OHL participants in the 2005 Top Prospects Game

By Jason Ahrens

Thirteen players from the OHL are set to play on Wednesday in Vancouver at the 2005 Top Prospects Game. The game has 40 of the top ranked players for the 2005 NHL draft from the CHL.

Forwards

In a year where Sidney Crosby and Gilbert Brule have received a lot of press as being the best draft eligible players in their respective leagues, Bobby Ryan of the Owen Sound Attack has quietly put together an outstanding season and has stepped to the front of the pack in the OHL and is a probable top 5 pick this year. The big right-winger is 6’1 and 220 pounds.

Ryan will head into the game in the top 5 of the OHL scoring derby, with only a few London Knights separating him from the scoring title. He currently trails only Corey Perry (ANA) and Dylan Hunter (BUF) who have 69 points and 65 respectively and is tied with teammate Brad Richardson (COL) with 62 points. Ryan plays a very similar game to Peter Forsberg though not as good of a stickhandler, but he is very tough to knock off of the puck in the corners and along the walls. Ryan is a fierce competitor and wants the puck. He will never win any fastest skater contests, but he has great balance and he keeps his feet moving and with his size, he is very difficult to stop on the cycle. His good on ice vision and smooth hands leads to many great setups for his teammates who just have to find open ice when he shakes free of his defender. Ryan won’t overpower goalies with his shot, but he will stand in front of the net in the trenches and battle for tips and rebounds. He also does a good job at finding seams in the defense. Of his 26 goals that he has scored this year, only 6 have come on the power play. He has also put up an impressive +28 so far.

While it wasn’t a big surprise that Team USA didn’t pick the 17-year-old Ryan to play for them in the 2005 WJC, in hindsight a team that was full of speedy but soft players could have used a bull like Ryan with his soft hands. If Ryan continues to develop, it would be a huge shock if he were overlooked next year.

Benoit Pouliot of the Sudbury Wolves joins Ryan on Team Cherry and has been in a battle with Ryan and a few others all year for the top spot in the OHL. Pouliot is a gifted scorer on a young Wolves team that is shaping up to be one that could make some noise in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Pouliot was selected to play for Team OHL in the Russian Challenge series, and will get a long look next year for a Team Canada that at best will have only one forward back. Pouliot has 46 points in 44 games in this his rookie season, as he only played in four games last year.

Cody Bass of the Mississauga IceDogs will play for Team Cherry. The speedy center lacks size at 5’11 and 175 pounds, but not heart and determination and is a constant pest on the ice. It is a bit ironic that he will play for Cherry, given that Cherry used to run the IceDogs when they were the worst franchise in the CHL and now that he has stepped away the team has put together some solid years. Bass played for team OHL in the Russian Challenge series, but was limited to one game due to a scheduling conflict. He gained valuable experience in spot duty last season when the IceDogs went to the OHL Final before being swept by the Guelph Storm. With only 17 points in 43 games, Bass is more of an agitator and checker than scorer. His 68 minutes spent in the box proves that he isn’t afraid to mix it up, sort of like a Darcy Tucker.

Chris Lawrence of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds will suit up for Team Cherry. The tall and lanky forward at 6’4 and 180 pounds has a lot of offensive ability, but hasn’t put it all together yet. He has 31 points in 45 games with only 6 goals, despite playing beside Jeff Carter (PHI) at different times this year. When he fills out a bit more, he could shape up to be a real force in the league. Lawrence was a key member of Team Ontario who took home the gold medal at the 2004 Under-17 championships. Playing against players his own age, he put up some good numbers.

Dan Collins of the Plymouth Whalers rounds out the OHL forwards for Team Cherry. The right-winger is 6’1 and 195 pounds. He has 15 goals in 43 games for a Plymouth team that has fired up the jets of late and is currently on top of its division.

Defense

Ryan Parent of the Guelph Storm will anchor the defense for Team Cherry and he is starting to really separate himself from the pack among OHL draft eligible defenders. The right-handed shot played for Team Ontario in the Russian challenge series. He didn’t see much ice as a rookie in the Storm’s playoff run last year, but he is logging huge amounts of ice this year on a much younger Storm team who have been in a tailspin since November. Parent plays a well-rounded game; he is an excellent skater who puts himself in great positional play on a consistent basis. He has a hard shot, he handles the puck well and makes a good consistent first pass. Given his improvement this year, expect him to put up big numbers from the point over his next two seasons in the OHL. All five of his goals this year have come on the power play. He has one of the top plus/minus ratings on a struggling Guelph team despite the fact that he often plays against the other teams’ top line.

Matt Lashoff of the Kitchener Rangers will play on the defense corps for Team Cherry. Injuries led to a slow start for the American defender, but he is an important part of a very strong Ranger defense. He has 15 points in 27 games. He stands at 6’2 and 200 pounds and was born in 1986, so he is a little older than several of the players in the game.

Jakub Kindl of the Kitchener Rangers will play against his teammate Lashoff in this game as he will play for Team Davidson. Kindl came into the season as a highly regarded prospect and it appeared that the Rangers may have hit another home run in the European draft as it was thought that Kindl would follow the example of Boris Valabik (ATL) who had an excellent rookie season with the Rangers that resulted in his first round selection by the Thrashers in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Kindl has all the physical tools that scouts look for in defensemen, he just hasn’t put it together yet on the ice here in North America. He needs to turn things around in the stretch run and scouts will be watching how he fares in the highly competitive playoffs. His stock is definitely sliding and when once considered a good bet for a first rounder, Kindl may have played himself down into a second or third round pick. With only 12 points in 37 games, he hasn’t shown the offensive flair that was expected of him.

Marc Staal of the Sudbury Wolves joins Kindl on Team Davidson. Staal has continued to impress with his all around play. He had a good rookie season last year on a weak Wolves team and was part of the gold medal winning Team Ontario at the Under-17 tournament. This year he played for Team OHL in the Russian Challenge series. His older brother is Eric Staal who was a first round selection of the Carolina Hurricanes, second overall in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. With younger brother Jordan having a strong rookie season with Peterborough, the Staal family could be a household name in a few short years.

James Neal of the Plymouth Whalers will suit up for Team Davidson. The rookie winger has 15 goals this year in 42 games. He stands at 6’3 and 180 pounds.

Ryan O’Marra of the Erie Otters will play for Team Davidson. The offensive center is having a fine sophomore season with the Otters and is second in scoring for the team with 39 points in 40 games. He is a fluid skater with the ability to change gears when handling the puck. He has a good shot and handles the puck nicely.

Michael Blunden of the Erie Otters joins his teammate O’Marra on Team Davidson. Blunden is a power forward type who loves to bang and crash and takes the puck to the net. The big right-winger has 27 points in 42 games so he is forecast more as a grinder than a scorer. He was born in 1986 and is in his third year in the league.

Patrick Davis of the Kitchener Rangers rounds out the OHL skaters and will suit up for Team Davidson. The up and down winger has 33 points in 40 games and is another 1986 born player.

Goaltender

Darren Machesney of the Brampton Battalion is the only OHL goalie involved in the game and he will play for Team Davidson. The rookie goalie has played in 28 games for the Battalion this year and has a solid 2.67 goals against average and a save percentage of 917. He has posted 12 wins, 10 losses and 4 ties.


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