The upcoming 2020 NHL Entry Draft — and the first round in particular — will be absolutely loaded with elite talent from the Ontario Hockey League.
In fact, the 2002-born class of OHL prospects is one of the strongest crops which the league has produced in quite some time, as there are prospects at each position of the ice who hold the potential to become star players at the NHL level. Up front stand the likes of Quinton Byfield, Cole Perfetti, Jacob Perreault and Antonio Stranges, while defenders by the names of Jamie Drysdale, Lleyton Moore, and Donovan Sebrango can protect as well as attack. In goal there is Tristan Lennox, a netminder widely regarded as the top Canadian goaltending prospect in decades — although, he is not eligible until the 2021 NHL Draft.
In short, there will be a plethora of young talent on display throughout the OHL this coming season, with a number of top NHL prospects set to display their skill in local barns throughout Ontario and into the U.S. However, are you unsure of which teams to target and which players to watch this coming campaign?
Don’t fret, we’ve got you covered.
Below, you’ll meet the top 2002-born players to watch this coming OHL season and learn about their past success’ and exactly what abilities make them unique. Further, we’ve listed an additional five prospects to monitor throughout the coming season, as these honourable mentions could develop into first round talents come to the end of the 2019-20 OHL season.
The Top-10 2002-Born Players to Watch
Here are, arguably, the top ten 2002-born prospects set to grace OHL ice this coming season.
Below, you’ll find what team each prospect played for in 2018-19, their respective statistics, as well as where each youngster will need to improve — if at all — if they wish to take the next step forward in their personal developments.
2018-19 Team: Sudbury Wolves
2018-19 Statistics: 64GP: 29G, 61PTS
Although Alexis Lafreniere is widely expected to be chosen first overall in the 2020 NHL Draft, Quinton Byfield holds the skill and ability to challenge Lafreniere for the prestigious distinction. A towering centre given his 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame, Byfield is blessed with terrific size and knows exactly how to use it at both ends of the ice in order to benefit the Sudbury Wolves. What’s more, however, is the fact that Byfield is a tremendous skater in addition to his size, as the youngster features a smooth stride and explosive acceleration.
It is Byfield’s size, skating stride, and natural offensive abilities which will make him a player worth watching throughout the 2019-20 OHL campaign. A ferocious competitor, Byfield displayed the ability to lead his team single-handedly as a rookie and will surely stand substantially improved in his sophomore campaign. In addition to Byfield’s blistering offensive game and of note is the youngster’s two-way play, as the native of Newmarket, Ontario is surprisingly responsible and strong within his defensive end.
2018-19 Team: Windsor Spitfires
2018-19 Statistics: 63GP: 26G, 41PTS
In his rookie season with the Windsor Spitfires in 2018-19, Wil Cuylle took significant strides in justifying his trade from the Peterborough Petes. Across his initial 63 regular season games played in the OHL, Cuylle posted 26 goals and 41 points — a total which stood as the sixth highest output on the Spitfires’ roster. Now, with the 2019-20 campaign rapidly approaching, Cuylle will look to further establish himself as one of the top young power-forwards in the league.
Boasting a 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame, Cuylle has the size necessary to command and protect the puck in the offensive zone. Having created separation from his opponents, Cuylle features a deceptive yet crisp shot which has the ability to beat goaltenders cleanly in the blink of an eye. Further, Cuylle is not afraid to go to the net in search of rebounds or loose pucks — a willingness which makes him a versatile and incredibly potent goal-scoring threat on a nightly basis.
2018-19 Team: Erie Otters
2018-19 Statistics: 63GP: 7G, 40 PTS
As an absolute stud during his tenure with the Toronto Marlboros of the GTHL, the Erie Otters knew exactly what the were getting when they selected Jamie Drysdale fourth-overall in the 2018 OHL Draft. A confident and smooth-skating defender, Drysdale acclimated to the OHL-level with little issue in his rookie season — hammering home seven goals and a whopping 33 assists in the process. The one blemish on Drysdale’s initial OHL campaign? A sour -24 plus/minus rating which stood as the poorest mark on his team.
However, come the 2019-20 season, expect Drysdale to take to the ice as a dramatically improved two-way player. Already one of the best 2002-born defencemen in the nation, greater size and strength accumulated this past offseason should lead Drysdale to improved play at both ends of the ice. Defensively, greater strength and speed will allow Drysdale to seize the puck and fuel his team’s transition game more so than before, while an increased level of confidence alongside experience will see Drysdale become a lethal threat on the opposing blue line.
2018-19 Team: Windsor Spifires
2018-19 Statistics: 63GP: 8G, 49 PTS
Jean-Luc Foudy took the OHL by surprise in 2018-19, as the former tenth-overall selection quickly became a consistent offensive force in his rookie campaign with the Windsor Spitfires. A former standout with the Toronto Titans of the GTHL, Foudy put his playmaking abilities on full display this past season — accumulating 41 assists against eight goals scored. The driving factors behind Foudy’s playmaking prowess are his vision and confidence when in possession of the puck — two traits which allow Foudy to excel with impressive consistency.
As Foudy takes to the ice in his second season with the Spitfires, it goes without saying that these traits will be once again amplified owing to the considerable success which he enjoyed as a rookie. If able to continuously dissect opposing defences and set up his equally skilled teammates in the process, don’t be surprised if Foudy joins his older brother Liam as a first round NHL Draft pick.
2018-19 Team: Saginaw Spirit
2018-19 Statistics: 15GP: 2.79GAA, .907% SVP
The OHL is regularly loaded with elite young talent, however, no goaltender will be more valuable this upcoming season than Tristan Lennox of the Saginaw Spirit. Although he isn’t a towering presence in-goal, Lennox is a sizeable netminder who commands his crease with both confidence and poise. The one aspect of Lennox’s game which truly separates him from his competition is the youngster’s raw athleticism, as the native of Mississauga, Ontario features explosive movements and lightning-quick reflexes.
In his rookie campaign with the Spirit, Lennox appeared in 15 regular season games as well as seven playoff contests. Although defined as Saginaw’s backup goaltender during the regular season, Lennox was thrust into the starting role in the postseason when Arizona Coyotes prospect Ivan Prosvetov fell victim to an unfortunate suspension. Despite facing an excellent foe in the eventual OHL champion Guelph Storm, Lennox was simply brilliant and single-handedly held the Spirit in their third-round matchup until the bitter end. In short, Lennox will be one of the top goaltenders in the OHL in 2019-20.
The most impressive fact? Lennox isn’t eligible for the NHL Draft until the 2020-21 season.
2018-19 Team: Hamilton Bulldogs
2018-19 Statistics: 47GP, 14G, 34PTS
Although he missed a considerable portion of the 2018-19 OHL campaign due to injury, Logan Morrison stands poised to breakout in his sophomore season. Across his 47 games played with the Bulldogs as a rookie, Morrison potted 14 goals and collected a total of 34 points — an output which stood as the ninth-most amongst all OHL rookies. Nabbed by the Bulldogs in the first round of the 2018 OHL Draft, Morrison features a versatile two-way skill set which should allow Hamilton to flourish this upcoming campaign.
What’s more is that given the subtractions from the Bulldogs’ roster ahead of the 2019-20 season, Morrison will surely receive ample playing time in his first year of NHL Draft eligibility. If able to maintain his health while generating chemistry with his pre-existing line mates as well as new teammates, Morrison could rise significantly within respective draft rankings ahead of the NHL’s 2020 event.
2018-19 Team: Saginaw Spirit
2018-19 Statistics: 63GP: 37G, 74PTS
Despite blasting home 37 goals and an OHL-best 74 points as a freshman, Cole Perfetti was unable to capture the Emms Family Award in 2018-19 as the league’s Rookie of the Year. Not only was this decision highly controversial, but it will undoubtedly serve as additional motivation for Perfetti as he embarks upon his sophomore season in the OHL. Come the 2019-20 campaign, expect Perfetti to be as explosive and productive offensively as he was in his initial year of play at the major-junior level.
Although his supporting cast in Saginaw this coming season will arguably be weaker than it was in 2018-19, Perfetti’s jaw-dropping vision, composure with the puck, and ability to play a complete two-way game should lead to a wealth of success for the native of Whitby, Ontario. Drafted by the Spirit with the fifth-overall selection in the 2018 OHL Draft, it is without question that Perfetti held the talent to be chosen second-overall — technicalities, however, led Perfetti to Saginaw and on the road to an incredible OHL career.
2018-19 Team: Sarnia Sting
2018-19 Statistics: 63GP: 30G, 55PTS
Jacob Perreault’s rookie campaign in the OHL was simply sensational, as the 18th overall selection in the 2018 OHL Draft burst onto the scene in Sarnia and became an instant difference maker. Founded upon his strong frame, skating strength, and natural two-way abilities, Perreault quickly became a staple within the Sting’s attack owing to his owing to his vision and goal scoring prowess. Come to the end of the 2018-10 season, Perreault had hammered home 30 goals alongside 25 assists — an output which afforded him 55 points on the year.
Come the 2019-20 season, expect Perreault to take yet another substantial step forward in his personal development. Sure to return to Sarnia stronger, faster, and more deadly, Perreault holds the ability to become not only a consistent goal-scorer but an elite centre-man to boot. Not afraid to mix things up physically either, Perreault’s team-oriented approach should bode well for a Sting roster soon to be laden with electrifying young talent.
2018-19 Team: London Knights
2018-19 Statistics: 66GP: 13G, 34PTS
Could Antonio Stranges be the next coming of Mitch Marner in London?
Well, based upon Stranges’ elite puck-handling skills and creativity while in possession, it certainly goes without saying that he has the potential to do so. Although his rookie season with the Knights wasn’t exactly blistering — 13 goals and 34 points in 66 regular season contests — Stranges regularly displayed the jaw-dropping talent requisite of a future star player at the NHL-level. Now, as he enters into his sophomore campaign in the OHL, the question facing Stranges will be whether or not he can elevate his game.
If the past is any evidence in this regard, expect Stranges to explode this upcoming season. Sure to garner greater and more consistent playing time in a variety of situations, Stranges should quickly become a staple within the Knights’ offensive attack capable of creating and scoring goals in the blink of an eye. Although he is widely expected to be chosen in the late-first to early-second round of the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft, Stranges’ elite skill-set could push his stock much higher than initially anticipated.
2018-19 Team: Oshawa Generals
2018-19 Statistics: 60GP: 15G, 42PTS
A former teammate of Perfetti while skating for the Vaughan Kings of the GTHL, Ty Tullio burst onto the OHL scene for the Oshawa Generals in 2018-19 and enjoyed a surprisingly productive campaign. Drafted by the Generals with the 11th overall selection in the 2018 OHL Draft, Tullio jumped into Oshawa’s lineup and immediately became a versatile offensive threat. Come to the end of his rookie season, Tullio had netted 15 goals and 42 points — an output which ranked as the eighth-best within a deep Generals’ roster.
Although concerns surrounding his size have long lingered, Tullio has cast aside any and all doubters owing to his impressive play over the past few years. Sure to return to the ice in 2019-20 faster and stronger than in his rookie season, Tullio will have the opportunity to develop into a vastly underrated two-way star alongside his equally talented teammates. If able to take lofty step forward in his personal progression, Tullio will stand as a hidden gem within the upcoming 2020 NHL Draft.
Five Honourable Mentions to Monitor
Although they aren’t as high profile per se as the prospects listed above, these five prospects are glowing with NHL potential. If able to enjoy successful sophomore seasons, these five youngsters could quite easily be considered as first round talent come the 2020 NHL Draft.
- Cam Butler – (Peterborough Petes)
Butler quickly became a goal scoring threat in his rookie campaign with the Petes, and could very well score 25+ in his second season in Peterborough.
- James Hardie – (Mississauga Steelheads)
Although he played sheltered minutes in 2018-19, Hardie still managed to light the lamp with consistency — he should become a fixture offensively in Mississauga this season.
- Lleyton Moore – (Oshawa Generals)
Traded to Oshawa by the Niagara IceDogs last season, Moore is a terrific skater who can process the game at an elite level. Expect him to log major minutes on the Generals’ blue line.
- Ryan O’Rourke – (Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds)
The late first round pick stepped into the Greyhounds’ lineup as a rookie and had an instant impact. Solid in his own zone, expect O’Rouke’s offensive output to grow as a sophomore.
- Donovan Sebrango – (Kitchener Rangers)
Sebrango was a pleasant surprise for the Rangers as a rookie, providing offence while limiting his opposition. Expect him to flourish alongside increased playing time in 2019-20.