While the date for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft has not yet been set due to the absence of a CBA, it won’t be too far off on the horizon. With that in mind, Hockey’s Future offers this in-depth examination of the 2005 eligible crop of prospects from the Ontario Hockey League.
This project was done in conjunction with our friends at International Scouting Services, but by no means should this be considered a ranking endorsed by ISS. The scouting agency was involved in this project in two ways: (1) ISS consented the listing of their final overall rankings of the players as they appear in their official and unreleased 2005 Draft Preview/Guide. (2) ISS was also kind enough to offer brief scouting reports on several of the players in order to provide HF readers with an independent view. Again, the list was constructed by writers from Hockey’s Future that simply includes comments provided by various OHL-based scouts including International Scouting’s Head OHL scout. Readers who wish to purchase a copy of the official ISS 2005 Draft Preview/Guide can do so here.
Position: LW Team: Sudbury Wolves
Height: 6’3 Weight: 179 lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 2nd Overall
While the first overall selection in the NHL’s next entry draft will be a player who has been on the radar screen since he was in junior high, one of the top contenders to go second overall came into this season without any hype whatsoever. Benoit Pouliot, a former 11th round pick of the Sudbury Wolves, played only four regular season games last year in the OHL. This year, the native of the Ottawa bedroom community of St. Isidore, Ontario was the CHL’s rookie of the year.
Last year Pouliot was cut from the Wolves training camp because he was a frail 6’3 and 160lbs. Apart from a late-season call-up, he spent the season playing Junior A hockey. Playing at home allowed Pouliot to be close to his father, Sylvain, who succumbed to cancer last February. Pouliot bulked up over the summer and was at 185lbs for the start of camp. An effortless skater for a player of his height, he could still use more weight and strength.
His Sudbury team, coached by former NHLer Mike Foligno, boasted a young roster and played a defensive style. Pouliot was the most dynamic player, notching 29 goals and 67 points to go along with 102 penalty minutes. His offensive production should improve significantly in his second full season in the league considering his array of skills. Although he struggles with consistency, Pouliot thrived in the playoffs, particularly with a dominant turn in a first round victory over Brampton. With some consistency and more bulk, the sky is the limit for him.
Pouliot was one of seven players from this ranking to be invited to Team Canada’s summer evaluation camp in Whistler B.C. in mid-August.
Scout #1: As soon as you walk into the rink, you know exactly whom you should be watching. The way he moves and thinks the game offensively, his natural abilities are so obvious as soon as you lay eyes on him. He’s smooth, he has acceleration, he can maneuver, he’s got great hands. He can do it all, if only he would do it all the time. There is a consistency factor with him. He might not do anything for most of the game and then suddenly he’ll win it for you. He has to put on some more weight and strength, but you could see it coming over the course of the year. He’s just loaded with talent, touch and vision. He’s not a great guy against the wall or in a battle but he just needs consistency and a bit more drive. There’s no doubt though that he’s a top guy.
ISS (Mar.): Pouliot continued to improve as the season progressed. His skating is so fluid and effortless that he creates opportunities using his speed, size and offensive instincts. We’d still like him to play hard all of the time but he has superstar potential.
Position: RW Team: Owen Sound Attack
Height: 6’1 Weight: 213 lbs. Shoots: R Final ISS Ranking: 5th Overall
Bobby Ryan won two US national championships as a youngster before being a first round selection of Owen Sound where the Collingswood, New Jersey native chose to play rather than with the US U-17 team. The decision paid immediate dividends and he was named a Second Team OHL Rookie All-Star in 2003-04 after putting up 39 points in 65 games.
It was a bit of a surprise when Ryan was omitted from Team USA at the 2004-05 World Junior tournament. An injury suffered at the 2005 CHL Top Prospects Game took away his shot at the OHL scoring title as he ended up missing several weeks. Ryan was in a third place tie in league scoring prior to the game but would finish the year with 89 points and a team-best +30 rating earning him another Second Team All-Star nod. Ryan finished with nine points in eight playoff games and in a tough and dirty series with the Kitchener Rangers, he was one of the few Attack forwards who kept going to the net right to the end as many of his teammates had been intimidated by the nasty Ranger defense led by Boris Valabik.
Ryan has the size and hands that have NHL scouts drooling and like most players his age, he needs to work on his play away from the puck, but he has an impressive skill set. He is versatile in the offensive zone, he can move around looking for openings while teammates bang it out in the corner, he can play along the boards with the best of them, or he can set up shop at the top of the crease.
If Ryan improves his skating, develops a harder shot and works on his fitness, he could dominate the league this coming season and do the same in the NHL in a few years.
Scout #1: I believe Bobby Ryan is unaware of how good he could be. His skating is not loaded with glide, he’s not really smooth, and yet he’s so powerful in everything that he does that skating doesn’t become a weakness because he’s pushing people over and going through checks even though he’s not going really fast. At the start of the year I thought his skating was going to be a concern, but as average as it is, it’s not going to be a problem because he can so everything else. He sees the ice, next to Crosby, the best in the draft; his vision and knowledge of the game and natural hockey smarts are a gift. The biggest thing that I noticed about him early was that he’ll do more with the puck with one hand on his stick than most people can do with two. He’ll fight people off with one hand and still make a great touch pass with one hand on his stick.
ISS (Jan.): Ryan’s commitment to fitness has allowed him to become lighter and although he’ll never beat Ilya Kovalchuk in a foot race, he has become an adequate skater. Ryan’s real genius is his ability to carry guys to the net and he has hands that are too good for a kid of his size. Ryan has become someone that ISS could see becoming a franchise player.
Position: LD Team: Sudbury Wolves
Height: 6’3.5 Weight: 197 lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 9th Overall
The Staal family is Ontario’s answer to Western Canada’s Sutter brothers. With brother Eric already in the NHL after going second in the 2003 draft, Marc is primed to be selected this go-around. One of his younger brothers, Jordan, plays for the Peterborough Petes and is projected to be an early selection next year. While Marc will not be selected as high as Eric was, he should be one of the first defensemen chosen. All the brothers have similar qualities, most notably great size, and superb hockey intelligence and instincts.
A former first round pick of the Sudbury Wolves in the OHL Priority Selection, Staal was solid as a 16-year-old rookie 2003-04 on a weak team. This past season, with the aid of the aforementioned Pouliot, the Wolves were a vastly improved team and Staal was arguably their top blueliner. A hard-working player and a natural leader, he logged big minutes for Sudbury and played in all situations. While the Thunder Bay native’s offensive totals were moderate (six goals, 26 points), he became more comfortable on the power play as the year went on. Staal’s great adaptability helped him succeed in the playoffs as well. Hockey is one sport where pedigree is valued, and this young blueliner certainly has that working to his advantage.
His terrific season has earned Staal an invitation to Whistler B.C. this summer to take part in Canada’s World Junior team evaluation camp.
Scout #1: The best question to ask about Marc Staal is ‘what does this kid do wrong?’ and I don’t know if I have an answer for that. He’s not a great skater yet but he’s a really long-legged boy who is going to grow into himself. I don’t know if he has a great upside, if there’s excellent vision or touch and I don’t know if there’s excellent desire or drive, but I also don’t know what he does wrong and I don’t know what he’s lacking. He is maybe as safe a pick as there is. He sees the play pretty well and moves things from the point. He’s not always great in transition with the puck but you can see his knowledge and vision are such that you know the rest will come. He competes, he’s a leader and he’s young. He’ll play as your No. 4 guy, or your No. 2 guy, for years and years.
Scout #2: I think he’s a stud. He’s not as good defensively as he will be but when he’s on the ice and he has the puck, who really cares? He will be able to do it all, he’s shown those signs.
Position: C Team: Erie Otters
Height: 6’1 Weight: 193lbs. Shoots: R Final ISS Ranking: 7th Overall
Ryan O’Marra was the fourth overall pick in the 2003 OHL draft after totaling 111 points in 76 Bantam AAA games playing for Mississauga. O’Marra saw regular duty with the Otters as a rookie and had 16 goals and 16 assists in 63 games. He also played for gold medal winning Team Ontario in the Under 17 championships scoring eight points in six games while playing on one of their top lines. In August of 2004 he was named to Team Canada and dressed as an Alternate Captain, picking up five points in as many games helping Canada to take home the gold.
The Mississauga-born center had a great second season in the OHL collecting 63 points in 64 games, good for second spot on a team that didn’t have a lot of firepower. O’Marra had a good playoff series for the Otters, scoring four goals and adding one assist in six games.
Standing 6’2 and 190 pounds, O’Marra has good size to go along with his great wheels and superb puckhandling. When he was at the 2005 CHL Top Prospects Game he excelled in the skating categories in the shooting accuracy contest.
Like Pouliot and Staal, O’Marra was also on Canada’s 40-man invite list for their summer camp running from August 10-15th.
Scout #1: O’Marra is going to be a captain in the NHL for many years. He’s a leader, he has great hands, he’s not a pretty skater but he’s effective. His willingness to compete, play in all areas and to lead by example as a 17-year-old kid is incredible — ‘Hop on my back and let’s go!’ as a 17-year-old! Whoever picks him is going to have a long-time NHL player. He can and will fight and he has great skill.
ISS (June): An offensively talented forward with a great combination of size, and skill. His ability to handle the puck in traffic and make plays at the net, will make him a highly sought after player on draft day.
Position: LD Team: Guelph Storm
Height: 6’2 Weight: 183 lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 14th Overall
Ryan Parent is a 6’2 180-pound defenseman with the Guelph Storm. The team had five left handed shooters including him, so he learned to play both sides of the ice in his draft year. Parent was broken in slowly in his rookie season on a deep Storm team full of veterans and saw limited ice time during their run as OHL champs and their trip to the Memorial Cup. As a second-year player on a rebuilding team, he received a lot more ice time this season and was one of the best Storm players. The rearguard from Sioux Lookout, Ontario more than doubled his rookie season’s production by ending 2004-05 with a total of 19 points.
Parent is a three-time captain in international play; he was captain of Team Ontario at the U-17 tournament where he won a gold medal, he wore the ‘C’ for Canada at the U-18 tournament in August of 2004 winning gold again and was selected to play for Canada at the 2005 U18 championships and was captain once again, winning a silver medal. The next international opportunity for Parent could come at the World Junior Championships in Vancouver as he made the short list of summer camp invites for Canada.
Parent is a very calm defenseman who doesn’t panic with the puck and is a very good positional player. He sees some time on the power play but doesn’t rack up many points. Unless current team captain Ryan Callahan returns as an overage player next year, Parent is a prime candidate to be named the Storm’s new leader.
Scout #1: The first time I saw him was when he was 15 in a junior B league and back then there was no doubt who the best player was at that time. I think he’s really, really underrated. He doesn’t have penalty minutes and so some people think he doesn’t compete, but he competes hard. His feet are so good that he doesn’t have to take penalty minutes, he’s always on the right side of his man. He reminds me of Wade Redden at the same age but Redden may have been a bit meaner, better at moving the puck in transition. But people don’t realize that Ryan Parent played all year with a bad hand and maybe missed the fact about how well he really can move the puck. On a very weak team this kid was never out of position, he was always between his man and the net and it was simple for him to do because defensively, his feet are second to none in the draft.
ISS (June): Ryan Parent will prove to be a very safe and simple pick for a team that is looking to solidify their blueline with a steady defender. Although his offensive upside is limited, his ability to defend and his strong skating will ensure that he will be a quality pro for years to come.
Position: LD Team: Kitchener Rangers
Height: 6’1.5 Weight: 201 lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 23rd Overall
A bout with mononucleosis slowed the development of Matt Lashoff in 2004-05 as he missed nearly 20 games, but he still put up decent numbers on a good Ranger team. He was a regular in their top four and played in a lot of situations but had limited power play time on a team that used four forwards on their first unit. Lashoff was named to the OHL Second All-Rookie Team in 2003-04 and then played in the CHL Top Prospects game in 2005.
A concussion knocked Lashoff out of the OHL playoffs in the third game of the Western Conference final, an obvious concern for NHL teams who will be looking very closely to see how he recovered from that. Statistically, with 22 points in 44 games Lashoff increased his points per game significantly over his rookie year but missing a large chunk of the schedule prevented him from surpassing his career-high 24 points.
Lashoff is not overly physical but plays his man well and uses his wheels to stay in position which blended with his smooth skating, nice size and no apparent weakness make him a solid first round pick. He will get a better chance to show his offensive upside next year, as he will have regular power play duty and should he become their power play quarterback, Lashoff could average close to a point a game. There is also little doubt that he should be in the mix for Team USA’s entry at the World Junior Tournament in Vancouver.
Scout #1: Without a doubt he deserved to be on the 2005 US WJC team. I think he’s getting an unfair look this year because he didn’t come back for so long after the mono. He’s just so composed with the puck but he started moving it to bad spots and making bad reads and I think that was due to having such a late start. He may actually have been a better player in 2003-04 than this past year, until the playoffs. In the playoffs he didn’t do much wrong and he really competed. I worry that he’s not a top 4 guy at the next level. Everything is good enough but nothing is great; what is going to be great enough to send him over the top to be more than a depth guy? He’s certainly a safe pick in my estimation.
Scout #2: I think if he underachieved it was because of the sickness and because everybody expected so much. I think we have to be careful with a kid like that because did he underachieve or did he just fail to meet our expectations? I think Matt Lashoff is a heck of a player and he’s going to be a really good one.
ISS (June): After returning from a bout of mononucleosis early in the season, Lashoff has provided an offensive spark for his team. His great foot speed, mobility and offensive instincts will make him a highly sought after defenseman in the draft. We’d like to see him add a little more muscle and play more physical in his own end.
Position: LW Team: Kingston Frontenacs
Height: 6’2.5 Weight: 180 lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 25th Overall
There is a definite risk factor involved for European players coming over to play in the CHL in their draft year. Radek Smolenak is one example of a player whose stock has improved despite the fact he came west to learn the North American game the same year he would undoubtedly face heavy scrutiny from scouts. A native of Prague, Czech Republic, Smolenak has a great 6’3 frame that he uses well to drive wide on defensemen, although like most big wingers his age, could stand to add some weight and strength.
The Kingston forward led all OHL rookies in goals with 31 and was fourth in points with 60. What makes that accomplishment even more impressive is the fact that he was remarkably consistent all season. The month of March was his weakest stretch of the year and even then he posted four goals and seven points in ten games. Smolenak’s consistency is even more notable considering that as the year wore on, his linemate Anthony Stewart, the club’s captain and a top Florida prospect, seemingly lost interest in the mediocre team.
Another feather in his cap was an impressive performance at the Top Prospects Game, where Smolenak posted a goal and an assist despite only being there as an injury replacement. Even though he was strong from start to finish, his stock seemed to rise late in the season, and as a result he could go anywhere from late in the first round to early in the third round.
Scout #1: This is a tough read. He had a really good prospect game, which came at about a time when he was playing really well over here. He played on a bad team that got consistently worse as the year went on. He played on a line with a guy who didn’t play very determined (Anthony Stewart) and I saw Smolenak have some very good nights and I also saw him completely disappear when the going got tough. Like a lot of bigger Europeans, he’s better on his own than when he’s trying to utilize teammates. He’s likely a third round guy.
ISS (Dec.): Smolenak is a natural goal-scorer who we’ve liked since the first time we saw him. He’s just starting to make a name for himself with his soft hands as one of the most dangerous and consistent scoring threats in the OHL.
Position: L Team: Kitchener Rangers
Height: 6’2.5 Weight: 199 lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 20th Overall
Jakub Kindl arrived in the OHL with a lot of hype and was predicted to be one of the top picks in the draft. His transition to the North American game has been rough at times and this year’s performance wasn’t enough for some scouts to justify using a first round pick on him. That said, he did a lot in Europe that excited people and the fact that he came to North America to get ready for the professional style of game is seen as a positive.
The upside to Kindl is that he has all the tools needed to be a successful pro player: good size, he skates well and can handle the puck. The rougher North American game has been an adjustment for him, but he can take and give a hit and has even dropped the gloves showing a pretty decent left. Defensively, the more aggressive forechecking schemes used by OHL teams seemed to baffle him occasionally but he adjusted to that over the course of the season. Some felt that his positioning away from the puck sometimes lapsed and he wasn’t consistent enough with his physical play.
Offensively, Kindl will need another year to show what he can do; power play time was rare as the Rangers often used four forwards. The smaller rinks and the red line pass were areas that he needed time to adjust to as well. At times he showed some great poise with the puck and that should translate into more points as he matures. Ending the year with just 14 points in 62 games, it would fair to say the Czech defender underachieved.
Kindl had an average playoff run with Kitchener; at times he was used as their sixth defenseman and saw limited action when it was crunch time. Kindl didn’t register a point in the postseason and after 12 games was a -6.
Scout #1: I think Kindl is capable of so much more and yet he’s already a great player. I see tons of upside with him. His game has continued to adapt to ours and he got better over the year. In the game London tied the record against Kitchener, the Knights absolutely abused the Rangers and it was clear that Kindl was not prepared for the physical style of our game. Then watching them play London in the playoffs it became obvious that he had learned a big lesson from that one night because he came to play on every shift. He had teeth knocked out in the playoffs and never missed shifts and if you went over to the Czech Republic and saw a player lose a tooth he wouldn’t be back for a week! This kid just stayed on the bench and kept going. He’s big, he now competes, he’s still growing into himself but he’s still very good. He’s adapting to the game here, he’s not always trying for the long bomb up the middle but instead he’ll chip it off the boards. I think his upside is maybe as good as any of the other OHL players this year.
ISS (June): Has strong skating ability and good offensive instincts, but is inconsistent in his defensive zone play.
ISS (Mar.): He has impressed with the strong skating ability and offensive upside that he has displayed. His defensive zone play has been inconsistent all season, taking too many lazy penalties is something that must be improved upon. ISS expected better offensive numbers, but still think he has great offensive potential for the next level.
Position: C Team: Peterborough Petes
Height: 5’11 Weight: 193 lbs. Shoots: R Final ISS Ranking: 43rd Overall
It is not hard to see the resemblance between Daniel Ryder and his older brother Michael of the Montreal Canadiens. Last year Michael Ryder, a former eighth round pick, notched a surprising 63 points as a rookie with Montreal. Never a top prospect, Michael had a stellar junior career, but made two stops in the ECHL on his way to NHL. What both brothers have is a natural ability to score that is hard to quantify. As much as the term ‘hockey sense’ has become a cliché in the hockey world, this is the best way to explain how the two siblings score.
Daniel, a 5’11, 180lb center from Newfoundland, followed up a strong rookie campaign with Peterborough by scoring 29 goals and 82 points this past season. The Petes experienced a 31-point improvement between the two years, and the fact Ryder was tied for tenth in league scoring with linemate Liam Reddox (EDM) was a big reason why. A deceptive skater, Ryder was always impressive defensively and was a fixture on the penalty kill.
Ryder had a solid playoff until the Ottawa 67s swept the Petes in the conference finals. His line was invisible the entire series, although Ryder remained valuable on the penalty kill. He is ahead of where his brother was at the same age in terms of development, but NHL scouts are wary to use a first round pick on a player that appears to overachieve simply because they know how to play the game.
Scout #1: He’s a guy that does not jump out at you but as the game goes on you see that he’s made 20 good plays with the puck and that he’s really smart. Then you start to see that he’s digging pucks out of scrums, dropping to block shots. He grew on me all year long. He’s not very big, he’s not loaded with speed but I think he’s a better skater than his brother. I don’t think he shoots the puck quite like his brother but he certainly has a lot of the same gifts as far as smarts and seeing the ice.
ISS (Mar.): Ryder provided a ton of offensive this year for the Petes, and was also very consistent defensively. His great puck skills and knack for finding the open ice to create offense are abilities that impressed ISS scouts all year long. Size and strength will continue to be the question marks in Ryder being able to play his game at the next level.
Position: RD Team: Sudbury Wolves
Height: 6’3 Weight: 197 lbs. Shoots: R Final ISS Ranking: 59th Overall
In the shadows of top Sudbury prospects Pouliot and Staal is this Prince Edward Island native who has impressed scouts at every turn and has subsequently shot up draft rankings all year. Consider the following statistic as a reason why: only one OHL player that did not play for the London Knights had a higher plus/minus rating than this young blueliner. That player was Kitchener Rangers defenseman Andre Benoit who was completing a near 300-point, five-year career from the back end. Rather lofty company for an unheralded 17-year-old.
At 6’4 and 190lbs, Adam McQuaid has a great frame that he is starting to grow into. Even at his height, he is quite mobile, and like Staal, can play in any situation. A hard worker that has become more physical as he has gotten stronger, he was a vital component of his Sudbury team by the end of the season. He thrived in a first round series against Brampton, and when he went down to injury in the second game of the club’s playoff series against the Ottawa 67’s, the Wolves never really recovered. Four games later Sudbury was out, and it was clear how much this improving blueliner meant to his club. The Wolves are a team on the rise in the OHL, and McQuaid’s stock is heading in the exact same direction.
Scout #1: He might have the sharpest upturn of anybody in the draft. He’s tall and skinny, never lets you down with his effort and he got better every time I saw him; his puckhandling got better, so did his physical play and his smarts in his own zone got better and he started filling out and getting stronger too. I’m sure that he climbed up a lot of scouting lists as the year went on.
Scout #2: I think he’s a hell of a player. I think he’s better than people are giving him credit for because I think this kid is going to be a NHL player.
ISS (Mar.): The PEI native was hampered by an injury last season that slowed his development but along with an increase in size and strength, has come a sense of confidence and poise. Although McQuaid will never be an offensive force, his decision-making is solid and his skating is strong enough that ISS feels that he will be a solid NHL player for years to come.
Position: LW Team: Kitchener Rangers
Height: 6’2 Weight: 188 lbs. Shoots: R Final ISS Ranking: 40th Overall
Patrick Davis spent most of his sophomore year on the top two lines for the Rangers and saw regular duties on both the power play and penalty kill. Along the way the winger recorded a respectable 50 points in 59 games. One of three Rangers with a 1986 birth date who are eligible for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Davis saw his point production wane a bit in the second half of the year before finishing strong in March. However, in the playoffs he had only seven points in 14 games and was -2.
Davis had the midseason opportunity to play in the 2005 CHL Top Prospects Game in Vancouver but did not pick up any points in the showcase event.
A native of Detroit, Michigan, Davis found some good chemistry on a line with Red Wings prospect Evan McGrath. The forward hasn’t played a ton of hockey in the past two seasons so this is the first time that teams have had a good long look at him. Davis should see a lot of ice time for the Rangers in the 2005-06 season and put up some pretty good numbers but on a team that is losing a lot of character and toughness in its graduates. Some of the Rangers may find it tougher sledding next year and guys like Davis will have to answer the bell.
Scout #1: Scared out of his mind. Davis does one thing every night that makes you say ‘wow, this kid is going to be a player!’ but in tough areas, I don’t think I’ve ever seen him win a battle along the wall. I’ve watched him for two years and I don’t have any desire to have him on my team. Sometimes he’ll take the puck to the net and make a play that will bring you out of your seat but 95 percent of the time he’s soft. I don’t think he’s ever fought and I’ve actually seen him back down from fights.
ISS (June): A very good skating forward with all the tools to be successful. We would like to see him play better in traffic and not avoid the physical side of the game as his aversion to the physical play makes us question his desire. He was still chipping in offensively but Davis must learn to play in traffic and use his speed to drive to the net and not stay on the perimeter.
Position: RW Team: Erie Otters
Height: 6’3 Weight: 213 lbs. Shoots: R Final ISS Ranking: 27th Overall
At 6’2 and 205 lbs, Michael Blunden loves to crash and bang but his point production stalled and didn’t improve much from the previous season despite playing in nine more games. Blunden recorded back-to-back 22-goal seasons but 41 points was not a notable increase from 2003-04’s 39 points. Considering the three-year veteran was given ice time on the top lines, often playing beside gifted centers like Ryan O’Marra or Geoff Platt and that he was a regular on the power play as well, his stagnated offense might be a red flag.
Blunden was selected to play for Team Ontario in the Canada-Russia challenge series and he played well in both games, looking good on the power play. That experience may come in handy should he earn a spot on Canada’s U20 roster next December. Blunden is among the 40-man list of summer camp invites who will work out in Whistler B.C. this coming August.
Late in the season against the London Knights Blunden lost his composure and he threw the stick of Corey Perry into the Erie crowd. Blunden’s blunder earned him a 10-game suspension and caused him to miss the Otters’ first four playoff games. When he returned he couldn’t stop the bleeding and the Otters lost the final two games of the series. Blunden had no points and was -3 for his part of the series.
Scout #1: If he were an ’87 instead of an ’86 you’d say there’s a lot of potential but he’s played in the league for three years now and for a guy with his experience he should have more hockey sense. I think he lacks vision, but he’s a real leader and stands up for his teammates. I saw Boris Valabik completely control Erie one night in every sense and so Blunden comes off the bench and sticks up for all his teammates, gets the crap beat out of him but he kept getting up to try and land one or two blows. He’s got a ton of character but I don’t know if there’s much upside there.
ISS (June): With his great size, strength and decent speed and hands, Blunden could turn out as a possible power forward at the next level. He battles hard in the corners and goes to the net hard. He’s a physical presence whenever he is on the ice.
Position: LD Team: London Knights
Height: 5’11.5 Weight: 203 lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 44th Overall
Danny Syvret won a bronze medal with Team Ontario at the Under 17 Championship in 2001 as one of a small minority of non-OHL players on the roster. After graduating from Junior B he moved on to the Knights, a team that had a very young blueline, which led to a lot of playing time and Syvret being named to the OHL First Team All-Rookie team in 2002-03.
The Millgrove, Ontario product was invited to the Team Canada Evaluation camp last and made the final roster for the 2004-05 World Junior tournament where he took home a gold medal and scored the winning goal in the final game against Russia. It was a breakout performance for the now 20-year-old defender but he continued to play well and finished the regular season with 69 points in 62 games and a league-high +70 rating, numbers that earned him the CHL defenseman of the year. Syvret had a good playoff run and helped London win their first-ever OHL championship and when they then won the Memorial Cup, the blueliner was named to the tournament All-Star team.
The harshest critique of Syvret is that he will never be 6’3 and 215 pounds, but he has never missed an OHL game due to injury and he plays big minutes for London. He played through a lot of pain in the conference finals after being hit head first into the boards during a game against Kitchener. Syvret is widely admired for his good nature, intelligence and quiet leadership.
Scout #1: The Memorial Cup wasn’t a great help to him; he didn’t have a great tournament. He didn’t really hurt himself in any way or do anything really bad but he seemed to struggle with making decisions both offensively and defensively. It wasn’t what I expected from him going in because he’s capable of doing more like he did at the World Juniors. To me he’s going to be one of those depth guys that give you a lot of effort but I think he’ll be a long-time AHL player before he plays in the NHL. I think he’s a great captain and leader on a team where there were a lot of egos.
ISS (June): A solid defender with great offensive instincts and awareness. With his hard shot, and passing abilities it will be assured he will not be passed up in the draft this time around.
Position: C/LW Team: Plymouth Whalers
Height: 6’2 Weight: 185 lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 45th Overall
Drafted by Plymouth in the third round back in 2002, James Neal made his OHL debut in 2003-04 playing nine games with the Whalers and collecting an impressive six points. The strong play continued into his first full season and the Whitby, Ontario product scored 18 goals and 44 points as a rookie.
Neal started the year off well and really hit his groove around Christmastime where he began a hot streak that carried through to the end of January. By the end of January Neal had amassed 36 points, but from then to the end of the regular season his production tailed off dramatically and the forward added only eight more points to his total. Although he struggled down the stretch, the consensus appears to be that with his size and offensive skills, he has the potential to be a power forward at the next level.
Still, his overall performance was enough to warrant Canada including Neal on their U18 roster and while in the Czech Republic the 17-year-old held his own and scored once and added an assist in six games.
Scout #1: He was better earlier in the year than he was late; he made better plays and saw the ice better and. He looks like he might be a decent skater sometimes and then other times I’d see him try to make the turn at center ice and I’ve seen a river barge with more turning ability. I soured on him as the year went on.
Scout #2: I like James Neal and I think he has a good upside. I don’t think he had the second half of the season that I had hoped he would to prove his worth because I think he wore down a bit. I still think he’ll be a pretty good player.
Position: C Team: Windsor Spitfires
Height: 5’10.5 Weight: 192 lbs. Shoots: R Final ISS Ranking: 67th Overall
Steve Downie was Windsor’s first round pick in the 2003 OHL draft and he had a successful rookie season with them, picking up 16 points in 48 games while tacking on 90 minutes in penalties. He played for Team Ontario at the U-17 championships and won a gold medal. Downie had a great second season with the Spitfires increasing his totals to 21 goals and 52 assists for 73 points in 61 games and had 179 penalty minutes as well.
Downie was the main catalyst in helping the Spitfires come back from being down three games to none in the first round of the playoffs against the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and led them to win four in a row. Windsor would then go on to be swept by London and although Downie played a very physical role in the two games on home ice, but was virtually invisible in London. His performance against the Greyhounds was also better while the series venue was in Windsor.
Scout #1: You win with kids like this. He took a team as a 17-year-old and was the force that made all the rest of the kids on that Windsor team honest. He’s got good skills and sees the ice well. He was Windsor’s best player as a 17-year-old! He shouldn’t be from Ontario; this kid is a Western boy, he’s all heart and soul. He should be in the WHL. You get the odd guy like this out here but he plays so hard he should be in the ‘Dub. He’s so strong on his skates and he’s so determined. I don’t know where he’s going to go in the draft, but someone will step up to take him and they’ll get a character player as soon as he puts their jersey on.
Scout #2: One of the grittiest, nastiest players in the league. He’s a bit of a rat, he’ll do anything to win, he competes game in and game out and he has talent. And he’s skilled. He’s not a tall guy but there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s going to overcome his lack of size.
Position: C/RW Team: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Height: 6’4 Weight: 199 lbs. Shoots: R Final ISS Ranking: 38th Overall
Chris Lawrence is a tall kid at 6’4 who still needs to fill out his 180 lbs frame. He has a lot of potential, but there hasn’t been a lot of advancement in his game in his two seasons in the OHL. Lawrence scored seven goals as a rookie and only improved to 11 as a second-year player with more ice time. Lawrence did add 40 assists having had the chance to line up beside Jeff Carter on a number of occasions but should have been able to generate more goals playing with a player that dominant. Lawrence registered three goals and three assists in seven playoff games.
The Toronto native showed that he could score points playing with players his own age at the Under 17 tournament where he helped Team Ontario win a gold medal, but so far he hasn’t been able to produce against the older and stronger players in the OHL.
With the Greyhounds losing a number of key players to graduation, Lawrence will have to step up to move from potentially being a good player to actually becoming one. In order to do that he will have to put on a lot of muscle over the summer so that he doesn’t get knocked off the puck so easily.
Scout #1: He was without a doubt the biggest disappointment in the OHL. Everybody loved him as an underage and I could hardly wait to see him this year. I remember Jeff Carter in the first three months of his draft year and I though ‘what happened to this kid’? Carter was terrific as an underage but at the start of his draft year, he was awful! Plus he was a natural center playing the wing. It was the exact same thing with Lawrence; he was listed as a center but he played right wing all year long. Every assist Lawrence has was Jeff Carter’s doing. Lawrence would chip it off the boards and Carter would take it down the ice and make a play and score. His skating is bad; he can’t get off the mark, he can’t change gear, I don’t know if it’s just a strength thing but he was just an absolutely huge disappointment. He was awful. And yet, are we all scared that we’re looking at the next Carter?
ISS (June): A tall lanky forward with good hands. Needs to show that he can be more consistent and be competitive every night. We’d like to see him add some more muscle and show more of a physical side to his game.
Position: C Team: Mississauga IceDogs
Height: 6’0 Weight: 191 lbs. Shoots: R Final ISS Ranking: 64th Overall
Cody Bass is a checking forward in the mold of Kris Draper. The 5’11 170-pound forward is a pesky defensive specialist with speed to burn but so far in his career he hasn’t translated that speed into offensive chances. Still, in 2004-05 the Guelph native produced 28 points for the IceDogs in 66 contests.
Bass won a gold medal with Team Ontario at the U-17 tournament during his rookie OHL season and then won another one with Team Canada in August of 2004 at the U-18 tournament. Bass played a regular shift as a rookie with the IceDogs. In his second year with the team he again was the focal point of the checking line and penalty kill and he helped the IceDogs clinch first place in the Eastern Conference only to be bounced in the first round in a surprising five-game loss to St. Mike’s. Bass then suited up for Team Canada once more and won a silver medal at the U-18 championships in the Czech Republic but was pointless in four games.
Bass played one game for Team OHL in the Canada-Russia Challenge Series and recently received an invite to Team Canada’s World Junior workouts this summer. The IceDogs will lose a lot of their offense for the 2005-06 season so Bass will be counted on to do much more than just check.
Scout #1: He’s not a sharp shooter and you really have to watch him to appreciate him. No NHL coach will be upset that you drafted Cody Bass; he can skate, he can fight, he’s a great faceoff man, he can kill penalties and even though he might only score ten goals a year, they might be game winners. He’s a character kid but if you’re looking for offensive upside, he’s not your guy.
ISS (June): A terrific checking forward with great skating ability, Bass can chip in offensively as well. Bass comes to play every night and will prove to be a solid role player at the next level.
Position: RW Team: Plymouth Whalers
Height: 6’1 Weight: 185 lbs. Shoots: R Final ISS Ranking: 99th Overall
A native of Carthage New York, Dan Collins has spent time with the US team and his OHL team all season long. Plymouth’s second round selection in 2003, Collins been a steady and consistent player for the Whalers in his OHL tenure. The winger scored 22 points in 59 games with the Whalers in 2003-04 and followed that up this past season with 46 points in 68 games, good for fourth in team scoring.
As a member of the US team, Collins helped his country to a gold medal in the Compuware 4-Nations Cup back in November. At the conclusion of Plymouth’s season Collins again put on a Team USA jersey and played in the U-18 World Junior Championships. Collins was the only OHL player on the victorious American squad and he totaled three points over the course of the tournament.
Collins improved his defensive play over the course of the season and with an already well-developed overall game, he’ll be a player on the radar of a lot of NHL teams come draft time.
Scout #1: He plays like a pro already, but not a great one. He does every thing pretty good. He can kill penalties and play on the power play but he’s not your best penalty killer or power play guy. He does have an absolute rocket for a shot. He does things every once in a while that makes you think maybe he’s a first round guy but most nights he looks like a third round guy. He never was someone that you said ‘gee, he was awful tonight’ but he was never really the guy that you wanted him to be either.
Scout #2: I think Collins is a bit of an enigma. He has all the tools and potential but I have yet to see it on a consistent basis.
Position: C Team: Saginaw Spirit
Height: 5’11 Weight: 180 lbs. Shoots: R Final ISS Ranking: 108th Overall
The Saginaw center is the third prospect on this list with a notable older brother in the NHL, but unlike those above him, Tom Pyatt is not particularly similar to his older brother Taylor. The Buffalo Sabres forward was once a prized prospect because of a remarkable combination of size and speed, but a lack of hockey sense and effort has hurt his development. Younger brother Tom is five inches shorter, and not as fleet of foot, but makes up for it with pure skill and an impressive work ethic.
The Saginaw Spirit is a developing expansion franchise, and Pyatt is one of their core players. His 48 points this past season ranked second on the club, which won only 18 games. If Pyatt was underrated among OHL prospects at the end of the regular season, he changed that by turning heads at the U18s. Playing for Canada at the tournament, he went from being the spare forward to playing on the top line. Pyatt impressed not only with his offensive prowess (five points in six games), but with his penalty killing and dominant faceoff abilities. The U-18 tournament certainly helped his stock and could lead to him being selected on the first day of the draft.
Pyatt was another OHL player appearing in this list to have been asked to workout in Whistler B.C. this August at Canada’s U20 team evaluation camp.
Scout #1: He can bring you out of your seat. He has great abilities and great hands but after making some awesome plays, he’ll disappear for three games. He made some moves with the puck this year that were just outstanding but I just don’t know where his consistency was. He looks smaller than he is; he’s really strong on his skates and when he runs into somebody you realize that he’s not small. There is more here than we saw all year but at the U18’s he was very good.
Scout #2: He’s underrated. This is a heart and soul player and he has good offensive instincts. He can play both ways, in tight areas or in open ice. He’s a skilled player who is just coming into his own. You wish he had the size of his older brother but even though I don’t think that’s going to happen, he’s the type of kid that I wouldn’t count out.
Position: LD Team: St. Michael’s Majors
Height: 6’.05 Weight: 212 lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 105th Overall
Ryan Wilson is proof that statistics alone are not enough to go on when evaluating a prospect. The 6’1, 212lb defenseman put up 13 goals and 37 points this season, to go along with 149 penalty minutes. That type of production from a player Wilson’s size is impressive considering his age. Unfortunately, the Windsor, Ontario native struggled defensively most of the season, as a result of being asked to do too much for a team that finished last in its division. Another consequence of his misuse was that Wilson was not able to work on his flaws.
The areas of Wilson’s game that most need work are skating and defense. He was caught scrambling in his own end far too often, and lacks the recovery speed to conceal his mistakes. A hard worker and on-ice leader, if Wilson could clean up his defensive zone coverage, and work on his skating stride he would be a very solid prospect. Wilson’s play in the playoffs, which included four goals and nine points in ten total games in the Majors’ five-game upset of top seeded Mississauga, should only help his stock. He is a gamer that simply needs to be developed properly.
Scout #1: He’s too knock-kneed for me; he’s got some offensive gifts but my groins get sore watching him skate! There’s no way that he can be an NHL player and skate like that, his knees will wear out from rubbing together.
ISS (Apr.): Although the St. Michaels Majors upset the No. 1 seeded Mississauga IceDogs in the first round of the OHL playoffs despite missing Nathan McIver, we were disappointed with the play of Ryan Wilson. He seemed confused at times, lacked intensity at times and his foot speed is still a major concern for us at ISS. We still believe he has a chance to become a player but his first-round performance did not impress us and a drop in our rankings is the result.
Position: LD Team: Kitchener Rangers
Height: 6’4 Weight: 195 lbs Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 123rd Overall
Mark Fraser is a prototypical stay at home defenseman who adjusted nicely in his first major junior hockey season after playing in Junior A hockey last year. Fraser’s birthday falls past the September 15th NHL cutoff, so he is a bit older than most of the prospects for the 2005 draft and that might hurt him on draft day. He had a fantastic playoff run playing solidly against the high scoring Owen Sound Attack and was then very effective against the London Knights up until the last game of the series.
A long playoff run gave scouts a better look at Fraser and his performance could help him to get drafted on the first day. Like most players in the OHL, he will have to get stronger to play professional hockey, but once his weight catches up to his height, he could be a bruising defenseman. Not expected to lead offensively, the 6’4 rearguard will remain a stay at homer. His point total was quite low, but he did pick up some helpers late in the year to finish off with eight assists. Fraser gives the Rangers coaching staff a nice one-two punch with Boris Valabik when it comes to matching up against the scoring lines of the opposing teams.
Scout #1: He wasn’t a great junior B player, yet he’s better in the OHL than he was there. He was property of Barrie but didn’t want to go there because there was no University and he wanted to continue his schooling. I take that as an absolute positive. They worked a deal with Kitchener so he could attend Laurier or Waterloo. This is a tough hard-nosed kid. He has a lot of work to do with his feet but he plays well within himself by not trying to do too much. The simple play is the most you’ll ever get out of him but he does that really well. He can really fight; he’s one of those kids that when he pulls the arm back to throw a punch it’s to put it right through you.
ISS (June): A solid stay at home defensemen that plays a consistent defensive game, keeping things simple and limiting his mistakes.
Position: LD Team: Ottawa 67’s
Height: 6’1.5 Weight: 191 lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 107th Overall
OHL rookie Derek Joslin was perhaps the biggest surprise of the season on an Ottawa club that shocked everybody by reaching the Memorial Cup after finishing only sixth in their conference. Joslin has come a long way since the 67’s selected him in the tenth round of the OHL Priority Selection. He did not play as a 16-year-old aside from a brief call-up, and yet broke camp playing on the club’s top defense pairing along with captain Will Colbert. The 67’s struggled all season to improve their blueline with that tandem as their only dependable pair.
The Richmond Hill, Ontario native put up 30 points and had a sparkling +26 rating. Measuring in at only 6’1 and 175lbs, Joslin is not a large blueliner. Although he possesses good mobility, he lacks lower body strength, and that was apparent in the playoffs where he struggled against tougher competition. In the 67’s successful postseason run, Joslin collected only 3 assists in 21 games. He continued to struggle in the Memorial Cup although he was playing through a significant injury. Joslin always gives a good effort and has improved significantly the last two years, but he lacks a true niche.
Scout #1: To me, he never really improved all year long. He played with a broken scaphoid at the Memorial Cup and yet they used him a lot. He’s got a great one-timer from the point but he obviously couldn’t use it there. He has a lack of leg strength and he’s a bit knock-kneed. He’s a depth guy.
ISS (Nov.): He has a very sound overall game; he plays in all situations and is very composed, Takes the man and has good offensive instincts.
Position: LW Team: Sarnia Sting
Height: 5’11.5 Weight: 195 lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 84thOverall
Richard Clune was broken in slowly as a rookie on a Sting team loaded with offensive forwards but still picked up 16 points in 58 games playing few shifts a game on the fourth line. Clune also dressed for Team Ontario at the U-17 Championships and was a big part of their gold medal triumph as he picked up one goal and added eight assists in six games. In August of 2004 he picked up his second gold medal of the year when he helped Canada win at the U-18 tournament scoring once in five games.
His second season in the OHL was a success because the Sting decided to work towards building a strong bid for the 2008 Memorial Cup. Clune saw his ice time increase when some veterans were traded. He responded with 21 goals and 13 assists in 67 games and stayed even in plus/minus, the best rating on the non-playoff team. Failing to make the postseason gave him another opportunity to suit up for Team Canada and Clune came back with a silver medal from the U-18 championships in the spring of 2005.
The Toronto product was a regular on the top two lines for the Sting last season and was on both special teams. The speedy and feisty player should be one of their go-to guys for the 2005-06 season and with a number of returning players who will be a year older and stronger, he and the Sting should rebound nicely from their non-playoff year. Clune is poised to have a breakout year and is a candidate to be the club’s leading scorer.
Scout #1: He reminds me of a US college player more than a junior player; he’s not really big in stature and he’s always in pursuit of the puck. He’s got OK hands and skills, terrific speed, good passion for the game and plays really hard but to me he skates too much for the amount he accomplishes. Most of the time he’s just running around pursuing the puck.
Scout #2: I like him but I don’t know if he’s going to be a NHL player. I can see him excelling on the larger ice surface but I don’t know if he can overcome his lack of size.
ISS (June): A hard-nosed, two–way forward that can chip in offensively while playing a superb game without the puck. He’s like having a third defenseman on ice; always aware and intelligent on his defensive zone responsibilities. He’s tough as nails and projects to be a character third or fourth line role player at the pro level.
Position: RD Team: Sarnia Sting
Height: 6’4 Weight: 220 lbs. Shoots: R Final ISS Ranking: 66th Overall
Matthew Pelech is a big right-handed shot who measures in at 6’4 and 220 pounds. The second round pick of the Sting stepped in as a 16-year-old rookie and played 62 games and picked up 10 points. In his second year the team started to rebuild and, like during his rookie campaign, Pelech struggled to move the puck effectively and consistently. Injuries obviously hampered his development as he only dressed for 31 games due to a pair of incidents that both ended with him breaking his jaw. In his shortened season Pelech amassed just six points.
With his raw tools and size he will definitely be drafted, likely somewhere in the middle rounds and he will be counted on to be a key player in what the Sting hope will be a turnaround season in 2005-06.
Scout #1: He missed a lot of time because he broke his jaw twice in fights. There’s some skill there, great size and work ethic, good skater, good physical attributes but in the games I saw he didn’t show me a ton of hockey smarts. He would rush the puck up the ice really well but then skate himself into a log jam a lot. He would have been a high consideration if he hadn’t gone through what he did this year.
Scout #2: His jaw injuries probably set him back a little bit but I like his potential. He’s one of those big lanky defensemen with good enough skills to play. What he does with his body and how he improves his skating from this point on will really make the difference.
Position: LD Team: Saginaw Spirit
Height: 6’ Weight: 195 lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 135th Overall
The Saginaw Spirit has a number of talented players available for the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and their premier offensive blueliner is one of them. Eighteen-year-old Patrick McNeil is expected to be the Spirit’s playmaking quarterback for the next few years and he already began developing those skills with the club this past season. In 66 games he recorded 33 points but on a very bad hockey club, his -29 rating is still quite noticeable.
Some scouts believe that McNeil takes unneeded criticism and that he is actually a better defenseman than he gets credit for. He was the leader on his team all year as a 17-year-old playing upwards of 29 minutes a game; he played on both the penalty kill and the power play and is on the ice for every other even strength shift. For a 17-year-old, that much responsibility really wore him down. When Saginaw acquired defenseman Steven Whitely at the deadline, it enabled them to play McNeil less and he was a better player for it.
With the number of talented youngsters Saginaw has available for the draft this year, the future holds better things for them and as the team improves, McNeil is expected to be one of the major reasons why.
Scout #1: McNeil is a really good puck moving defenseman. He lacks the strength and abilities down low but it’s not due to desire, he just doesn’t have the abilities yet. With the puck he’s very good. He’ll be their power play specialist for the next few years.
Scout #2: Patrick is a better defensive player than he gets credit for. Even at just 6’0 he is able to take the man and he plays well in the defensive zone. His strengths are with the puck on the point, on the power play, moving the puck and creating offense from the backend. The fact that he is only 6’0 is going to hurt him and the breakout year everyone has been expecting hasn’t come yet.
Position: C Team: Belleville Bulls
Height: 6’2 Weight: 190 lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 126th Overall
2004-05 was Evan Brophey’s third full season in the OHL. The late ’86 prospect had previously spent two years with the Barrie Colts but was dealt to Belleville in late October after just ten games this past year. Prior to the trade, Brophey had notched 10 points in Barrie’s first eight contests. The Kitchener born center recorded three points in his first game with the Bulls and had scored eight in his first week with his new team. It was a pace he couldn’t keep up though and Brophey’s second half to the season saw a considerable dropoff in his point production compared to the first three months.
Brophey had a successful season in Belleville, enough so that he was named as the team’s outstanding centerman. His 71 points were second highest on the team during the regular season and in his club’s five-game first round playoff loss to Peterborough, Brophey added three more points.
Scout #1: He plays in spurts and he’s a bit of an opportunist. I expected more out of him than I saw because he should be more involved for the style of player that he is. He is pretty average.
Scout #2: He just has to add a little bit more grit to his game but he has size and he uses the players around him very well. Once he learns how to compete and use his size a little bit more I think he’ll be a very good prospect.
ISS (Mar.): Brophey is blessed with a tremendous amount of ability and skill but does he have the heart to make the transition from junior hockey to the NHL? His offensive instincts and skills combined with a great shot and scoring ability make him an attractive package, however, in our analysis we find his inability to play in traffic and unwillingness to take hits make us believe that he may be the next in a long list of previous junior stars that couldn’t convert it to the NHL.
Position: C Team: London Knights
Height: 6’.05 Weight: 180 lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 130th Overall
Josh Beaulieu was a second round pick of the Knights in the 2003 OHL draft and saw limited ice time with the club in his rookie season. He bounced back and forth between the Knights’ fourth line and with their Junior B affiliate the Strathroy Rockets. In his second year Beaulieu stuck with London for the entire season and played 65 games collecting 22 points and 159 penalty minutes with a solid +32 rating.
The Comber, Ontario native spent most of the season bouncing around on different lines but was primarily used as a checker or on the fourth line. He did see some limited action on the first line with Corey Perry (ANA) and Dylan Hunter (BUF) and was effective in digging the puck out of corners and crashing the net when playing with them. He also had some success playing the same role when on a line with Rob Schremp (EDM).
The biggest development in his game was his ability to drop the gloves and after a number of spirited tilts Beaulieu has shown that he is well on his way to being one of the best fighters in the OHL. Currently at 6’1 and 190 pounds he faces a lot of bigger opponents, but it is easy to imagine him playing at around 205-210 pounds by the time he graduates.
Beaulieu played a limited role in the playoffs. He was hit with a five-game suspension in the third round for a stick infraction and was relegated to the fourth line for the Memorial Cup and saw only a handful of shifts. On a team that is going to graduate a number of key players, he will have the opportunity to pick up a lot of extra minutes and may get an audition on the power play next season.
Scout #1: He’s a decent skater, has OK hands, not a great player one-on-one but he can move the puck well within his own limits. He’s involved in every scrum, he fights everybody, he is a martial arts guy and he knows how to use his fists. The biggest thing is his work ethic, I don’t know if there is anybody in this year’s draft who plays as hard from whistle to whistle.
ISS (June): A hard working checking forward, solid role player that gives 100 percent every shift and is not afraid to drop the gloves. His skill at the pugilistic side of the game is gaining notice around the league and although he lacks the physical size to challenge the heavyweights in the OHL, he certainly isn’t lacking in willingness.
Position: G Team: Brampton Battalion
Height: 6’0 Weight: 163 lbs. Glove: L Final ISS Ranking: 10th Goalie Overall
The top ranked draft eligible goaltender from the Ontario Hockey League this year is Brampton’s Daren Machesney. The 18-year-old keeper hailing from Lambeth Ontario completed his first full season with the Battalion after appearing in just five games during the 2003-04 campaign. This past season Machesney split playing time right down the middle with teammate Kevin Couture right up until the playoffs when the former became the clear-cut starter. In 38 regular season games Machesney was slightly over .500 and held onto a respectable 2.74 goals against average and .917 save percentage. In the playoff series against Sudbury, Machesney was able to sustain his regular season stats but it wasn’t enough for his team to down the Wolves.
Machesney was the only OHL goalie to appear at the Top Prospects game but it wasn’t a memorable performance for Brampton’s puck stopper. Machesney was beaten five times on just 17 shots in slightly more than 30 minutes of action for Team Davidson in their lopsided 8-4 loss to Team Cherry.
Scout #1: I’m not a big fan. I just don’t find him very athletic. When he challenges it’s excessive to the point that he’s guessing and he’s going after who he believes to be the natural shooter. I don’t think his angles are very good either, he’s out of position when he comes out of the net and good shooters blow it by him because one side of the net is wide open.
ISS (Mar.): After making the jump from tier 2, he has shown consistency in his rookie year with Brampton. Splitting time with Couture this year, he helped put his team near the top of the standings. A technically sound goalie with great reflexes and lateral quickness, Machesney has been a bright spot in a poor crop of draft eligible goalies this year in the OHL.
Position: LW Team: Barrie Colts
Height: 6’.05 Weight: 193 lbs. Shoots: LW Final ISS Ranking: 140th Overall
At this time last year, Travis Fuller was nowhere to be found on any draft lists. The Barrie Colts forward only put up five goals and 14 points as an OHL rookie in his draft season and understandably he went unselected. This past season Fuller started turning heads as the 6’1, 193lb winger blossomed into one of the Colts’ best players. A speedster with a great shot, Fuller has started growing into his body and his game has taken off as a result.
The native of Whitney, Ontario notched 24 goals and 56 points in the regular season, and was an impressive +22. Barrie boasted a balanced attack with seven players scoring 49 points or more which helped Fuller to develop his offensive game without too much attention from the opposition. While most late-blooming forwards face questions about how they’ll continue to progress, Fuller’s skills are legitimate. Barrie has a chance to be a top team once again next year, and will expect Fuller to improve on his breakout campaign.
Scout #1: He’s a good two-way player with decent skills, but those skills seemed to come around awfully late. He’s a good junior player but he looks to me like a minor leaguer as a pro.
ISS (Apr.): Fuller may be the most improved player in the OHL. He has continued to fill out his solid frame while becoming one of the key offensive performers on the loaded forward crew of the Colts. His skating is exceptional, his offensive instincts are very good. He has a pro shot and he seems to understand the game very well and it may turn out that the second time around for the draft may be fruitful for this ever-improving sniper.
Position: RW Team: Saginaw Spirit
Height: 5’11 Weight: 187 lbs. Shoots: R Final ISS Ranking: 214th Overall
A possible sleeper in this year’s draft, Saginaw winger Marek Kvapil is a player that every NHL scouting staff has somewhere on their draft list. The 20-year-old Czech born Kvapil is loaded with skills in a small package. He was the leading stat getter for the Spirit, scoring at more than a point per game pace. In 53 games he collected 25 goals and a total of 62 points while ending the year with a -3 rating, not bad considering the team he was on. Kvapil outscored other noteworthy draft eligible players like Radek Smolenak, Travis Fuller, Patrick Davis and Chris Lawrence.
Kvapil played for the Czech Republic at the 2005 World Junior Championships and racked up five points in seven games, good for third place on the team.
Scout #1: This kid has it glued to his stick. In Saginaw he was good. He can control the pace of the play; he’s very maneuverable in tight corners with and without the puck. He’s not a scorer in tight but he’s not afraid to go there, he can make plays from the outside. He can dart to the inside for quick chances but he’s not going to be able to stand there and score at the next level. He is a very skilled player with a NHL chance. Someone might take him in the third or fourth round to get him, and they might have to.
Scout #2: I don’t think people are going to overlook Marek Kvapil, in fact the team I think that will end up with him will be the one that is willing to step up and take an ’85 in a round they might not usually take one. He is a goal scorer, he’s very good with the puck and he’s deadly on the power play. He reminds me a lot of Peter Sejna. At the end of the year he was killing penalties for Saginaw although it wasn’t something he was really that interested in doing. He’s a thick kid throughout the lower body, he can skate forever and he can take a beating and still comes back. The big question is if he’ll be able to be the same type of player at the next level with his size. It might take him an extra year in the AHL.
Position: C Team: Sudbury Wolves
Height: 5’10.5 Weight: 181 lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: NR
A trade can do a lot of things for a player’s career and for Brampton native Kevin Baker, it may just get him drafted by an NHL team. The speedster was buried on a deep Owen Sound team through 37 games, but was dealt to the Sudbury Wolves before the trade deadline, and took off. While his offensive production was similar, 21 points in 37 games for Owen Sound compared to 15 points in 26 games for Sudbury, the trade allowed him to play on a scoring line. Sudbury lacked offensive stars, and Baker immediately became one of their more talented forwards.
At 5’11 and 186lbs, Baker is not blessed with great size, and is not particularly comfortable in the danger areas on the ice. He is at his best creating offense off the rush, but works hard enough to be effective in other areas of the game as well. Baker was particularly effective in the playoffs, where he notched five goals and nine points in only 12 games. In order to improve his chances of succeeding at the next level, Baker needs to toughen up, but if nothing else, has the makings of a very good junior scorer. He has a good shot at going late in the draft.
Scout #1: Lightning fast. He has some skills and can do them at high speeds but he doesn’t do them in traffic and when it gets really tough and he had to try and go down the boards he’s just not willing to do it. His skill and his speed don’t make up for that.
ISS (Feb.): Baker is a speedy center that comes to play every night. He uses his quickness to force turnovers and create scoring chances and he is great on faceoffs. With his below average size and strength he has trouble down low and in high traffic areas. His potential to be an offensive force at the next level will be a challenge.
Position: G Team: Sudbury Wolves
Height: 6’4 Weight: 168 lbs. Glove: R Final ISS Ranking: 16th Goalie Overall
In a weak year for OHL goalies, Kevin Beech was one of the few who came into this draft season with any hype or even notoriety. A tall but extremely lanky specimen in between the pipes, Beech served as the back-up for the second straight year to one of the league’s best starting netminders, San Jose Sharks prospect Patrick Ehelechner. Beech’s numbers improved significantly from his rookie campaign, his goals against average going from 3.55 to 2.65, and his save percentage from .901 to .912. Much of this though, can be attributed to Sudbury’s vastly improved defensive zone coverage.
The skills are there for Beech, as he really pushed Ehelechner at times during the season. He actually stole the starting role from the veteran in the second round of the playoffs, where he was fantastic for most of the series, playing in all six games, although only two from start to finish. Unfortunately, Beech’s bouts with inconsistency struck in the sixth game where he allowed four goals on 15 shots in less than half a game, which Sudbury needed to win to force a seventh game. His gangly frame may explain the inconsistency, as Beech’s endurance may be part of the problem. Nonetheless, the potential is there for the Brantford, Ontario native.
Not competitive enough in the net but he has the tools. Last year I thought we were going to be raving about this kid. He doesn’t come off the line, stays deep in the net, plays pretty big and yet the thing that bothers me about him is that he’s streaky and when he’s bad he’s horrible. I really question his competitiveness in the net. At 6’4 and 168 lbs, he could model spaghetti. You look at him and you wonder how his neck can possibly hold that mask up, he looks like a bobble head from behind!
Scout #2: As a 16-year-old I really liked him but as a 17-year-old he didn’t play enough for me to say that he’s fulfilled any potential that I saw. I think the jury is still out on him.
Position: G Team: Ottawa 67’s
Height: 5’10 Weight: 175 lbs. Glove: L Final ISS Ranking: 15th Goalie Overall
There are few players with a better story than Danny Battochio. The Sudbury native was never drafted in the OHL, and was cut from a London Knights training camp before finally landing with the Ottawa 67’s as a backup in 2003-04. Undersized at only 5’10 and 175lbs, he got off to a hot start for the 67’s, with a .929 save percentage through 15 games. But on Christmas morning, Battochio had a seizure caused by an arteriovenous malformation on the frontal lobe of his brain. Brain surgery followed, and he was not even able to train until just before training camp this past season.
After a strong regular season where he split duty with fellow undrafted goalie Anthony Guadagnolo, and posted a record of 24-10-3, Battochio took off down the stretch and dominated in the playoffs. An incredibly athletic goalie that thrives when seeing lots of rubber, Battochio carried the sixth-seeded 67’s to a Memorial Cup berth. Even before the club played in the OHL finals against the London Knights, Battochio had already shattered the OHL record for most shots faced in a single playoff year. Perhaps his greatest effort was in the Memorial Cup, where he stopped 62 of 64 shots in the tournament’s longest game in history. An incredibly hard worker and an inspiration to all who have played with him, Battochio has earned the right to be drafted, although it is hard to gauge exactly where he will go.
Scout #1: He’s the Mike Palmateer of this day and age; every save is an absolute highlight and is way more difficult than it had to be. He likes to make every save look outstanding. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone takes him late. This kid makes amazing stretches and he’s so competitive in the net that you have to admire him for it.
Scout #2: I think just based on his performance this year he deserves to get drafted. He battled and I think he’s now a more technically sound goalie; I like him.
Position: RW Team: Saginaw Spirit
Height: 5’11.5 Weight: 194 lbs. Shoots: R Final ISS Ranking: 218th Overall
Tom Mannino was the Junior B rookie of the year in the Western League as a 15-year-old player and was selected in the first round by the London Knights in the 2003 OHL draft. He switched back to right wing after playing defense in Junior B and entered the season amidst great expectations and hype. After only a handful of games a bout with mononucleosis sidelined him for the next few months and when he returned he was buried on the fourth line or subbed in on defense occasionally. On a suddenly potent Knights team, ice time was hard to come by and he asked for a trade. His wish was granted and off to Windsor he went, where he would end up playing the top ranked Knights in the first round of the playoffs.
Mannino struggled with his conditioning in the off-season and started his second year in the league overweight. He eventually became dissatisfied with things in Windsor and asked for the second trade of his young OHL career and was moved from the Spitfires to the Saginaw Spirit and as a result, missed the playoffs. Mannino wound up with 21 goals and 50 points over 68 games in his second year, a big improvement over the seven points he tallied as a rookie.
Scout #1: He has big time skill but will never play; he might be a good minor league power play quarterback. He could play with eggs in his pockets. He can make big plays and score big goals at this level but he’s going to have to pay the price a whole lot more than he’s willing to do. How many first round guys get traded twice before their draft year? That’s got to tell you something, especially when it is from bad team to bad team.
Scout #2: He’s probably one of the most skilled players in the league but he has yet to decide that he wants to be an athlete who is going to be a NHL player. He has that kind of talent but his fitness level and his commitment to conditioning are not where they should be. This kid has all the tools, when he wants to be he can be the best kid on the ice, the problem is he hasn’t figured out that he needs to consciously make that decision if he’s going to go anywhere. If he figures it out, you’ll have a hell of a player.
Position: RW Team: Guelph Storm
Height: 6’0 Weight: 175 lbs. Shoots: RW Final ISS Ranking: 174th Overall
Winger Matt D’Agostini was the second leading scorer on the roster of the Guelph Storm in what was the beginning of their rebuilding process. He scored 24 goals and added 22 helpers en route to a 46-point season and had an even plus/minus, one of the few Guelph players who was not stuck with a negative rating.
The medium sized Sault Ste. Marie native began his rookie season much stronger than he finished it. D’Agostini had 14 of his points in October alone but then his productivity slipped to the level that he only recorded a single assist through January’s six games and even more noteworthy, in the three months after Christmas, he only scored six times. The fact that he’s a late ’86 birthday means that he is one of the older players available in 2005 and that could work against him on draft day.
Scout #1: He kind of came out of nowhere. This kid has some skills! He is a perimeter player in my mind, he’s not one to go into tough areas but he can pull the trigger and make the play and he can skate. He’s a bit bowlegged and not very big in appearance so he looks like a minor leaguer to me but he’s got some good hands.
Scout #2: I liked him early but then he fell right off the map in the second half of the season and that scares me.
Position: RD Team: Sarnia Sting
Height: 6’6 Weight: 225 lbs. Shoots: R Final ISS Ranking: 132nd Overall
Big Nick Tuzzolino had a good rookie as an 18-year-old with the Sting. After being overlooked in his first year of his draft eligibility while playing for Lincoln in the USHL, this time around someone will surely take the 6’6 225-pound defender. He is one of the biggest players in the draft and made some improvements in his game as the year progressed.
On a weak Sting team he saw a lot of ice time and was put into situations that he might not have had the opportunity to play in if he were on a stronger club. With a team-worst -29 rating he had his moments where he was burned but the big American will be that much stronger for it this year as Sarnia looks to rebound. Tuzzolino killed penalties and played a regular shift in his rookie year and that should continue next season as well.
Scout #1: What an upturn this kid had this year! I watched him in the USHL a year ago and I thought he might get drafted. The biggest knock on him might be his defensive play which might sound odd for a real tall and big defenseman. He’s more of an offensive guy than a defensive guy but his all around game came a long ways. He’s got great vision and he can move the puck from the point, he’s got very good hands for a point man his size. He’s got more vision and ability and sense on the offensive side of the puck than you would expect when you look at him. His play around his own net has to improve and he has to get meaner and use his reach a little better than he does, but to play at his size, he needs to take some penalty minutes and get in people’s faces and so far he’s not that guy.
Scout #2: You have to take him somewhere, I don’t know if he’s a high pick but with his size and his skating that continues to improve and he’s good enough with the puck, not great, but at his size you have to take him somewhere.
ISS (June): A physical defensemen with great size and strength. A physical presence in his own end that is easily able to contain his man. He’s a below average skater, with limited offensive upside.
Position: C Team: Windsor Spitfires
Height: 5’11 Weight: 180 lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 203rd Overall
Windsor center Cal O’Reilly enjoyed a massive increase in his point totals in 2004-05 over his rookie output a season earlier. The Seaforth, Ontario product scored just three times and had 21 points in his 61-game OHL debut in 2003-04 but outdone himself for the Spitfires in his follow up campaign. This past season O’Reilly racked up 24 goals and added 54 points for 74 points, more than triple his previous standard.
The average sized forward played produced equally well in the postseason accounting for nine points in 11 contests. O’Reilly was a consistent performer for Windsor, never going pointless for more than the four-game dry spell he had in February. Windsor will be expecting continued offensive growth from a handful of their top forwards not the least of which is O’Reilly. At the top in team scoring this newly ended season, second only to departing winger John Scott Dickson, it will be interesting to see how O’Reilly adjusts to the added pressure.
Scout #1: O’Reilly has great vision, can control the game offensively, he’s a great tape to tape passer, in the offensive zone he competes and he’s willing to take hits to make plays and he’s a skilled player. The only problem with him is that he’s an absolute detriment in his own zone.
Position: LW Team: Kitchener Rangers
Height: 5’10 Weight: 194 lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 228th Overall
Michael Duco had a decent rookie season with the Rangers scoring 24 goals and adding 26 assists for 50 points in 62 games and he was also a +16. When he played on the second line with Evan McGrath and Patrick Davis, he was very productive and they had some good chemistry together especially on the cycle. Like a lot of rookies, Duco hit a wall late in the season and his production first slowed and then disappeared completely in the playoffs when he was moved to the third line.
Toronto-born Duco has scored at every level he’s played in over the last few seasons including Midget AAA, Junior A and now the OHL. He should have every opportunity to play on the top two lines and see regular power play duty with Kitchener next season. He can be a real sparkplug for the Rangers when he gets involved physically and throws his weight around.
Scout #1: Great up until late February and then he started to wear down but he still had over 20 goals. He competes and has good skills as far as finishing. He might get some attention as a later round guy.
ISS (June): A good skater, with good speed and hands. Competes hard. Is short and stocky, his small stature will probably keep him from moving on to the next level. Will likely go undrafted.
Position: LW Team: Kitchener Rangers
Height: 6’3 Weight: 200lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 229th Overall
Kevin Henderson kind of came out of nowhere and caught the early attention of some scouts with his 6’3, 200 lbs frame and strong skating. His offensive numbers were disappointing and he slid down rankings as the year progressed but a strong playoff performance on the penalty kill and in a checking role should help stop that freefall. He is yet another late 1986 birthday on the Rangers.
Guys like Henderson allowed Kitchener to play their nasty aggressive style. A decent shot blocker who fills the shooting lanes, Henderson makes it tough for defensemen to get the puck on net when the Rangers are killing a penalty. He follows through on his checks, his hands haven’t caught up to his speed and body but with his natural tools, Henderson might be a late bloomer when it comes to the offensive side of the game. With only five goals in 47 games, improving on his offensive production won’t be too tough of a task.
He has the ability to be a role player at the next level, play a few shifts on the energy line and kill penalties. The Rangers will be looking for him to provide some more offense next season and with three key forwards graduating, there will be more ice time for guys like Henderson if they can earn it.
ISS (June): Has good size and strength, plays hard every shift. Is a force on the forecheck and battles hard down low along the boards. Has shown that he can chip in offensively in his first stint in the OHL.
Position: LD Team: Oshawa Generals
Height: 6’6.5 Weight: 238 lbs. Shoots: L Final ISS Ranking: 212th Overall
The infamous Devereaux Heshmatpour has had far too much press in the last couple of years for a prospect of his ilk. The Toronto native is naturally intriguing considering his huge stature at nearly 6’7 and 238lbs. His name has also become synonymous with ‘slow’, as it is widely known that Heshmatpour lost in a 150’ sprint at the CHL Top Prospects Game to a goalie in full gear and barely beat the goalies in the one-lap time trials. Add to that the fact that his age has been questioned in the past, and there are some significant flags surrounding this behemoth of a defenseman.
A top prospect coming up through the ranks in Toronto, Heshmatpour was drafted by Kitchener and played 55 games there as a rookie in 2003-04. After the blueliner struggled early this season, he was shipped to the last place Oshawa Generals where he was able to play more significant minutes. Heshmatpour started to show more of a mean streak with Oshawa as he notched 164 penalty minutes compared to only 59 last year but he was hardly impressive defensively. Junior players that are Heshmatpour’s size almost never go undrafted, but he has plenty of work to do before he’s taken seriously as an NHL prospect.
Scout #1: In Kitchener he played with Boris Valabik, a guy with his own size and limited abilities who went 10th overall, but this kid must be dense because he apparently didn’t learn a thing. Be tough, be mean, be intimidating do something and there’s a good chance that at that size he’d go in the top two or three rounds but he never touched a soul in Kitchener. Then he went to Oshawa and decided that all he was going to do was run around and intimidate. I just don’t think he knows what he is and until he does he’s not going to be anything.
Scout #2: I think he has more skating ability and talent than Tuzzolino but you have to be concerned that first Kitchener moves him and now Oshawa apparently is trying to as well.
ISS (Feb.): Devereaux Heshmatpour has undergone numerous rumors about his age, a trade from Kitchener to Oshawa and continual struggles with the pace of the OHL. As a result, ISS is starting to question whether he can become a contributor in the NHL. Although he has impressed with his toughness and his willingness to drop the gloves this year, his continual problems with his skating are a major concern. Although there is more to being a player than a performance in a skills competition, his foot speed is a major concern.
Sean Keogh, Jason Ahrens and Guy Flaming contributed to this article. Comment on this story at the Prospects section of the Hockey’s Future Message Boards. Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without written permission of the editorial staff.