are the numbers that the
players put up in their respective draft-eligible seasons:

1. Vincent Lecavalier – 58GP 44G 71A 115 PTS 117 PIM
1. Jason Spezza ——- 56GP 43G 73A 116 PTS 43 PIM

Both players have good size and a high skill-level with skating
ability, especially with Spezza, being the main concern.

2. David Legwand – 59GP 54G 51A 105 PTS 56PIM
2. Stephen Weiss – 62GP 40G 47A 87 PTS 45 PIM

Both players a product of the Plymouth Whalers, great skaters,
highly skilled, definite #2’s in the rankings.

Next came three defencemen in the ‘98 Draft to mirror the next
three best prospects in the OHL which are also defencemen. The
mix was a bit different with two stay-at-homers in ‘98 compared
with two offensive d-men in
2001, but the numbers from the two ‘98 CHLers are a good
bench-mark for comparative purposes with this year’s crop:

3. Brad Stuart – 72GP 20G 45A 65 PTS 82 PIM
4. Bryan Allen – 48GP 6 G 13A 19 PTS 126PIM
5. Vitali Vishnevsky – Europe

3. Tim Gleason — 47GP 8G 28A 36PTS 124 PIM
4. Jay Harrison – 53GP 4G 15A 19 PTS 112 PIM
5. Mark Popovic – 61GP 7G 35A 42 PTS 54 PIM

Then some skilled forwards:

6. Rico Fata – 64GP 43G 33A 76 PTS 110 PIM
6. Derek Roy – 65GP 42G 39A 81 PTS 114 PIM

Both players under six-feet tall with a high-end dimension,
Fata’s skating and Roy’s skill-level. Is it now a rule in hockey
that the most dimunitive players have to wear a Rangers jersey
with # 14 on the back?

Now for some defensive forwards:

7. Manny Malhotra – 57GP 16G 35A 51 PTS 29 PIM
7. Jay McClement — 66GP 30G 19A 49 PTS 61 PIM

Now for some power forwards, with the requisite four-letter last
names:

8. Mark Bell – 55GP 34G 26A 60 PTS 87 PIM
9. Mike Rupp – 64GP 16G 11A 27 PTS 117PIM

8. Aaron Lobb – 67GP 23G 25A 48 PTS 93 PIM
9. Colt King — 65GP 25G 27A 52 PTS 129PIM

And rounding out the Top Ten, two prospects with good size and
puck-skills, but question marks about their skating ability:

10. Nikolai Antropov – Europe
10. Cory Stillman – 68GP 29G 27A 56 PTS 39 PIM

But let’s get on with the analysis of this year’s
draft-eligibles. First I will rank the defencemen separately,
then the forwards separately, add a few goaltenders, and then
produce a final list which will be layered according to where I
think the talent drops a notch after one or a group of players.


DEFENCEMEN

In my pre-season and mid-season reports I had Popovic, Gleason,
and Harrison as the top three blue-line prospects in the OHL and
that hasn’t changed. They are very close and I could make a
strong case for any one of them. If I was left with the third
choice between them, I would have no complaints no matter who I
ended up with. It depends on whether you want to score goals or
prevent them, a safe pick, or one a bit riskier with the
potential of being more rewarding.

All three may have disappointed to a small degree within the
context of their high expectations, and it looks like CSB went
looking for alternative choices at the end of the year because
of it. In my opinion this was unwarranted as any blue-line
prospect ranked higher than these three is simply rated too
high.

1. TIM GLEASON – Windsor – 6-0.5, 199/ 47GP 8G 28A 36 PTS 124
PIM +28

The best wheels among OHL draft-eligibles, his skating was best
described by a former coach as having two speeds: Fast and
see-ya-later. That speed gets him to a lot of loose pucks in the
defensive zone and he is willing to mix it up in traffic. His
challenge is to have his hands catch up to his legs. A typical
Spitfires game would see at least a half-dozen forays deep into
enemy territory and his numbers were light given all of those
opportunities. He does not have the offensive instincts of a
Popovic. His development over the next two years looks very
favourable given the green light that Coach Webster will give
him to lead and join the rush. He has the most unrealized upside
among OHL d-men. His main asset is his offensive aggressiveness,
and the NHL team that drafts him will have to be comfortable
with that.

2. JAY HARRISON – Brampton – 6-3, 200/ 53GP 4G 15A 19 PTS 112
PIM +4

A physical, mobile stay-at-home defenceman with a mean streak
and a quick first step that can close and cut-off a lot of ice
with one or two strides. A crease-clearer. Keeps opposing
forwards to the outside on the rush. Will stand up for his
teammates. Has Pronger-like outlet passes for the transition
game. Short, medium, or long-range, he rarely misses the tape.
On a team that can score off the rush, he’ll bag a few more
assists. Does not possess the offensive potential of a Popovic
or Gleason, but the best dimension among OHL d-men is Harrison’s
defensive one. A safe pick that has the potential to be a
first-unit stopper against opposing #1 lines.

3. MARK POPOVIC – St. Mike’s – 6-1.5, 194/ 61GP 7G 35A 42 PTS 54
PIM +24

Has all the tools and instincts to be an offensive defenceman at
the NHL level. A great-skater that can carry the puck through
open ice and hit the holes, and provide the occasional Savardian
spinarama. Doesn’t beat opponents one-on-one, is more inclined
to play keepaway. A good passer with a hard point-shot and a
quick release. He plays in a defensive system that has made his
defensive zone coverage adequate. He’s no Ozolinch, but will not
be mistaken for Scott Stevens either. That system could hinder
his offensive development as his puck-carrying usually stops at
the offensive blue-line and deep pinches are few and far
between.

4. CARLO COLAIACOVO – Erie – 6-1, 184/ 62GP 12G 27A 39 PTS 59PIM
+46

Showed possibilities of an offensive defenceman last year, but
his strength this year was in the defensive zone. Is quietly
efficient ala Kevin Lowe, consistently breaking up plays with
his stick and with his body. Rarely gets beat one-on-one. Great
coverage on the PK. Relied on athleticism early in the year but
slowly began to add some physicalness to his game as the season
progressed. Great balance. Smooth with the puck, but rarely
carries it past his blue-line. He could assert himself
offensively more frequently.

5. DREW FATA – St. Mike’s – 6-1, 211/ 58GP 5G 15A 20PTS 134 PIM
+4

A good skater and capable puck-handler with a booming shot from
the point. A competitor. Has a combative nature which at times
he struggles to keep under control. Was an OHL rookie this year
and at times it showed. He has to smooth out his decision-making
process and work on his consistency and reliability. Despite
having some offensive tools he does not appear to have the
instincts for a top offensive game, but he has the potential to
be a number 4 or 5 NHL d-man who can play with an edge and
supplement a defensive game with adequate puck movement and an
NHL point-shot.

6. BRENDAN BELL – Ottawa – 6-1, 198/ 68GP 7G 32A 39PTS 59PIM
even

Shows an all-round game without any glaring weaknesses and
without any obvious strengths. The best potential rests with his
offensive game. A levelling off of his numbers from last year is
a bit of a concern, but he should benefit from increased
responsibilities next year as defencemen ahead of him on the
depth-chart graduate to higher levels.

7. LUKAS KRAJICEK – Peterborough – 6-1.5, 183/ 61GP 8G 27A 35PTS
53 PIM +2

A boom-or-bust proposition best suited for a gamble with a
2nd-round pick. A very smooth skater with great lateral movement
while handling the puck. Makes a good first pass. Has some
offensive ability. Struggles with the physical battles in front
of the net and along the boards. His reads and hockey-sense are
a question mark. He tends to follow forwards without the puck
behind and away from the net and leaves the slot open. Makes
ill-advised pinches and mis-times cross-ice engagements with
puck-carriers. His on-ice vision and awareness are also
questionable. Makes passes cross-ice and back to his net to set
up a power-play when partner has gone to the bench for a
line-change. He has improved in some areas, he now rarely
forgets to run some interference while partner fetches the puck
on a shoot-in. Lots of time for corrections, but lots to
correct.
Does not have Ozolinsh-type offensive potential, hence his
upside is more along the lines of a Jeff Norton.

8. CARTER TREVISANI – Ottawa – 6-1, 185/ 35GP 9G 10A 19PTS 22
PIM +4

Canadian junior leagues are scouted so thoroughly that very few
future NHL blue-liners are available after the first 60 or so
picks, or what amounts to two rounds of a 30-team draft.
Trevisani grades well on the charts, having some skill, size,
skating ability, and a good first pass. He is a 19 year-old that
played NCAA hockey before coming to the 67’s in mid-season,
hence this is the first opportunity for NHL teams to obtain his
rights. But as a 19 year-old he should’ve been a cut above the
first-time eligibles but wasn’t. The call-option of upside with
a 17 or 18 year-old is not there with Carter, so you wouldn’t be
drafting a d-man with the potential of playing in your top four,
but rather a depth defenceman.

9. NATHAN TENNANT – Kingston – 5-11, 181/ 67GP 7G 23A 30PTS 130
PIM +11

Tennant’s season was a disappointment. As a late ‘82 playing in
his third OHL season, he did not have the offensive breakthrough
that was expected. Year over year he scored two more goals and
had the same number of assists in the same number of games. He
had 1st-unit power-play duties handed to him and despite a good
group of forwards, the Frontenacs finished with just the 17th
best power-play in the OHL and Nathan has to shoulder a large
part of the blame. At just under six feet, he does not have
prototypical NHL size. Which is why he won’t be taken with a
pick in the first-half of the draft, but is a reasonable gamble
with a late-round pick. He’s a very good skater which he uses to
his advantage on defence, has a heavy shot from the point, and
doesn’t shy away from the rough-going. He has the raw skills to
have a breakthrough, and they don’t always coincide with a
player’s draft-eligible season.

10. ANDREW ARCHER – Guelph – 6-4, 194/ 52GP 0G 2A 2PTS 63 PIM
even

Strictly a long-term project, Archer has good mobility for a
player his size, particularly skating backwards and can move
bodies from the crease-area and play physically along the wall.
Needs to bulk up to become more of a force. He can cover the
passing lanes with his wing-span both on the penalty-kill and
5-on-5. On a team with smallish defencemen, Archer’s absence was
felt whenever he was out of the line-up, however NHL teams
should have no shortage of defencemen with size in their system.
He has absolutely no offensive dimension. At this stage of the
talent pool, and with lower draft picks, you don’t expect to
draft a future NHLer. The best you can hope for is someone who
has at least a 5-10% of bucking the odds, and Archer has at
least enough equipment to warrant a selection along those lines.


FORWARDS

1. JASON SPEZZA C – Windsor – 6-2, 214/ 56GP 43G 73A 116PTS 43
PIM +28

Vision, play-making skills, and hockey sense are in the
“special” category. Has a good wrist shot with a quick release
that is accurate and can nail the top corners where the openings
are with butterfly goaltenders. His release on the slap-shot is
slow. A good stick-handler with strength to fight off checks.
The biggest concern is with his skating, but it will not affect
his quarterbacking of a power-play at the half-boards. He may
have to trail rather than lead the rush, but with his pin-point
passing, both short and long-range, and ability to see the ice,
that could work to his advantage. Needs to work on his defence
and face-offs in addition to his skating. Does not yet appear
NHL-ready, but is beyond junior hockey. His skill-set can best
be compared to Jason Allison. In a year with two highly-skilled
NHL prospects, the edge goes to the one with skating ability and
a physical dimension, so expect to see Spezza go 2nd overall
after Ilya Kovalchuk.

2. STEPHEN WEISS C – Plymouth – 5-11.5, 178/ 62GP 40G 47A 87PTS
45 PIM +28

Concerns about his size are unwarranted. He’ll eventually check
in around 6-feet, 185 pounds. Great vision. Uncanny
anticipation. A seeming puck-magnet. Elusive. Can quarterback a
power-play from the half-boards. Uses his speed for effective
penalty-killing. Will go to the boards to contest the puck. Is a
smart player who always faces the play when he has the puck
along the wall to minimize the hits he has to absorb. Can take a
hit. Looks to be more of a playmaker, but can also finish. A
layer unto himself among the OHL draft-eligibles, a notch below
Spezza but a notch above everyone else.

3. JAY MCCLEMENT C – Brampton – 6-1.5, 193/ 66GP 30G 19A 49PTS
61 PIM +11

After Spezza and Weiss there are no other point-per-game
prospects until you get to the size concerns of a Roy,
Himelfarb, and Wellwood. McClement’s defence is the best
dimension left on the board. Has an intuitive, instinctive feel
for the defensive game. Like clockwork he will trouble-shoot and
win possession of the puck behind his own red-line and then use
his speed to catch up to the transition game. He will frequently
assume a d-man’s position when they have vacated the slot to
pursue the puck. In the offensive zone he relies on smarts to
get his goals. He will time his move to the front of the net in
search of rebounds just as a shot is being released. He will
stand in front of the net looking for deflections and rebounds,
but always stands off to one post to be in position for a pass
behind the net on the cycle. Showed more confidence and ability
with the puck as the season progressed. Selke Trophy potential
with enough of an offensive upside to pitch in on a 2nd-line
when needed, and 2nd-unit power-play duties.

4. AARON LOBB RW – London – 6-4, 193/ 67GP 23G 25A 48PTS 93 PIM
-18

According to Central Scouting’s rankings he’s a sleeper, but
shouldn’t be. Similarities with Nikita Alexeev, the 8th overall
choice in the 2000 NHL Draft, without the straight-ahead speed
but with better puck-skills and a greater willingness to use his
size. The numbers in their draft-eligible years are similar
(64GP 24G 29A 53 PTS 42 PIM -3 for Alexeev last year) Was most
effective on the power-play and must now translate that more
consistently at even-strength. Is a load in front of the net and
cycles well, but is functional rather than instinctive in the
offensive zone. Must work on his conditioning. At times he
would pancake people, at other times he would get the worst of a
collision. Could easily add 20 pounds to his 6-4 frame and
become a dominant force. Has all the tools to become a good
power-forward.

5. COLT KING LW – Guelph – 6-2.5, 221/ 65GP 25G 27A 52PTS 129
PIM +8

Trailed off substantially in the last part of the season after a
strong first-half where he displayed a strong physical game,
soft hands in close, calm puck-handling on the power-play, good
defence and a good display of hockey sense and a feel for doing
the little things. His coach calls him a free spirit and some
whispers have extended that to a loose cannon. His game feeds
off being involved physically, but he was prone to taking nights
off in the second-half. He can take care of himself when it
comes to dropping the gloves. Is an adequate skater but could
improve his footspeed. Maturity and discipline are the biggest
obstacles to overcome.

6. CORY STILLMAN C – Kingston – 6-2, 204/68GP 29G 27A 56PTS 39
PIM +16

A bigger version of Jonathan Cheechoo who would be a higher-end
prospect but drops a notch because of an absence of a 2nd-gear.
It prevents him from hitting the holes with speed or taking
advantage of scoring opportunities that arise suddenly from
turnovers and quick transitions.The Prospects Game Skills
Competition highlighted his skating to a tee. Out of 35
prospects: 35th in the 60-foot dash, 16th in the 150-foot dash,
5th in the full-lap. Minus the 2nd-gear he’s a good skater with
good balance, decent puck-skills and a high-end wrist shot,
which combined with his size makes him a threat down low. He
works hard at both ends of the ice and plays a clean game along
the boards where he’ll take the body without racking up a lot of
penalty minutes.

7. CHRIS THORBURN C – North Bay – 6-2.5, 190/ 66GP 22G 32A 54PTS
64 PIM -1

Tailed-off in the second-half of the season and struggled with
consistency. Must take advantage of his size on a game-in,
game-out basis. Always keeps his feet moving and plays the game
at a quick tempo. Looks to be more of a goal-scorer than a
playmaker as he has good finishing skills from in close but only
average puck-skills. He may need a creative line-mate to bring
out the best in him, he was teamed mostly with grinders. The
lack of high-end puck-moving defencemen ensured a very
pedestrian style of play from the Centennials which did not lend
itself well to Thorburn’s strengths.

8. DEREK ROY C – Kitchener – 5-8.5, 187/ 65GP 42G 39A 81PTS 114
PIM -20

If he was six-feet tall he’d be ranked in the Stephen Weiss
district. A high skill-level and a great skater with quick
acceleration. A power-play quarterback from the half-boards who
can make plays as well as finish. Draws a lot of penalties. Will
make a highlight-reel play almost every game. Gets knocked off
his feet his share of times but always gets up and comes back
for more. Has a stocky build much like Samsonov. He is a risky
pick because of his size but should be chosen ahead of projects
who have size but only average skills.

9. TREVOR BLANCHARD LW – Owen Sound – 6-1.5, 190/ 65GP 15G 18A
33PTS 153 PIM -2

Into the next tier of forwards, ones who are projects but grade
well on the charts with size, toughness, and adequate skating
ability. Is willing to mix it up but is not yet dominant. Is on
the short-end of collisions with bigger players as often as he
is on the winning-end. Does the dirty work in the corners and in
front of the net.
Expect a development curve of several years befitting a
power-forward, with the NHL upside of a 3rd or 4th-line physical
grinder.

10. GREG JACINA RW – Owen Sound – 6-0.5, 191/ 57GP 25G 26A 51PTS
101 PIM -1

Was by-passed in his first draft-eligible season last year when
he was ranked 100th in North America by Central Scouting. Plays
with fire in his belly which makes his walk-out on the team in
the 2nd-half of the season puzzling. Enters the offensive zone
with speed, his best asset. Has a good skill-level and upgraded
his numbers from last year (66GP 12G 29A 41PTS 62PIM -17.) Has
3rd or 4th-line NHL upside as an in-your-face abrasive player,
but maturity is the big question mark.

11. DANNY BOIS RW – London – 6-0, 192/ 66GP 21G 16A 37PTS 218
PIM -18

See Blanchard above. Not as big but competes and sticks up for
his teammates. Racks up a lot of penalty-minutes but is a
middleweight rather than a heavyweight. Does not have any upper
echelon dimension to his game but doesn’t have any major
weaknesses either. His work-ethic gives him 3rd or 4th-line NHL
upside with the possibility of providing a modicum of offence
within that role.

12. ERIC HIMELFARB C – Sarnia – 5-9.5, 161/ 49GP 31G 44A 75PTS
48 PIM -1

A poor man’s Derek Roy except that he does not have the sturdy
build of Roy, nor does he play with his abrasiveness. His
diminutive size will knock him far down in the draft. A bout of
mononucleosis kept him out of action for several weeks. Over a
full season his numbers project to 104 points. His skill-level
will have to overcome his other short-comings, and at least he’s
well equipped in that department, but he is a longshot.

13. MATT GRENNIER – Barrie – 6-0, 183/ 62GP 8G 8A 16PTS 19 PIM
-4

Grennier has major league wheels that he uses best as a checking
center. He must learn to use his speed as an offensive weapon,
right now he is like a race-horse that gets lonely in the lead
and waits for the pack to catch up. Will always trail the play
on an offensive foray, looking for a drop-pass instead of going
to the net and creating some havoc and opening up some ice for
line-mates. He does not possess offensive instincts but could
increase his productivity with a simplified approach. His upside
is as a 4th-liner or 1st call-up, which is about all a team
could reasonably hope for with a selection in the bottom part of
the draft.


GOALTENDERS

I profess not the slightest expertise when it comes to this
position, and beyond a top-flight goaltender it’s difficult to
project at what point an NHL team will draft them given the
small quantity of such players required on the depth charts, but
here goes ……….

1. ADAM MUNRO – Erie – 6-1, 187/ 41GP 2.31GAA .920 SVPCT 4 SHO
26W 6L 6T

Challenges the shooter, plays the angles well, covers a lot of
net in the butterfly, and gets back to his feet quickly. Shows
athleticism and good reactions in goal-mouth scrambles. Will
make the routine saves and not let in too many soft goals.
Places the onus on opposing teams to create quality, in-close
scoring opportunities.
Is an adequate puck-handler. Struggles with rebound control on
shots to the chest and upper-body. Looks to have the foundation
of a .900 save pct goaltender with further development to
determine his maximum upside.

2. PETER BUDAJ – St. Mike’s – 6-0.5, 200/ 37GP 2.86GAA .907
SVPCT 3 SHO 17W 12L 3T

Back and forth with draft-eligible teammate Andy Chiodo, Budaj
gets the slight nod on the strength of his heroics in
back-stopping St. Mike’s from a 3-1series deficit against
Sudbury in the Conference Semi-Finals where he was outstanding
in the last three games. Covers a bit more of the net than
Chiodo. Relies more on athleticism at this stage so there is
more upside with some technical polish. Is an adequate
puck-handler. Needs to be more consistent on a game-in, game-out
basis.

3. ANDY CHIODO – St. Mike’s – 5-11, 201/ 38GP 2.49GAA .916 SVPCT
4 SHO 18W 12L 5T

Relies on strong fundamentals and has good controls of his
rebounds. Comes well out of his net to challenge shooters and
cuts down the angles. Handles the puck well. Was consistent
throughout the year although he struggled in the playoffs.
Doesn’t cover as much of the net when he’s down owing to his
size, but manages to keep that vulnerability to a minimum.


FINAL RANKINGS
(with the underlines signifying layers):

 1. Jason Spezza C - Windsor
---------------------------------------------------------
 2. Stephen Weiss C - Plymouth
---------------------------------------------------------
 3. Tim Gleason D - Windsor
 4. Jay Harrison D - Brampton
 5. Mark Popovic D - St. Mike’s
---------------------------------------------------------
 6. Jay McClement C - Brampton
---------------------------------------------------------
 7. Aaron Lobb RW - London
 8. Colt King  LW - Guelph
 9. Carlo Colaiacovo D - Erie
---------------------------------------------------------
10. Adam Munro G - Erie
---------------------------------------------------------
11. Drew Fata D - St. Mike’s
12. Cory Stillman C - Kingston
13. Chris Thorburn C - North Bay
14. Brendan Bell D - Ottawa
15. Lukas Krajicek D - Peterborough
16. Derek Roy C - Kitchener
--------------------------------------------------------
17. Peter Budaj G - St. Mike’s
18. Andy Chiodo G - St. Mike’s
-------------------------------------------------------
19. Trevor Blanchard LW - Owen Sound
20. Greg Jacina RW - Owen Sound
21. Carter Trevisani D - Ottawa
22. Danny Bois RW - London
------------------------------------------------------
23. Eric Himelfarb C - Sarnia
24. Nathan Tennant D - Kingston
25. Andrew Archer D - Guelph
-----------------------------------------------------
26. Matt Grennier C - Barrie
Have a good summer, and if you get a chance next season, try to
take in a game or two to see London’s Rick Nash. He will be the
talk of the 2002 NHL Draft in OHL circles. Cheers!