Quinton Byfield of the Sudbury Wolves is one of the top prospects eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft. Learn about what skills make Byfield such a dominant young force by reading his prospect profile, here.
– Quinton Byfield –
Sudbury Wolves (OHL) | Centre | 2020 NHL Draft Eligible
Newmarket, Ontario | Aug. 19th, 2002 | 6-foot-4, 215-pounds
Since ascending to the OHL-level, Byfield has become a dominant force for the Sudbury Wolves. In fact, in his rookie season of 2018-19, Byfield became a driving force within the Wolves’ offence as well as a responsible two-way centre to boot. In the attacking zone, Byfield collected 29 goals and 61 points en route to the Emms Family Award as the OHL’s Rookie of the Year. Further, in his defensive end, Byfield routinely used his towering frame to dispossess opposing forwards while also enjoying significant time on the penalty kill too.
In short, there are many reasons why Byfield was chosen first overall in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection, and a great many reasons more as to why he will be seriously considered by the NHL franchise who holds the first overall selection in the 2020 NHL Draft.
Skating Speed and Strength
Shot Strength, Release, and Accuracy
Special Teams Abilities
As mentioned above, the true strength of Byfield’s game lies in his well-rounded skill set and versatility on the ice. As a tremendous skater known for his smooth stride and incredible acceleration, Byfield can create separation between himself and the fastest of opponents and features the agility necessary to change direction without losing his momentum. This foundational skill allows Byfield to protect the puck with ease when combined with his size — a mixture which makes Byfield virtually unstoppable once he hits full speed.
Having rushed into the opposing zone and created time and space for himself, Byfield stands as a versatile and unpredictable offensive threat. Owing to the strength of his shot and its lightning-quick release, Byfield can pound the puck on goal in the blink-of-an-eye and is remarkably consistent in his accuracy. Even if unable to beat an opposing goaltender cleanly, Byfield’s heavy shot can generate a slew of rebounds for his teammates to pounce upon. Further, there are Byfield’s playmaking abilities — his on-ice vision and creativity stand at an elite level and make him unpredictable given the fact that opposing defenders must respect both his ability to pass the puck as well as shoot it.
Perhaps the most impressive facet of Byfield’s game is his ability to play in all situations with relative ease. As a rookie in Sudbury, Byfield routinely killed penalties as well as saw time on the Wolves’ top power play unit and was remarkably effective in doing so. Actively being coached to become a well-rounded and capable player in al three zones of the ice, Byfield’s on-ice maturity in addition to his intimidating size will make him a wildly attractive prospect ahead of the 2020 NHL Draft.
Given his towering 6-foot-4 and 215-pound frame, it may come as somewhat of a surprise to see “physical play” listed as Byfield’s area for improvement. However, while Byfeild certainly uses his size well when it comes to protecting the puck, he would do well to use his incredible strength on a more frequent basis on the defensive side of the puck. Quick to use his stick to poke the puck free — a tactic which works quite well, mind you — Byfield would benefit if willing to throw his weight around on a more frequent basis.
“He can control a game now, at 16, at both ends.”
Quinton Byfield is the real deal, and it won’t be long before he departs the major junior ranks, never to return. @THNKenCampbell with more on the Sudbury Wolves’ young star:https://t.co/T9ebcRuinw
Once he reaches the NHL-level in a few years’ time, Byfield will need to rely on his size on a consistent basis in addition to his elite-level skill set if he wishes to enjoy persistent success. So, why not begin to play and perfect an NHL-style of hockey at the OHL-level — doing so will surely allow Byfield to enjoy a much smoother transition to hockey’s highest level.
Once he reaches the NHL-level and is a few seasons into his career, Byfield will stand eerily reminiscent to a smooth-skating version of Evgeni Malkin. Blessed with incredible size and strength, Byfield will likely come to be referred to as the next generation’s power-forward — a player known for his size but one who also features soft hands, on-ice versatility, and the confidence necessary to thrive regardless of the situation of pressure placed upon him.
So, although Alexis Lafrenière of the QMJHL’s Rimouski Oceanic will receive considerable consideration by the franchise which holds the first overall selection in the 2020 NHL Draft, so too will Byfield. And, given Byfield’s significant growth as a player this past season, it appears as though the choice between Lafrenière and Byfield on draft day will be much more difficult than originally thought.
Alexis Lafrenière is one of the top prospects eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft owing to his unrivalled on-ice vision and intelligence. Read Lafrenière’s prospect report to learn exactly what makes him such a dominant force.
– Alexis Lafrenière –
Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL) | Centre | 2020 NHL Draft Eligible
Alexis Lafrenière is arguably themost talented player eligible for selection in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft — an event scheduled to take place in Montreal, Quebec on June 26th. The location for the impending NHL Draft could not be more fitting for Lafrenière, as the youngster was born a one-hour’s drive from the home of the Canadiens — a reality which would make his potential selection at first overall especially sweet.
However, Lafrenière hasn’t simply stumbled to his standing atop the world of NHL prospects, as the youngster has long dominated his opposition with both consistency and authority. In fact, in his final season ahead of his selection in the QMJHL Draft, Lafrenière blasted home 33 goals and 83 points in a mere 36 games played — all of which coming against older competition at the Midget age level.
So, truthfully, Lafrenière’s absolute domination of the QMJHL over the past two seasons should come as no surprise. Owing to his smooth skating stride, unparalleled creativity, and decisive nature when in possession of the puck, Lafrenière has developed into a devastating offensive player who can take control of any given game at both ends of the ice. Sure, room for improvement exists within his game, yet the fact remains that Lafrenière holds the potential necessary to become a star player at the NHL-level in the immediate future.
Poise and Composure
Playmaking and On-Ice Vision
Skating Strength and Puck Protection
Lafrenière has long been considered as the consensus first overall choice in the 2020 NHL Draft, and for good reason. In his first two seasons of play in the QMJHL following his first overall selection by the Rimouski Oceanic in the 2017 Entry Draft, Lafrenière tallied a total of 79 goals and 185 points in 121 regular season contests — a 1.52 point per game rate of production.
This outrageous level of production can be attributed directly to a number of Lafrenière’s seemingly endless strengths. The one facet of Lafrenière’s game which arguably shines the brightest is his remarkable composure when in possession of the puck. Not pressured into making mistakes and capable of protecting the puck with ease, Lafrenière assesses all of his options in a calm manor before regularly passing the puck to fellow teammates positioned in a deadly locations of the ice.
The ability to create and implement high percentage scoring plays stands as the staple of Lafrenière’s game, as his ability to craft lethal opportunities not only leads to a wealth of team success but also improves the play of his fellow teammates in the process. So, it should come as no surprise to learn that Lafrenière garnered 106 assists in his first 121 games played in the QMJHL, his vision, creativity, and adaptability on the ice are simply that good.
The final strengths of many which are persistently present within Lafrenière’s game are his smooth skating stride, stability, and general strength when traversing the ice. Although his technical and playmaking abilities are otherworldly, Lafrenière’s skills on his skates stand as the foundation of his game. Capable of accelerating to top speed in a few short strides and able to fend off his opponents owing to his wide stance, Lafrenière can create time and space for himself to craft plays with relative ease and trumps his competition with his ability to do so.
While creating plays and dishing the puck to his teammates is unquestionably Lafrenière’s greatest strength, his shot is equally intimidating and has the ability to beat opposing netminders owing to its accuracy and velocity. Unfortunately, Lafrenière doesn’t shoot the puck nearly as often as he should. Sure, the youngster tallied 37 goals in a mere 61 regular season games last season, however, many of which came in close proximity to the crease as opposed to from a distance.
At the NHL-level, loose pucks in and around the goal mouth are extremely difficult to come by, let alone available to pounce upon and deposit with regularity. So, if Lafrenière wishes to remain a goal scoring threat once he reaches hockey’s highest level, he’ll need to rely upon his shot with greater frequency — doing so will allow Lafrenière to stand as a persistently versatile threat in the attacking zone.
At the NHL-level, expect Lafrenière to develop into nothing other than a dominant two-way centre capable of producing offensively in a variety of manners. Whether he be passing the puck to a teammate or whipping his shot on goal, Lafrenière will surely have little trouble adapting to hockey’s highest level owing to his composure, on-ice vision, and the confidence to create plays only dreamt of by most.
Although his first overall selection in the 2020 NHL Draft is far from set in stone, Lafrenière’s glowing track record of offensive production and ability to flourish against stern competition on the international stage will do wonders for his draft stock in the eyes of scouts and management alike. As a player who is always willing to learn from his mistakes as well as from the direction of others, the sky truly is the limit for Lafrenière — the QMJHL’s latest superstar.
The OHL is loaded with elite young talent in 2018-19, and the 2002-born rookie class is proving to be no slouch. Here are five of the hottest OHL rookies this season, as well as three honourable mentions to keep an eye on.
The Ontario Hockey League is loaded with elite young talent this season — a great deal of which coming in the form of the 2002-born rookie class.
Led by 2018 first overall selection Quinton Byfield, the likes of Cole Perfetti, Jean-Luc Foudy, Jacob Perreault, and Marco Rossi have all exploded into starring roles with their respective teams this season. And, in most cases, these players have become offensive catalysts for their new franchises — leading the charge on a nightly basis while standing surprisingly consistent in their abilities to do so.
Outside of these five rookie stars, a secondary class of promising newcomers also exists. Leading this group of rookies are youngsters such as Jamie Drysdale, Will Cuylle, and Vladislav Kolyachonok — three players of varying position who have also been downright dominant in their initial seasons in the OHL.
With this being said, let’s take closer look at five of the OHL’s most prolific rookies thus far in the 2018-19 season. Listed in alphabetical order, you’ll want to know exactly how these former minor midget stars have fared in their first campaigns of major-junior action.
Five Surging OHL Prospects
Team: Sudbury Wolves
Drafted: 1st Overall (2018)
Seeing Quinton Byfield amongst the OHL’s top rookies thus far should come as no surprise, as the first overall choice in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection has picked up where he left off with the York Simcoe Express of the ETA. Founded upon exceptional skating abilities and aided by his immense size, Byfield has quickly become an offensive catalyst for the Sudbury Wolves in his rookie campaign.
Through his first 48 games played with the Wolves in 2018-19, Byfield had recorded 19 goals and 46 points — a total which led the team at the mid-way mark of February. Regarded as one of the top prospects eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft, Byfield’s presence in Sudbury has helped to transition the Wolves from a fringe contender into a legitimate force within the Eastern Conference.
Team: Windsor Spitfires
Drafted: 10th Overall (2018)
Jean-Luc Foudy could very well come to be known as the steal of the 2018 OHL Priority Selection, as the former Toronto Titans star has had little trouble adjusting to the OHL-level. Thus far in 2018-19, Foudy has become a playmaking force for the Windsor Spitfires — regularly feeding the puck to his fellow teammates while doubling as a possession dynamo.
Through his first 50 games played in his rookie campaign, Foudy had recorded a whopping 41 points — 35 of which assists — in helping to drive the Spitfires’ offensive attack. As a tireless skater and puck-hound who buzzes throughout the ice with speed and purpose, Foudy has quickly become a pleasant surprise in Windsor and a prospect who should lead the team in the years ahead.
Team: Saginaw Spirit
Drafted: 5th Overall (2018)
Although he was chosen fifth-overall in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection, it goes without saying that Cole Perfetti was amongst the three best prospects eligible for his respective draft. Fortunately for the Saginaw Spirit, Perfetti was willing and able to compete for their team this year and has been absolutely dominant to begin his rookie OHL campaign.
Through his first 47 contests this season, Perfetti was one of just two rookies to produce offensively at greater than a point per game pace — notching 22 goals and 48 points. A dynamic and versatile threat who can shoot the puck with authority as well as pass it, Perfetti has quickly become a fixture within the Spirit’s attack and has shown no signs of slowing down. Come the 2020 NHL Draft, it would be an incredible shock were Perfetti not chosen within the top-15 overall — he is simply that good.
Team: Sarnia Sting
Drafted: 19th Overall (2018)
The Sarnia Sting knew exactly what they were receiving when they selected Jacob Perreault with their first round choice in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection. A former standout with the HPHL’s Chicago Mission, Perreault is a hard-nosed centre who brings both skill and pace to the ice on a nightly basis.
And, thus far in the 2018-19 season, Perreault has done exactly such for the Sting — contributing offensively on a nightly basis while standing as a difficult and highly competitive force for his opponents to compete with. On the scoreboard is where Perreault has shone brightest, as the native of Montreal, Quebec had blasted home an impressive 26 goals and 22 assists through his initial 50 games played with Sarnia.
Team: Ottawa 67’s
Drafted: 18th Overall (2018 Import)
Although one of the OHL’s oldest rookie skaters in 2018-19, Marco Rossi has quickly become the league’s most potent. The 19th overall selection in the 2018 CHL Import Draft, Rossi has quickly earned his place within an abundantly strong Ottawa 67’s team owing to his high-end skill as well as poise with the puck.
Mature beyond his years, Rossi is a stellar playmaker who also boasts the elite skill necessary to also score goals at an outrageous pace. In the opening 39 games of his rookie campaign, Rossi had not only netted 24 goals for the 67’s but he had added a whopping 29 assists for a total of 53 points. Often centring Ottawa’s top line and a fixture on the team’s top power play unit, Rossi’s importance to the 67’s despite his young age is second to none within the OHL.
3 Honourable Mentions
As mentioned above, a dominant secondary class of rookies also exists within the OHL this season — all of whom must be considered elite-level prospects ahead of the 2020 NHL Draft.
With the top-five outlined above, here are three honourable mentions you must keep an eye on as the 2018-19 season winds to a close.
Team: Windsor Spitfires
Drafted: 3rd Overall (2018)
The Spitfires paid a substantial price in order to acquire Will Cuylle from the Peterborough Petes, and thus far Cuylle has been exactly as advertised. Although his point totals are slightly behind the top tier of this year’s rookie class, Cuylle has been a force nonetheless — potting 22 goals and 33 points in his opening 50 contests while playing a physical role in the process.
A tireless skater by nature whose game appears effortless at times, Cuylle is a natural goal-scorer who has the skill-set necessary to drive Windsor’s offensive attack. Of solid size given his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame, Cuylle will undoubtedly be an integral piece of the Spitfires’ future and an increasingly potent player as he continues to find his footing at the OHL-level.
Team: Erie Otters
Drafted: 4th Overall (2018)
Come the 2020 NHL Draft, Jamie Drysdale will undoubtedly stand as one of the top defenceman eligible for selection. Nabbed by the Erie Otters with their fourth-overall choice in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection, Drysdale is a calm and composed defender who has had little issue adapting to the OHL-level in his rookie campaign.
In fact, through his initial 47 games played, Drysdale had recorded four goals and 24 assists for a total of 28 points. Sure, his -16 plus/minus rating was less than stellar, however, it stood as a mark reflective of the Otters’ play as a team this season rather than Drysdale’s inabilities on the blue line. Ultimately, Drysdale is an endlessly talented defender whose on-ice intelligence and poise have and will continue to make him one of the OHL’s most promising young defenders.
Team: Flint Firebirds
Drafted: 102nd Overall (2018 Import)
The sole 2019 NHL Draft eligible rookie on this list, Vladislav Kolyachonok has quickly established himself as a prospect to watch after being placed on waivers by the London Knights earlier this season. A sizeable defender yet fluid skater, Kolyachonok has become a reliable presence for the Flint Firebirds this season and one capable of playing a seamless two-way game.
Although his natural offensive instincts and drive can pull him out of position at times, Kolyachonok’s flair throughout the ice is simply unquestionable. An excellent skater who can pass the puck extremely well and rush the puck throughout the ice, Kolyachonok’s 25 points in his first 41 games played this season stand as an indication of his potential at the professional-level.
Connor McMichael of the OHL’s London Knights has risen dramatically over the course of the 2018-19 season. Once perceived as a mid-round prospect, McMichael has exploded into a potential top-10 choice.
– Connor McMichael –
London Knights (OHL) | Centre| 2019 NHL Draft Eligible
A fixture within an increasingly dynamic London Knights offence, McMichael has quickly becoming a driving force for the Knights and one capable of leading his team to success with an impressive level of consistency. Defined by his skating, McMichael is an electrifying presence who can burn his opponents with speed and pick apart their defences owing to his versatile skill-set.
What’s more is that McMichael boasts a level of drive and determination which stands high above the vast majority of his competition. As an extremely passionate player who strives to succeed on a game-by-game basis, McMichael and his lethal skill-set could push him into the top-10 overall if not higher come the 2019 NHL Draft in June.
Skating Speed and Agility
Offensive Instincts and Creativity
Work-Ethic and Determination
As alluded to above, McMichael is a player who is driven and defined by his skating abilities. In fact, not only does McMichael feature eye-watering acceleration and breakaway speed but the youngster displays a level of edge-work and agility typically reserved for players at the professional-level.
It is McMichael’s wheels which stand as the foundation of his game, as the native of Ajax, Ontario’s natural offensive instincts and creativity derive directly from his speed throughout the ice. Able to create a great deal of time and space for himself owing to his skating, McMichael can craft deadly plays in the opposing zone and is consistent in his ability to execute at even-strength as well as on the man-advantage.
Perhaps the two most important facets of McMichael’s game, however, are his unwavering drive and determination. A tireless skater and one fuelled by his personal production and the success of his team, McMichael exudes an overwhelming amount of passion and emotion on the ice and is controlled in doing so.
Areas of Improvement:
To be quite honest, there isn’t a ton of room for improvement within McMichael’s game — he is simply that good and as well-rounded as they come.
In the years ahead, McMichael will do well to add greater muscle to his frame. Now, this is not to say that McMichael is under-sized or weak by any means, but rather that he will be able to better maximize his skill-set once he becomes a stronger player physically — especially down low. A direct outcome of adding greater strength will be McMichael’s increased ability to protect the puck — greater lower-body strength will allow the youngster to become a more potent puck-hound than he has already become.
Ultimately, McMichael could be one of the most under-appreciated players eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft.
Although many have projected McMichael to be chosen in the middle of the first round if not later, we could very well be looking at a top-10 choice come draft day given McMichael’s torrent production and continued improvement on the ice. With all of the skills which NHL franchises covet at the young age of just 18-years, McMichael could prove to be a steal if selected much earlier than anticipated.
To provide some similarity, recall the selections of Ty Dellandrea and Liam Foudy in the 2018 NHL Draft. Although projected as second-round talents, both prospects rose significantly into the first round owing to their exceptional skating abilities, consistency, and unquestionable work-ethic.
Throughout their franchise history all of Tyson Barrie, Duncan Keith, Josh Morrissey and Tyler Myers have passed through the Rockets’ program en route to substantial and successful NHL careers. Now, in 2018-19, it is Kaeden Korczak’s time to follow suit.
Given the strength of Korczak’s overall approach, let’s take a moment to dissect his play and analyze specific aspects within his growing game.
First and foremost there is Korczak’s play within his defensive zone. Capable of feeling the pressure applied by his opponents and navigating within it, Korczak is calculated in his decision making and is rarely forced into committing turnovers as a result. Well aware of the positioning of his teammates, Korczak thinks the play at a rapid pace as it develops and can execute crisp, accurate breakout passes as result.
Tied directly to Korczak’s intelligent defensive play is the native of Yorkton, Saskatchewan’s raw physicality. Standing 6-foot-3 and 195-pounds, Korczak is an intimidating physical presence despite his young age who utilizes his growing size well. Capable of pinning attacking forwards against the boards before dislodging the puck, Korczak can dominate his opposition with ease and understands when it is necessary to do so.
Further amplifying Korczak’s strong defending is his skating mobility and agility. Although he would do well to improve his first step and explosiveness, Korczak can traverse the ice well and utilizes his edges well in order to track and smother attacking forwards. It is this impressive skating ability which has come to drive Korczak’s growing offensive game, as the youngster’s mobility allows him to straddle the opposing blue line while generating scoring opportunities in the process.
While there aren’t many weaknesses present within Korczak’s game, there are a few.
As mentioned above, Korczak’s foot speed and acceleration would do well to improve in the near future, and especially so before he makes the jump to the professional-level. Although he is a strong skater of excellent mobility, greater first-step strength and acceleration would create a greater gap between Korczak and his opponents on the offensive side of the puck while also affording the young defender with improved closing speed defensively.
In addition to his acceleration and explosiveness, there is Korczak’s shot.
Although of ample velocity, Korczak needs to push the puck through traffic with greater consistency, as doing so would generate a number of rebounds and scoring chances for his team. In order to do so, Korczak will need to shorten the release of his shot and alter the angle of his lane upon release. Once able to pound the puck on goal with authority at even-strength, Korczak’s all-around game will be strengthened even more so through a newfound level of lethality from the point.
While his game isn’t flashy by any means, Korczak is as solid and dependable as defencemen come. A pure minute-munching defender capable of influencing the outcome of any given game at both ends of the ice, Korczak’s stellar physical play paired with his growing offensive talents will ensure he dominates his opposition regardless of their respective skill or creativity.
Ultimately, Korczak projects to develop into a sturdy top-four defenceman at the NHL-level capable of being utilized confidently in a variety of on-ice situations.
Although it’s only November, it’s time to check in on the best Canadian prospects eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft. In this article, we analyze three players who have impressed this season from each CHL league and check in on the Canadian Jr. A circuit.
Canada has proven time and time again to be a developmental powerhouse in the hockey world.
Now, although the 2018-19 season remains young, a slew of players have already begun to separate themselves from their competition. Through consistent and lethal play, these particular prospects — which you will meet below– have enjoyed sensational starts to their first campaigns of NHL Draft eligibility.
Western Hockey League
The Top-3 Early Performers:
Kirby Dach (Saskatoon Blades)
Standing 6-foot-4 and 200-pounds, Kirby Dach is an intimidating force who features an explosive offensive skill set. A tremendous passer with exceptional vision, Dach also boasts an improving shot and innate instincts — a combination which makes him a presence each and every shift.
To begin the 2018-19 campaign, Dach wasted little time applying his versatile skill set. In his first 22 games played with the Saskatoon Blades, Dach had recorded 12 goals and added 23 assists for an impressive total of 35 points — the most of any WHL draft eligible forward.
Peyton Krebs (Kootenay ICE)
Although his standing within various NHL Draft rankings has fluctuated, Peyton Krebs remains as a constant attacking force for the Kootenay ICE. Standing slightly less than 6-feet tall, Krebs is a workhorse for the ICE and a tireless puck hound. Agile and creative, Krebs can weave through opposing defences and carve his way to the goal while in possession of the puck.
Despite a slightly slow start, Krebs has ramped up his offensive game. Mid-way through the month of November, Krebs had earned himself 27 points alongside six goals. Although his plus/minus rating of -17 left plenty to be desired, Krebs could develop into a strong attacking forward similar to Brayden Point of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
At the half way point of the month of November, Byram had already collected six goals and 15 points alongside a respectable plus/minus rating of +3. As a driving force for the Giants, Byram has consistently displayed the ability to lead his team at both ends of the ice while logging major minutes in the process.
Brett Leason (Prince Albert Raiders)
Although he is a 1999-born prospect, Brett Leason could be one of the most promising yet overlooked players available for the 2019 NHL Draft. With two average seasons of WHL play in-hand, Leason has exploded out of the gate to begin his 2018-19 season with 18 goals and 42 points in just 20 games played.
With great size given his 6-foot-4 frame and 205-pound weight, Leason could prove to be a hidden gem if drafted by an NHL franchise this coming June. Although he’ll surely need to develop within the professional ranks before being afforded a shot at the NHL-level, the native of Calgary, Alberta clearly boasts the skill-set of a legitimate NHL prospect.
Ontario Hockey League
The Top-3 Early Performers:
Arthur Kaliyev (Hamilton Bulldogs)
Not only is Arthur Kaliyev a smooth skating forward with a wicked shot, but he is also one of the most lethal offensive players in the OHL this season. As a natural goal-scorer, Kaliyev can beat goaltenders in a variety of ways but relies primarily on his heavy and devastating shot to do damage.
With 17 goals and 32 points through his first 21 games played this season, Kaliyev has quickly established himself as a premier offensive player eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft. Rocketing his way up respective draft rankings and showing no signs of slowing down, Kaliyev could be a hidden gem within this year’s class.
Ryan Suzuki (Barrie Colts)
As the first overall choice in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, it should come as no surprise to see Ryan Suzuki as a top performer early on this season. A dynamic playmaker who boasts terrific vision, Suzuki is a consistent threat who makes those around him better on a nightly basis.
Through his first 19 games played with the Colts this season, Suzuki had already accumulated 29 points — eight of which goals. If able to consistently dominate his opposition this season while further strengthening his defensive play, Suzuki could be chosen inside of the top-10 come the 2019 NHL Draft.
Thomas Harley (Mississauga Steelheads)
Although he began the 2018-19 OHL season as a relative unknown, Thomas Harley is quickly making a name for himself. A smooth and polished skater with oodles of confidence, Harley is becoming one of the OHL’s best puck-moving defenders despite his young age of just 17-years.
Having recorded 18 points through his first 21 games this season, Harley is proving that he can play a responsible two-way game against his opponent’s top attacking lines. Although his defensive game remains a work in progress, there is simply far too much to like with regards to Harley’s game to go unmentioned.
Matthew Struthers (North Bay Battalion)
Although he was first eligible to be chosen in the 2018 NHL Draft, Matthew Struthers’ lethal play this season could lead to his selection in the 2019 NHL Draft. Of solid size given his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame, Struthers is an intimidating force who has come to play a significant offensive role for the North Bay Battalion.
Having potted 12 goals and 27 points across his first 18 games played this season, Struthers has been remarkably consistent and endlessly potent. Playing alongside an incredibly dangerous teammate in Justin Brazeau, Struthers has become an offensive catalyst for the Battalion yet one capable of being utilized in a variety of situations. If able to maintain his current level of play, Struthers could very well be chosen in the upcoming NHL Draft.
Quebec Major Junior Hockey League
The Top-3 Early Performers:
Nathan Legare (Baie-Comeau Drakkar)
Nathan Legare nearly topped his entire offensive output from his rookie season in October alone to begin the 2018-19 season. Blasting home 16 goals and 35 points in his first 23 games played this campaign, Legare has quickly cemented himself as a prospect to watch within the QMJHL this year.
Nathan Légaré with another great game (1 goal, 2 assists). He showcased his great offensive instinct, positioning and powerful shot throughout the game. Definitely a big riser for the #2019NHLDraft ! pic.twitter.com/fjFuJjM7U7
Although long overlooked due to the presences of Jakob Pelletier and Raphael Lavoie, Legare has shed the shadow cast by his competition through competitive and consistent offensive play. A speedy and purposeful skater, Legare demands puck possession and has proven his ability to create lethal scoring chances in the blink of an eye.
Jakob Pelletier (Moncton Wildcats)
As the third-overall selection in the 2017 QMJHL Entry Draft, Jakob Pelletier has long been a prospect of immense potential. Fortunately for Pelletier, he is quickly living up to the expectations placed upon him — the Quebec City, Quebec native netted 11 goals and 30 points in his first 20 games played this season.
Incredibly quick, agile, and decisive, Pelletier is a tireless force who loves to attain both personal and team success. Not one to take a night off, Pelletier has come to drive Moncton’s offensive game and is now relied upon by his coaches and teammates to do exactly such. Although somewhat undersized, the punch which Pelletier packs in unquestionable.
Raphael Lavoie (Halifax Mooseheads)
In addition to Dach, Raphael Lavoie could be one of the 2019 NHL Draft class’ best power forwards. Standing 6-foot-4 and 200-pounds, Lavoie is an intimidating threat who also plays a consistent offensive game. In fact, Lavoie recorded 12 goals and 22 points through his first 20 games played this season.
What separates Lavoie from most power forwards, however, is his long yet smooth and efficient stride. Despite his lanky frame, Lavoie is a fantastic skater with breakaway speed and the agility necessary to operate deep within the offensive zone. As a late 2000 birth date, Lavoie is one of the oldest yet most NHL ready players eligible for the upcoming NHL Draft.
Canadian Jr. A
The Top-3 Early Performers:
Alex Newhook (Victoria Grizzlies)
Long the primary player to watch within the Canadian Jr. A circuit this season, Alex Newhook has wasted little time in establishing himself as a top NHL prospect early on this season. Skating in his second campaign with the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL, Newhook has already netted 12 goals and a whopping 36 points in his first 24 games played.
Committed to Boston College for the 2019-20 season, Newhook is an explosive and extremely dynamic forward capable of driving his team’s offensive game. As a fluid skater of ample speed and agility, Newhook is endlessly crafty and is most lethal when the puck is on his stick.
Harrison Blaisdell (Chilliwack Chiefs)
A second year player with the Chilliwack Chiefs of the BCHL, Harrison Blaisdell is quietly piecing together a strong sophomore season. Committed to the University of North Dakota for the 2020-21 campaign, Blaisdell has been a model of consistency thus far in 2018-19 — recording 15 goals and 27 points across his first 25 games played.
Although of a slightly smaller stature, Blaisdell has become a lethal offensive force for the Chiefs. As a versatile offensive player, Blaisdell can move the puck to his teammates with relative ease or uncork a crisp and accurate shot on goal.
Eric Ciccolini (Toronto Jr. Canadiens)
The Toronto Jr. Canadiens are off to a hot start to begin their 2018-19 OJHL season, however, said success would not have been possible without the play of Eric Ciccolini. Headed to Colgate University for the 2020-21 season, Ciccolini has quickly become a devastating attacker for his team.
Having collected 14 goals and 36 points through his team’s first 24 games, Ciccolini led the Jr. Canadiens with absolute authority. As a solid skater with exceptional puck-handling abilities, Ciccolini is a creative skater who can generate quality scoring opportunities off of the rush or via the cycle game.
In particular, there are a number of prospects playing within the Ontario Hockey League this season whose play has been wrongly overlooked for far too long. Whether it be a lack of stature, inconsistent production, or simply a misinterpretation of an individual’s skill-set, the OHL features an arsenal of talented prospects eager to make an impact at the NHL-level.
If undervalued throughout the course of the 2018-19 season and in the days leading up to the 2019 NHL Draft, these five prospects listed below could come to be known as major draft-day steals in the years to come.
2018-19 Team: Niagara IceDogs
OHL Draft Selection: 2017 (Round 2, 36th Overall)
The Niagara IceDogs are an impressive team within the OHL this season, and are led by an impressive 2019 NHL Draft eligible defenceman in Billy Constantinou. A smooth skating, puck-moving defender, Constantinou plays a stellar two-way game and can be counted upon to influence the outcome of any given game at both ends of the ice.
A second-round choice of the IceDogs in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, Constantinou is quickly establishing himself as a quality NHL prospect this season. Scoring 13 points in his first 18 games played alongside a solid +9 plus/minus rating was an excellent start for Constantinou, who has been projected to be selected in the second-round of the 2019 NHL Draft.
Having already surpassed his previous career-high in points, Constantinou could rise into the first round of the NHL Draft if able to put forth a consistent effort this campaign.
2018-19 Team: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
OHL Draft Selection: 2017 (Round 5, 98th Overall)
The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds nabbed Cole Mackay with the 98th overall choice in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, and it is safe to say that he has already surpassed any and all expectations placed upon him. Following an average rookie campaign with the Greyhounds in which he scored five goals and 14 points, Mackay has exploded out of the gate to begin his 2018-19 campaign.
With six goals scored and 20 total points in his opening 20 games, the former fifth-round choice is quickly cementing his status as a prospect to watch ahead of the 2019 NHL Draft. However, Mackay has been widely projected as a potential mid-round selection — a difficult reality to comprehend given his consistent lethality thus far this season.
2018-19 Team: Mississauga Steelheads
OHL Draft Selection: 2017 (Round 4, 69th Overall)
While he isn’t the most lethal offensive player in the OHL this season, Cole Schwindt is quickly becoming one of its most consistent two-way forwards.
Although capable of contributing offensively, Schwindt’s value lays in his ability to defend within his own zone and shut down his opposition’s top attackers. Boasting a solid frame given his 6-foot-3 stature and 180-pound weight, Schwindt can physically dominate his opposition in his defensive zone before dislodging the puck owing to his active and accurate stick.
Somewhat similar to former Oshawa Generals star Anthony Cirelli given his sound 200-foot game, Schwindt could prove to be a steal if selected late in the upcoming 2019 NHL Draft. Having scored four goals and nine assists in his first 19 games played with the Mississauga Steelheads this season, Schwindt’s already impressive two-way play alongside his growing lethality could afford the native of Kitchener, Ontario a long and prosperous professional hockey career.
2018-19 Team: Windsor Spitfires
OHL Draft Selection: 2017 (Round 1, 17th Overall)
Nathan Staios was selected by the Windsor Spitfires in the first round of the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, yet he has flown largely under the radar to begin his first campaign of NHL Draft eligibility. A fiercely competitive defender, Staios plays a stellar two-way game defined by his pace as well as confidence with the puck. With the poise of a seasoned veteran, Staios sees the ice incredibly well and can navigate within it with relative ease.
Despite this glowing skill-set, Staios has been widely projected as a second-to-third round choice ahead of the 2019 NHL Draft.
While slightly undersized given his 5-foot-9 frame, Staios has the composure of a highly touted prospect and the raw talent to match. Although his start to the 2018-19 OHL season was somewhat slow offensively considering he scored just one goal in 19 games, Staios had already added seven assists — a rate of production much greater than that of his rookie season.
2018-19 Team: Mississauga Steelheads
OHL Draft Selection: 2017 (Round 2, 30th Overall)
The departures of both Mike McLeod and Nic Hague this past offseason staggered the Steelheads, who saw two of their top offensive players ascend to the professional-level. Fortunately, Keean Washkurak — Mississauga’s second round choice from the 2017 OHL Priority Selection — has quickly made the most of the opportunities presented to him this campaign.
With major minutes available, Washkurak has earned his place within the Steelheads’ top-six through consistent and lethal offensive play this season. Standing 5-foot-10 and 185-pounds, Washkurak’s electrifying style of play has been evident on a nightly basis — the native of Waterloo, Ontario has quickly become a two-way stalwart for the Steelheads.
Jakob Pelletier led all 2019 NHL Draft eligible prospects from the QMJHL in goals and points in ’17-18, with 23 and 61, respectively. A smart, natural playmaker, Pelletier looks like a lock as a first round pick.
– Jakob Pelletier –
Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL) | Center | 2019 NHL Draft Eligible
Québec, Canada | March 7, 2001 | 5-foot-9, 161-pounds
Jakob Pelletier, a third overall pick of the 2017 QMJHL Draft by Moncton, quietly had a superb rookie campaign in 2017-18. Overshadowed by the hype surrounding Alexis Lafrenière, Pelletier racked up 23 goals and 61 points over 60 games, ranking third on the Wildcats in both categories. Pelletier also led all QMJHL 2019 NHL Draft prospects in those areas by a fairly wide margin.
Pelletier is a pass-first, two-way center with an elite hockey IQ and understanding of the game around him. He has above average speed and admirable agility with the puck. Pelletier’s rookie performance and overall improvements were rewarded with an invitation to the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with Team Canada, where he captured a gold medal.
Jakob Pelletier can often outthink his opponents, through his tremendous vision of the ice to his ability to read and react to developing situations. He understands the significance of a strong two-way game and showcases natural leadership trait on and off the ice. Pelletier is the kind of player that coaches trust to put out in any situation.
He is an excellent skater with impressive speed and good lower-body strength to protect the puck. Pelletier is agile with possession of the puck, allowing him to weave and dangle through defencemen. A playmaker by nature, Pelletier also has promising goal-scoring abilities, with a quick release and good hands in tight.
Size and Strength
Standing at a humbling 5-foot-9, 161-pounds, Pelletier is by no means a large center. While this fact doesn’t hold him back by any means within his own age group, older and larger opponents can sometimes outmuscle and knock Pelletier off the puck. Although he is a strong skater with a good lower-body, he would benefit from adding some size in order to maximize his defensive prowess.
While Pelletier will never be a power forward, some added strength would go a long way to improving his overall game. Aside from the physical side of the game, it would also make his shot more powerful and electric, which would also aid Pelletier to prosper at the next level.
Jakob Pelletier projects to be a top-six center at the NHL level. He is a smart player with strong skating abilities and a responsible two-way game that his coaches have trust in at all levels. Pelletier plays a comparable style to that of Travis Konecny of the Philadelphia Flyers. Heading into the ’18-19 season, Pelletier forecasts as a first round pick for the 2019 NHL Draft, likely in the 20-30th overall range.
Ryan Suzuki of the Barrie Colts is a sensational playmaker who plays a strong and calculated game. Long motivated by his older brother, Nick, could Ryan surpass his sibling as an NHL prospect?
As the first-overall choice in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, attention tends to follow Ryan Suzuki regardless of where he plays.
A former standout with the London Jr. Knights, Suzuki enjoyed a solid rookie season with the Barrie Colts in 2017-18 — scoring 14 goals and adding 30 assists for a total of 44 points. Although he didn’t claim any notable individual awards, Suzuki’s campaign proved to be a promising one considering the depth of the Colts’ roster and his incredible composure with the puck.
Extremely calculative while in possession and rarely pressured into making mistakes, Suzuki’s seemingly veteran style of play mixed with his lethal offensive upside immediately garnered comparisons to another current OHL-star — the youngster’s brother and Owen Sound Attack sniper Nick Suzuki.
Although they do boast their differences, both Suzuki and his older brother are remarkably similar players. Of average height and weight, the brothers are endlessly intelligent and creative on the ice — an ability which drives both players’ offensive games.
However, given their similarities, this begs one ultimate question: can the younger Suzuki become a more talented and promising player than his older brother?
As a first-round choice of the Vegas Golden Knights in the 2017 NHL Draft, Nick seemingly holds the distinct advantage in the sibling rivalry. Although Ryan is slated to be selected in the coming 2019 NHL Draft, Nick boasts the bragging rights — and will continue to do so if Ryan fails to hear his name called earlier than Nick did at 13th overall.
What’s more is that the elder Suzuki has two dynamite OHL seasons in-hand. In 2016-17, Suzuki potted a whopping 45 goals and 96 points for the Attack before adding another 42 goals and 100 points for Owen Sound last season. Further, Suzuki owns two William Hanley Trophies as the OHL’s Most Sportsmanlike Player — he’s collected just 32 penalty minutes thus far in his 192-game career.
Then, on the other hand, we have the younger of the two brothers.
Although he only has one OHL season under his belt, Ryan’s inaugural campaign was incredibly impressive and one which cemented the native of London, Ontario as a potential top-10 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
Despite drawing less ice time than he arguably would have garnered with different franchises throughout the OHL, the younger Suzuki made the most of his playing time as a rookie and was able to leave a lasting impression. As an immensely intelligent player, Suzuki’s playmaking abilities were regularly on full display — his willingness to saucer passes through traffic with success was a treat to watch.
Further, Suzuki established himself as a prospect who refuses to buckle under pressure. Routinely utilized on Barrie’s power-play and in high-pressure situations, Suzuki’s patience and willingness to wait for high-percentage scoring chances to develop helped to drive the Colts’ man-advantage — Barrie concluded the 2017-18 regular season with the OHL’s sixth-best power-play.
So, although he doesn’t hold any hardware, Suzuki is evidently well on his way to becoming as good as — if not better than — his older brother. Sure, he needs to strengthen his frame and improve his shot — two weaknesses which will improve with physical maturity — however, the fact remains that Suzuki is staring down a lucrative career at the NHL-level.
And, although he and his brother play in opposite OHL Conferences, the personal drive to improve shared by the two on a nightly basis is endlessly inspiring