Toronto Titans Early Bird Tournament: Top 20 Performers

The Toronto Titans Early Bird Prospects Tournament has come and gone, and a number of this year’s top prospects used the showcase the promote their potential. In this tournament recap, see how the 2019 OHL Draft’s elite talent fared.

Just like that, the 11th Annual Toronto Titans Minor Midget Prospect Tournament has come and gone. As the unofficial start to the season, the tourney never fails to disappoint, offering scouts from all over Ontario and parts of USA an early glimpse into the top prospects eligible for the 2019 OHL Priority Selection.

This year’s edition was no different, showcasing the top tier of teams for the 2003-born age group. Leading the way through the round-robin portion of the tournament with perfect 4-0-0 records were the Don Mills Flyers, Toronto Nationals, Mississauga Senators, and North York Rangers of the GTHL, the Whitby Wildcats of the ETA, the Chicago Mission from the HPHL, and the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite from the TIEHL.

After a memorable elimination round which featured a number of tight games, it was the Don Mills Flyers who came away as the 2018 Champions, defeating Chicago Mission in the Final. The Flyers were dominant from start to finish of this tournament, rolling over their opponents with ridiculous depth at both ends of the ice to finish with a combined 8-0-0 record, with 48 goals for and just 7 against. Heading into the 2018-19 season, they appear to be early favourites for the 2019 OHL Cup.

Top Performers

1: Shane Wright – Don Mills Flyers (GTHL)

Shane Wright put his application for Exceptional Status on display early and often. Born on January 5th, 2004, Wright showcased elite acceleration and top-end speed, as well as phenomenal puck skills and exemplary vision of the ice. He is an excellent playmaker, and has an above average shot as well, beating goaltenders with clear shots. His hockey IQ is what clearly sets him apart from the 2019 OHL Draft class. Wright finished the tournament with eight goals and 17 points in eight games, ranking second and first in those categories, respectfully.

2: Danil Zhilkin – Toronto Marlboros (GTHL)

Danil Zhilkin quickly, and often, made an impact at the tournament with his innate goal-scoring abilities. The Boston University commit established his role as the Marlboros trigger man, boasting an elite level shot with a lightning-quick release and tremendous accuracy. Zhilkin skates well and can weave through traffic as well as protect the puck from defenders. He led the tournament with nine goals in just six games, while the Marlboros were ousted by the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite in quarterfinal action.

3: Roman Schmidt – Don Mills Flyers (GTHL)

Roman Schmidt is as solid a defenceman as they come. Another Boston University commit, Schmidt enforces his strength on his opponents to separate body from puck, or to protect the puck with ease on a rush. A solid two-way defenceman, Schmidt has a smart shot from the point, throwing wristers on net with excellent accuracy that beat goaltenders through screens. Schmidt finished the tournament with six goals and 10 points in eight games, leading all defencemen in both categories.

4: Jack Devine – Chicago Mission (HPHL)

Jack Devine, one half of the Chicago Mission’s “Jack Duo” plays a similar style to his linemate, Jack Silich. Backed by excellent agility and solid top-end speed, Devine utilizes his superb hockey sense to visibly read the game one step ahead of his opponents. He is a multi-faceted weapon up front, with the capability to make back-door, cross-ice passes for tap-in goals, or to weave though defenders and snipe goals past the tournament’s top goalies with regularity. A University of Denver commit, Devine finished second in tournament scoring with 15 goals, including seven goals.

5: Brandt Clarke – Don Mills Flyers (GTHL)

Brant Clarke, the brother of Graeme of the Ottawa 67’s, is an offensive defenceman with elite skating abilities and hockey sense. Clarke has exemplary edgework and can walk the blueline with the puck with confidence and creativity before firing a shot through traffic to generate scoring chances. He is strong on the puck and uses smart stick positioning to be effective at both ends of the ice. Clarke reads developing plays well and can recognize safe opportunities to jump into the rush. He tallied three goals and eight points in the Flyers championship run.

6: Jack Silich – Chicago Mission (HPHL)

Jack Silich showcased elite level puck skills and skating abilities to lead the Mission to the tournament final. He excels at finding open space on the ice and battles hard for possession of the puck. A Quinnipiac University commit, Silich has an electric shot and loves to rip one-timers from the circle.  Along with linemate, Jack Devine, the duo proved to be too much for even the tournament’s top teams to handle. Silich finished the tournament third in points with 13, along with six goals.

7: Nick Sewecke – Pittsburgh Penguins Elite (TIEHL)

Another skilled forward with quick hands and a strong snap shot, Nick Sewecke sets himself apart through a determination to play a responsible two-way game as well. Leading Pittsburgh to the semi-finals where they were finally eliminated by the Mission, Sewecke showcased excellent offensive instincts and a shot which can be unloaded in tight and under pressure. Despite being a December-born prospect, Sewecke showed no signs of being overwhelmed by bigger and stronger opponents. He ranked fourth in goals in the tournament with six in seven games.

8: Artem Guryev – Toronto Marlboros (GTHL)

One of the most exhilarating defenceman to watch at this year’s tournament was Artem Guryev, who plays an all-around style and is seemingly always involved in the play. Guryev is a slick skater who is strong on his feet, often using his body to lay booming open-ice hits, or to close gaps along the wall. He loves to join the rush and has the capability to carry the puck through the neutral zone himself. From the blueline, Guryev shows promising potential to either move the puck or fire shoots on net, collecting six points in six contests.

9: Cole Eichler – Don Mills Flyers (GTHL)

Cole Eichler crept out of the shadows cast by Shane Wright upon the Don Mills lineup by putting in a consistent effort each game. Eichler is a strong skater with elite vision of the ice who can find passing lanes through all kinds of traffic. He has a natural sense of where the soft spots will open up and goes to them to make himself a viable passing option. Eichler kept up with Wright’s speed when playing on his wing, but also showcased the ability to generate offensively as well. He finsihed sixth in tournament scoring with 11 points, including five goals, in eight games.

10: Jack Beck – Toronto Marlboros (GTHL)

Often slotted along the Marlboros’ first line, Jack Beck is a powerful skater who can protect the puck as well as anyone. He is a playmaker by nature, with the capability to curl out from the half-wall before dishing tape-to-tape, cross-ice passes. Beck is trusted to play in all situations and has shown the effort to always compete hard in the defensive zone as well. Beck finished second in Marlboros scoring and tied fr seventh in the tournament with 10 in six games.

11: Ryan Winterton – Whitby Wildcats (ETA)

Ryan Winterton boasted elite level abilities during the round robin portion of the tournament, before the Wildcats were upset by the Vaughan Kings in a 1-0 Sweet 16 loss. Winterton has an innate understanding of the of his positioning on the ice and the importance of playing a strong two-way game. His offensive abilities are led by a smooth stride with smart edgework, as well as a quick and powerful release to his snap shot. Winterton placed seventh in points-per-game at the Titans Early Bird with four goals and eight points in five games.

12: Ryan Del Monte – Toronto Nationals (GTHL)

Ryan Del Monte has a proven capability to lead the offence on a talented Nationals team that were ousted by their rival, Don Mills, in the Quarterfinals. A Harvard University commit, Del Monte leads by example with a responsible 200-foot game. He has a high compete-level and shows a willingness to drive to the dirty areas. Del Monte’s top asset appears to be his knack for finding the back of the net, usually with a quick and deceptive snap shot. He finished tied for 13th in tournament scoring with five goals and eight points in six games.

13: William Gourgouvelis – Whitby Wildcats (ETA)

A reliable two-way defenceman, William Gourgouvelis showed flashes of a capacity to dictate the game at both ends of the ice. He is smart in his own zone, closing gaps to force opponents into the corners and using smart stick positioning to close off passing lanes and break up offensive rushes. On the offensive side, Gourgouvelis often joins the rush to create odd-man rushes and isn’t afraid to fire wrist shots from the point through traffic to generate deflections and rebounds. Gourgouvelis ended the tournament fourth in defencemen scoring with six points.

14: Wyatt Johnston – Toronto Marlboros (GTHL)

Wyatt Johnston is a responsible center with a high level of hockey sense. He is an efficient skater who utilizes great agility and edges to dance through opponents before often dishing off the puck to an open teammate. Johnston is a natural playmaker who seems to think pass before shot, and loves to maintain puck possession through effective cycling and shot selection. Johnston appears to have strong offensive upside, but could benefit from taking advantage of shooting opportunities. Johnston finished the tournament with two goals and seven points.

15: Sean Clarke – Vaughan Kings (GTHL)

Sean Clarke represented the little engine who could on a surprising Vaughan team that battled and forced its way into Quarterfinal action. Through a team-first approach, Clarke led the Kings’ offence through a combination of high-end speed and quick hands. He was like a hound on the puck at all times and showcased an ability to rush the puck end-to-end. Clarke also has a deceptive and accurate shot that can beat goaltenders in tight. He went on to finish fourth in tournament points-per-game, with nine in five games, including five goals as well.

16: Josh Bloom – Toronto Nationals (GTHL)

Josh Bloom is an energetic skater whose engine never stops. He is consistently pressuring the opposition and skating hard in all three zones to force turnovers. Bloom has creative hands and can waltz his way through traffic with ease, while his shot remains powerful with a quick release to catch goaltenders mid-transition. He reads the ice very well in order to predict where open lanes will develop and uses his flashy speed to infiltrate them. Bloom concluded the tournament with four goal and eight points in six games, tied for 13th in tourney scoring.

17: Tucker Robertson – Toronto Marlboros (GTHL)

Tucker Robertson may very well possess the quickest and most dynamic set of mitts in this year’s draft class. He regularly turns defencemen inside-out with silky moves, utilizing his edges and agility to maneuver his way through and around traffic. Robertson also has above-average speed when he opens it up, able to fly past defencemen before cutting in front of the net. His shot is also hard off of the release and he loves to change shooting angles in order to catch goaltenders off guard. Robertson finished tied for 12th in goals with four, along with seven points.

18: Deni Goure – Chatham Kent Cyclones (Alliance)

After a rough 10-1 loss to the Toronto Marlboros to start off the tournament, the Cyclones gradually found their rhythm and proved to be a tough out in the end. The squad is led at both ends of the ice by Deni Goure, an elite two-way center who leads by example. A terrific skater, Goure’s compete level sets him apart from others, while his skating ability allows him to generate plenty of successful carry-ins. He’s a shifty player with quick hands, and his snap shot features a brisk release. Goure totalled two goals and six points to lead the Cyclones in four games.

19: Daniel Michaud – Quinte Red Devils (ETA)

Daniel Michaud was seemingly the lone bright spot in what turned out to be a rather disappointing tournament for the Red Devils. Expected to be one of the top teams in the ETA this year, Quinte fell victim to a slow start, losing its first two contests. However, Michaud only got stronger as the tournaments wore on, inflicting his high-paced style and sense of the game onto his opponents. He skates well and has a strong shot as well as an elite sense of the ice around him. Michaud wrapped the tournament up with three goals and six points to lead his team.

20: Braeden Kressler – Mississauga Senators (GTHL)

The Senators dearly struggled with depth issues at the Titans Early Bird, with only one goal coming from someone outside their top line, and a defenceman at that. With that said, Braeden Kressler was the offensive catalyst for his team, showcasing a dynamic ability to burn defenders with speed combined with an electric release that catches goaltenders off-guard before they have time to set themselves. He also boasts quick hands and an underrated sense of vision. Kressler closed out the tournament with four goals and five points in just four games.

Photo credit to Max Lewis.

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