The OHL’s Top Grinders

By Robert Moore

In a league where offensive stars like Jason Spezza, Derek Roy, Patrick
O’Sullivan, Stephen Weiss, Nate Robinson, and Rick Nash are the most
recognized. There are players known as the “grinders” who open up the
space
for these skill players to score. They are the players that drive to the
net, throw the hits, and the type of players that always give their all,
and
you always want them out on the ice during the crucial moments of a tight game. Here are (in my opinion) the best grinders in the “O” in no particular order:

Daniel Paille (6’0″ – 184lbs) In only his second year in the league,
Guelph’s Danny Paille has lived up to the expectations put on him when he
was drafted 6th overall in the 2000 OHL draft. Paille is one of those
players who you need on your team. Paille, 17, fits a lot of grit and
leadership into his 6’0″, 184lbs frame. The leadership skills he shows on a
nightly basis, may just land him the “C” next year, as this years captain Morgan McCormick moves on. Paille’s main attributes are his work along the
boards, his 100% a shift work ethic, and his ability to take the
punishment
to score goals. When I watch Paille play, he really reminds me of a young
Adam Deadmarsh. He has a great balance of skill and grit, he also shows a
lot of character off the ice. Look for him to be selected during the first
two rounds of the 2002 NHL entry draft.

Kris Vernarsky (6’2″ – 207lbs) Kris is a veteran of the Ontario Hockey
League, in this, his fourth season. His offensive ability is beginning to
show a little more than it has in the past. With his 19 points in 18 games
he is scoring at a point-a-game clip. But scoring will not be his calling
at the next level, nor is it really at this level. Kris is a great grinder.
He is spectacular along the boards, and is a very gritty and determined
player.
He will drive to the net, and drop the gloves when he has to. He is a very
good defensive player, and his big 6’2″ frame, helps him take hits, as well as give them.

Jimmy Gagnon (6’0″ – 170lbs) While Jimmy isn’t enjoying a successful offensive season (4pts/13gms), he is still one of the more intense players
in the league. He opens up a lot of room for his teammates with his
hard-nosed style of play. Jimmy is a character player. He won’t wow you
with
dazzling stickhandling or blaze by you wiht his speed. But you can count
on
him giving his all, whenever he is out on the ice. And his hard work
always
leads to goals, whether he gets credit on the scoresheet or not.

Morgan McCormick (6’4″ – 215lbs) Morgan is in his final season in the OHL,
and he wants to lead his team to a league championship. Morgan is the
heart
and soul of his Guelph Storm hockey club. His 9 points in 12 games doesn’t
even scratch the surface of Morgan. Every one of the players on the Guelph
Storm team will testify that Morgan is the best captain in the OHL. Mogan
is a good skater for his 6’4″ frame, he throws hits, sticks up for teammates, and scores timely goals. He is the type of player that keeps playing until the final whistle. Whether his team is winning or losing. There will be a
spot for him at the next level, his size and leadership is coveted by many teams.

Ben Eager (6’2″ – 206lbs) Oshawa’s Ben Eager definitely appears to be
ready
to take the next step in his OHL career. Last season, Ben’s first in the
league, was a learning experience fo rhim as he played the rookie role.
Limited ice time and 10 points. This year he has emerged as the tema’s
main power forward. So far, Ben’s totals of 17 points in just 20 games, already surpass’s last season’s totals. He is also on pace for 100 PIM’s, as he currently leads the league in that department. Eager has shown his
willingness to drop the gloves this year, and also to drive to the net
with reckless abandon. He great on the power play, as he just parks his 6’2″
body in front of the net. And at 17 years old, he has a lot of time to improve.

Malcolm MacMillan (5’11” – 190lbs) This season Malcolm is finally starting
to show the offensive upside that the Soo Greyhounds saw in him when they
drafted him 31st overall in the ’99 draft. After two troubling years (on
and
off the ice) in Sault Saint Marie, he was traded this year to the Guelph
Storm, where Strom coach Jeff Jackson really saw something in MacMillan.
After a good rookie season, MacMillan seemed ready for another good season
last year. But off ice troubles, and a badly broken wrist spelled the end
for him in the Soo. Now, MacMillan is playing his agitating style in
Guelph.

And the fans are loving him. MacMillan is, pound for pound, one of the
toughest kids in the league. His fearless nature and in your face style,
annoys other teams to no end. That was alreay known. This year he has
chipped in with 12 points in 18 games, and 62 PIM. MacMillan is one of the
hardest workers in the league, and he never stops motoring. Could be a
great 3rd or 4th liner in the show if he gets his head on straight. If the OHL made a “Most Hated” player award, MacMillan might be tied for 1st with Windsor’s Steve Ott (which is a good thing).

Cody McCormick (6’2″ – 210lbs) Cody may be one of the most improved players in the OHL. The Colorado draft pick is one of the more physical players
in the Ontario League. He is at the top of list for hits, and his 11 points
show that he contributes on the scoreboard as well. The 6’2″ right winger
is
a blend of speed and physical play. He really hustles on the ice, and
loves
to drop the mits. Cody is a natural leader, and may captain the Bulls
someday. Throws himself at the net, and is fantastic along the boards. Is
a fan-favourite in Belleville for his abrasive style.

Danny Bois (6’0″ – 194lbs) The captain of the Knights and Avalanche draft
pick is one of the best agitators in the league. The thing that makes him
special is the fact that he can put the puck in the net. Danny is a great
leader, with an underrated shot, and is highly effective on the power
play.
He is not afraid to drop the gloves (as his 218PIM last season show), and
he loves to stick up for his teammates. All the London management echo the
same sentiment. Players like Danny make it at the next level, because he simply won’t have it any other way. Plays a similar game to Shayne Corson.

Thanks for reading.

Robert Moore