The OHL’s Top Defenders

By Robert Moore

“OHL’s Top Defenders”

Defensemen usually don’t get the praise that they rightfully deserve. They
battle hard, game in and game out, and are seldom rewarded. That’s why I
have composed a list of (in my opinion) the top ten rearguards in the OHL
(in no particular order). I stress that this is my opinion. I know some
people won’t be happy that I have left out Guelph’s Kevin Dallman and his
26
points. But I feel that there is more to a defenseman than points. I have
an
“honourable mention” list of players that I thought of putting on, but
just
didn’t have the room for them. Enjoy, and pick apart my list all you want.
The first five are below, and the next five will be posted tomorrow.

Mark Popovic (6’1″ – 194lbs) Mark is one of the most skilled d-men in the
entire league. He is the unquestionable leader on the Majors hockey club.
After a terrific camp with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, he was sent back the
the “O” for more seasoning. He is rounding out his game very well. His
skating and his offensive skills are top notch. He is an excellent puck
mover that needs to work on gettingmore physical in front of his net. But
nonetheless, Mark plays a terrific all-around game.

Malcolm Hutt (6’0″ – 195lbs) Malcolm is probably the most underated
defenseman in the OHL. While he is in the top ten in d-man scoring, that
is
not his calling. Malcolm is an exceptional defensive player who makes a
great first pass. Two words used most often to describe Malcolm are
“solid”
and “dependable”. He rarely makes mistakes, and while he is not flashy, he
makes up for it with solid defense and a commitment to helping his team
win
each and every game.

Tim Gleason (6’0″ – 200lbs) What else can be said about Gleason that
people
don’t already know. The 2001 first round pick of the Ottawa Senators is
back
on track, after last years dissapointing playoffs. Gleason is known for
his
tremendous skating and physical ability. His rocket from the point and
flashy skating are a big reason for his 18 points in 18 games so far this
season. Gleason also is one of those players that is just naturally tough.
He doesn’t have to fight that much, but if he takes his gloves off. Watch
out!! As he showed earlier this year, as he dismantled then Sudbury Wolves
sophmore Adam Keefe. Gleason has the potential to be an elite level
rearguard at the next level.

Matt Coughlin (6’3″ – 200lbs) The Belleville Bulls captain definitely
isn’t
flashy. He isd one of the defenseman that gets the job done on grit and
leadership. Matt is a great skater for his size, and he is very physical
in
front of the net. Even though he has only 5 points this year, he is the
leader on the Bulls defense, and has arguably been their best defenseman
this season. A fan favourite in Belleville, Matt has really come into his
own this season. The only bad thing is that it is his last in the Ontario
League. As he is an over-ager.

Cole Jarrett (5’11” – 195lbs) Cole has steadily improved in each and every
season since his rookie year in the 99-00 season. Cole is now one of the
premier offensive defenseman in the entire league. The older brother of
Missisauga’s star center Patrick Jarrett, is on fire with 20 points in 18
games, and is a magnificent +14. Cole is not only an offensive d-man
though,
as he is very steady in his own zone, and is not afraid to take the body.
My
prediction (although not very bold) is that he will lead all blueliners in
scoring next year, and will finish top 5 this year (barring an unforeseen
injury).

Michael Jacobsen (6’1″ – 210lbs) Mike is a very talented defenseman who is
in his fifth and final year in the OHL. After playing for four sucessful
seasons in Belleville that saw him win an OHL championship, he was shipped
off to Sudbury at the beginning of the year, and was then promptly shipped
to Owen Sound. Mike is one of the more talented defensemen in the “O”. He
was in the top ten in d-man scoring in each of the past two seasons, and I
have no doubt he will be back in there when he gets comfortable with the
Owen Sound system. His 6 points in 11 games isn’t necessarily bad, but he
is
capable of much more. He has however improved his defensive game quite a
bit
over the summer. Look for him to be somewhere in the AHL next year.

Libor Ustrnul (6’5″ – 230lbs) Libor is one of the giants on the blueline.
His one assist in 13 games proves what he is not, and that is an offensive
defenseman. What Libor is, is an excellent stay-at-home blueliner who is
regarded as one of the, if not the toughest in the Ontario Hockey League.
Libor is as dependable as they come on the blueline as indicated by his
+16.

Libor can routinely be seen laying out the opposing teams players with
crunching bodychecks, and this year is no different. He, along with Cole
Jarrett, form to be Plymouth’s 1-2 punch on the blueline. He should be in
the NHL after a couple years of seasoning in the minors, as he is very
raw.

Steve Eminger (6’2″ – 205lbs) Steve Eminger has almost unnoticably become
the best all-around blueliner in the OHL. There would have been a lot more
media on Steve if he were drafed last year, with his 1983 born
counterparts
(Tim Gleason, Jason Spezza, Chris Thorburn, Brendan Bell, Stephen Weiss,
Derek Roy,etc) but because of a late birthday, his draft year was pushed
back unitl 2002. He still goes unoticed. One of the best skating
defenseman
I have seen in a long time, very smart and physical when he needs to be.

Steve plays in every situation imaginable, even strength, power play,
penalty kill, four-on-four. You name it, he does it. Gets the job done
night
in and night out, and he will no doubt be a steal come draft day. Everyone
is talking about Jay Bouwmeester, Trevor Daley, Joni Pitkanen, Anton
Babchouk, Ryan Whitney, and Duncan Keith as the top d-men. But no mention
of
Steve Eminger. He has quietly collected 14 points in 18 games and he has
gone unoticed. One of the most underated players I have seen in a long
time.

Paul Ballantyne (6’3″ – 200lbs) Paul is the heart and soul of the Soo
Greyhounds. Although there may be more offensively talented d-men (Trevor
Daley, Dustin Van Bellagoie), none of them put forth the effort that
captain
Paul Ballantyne does. He was rewarded last year for his tremendous play
with
a spot on the all-star team. And he will no doubt be back there this year.

Carlo Colaicovo (6’1″ – 188lbs) Carlo is another d-man in the mold of Mark
Popovic. He isn’t tremendous at any aspect of the game, but he is solid
all-around. Great in his own end, as he led the league in +/- lsat year,
and
good offensively also (15pts/18gms). Likes to pinch in from the point, and
is a good power play quarterback. I liken him to Dallas Stars defenseman
Darryl Sydor. They both play a similar game. Good offesively and
defensively, and physical when they have to be.

Honourable mention: Kevin Dallman, Trevor Daley, Fedor Tjutin, Jay
Harrison,
Chris Campoli, Agris Saviels, and Tim Branham.