Ontario license plates say ‘yours to discover’ – and while the Ontario Hockey League didn’t end up providing as much as usual in the way of first-round talent this season, teams may have discovered some treasures in later rounds by selecting players from this region.
Although 32 players were selected from the league, only three went in the first round – including the first overall selection by the Chicago Blackhawks, Pat Kane of the London Knights. There were some players who arguably could have first-round talent, but question marks dropped them into the second round. And the biggest question mark of all could end up being a steal as the Blackhawks took a late-second-round flier on rugged boom-or-bust forward Akim Aliu.
Three players were selected in the first round: the aforementioned Kane; his linemate Sam Gagner, who went sixth overall to the Edmonton Oilers; and Ottawa’s Logan Couture, for whom the San Jose Sharks traded the 13th and 44th overall selections (previously obtained in a trade with Toronto for Vesa Toskala).
All three players are expected to be solid contributors to their clubs as, beyond stellar talent, they all possess those intangible qualities that help define a winner: hockey sense, determination, heart, and dedication to team play. In fact, all three players, at one point or another over the past two years, have had their names bandied about as potential first-overall selections.
While Gagner and Couture are certain to return to the OHL ranks – as certain as anything is in player projection – Kane may have an opportunity to crack the Blackhawks roster. Admittedly, the smallish forward will need to overwhelm the coaching staff with his skills and have a superlative camp to do so, as he still needs to work on improving his overall strength.
The second round was more successful for OHL franchises. In total, 10 clubs selected 11 players. Brett MacLean, John Tavares’ running mate in Oshawa, was selected with the second pick of the round by the Phoenix Coyotes, and got the ball rolling. Two netminders were taken in the round as well: the seemingly interminably tied duo of Peterborough’s Trevor Cann and Plymouth’s Jeremy Smith, who went 49th and 54th overall to Colorado and Nashville respectively. The Predators went back to the OHL for a second time in the round, taking Kitchener’s Nick Spaling with the 58th overall selection.
Players like MacLean and Stefan Legein, who went seventh in the round, 37th overall to Columbus, were highly regarded players who were talked about in the first round, but eventually slipped. And the most mercurial of all – Aliu, presently of the London Knights – managed to find a home when Chicago stepped up with the 56th overall selection. Talent-wise, Aliu was a first-rounder, but ancillary issues surrounding the power forward could have dropped him further into the draft. The Blackhawks were willing to take a chance and hope the maturation process will continue to smooth out those rough edges.
Teams also started going off the map a little with their selections. P.K. Subban‘s offensive abilities were well known, but his defensive play had him much lower ranked, but the Montreal Canadiens liked him enough o select him 43rd overall. Washington’s Josh Godfrey, Buffalo’s Drew Schiestel, and L.A.’s Wayne Simmonds all too were taken much higher than expected by scouting services and general observers alike. But, as the draft adage states, it only takes one team to fall in love with a guy.
Round 3 opened with the New York Islanders potential getting a steal by selecting Sarnia blueliner Mark Katic with the first pick in the round. Katic has all the tools to be a successful offensive-minded blueliner in the NHL, but saw his stock fall this season as he got away from what made him successful in previous seasons. Montreal followed 11 picks later by picking another offensive-minded blueliner, Switzerland-native Yannick Weber from the Kitchener Rangers.
In all, six players from the OHL became third-rounders, including the first of three highly regarded Erie Otters, Nick Palmieri who went with the 80th selection to the New Jersey Devils. A jack of all trades, but master of none, Palmieri’s commitment to two-way play and solid size makes him a perfect fit for the traditional Devils’ style of play.
The run on OHLers somewhat dried up in the fourth round, with only two players from the league hearing their names called: Luca Caputi, who went 11th overall to the Pittsburgh Penguins; and Matt Halischuk, who was selected 117th overall by the Devils. The Halischuk selection marked the beginning of a run where clubs strayed from the projected path and took some chances on less-highly regarded players, which continued into the fifth round.
Players like Plymouth’s Chris Terry, the Soo’s Jake Muzzin, and Belleville’s Michael Neal went well above their projected slot in the draft. Only Calgary’s selection of Mickey Renaud of the Windsor Spitfires, at 143rd overall, followed the projected script.
The OHL made a resurgence in Round 6 with eight players chosen. The Detroit Red Wings, who are known for unearthing late-round gems, may have found another in Erie’s Zach Torquato. The Capitals also headed back to London for the fourth Knight in the draft in Justin Taylor – a player who showed impressive promise despite only playing half a season at the OHL level, while the Panthers ended the round with yet another former Knight – Corey Syvret of the Guelph Storm and brother to Edmonton Oiler Danny Syvret.
And in the final round, only one lone OHLer was selected – but he was a big one. At 6’4, Josh Kidd looked to have the size that teams love from their blueliners, but concerns about the rest of his game caused him to fall to the third pick of the round and the L.A. Kings. However, with a solid shot and adequate skating, Kidd could end up being a late-round steal for the Kings.
OHLers drafted (Hockey’s Future pre-draft projection rank in parentheses)
1. Chicago – Pat Kane, W, London Knights (HF OHL Rank 1)
6. Edmonton — Sam Gagner, C, London Knights (HF OHL Rank 2)
9. SJ from St. L – Logan Couture, C, Ottawa 67s (HF OHL Rank 3)
32. Phoenix – Brett MacLean, LW, Oshawa Generals (HF OHL Rank 5)
34. Washington – Josh Godfrey, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
37. Columbus – Stefan Legein, RW, Mississauga Ice Dogs (HF OHL Rank 4)
42. Anaheim (from Minnesota) – Eric Tangradi, C, Belleville Bulls (HF OHL Rank 21)
43. Montreal – P.K. Subban, D, Belleville Bulls (HF OHL Rank 24)
49. Colorado (from Calgary) – Trevor Cann, G, Peterborough Petes (HF OHL Rank 9)
54. Nashville – Jeremy Smith, G, Plymouth Whalers (HF OHL Rank 10)
56. Chicago (from Vancouver) – Akim Aliu, C, London Knights (HF OHL Rank 7)
58. Nashville (from Detroit) – Nick Spaling, C, Kitchener Rangers (HF OHL Rank 6)
59. Buffalo — Drew Schiestel, D, Mississauga Ice Dogs
61. LA (from Anaheim) – Wayne Simmonds, RW, Owen Sound Attack
62. NYI (from Philadelphia) – Mark Katic, D, Sarnia Sting (HF OHL Rank 8)
73. Montreal – Yannick Weber, D, Kitchener Rangers (HF OHL Rank 11)
74. Toronto – Dale Mitchell, RW, Oshawa Generals (HF OHL Rank 16)
78. Pittsburgh (from NYR) – Robert Bortuzzo, D, Kitchener Rangers (HF OHL Rank 17)
79. NJ (from Calgary) – Nick Palmieri, RW, Erie Otters (HF OHL Rank 15)
82. LA (from Dallas) – Bryan Cameron, C/RW, Belleville Bulls (HF OHL Rank 12)
111. Pittsburgh – Luca Caputi, LW, Mississauga Ice Dogs (HF OHL Rank 19)
117. NJ – Matt Halischuk, RW, Kitchener Rangers
132. Carolina – Chris Terry, LW, Plymouth Whalers
141. Pittsburgh – Jake Muzzin, D, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
143. Calgary (from SJ) – Mickey Renaud, C, Windsor Spitfires (HF OHL Rank 22)
149. Dallas (from Buffalo) – Michael Neal, LW, Belleville Bulls
156. Chicago – Richard Greenop, C, Windsor Spitfires
160. St. Louis – Anthony Peluso, D, Erie Otters
162. Carolina – Brett Bellemore, D, Plymouth Whalers
171. Pittsburgh — Dustin Jeffrey, C, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
172. Dallas – Luke Gazdic, LW, Erie Otters
178. Detroit – Zack Torquato, C, Erie Otters (HF OHL Rank 13)
180. Washington (from Ottawa) – Justin Taylor, C, London Knights
181. Florida (from Anaheim) – Corey Syvret, D, Guelph Storm
184. LA — Josh Kidd, D, Erie Otters (HF OHL Rank 14)
Hockey’s Future Ranked Players Not Drafted
Dan Kelly (HF OHL Rank 18) – invited to Atlanta’s prospect camp
Matt Lahey (HF OHL Rank 20)
Arron Alphonso (HF OHL Rank 23) – invited to Atlanta’s prospect camp
Patrik Lusnak (HF OHL Rank 25)
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