Although the 2019 OHL Priority Selection remains more than eight months away, there’s no time like the present to meet this year’s crop of incredibly talented OHL prospects.
With an entire season yet to be played, odds are a few of these names will change and the order of their positioning will fluctuate as well. However, for the likes of Brandt Clarke, Danil Zhilkin, Roman Schmidt, and Wyatt Johnston, their places within the top-10 of this year’s Priority Selection are almost guaranteed.
[RELATED: 2018-19 GTHL Season Preview]
Possessing elite-level talent and the ability to persist in the face of overwhelming pressure and odds, these four individuals will surely enjoy considerable success at the OHL-level. Yet, don’t count out those who failed to crack this pre-season’s top-10 and landed on the honourable mentions list, as there is no motivator more powerful than provocation.
The Top-10 OHL Prospects: Pre-Season Edition
10. Devon Savignac
2018-19 Team: Nickel City Sons Minor Midget AAA
If there were a heart and hustle award handed out at the Toronto Titans Early Bird Prospects Tournament to begin the month of September, Devon Savignac surely would have claimed the distinction.
All throughout the tournament, Savignac was an energetic force for the Sudbury Wolves’ Minor Midget AAA team. Founded upon a tireless engine as well as a seemingly endless amount of energy, Savignac was a presence in all three zones of the ice owing to his elite speed and determination. Eager to have the puck on his stick and capable of creating lethal offensive chances for his team, Savignac paced the Wolves’ offence and recorded five points in seven games in the process.
Although he will need to improve his overall strength over time, Savignac has the offensive tool-kit and hockey sense necessary to succeed at the OHL-level. If able to sustain his play over the course of the 2018-19 season, Savignac will surely push for a place in the top-10 overall come next April.
9. Francesco Pinelli
2018-19 Team: Toronto Red Wings Minor Midget AAA
Although he didn’t light up the scoresheet at the Toronto Titans’ Early Bird Prospects Tournament — netting one goal and two points in four games played — Francesco Pinelli was a persistent force who proved himself as a dynamic offensive player.
As a strong and sturdy skater with speed to burn, Pinelli plays a professional-style of game. Capable of protecting the puck as he flies up the ice as well as when he cycles the puck below the goal line, opposing defenders face a huge battle when tasked with handling Pinelli’s agility, creativity, and size. What’s more is the Pinelli is a player who can be utilized in all situations — an indication of the strength of his all-around game.
Skating for the Toronto Red Wings Minor Midget AAA team this coming season, Pinelli will be able to maintain his standing as a first-round prospect in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection if he can improve his offensive totals.
8. Francesco Arcuri
2018-19 Team: Don Mills Flyers Minor Midget AAA
Slowed by an injury at the Toronto Titans Early Bird Tournament which limited his exposure and abilities, Francesco Arcuri is simply too strong of a player to fall out of the Prospect Pipeline’s top-10 to begin the 2018-19 season.
Boasting solid size and excellent skating abilities, Arcuri is a dynamic offensive player who can spearhead his team’s offensive attack. In possession of quick and decisive hands, Arcuri makes difficult, high-risk plays with relative ease and is remarkably consistent in his abilities to do so. Although his shot continues to improve, Arcuri’s ability to see the ice and play-make within it drives his current value as an OHL prospect.
Skating for a stacked Don Mills Flyers team this coming season, Arcuri will be afforded with ample opportunities to pad his offensive totals ahead of the 2019 OHL Priority Selection. Unless his production slips this season, expect Arcuri to be nothing other than a top-10 selection next April.
2018-19 Team: Brantford 99ers Minor Midget AAA
The Brantford 99ers Minor Midget AAA Team didn’t compete in September’s Toronto Titans Early Bird Tournament, but that didn’t stop Maddox Callens from cracking Prospect Pipeline’s pre-season OHL Draft Ranking.
As a crafty and creative forward, Callens is well-known for his ability to play-make as well as shoot the puck. Boasting incredible vision on the ice, Callens can move the puck to his fellows teammates in high-quality scoring positions with ease or fire a well-placed shot on goal instead. What’s more is that Callens is an excellent skater, as his sharp edges and impressive agility allow him to maneuver throughout the ice with ease.
In 2017-18, Callens played his bantam season with the 99ers at the minor midget level. Despite competing against competition a year older than himself, Callens did not look out of place and managed to record 15 goals and 33 points in his 33 games played.
6. Wyatt Johnston
2018-19 Team: Toronto Marlboros Minor Midget AAA
The Toronto Marlboros Minor Midget AAA team has become a perennial powerhouse, and the 2018-19 version of the club will surely be no different.
Although the roster doesn’t boast the same depth of talent which it did last season, the Marlboros still stand as one of the GTHL’s most promising and dominating teams. Helping to lead the way for the Marlboros offensively this season will be Wyatt Johnston — an incredibly intelligent forward who can analyze the ice and operate within it with remarkable efficiency.
[RELATED: Toronto Titans Tournament Top-20 Performers]
As a strong and sturdy skater who is difficult to knock off of the puck, Johnston dominates possession of the puck for his team and is next to impossible to dispossess.
Further, with quick hands and a lethal release, Johnston can move the puck without issue before ripping the puck on goal. Although he only recorded seven points in six games played at the Toronto Titans Early Bird Prospects Tournament, Johnston has the skill-set necessary to dominate the GTHL this coming season.
5. Luke Hughes
2018-19 Team: Little Caesars Minor Midget AAA
Well, you can squash any doubts as to whether or not elite-skill runs in the Hughes’ family genes.
Much like his older brothers Quinn and Jack Hughes, Luke Hughes in an immensely talented young player with the potential to become a star at the next level. Although exactly where he will play next season remains uncertain, Hughes would surely be a highly sought after prospect if he intends to play at the OHL-level.
Similar to his brother Quinn, Hughes is a fleet-footed defenceman who loves to rush the puck. Immensely confident in his abilities, Hughes will lead or join his team’s attack and stands as a versatile force in the offensive zone. Capable of moving the puck to his teammates with ease and poise, Hughes is a pillar of strength on the blue line who loves to contribute offensively.
One aspect of Hughes’ game which must improve, however, is his overall strength. Like his brothers, Hughes is slightly undersized and can be knocked off of the puck too easily. If able to improve his lower-body strength throughout the course of the coming season, Hughes will become a dominant two-way defender of ample upside.
2018-19 Team: Pembrooke Lumber Kings Minor Midget AAA
Mason McTavish dominated the OEBHL last season as a member of the Ottawa Valley Titans, recording a league-high 83 points in just 30 games played. In fact, McTavish was so potent that he earned four games of action with the Pembroke Lumber Kings’ minor midget team, during which time he added another five points in four contests.
For McTavish, his game begins in the defensive zone.
Capable of battling for possession of the puck before rushing it out of harm’s way, McTavish can lead the rush and loves to drive to the net.
Once in the opposing zone, McTavish will unleash his wicked wrist shot — a shot defined by its ample velocity and a lightning-quick release. Boasting arguably the best shot of any 2019 OHL Priority Selection eligible player, it should come as no surprise to learn that of McTavish’s 83 points last season, 49 of which were goals.
2018-19 Team: Don Mills Flyers Minor Midget AAA
Roman Schmidt is — without a doubt — one of the most promising defencemen eligible for the 2019 OHL Priority Selection.
Boasting intimidating size and solid skating abilities, Schmidt is an imposing force on the blue line who can punish opposing players before pounding the puck on goal. In fact, Schmidt potted six goals and 10 points in his eight games played at the Toronto Titans Early Bird Prospects Tournament — a glaring indication of his lethal offensive abilities in addition to his strong defensive play.
Committed to Boston University to begin the 2020-21 season, it is unclear whether or not Schmidt will lace up his skates at the OHL-level or honour his commitment to the Terriers. However, the fact remains that Schmidt’s unique combination of size, skill, and mobility make him a prospect of immense potential and value.
2018-19 Team: Toronto Marlboros
No goal-scorer was more lethal at the Toronto Titans Early Bird Prospects Tournament than Marlboros forward Danil Zhilkin.
In his six games played, Zhilkin potted nine goals and 12 points while helping to lead his team to a berth in the quarter-finals. Although the Marlboros would eventually fall to a strong Pittsburgh Penguins Elite team, Zhilkin’s ability to directly influence the outcome of any specific game came to define his play on a nightly basis.
However, Zhilkin’s shot is just one aspect of his overall game — a game which is not only well-rounded but remarkably consistent. As a strong and sturdy skater, Zhilkin protects the puck with ease and is a possession dynamo. Capable of cycling the puck to his teammates and fending off opposing defenders, Zhilkin’s size allows him to see the ice well and navigate within it with both poise and confidence.
Although he is committed to Boston University for the 2021-22 season, Zhilkin stands as one of the most dynamic offensive players eligible for the 2019 OHL Priority Selection.
2018-19 Team: Don Mills Flyers Minor Midget AAA
If Shane Wright isn’t granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada to enter the OHL a year ahead of schedule, then it is Brandt Clarke of the Don Mills Flyers who should — at the moment — be chosen with the first overall selection in the event.
The younger brother of Ottawa 67’s forward Graeme Clarke, Brandt is a smooth-skating and poised defenceman competing for the GTHL’s Don Mills Flyers this season. Boasting great size and excellent hockey sense, Clarke is a presence at both ends of the ice who never buckles under pressure — instead, he thrives within it.
Defensively, Clarke uses his size to his advantage in order to overwhelm and pin opposing forwards. Once in possession, Clarke’s silky skating allows him to power his way up the ice with ease — an ability which allows Clarke to lead offensive rushes with remarkable frequency.
Once established in the offensive zone, Clarke handles the puck extremely well and rarely commits turnovers. Capable of walking the blue line with ease in the face of pressure, Clarke moves the puck to his teammates extremely well and can fire the puck on goal through traffic with consistency.
In all, Clarke is an incredibly poised blueliner who boasts the complete package of size, speed, skill, and on-ice intelligence.
The top-10 prospects eligible for the 2019 OHL Priority Selection are anything but set in stone. Here, in alphabetical order, is a list of honourable mentions whose strong play this season could catapult them into Prospect Pipeline’s top-10:
- Liam Arnsby (Don Mills Flyers, GTHL)
- Eric Bonsteel (Mississauga Senators, GTHL)
- Alex Christopoulos (Don Mills Flyers, GTHL)
- Sean Clarke (Vaughan Kings, GHTL)
- Cole Hipkin (Brantford 99ers, AHMPL)
- Thomas Johnston (Whitby Wildcats, ETA)
- Joshua Kavanagh (Nickel City Sons, GNML)
- Connor Lockhart (Kanata Lasers, HEO)
- Daniel Michaud (Quinte Red Devils, ETA)
- Max Smolinski (Little Caesars, USA)
The Exceptional Exception:
Born on Jan. 5th, 2004, Shane Wright finds himself ineligible for the 2019 OHL Priority Selection.
At the moment, that is.
Having proven himself capable of dominating his peers with relative ease, there is no reason why Wright shouldn’t be made eligible for the coming OHL Priority Selection by Hockey Canada. Although one of the youngest players competing at the GTHL’s minor midget level this season, Wright is undoubtedly a step above his competition and would not benefit whatsoever from an additional season of play in the GTHL.
Incredibly strong on his skates and boasting natural speed, Wright is a gifted talent who sees the ice incredibly well. As creative as they come, Wright can play-make with ease and owns a stellar shot to boot. What’s more is that Wright is a well-rounded, 200-foot player who can be utilized and succeed in all situations.
In short, Wright should be playing in the OHL next season, not the GTHL.
If awarded exceptional status, expect Wright to sky-rocket to the top of Prospect Pipeline’s monthly OHL Priority Selection Rankings. Until awarded exceptional status — if at all — Wright will stand as an endlessly talented youngster whose immediate future remains uncertain.