10 OHL Rookies to Watch in 2021-22

The OHL is back, and the 2021-22 season will introduce two rookie classes to the league — but which players will make the biggest impact with their new team’s?

The OHL is set to return on October 7th, 2021 — marking the official end of a long and painful layoff enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Because the 2020-21 OHL campaign was unfortunately cancelled, there is a wealth of storylines to follow as we enter the regular season. Perhaps the most notable storyline of all will be the immense influx of young talent into the league this campaign. Since last season was lost, it means that two rookie classes are set to enter the OHL this season — those born in 2004 and 2005 (with the exception of Shane Wright, of course).

With this being said, there will be an incredible number of youngsters eager to make their mark at the OHL-level this campaign. At the top of the list is none other than Ty Nelson, the first-overall choice in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection who has waited more than a year to take to the ice with the North Bay Battalion. Then there is the 2021 OHL Priority Selection’s first overall choice, Quentin Musty — a power-forward poised to follow in the footsteps of another stellar Quinton who leap-frogged through Sudbury on his way to the Los Angeles Kings in 2020-21.

Ty Nelson has waited more than a year to hit the ice with the North Bay Battalion after being selected first overall in the 2020 OHL Draft. (Photo: Tim Cornett)

So, while we all know that Nelson and Musty will make an immediate impact this season, what other prospects chosen within the past two OHL Drafts could make the biggest splash in their rookie campaigns? Here are ten young players who we expect to explode as they step onto the OHL stage this season, listed in alphabetical order:

10 Rookies to Watch This Season

Colby Barlow

2021-22 Team: Owen Sound Attack

As one of the most talented 2005-born prospects around, it came as a surprise to see Colby Barlow fall to the Owen Sound Attack at eighth-overall in the 2021 OHL Priority Selection. Barlow owns impeccable hockey sense, refined puck skills and the ability to be a force at both ends of the ice on a nightly basis. What’s more is that Barlow has great size and strength for a player of his age — a fact which should allow him to step directly in the Attack’s top-six come opening night.

Jorian Donovan

2021-22 Team: Hamilton Bulldogs

The second defenceman chosen in the 2020 OHL Draft, Jorian Donovan will be counted upon to play major minutes for the Hamilton Bulldogs in his rookie season in the OHL. Fortunately for Donovan, he boasts all of the skills and abilities necessary to allow for a smooth and easy transition. As a tremendous skater with great size, Donovan will be able to showcase his premier shut down abilities in his defensive end this coming campaign and will surely come to playing an impactful offensive role as well. While he likely won’t see considerable time on the Bulldogs’ first power play unit to begin the season, expect Donovan to have a firm grasp on the role come the end of the season.

David Goyette

2021-22 Team: Sudbury Wolves

After dominating the HEO and setting the minor hockey circuit in the U.S. ablaze as a member of Selects Academy, David Goyette will make his long awaited return to Canada this season with the Sudbury Wolves. Although there was a fair deal of uncertainty revolving his selection in the 2020 OHL Draft, Goyette was nabbed by the Wolves and now stands poised to be one of their best players this coming season. Boasting blazing speed, ample agility and the innate hockey sense necessary to keep opposing defenders on their toes, Goyette could very well prove to be one of the best players chosen in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection — if not the best in a few years’ time.

Zakary Lavoie

2021-22 Team: Mississauga Steelheads

Despite being neglected by Hockey Canada in recent international events, Zakary Lavoie stands poised to enjoy a terrific rookie campaign with the Mississauga Steelheads this coming season. Lavoie is a strong and stable skater known for his tactile edge work who can make an impact at both ends of the ice. However, where is most deadly comes in the offensive zone, as Lavoie owns a lethal shot and the vision necessary to create high-percentage scoring chances for his team. Don’t be surprised if Lavoie sees regular time within the Steelheads’ top-six this season as well as on their first powerplay unit this season.

Paul Ludwinski

2021-22 Team: Kingston Frontenacs

If you’re looking for a strong two-way player who excels in each and every facet of the game, look no further than Paul Ludwinski. The fifth-overall selection in the 2020 OHL Draft, Ludwinski plays a refined and highly detailed 200-foot game — an ability which allows him to thrive in all situations on the ice. Whether he is killing a penalty or contributing to a power play, Ludwinski finds ways in which to be productive while helping to improve the play of his fellow teammates in the process. A natural leader and deadly offensive player, Ludwinski’s game is eerily similar to that of another star centre which the Frontenacs are fortunate to ice.

Bryce McConnell-Barker

2021-22 Team: Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds

The 2019-20 Alliance Player of the Year, Bryce McConnell-Barker stands poised to play a major role within the Greyhounds’ top-six this season. With great size and strength, McConnell-Barker is a difficult player to shutdown who is seemingly impossible to knock off of the puck. Moreover, he owns a stellar shot and the ability to score goals in a variety of ways — hence why he was able to score 29 goals in his 33 regular season games played with the London Jr. Knights in his U16 season. As a well-rounded centre who oozes consistency and the makings of a professional player, expect steady production from McConnell-Barker in his rookie OHL campaign.

Max Namestnikov

2021-22 Team: Sarnia Sting

Although the Sarnia Sting will boast a young team this coming season, it will be one that is not only highly skilled but incredibly competitive. Set to lead the way for the new-look Sting is none other than Max Namestnikov — the club’s third overall selection in the 2020 OHL Draft. Well known for his refined skill-set and lethality when the puck is on his stick, Namestnikov is a raw and dangerous offensive player who can fill the score sheet with startling regularity when he is at his best. The main knock on Namestnikov has long been his lack of size and strength, however, the youngster now stands a whopping 25-pounds heavier than he did one year ago — a transition which should allow him to stand as a formidable force in his upcoming rookie season.

Sasha Pastujov

2021-22 Team: Guelph Storm

Despite being drafted by the Guelph Storm in the 2019 OHL Draft, Sasha Pastujov headed south of the border and competed with the U.S. Development Program for the past two seasons. In those two campaigns, Pastujov further established himself as a premier offensive player — totalling 65 points in 41 games played this past season alongside an impressive 26 points in 18 USHL contests. With great size, strength, playmaking skills and the ability to score timely goals, Pastujov — a third-round pick of the Anaheim Ducks in the 2021 NHL Draft — should enjoy a seamless transition to the OHL-level with Guelph.

Carson Rehkopf

2021-22 Team: Kitchener Rangers

During the 2021 OHL Draft, many organizations were unsure of whether or not Carson Rehkopf would opt for the major-junior route if selected. As a result, he fell outside of the top-ten despite being one of the most talented forwards eligible for selection. However, the Kitchener Rangers decided to take a chance on Rehkopf, and it was a gamble which paid immediate dividends. Now committed to the Rangers for the 2021-22 season, Rehkopf will join a highly skilled Rangers roster laden with NHL prospects and depth at every position on the ice. If afforded with ample playing time as well as opportunities in different situations, Rehkopf should be able to total a significant offensive output while quickly becoming one of Kitchener’s top players in the process.

Calum Ritchie

2021-22 Team: Oshawa Generals

Did the Oshawa Generals select the best player available in the 2021 OHL Draft with the second overall selection? Well, although time will tell, there is no question that the Generals added an elite two-way centre to their roster. A deadly offensive player, Ritchie can score goals as well as create them and boasts an innate level of hockey sense typically reserved for high-end NHL prospects. What’s more is that Ritchie often plays an important role in his own zone as well, using his size and strength to assist his defenders in stealing the puck from his opposition before transitioning possession up ice to his fellow forwards. In short, expect Ritchie to have an instant and substantial impact with the Generals this season alongside Ty Tullio and Brett Harrison — we could be talking about the 2021-22 Rookie of the Year in a few months’ time.

Five Honourable Mentions

Sam Alfano

2021-22 Team: Peterborough Petes

Don’t be surprised if Alfano jumps directly into the Petes’ top-six to begin his rookie season. The 6-foot-3 winger and former SCTA Player of the Year is a deadly offensive player who played at a two point-per-game pace in his most recent season with the Southern Tier Admirals.

Pano Fimis

2021-22 Team: Niagara IceDogs

The second-overall choice in the 2020 OHL Draft will be given every opportunity to succeed with the Niagara IceDogs this season. A blue-collar, hard-working player who plays a full 200-foot game, Fimis will surely enjoy ample power-play time considerable even-strength ice time as he acclimates himself to the OHL-level.

Isaiah George

2021-22 Team: London Knights

The London Knights did what the London Knights do in the 2020 OHL Draft, nabbing Isaiah George in the fourth-round at 68th overall. The former Toronto Marlboros star was projected to be chosen in the first-round with ease, but a lack of clarity regarding the direction of his playing future allowed the Knights to secure his rights. Expect the strong and steady George to play a major role with the Knights this season.

Cedric Guindon

2021-22 Team: Owen Sound Attack

The HEO Player of the Year in 2019-20, Cedric Guindon is a formidable offensive force who can be relied upon to play a responsible and disciplined game at both ends of the ice. An equally talented playmaker and goal-scorer, expect Guindon to quickly develop into a jack of all trades for the Attack.

Hunter Haight

2021-22 Team: Barrie Colts

As one of the 2020 OHL Draft’s most lethal goal scorers, expect Haight to pick up right where he left off as a member of the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs this season. Haight is a natural goal-scorer who can pot the puck in a variety of ways — moreover, he can act as a playmaker when opposing defenders place too much emphasis on his ability to shoot the puck.

2021 NHL Draft Review: 5 Undervalued OHL Prospects

With the 2021 NHL Draft in the books, we look at five OHL players who were woefully undervalued by every NHL organization.

With the 2021 NHL Draft officially in the books, the time has come to review the prospects who were — and weren’t — selected within the event. Once again, the Ontario Hockey League was well represented, with 30 of the 224 players chosen in the Draft hailing from prominent organizations with the League. The most notable of these 30 players were Mason McTavish and Brandt Clarke — two incredibly skilled youngsters whose play and prominence led to their selections within the top-ten overall.

While a handful of other talented OHL prospects were also chosen inside of the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft, it was those who were chosen later — or not at all — which garnered a great deal of attention come the conclusion of the event. It is no secret that the OHL did not play during the 2020-21 season due to the Coronavirus pandemic — a reality which had a detrimental impact on the progression of hundreds of players who suddenly found themselves without a place to play during the campaign. This inability to showcase their personal skill-sets undoubtedly impacted their respective draft stocks, as a number of wildly talented OHL players were selected shockingly late within the 2021 NHL Draft, or not at all.

While it goes without saying that being selected by an NHL franchise regardless of the round is nothing less than an honour and incredible accomplishment, here are five youngsters who we believe were woefully undervalued by all 32 franchises over the course of the 2021 NHL Draft.

Benjamin Gaudreau

2020-21 Statistics: 5-0-0, .919%, 2.20GAA (WJC-U18)

2021-22 Team: Sarnia Sting

NHL Draft Status: Round Three, 81st Overall (San Jose Sharks)

Widely regarded as one of Canada’s top young goaltending prospects, Benjamin Gaudreau burst onto the scene with the Sarnia Sting in 2019-20 as a rookie. Although his statistics weren’t sparkling, they were quite impressive given the Sting’s struggles on the ice — Gaudreau earned a save percentage of .890% despite being shelled by high quality scoring chances on a nightly basis. Had he been able to play during the 2020-21 OHL campaign, Gaudreau undoubtedly would have taken a significant step forward in his personal development and have helped the Sting to a fairly successful season in the process.

Despite being held off of the ice this past season with the exception of the U18 World Junior Championship where he was stellar, Gaudreau was still expected to be chosen in the late-first to early-second round of the 2021 NHL Draft. Standing 6-foot-2 and weighing in at 180-pounds, Gaudreau’s highly athletic nature and innate abilities in the crease commanded nothing less. However, come the event, Gaudreau was forced to wait until the middle of the third-round before he heard his name called by the San Jose Sharks. The Sharks, who likely stole one of the best goaltending prospects available, were surely shocked to see Gaudreau still available when they stepped up to make their selection.

Braeden Kressler

2020-21 Statistics: Did Not Play

2021-22 Team: Flint Firebirds

NHL Draft Status: Undrafted

Being under-valued is nothing new to Braeden Kressler, as the youngster who oozes elite hockey sense and ability was also over-looked in the first round of the 2019 OHL Priority Selection. Eventually, Kressler was nabbed by the Flint Firebirds in the second-round, 28th overall — a somewhat shocking fall given his refined skill set and innate offensive abilities. Come the 2021 NHL Draft, the case was unfortunately no different for Kressler, as all seven rounds came and went without Kressler hearing his name called.

Kressler, a second-round selection of the Flint Firebirds, recorded 18 points in his rookie OHL campaign. (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

However, rather than be disappointed, Kressler will surely use this setback as fuel to improve throughout the coming 2021-22 OHL campaign. After posting 18 points in 46 regular season contests as a rookie, Kressler will take to the ice determined to prove his doubters wrong. Although he has always been somewhat under-sized, Kressler compensates for this perceived deficiency through his incredible work ethic tireless engine. Dogged in his pursuit of the puck, Kressler has shown the ability to play a detailed two-way game — now, the time has come for his relentless hard work to pay off on the scoreboard.

Connor Lockhart

2020-21 Statistics: Did Not Play

2021-22 Team: Erie Otters

NHL Draft Status: Round Six, 178th Overall (Vancouver Canucks)

Despite seeing inconsistent ice time on an Erie Otters team flush with depth at their offensive positions, Connor Lockhart still managed to collect 27 points in his 57 regular season contests in 2019-20 — a level of output commensurate with that of a third-overall selection in the OHL Priority Selection. Laden with high-end offensive skills and terrific skating abilities, Lockhart stood poised to erupt in his sophomore season in the OHL. However, when the 2020-21 season was cancelled, it robbed Lockhart of the ability to showcase his true potential at the next level.

As a result, Lockhart didn’t hear his name called until the sixth-round of the 2021 NHL Draft. While time will tell, at first glance it appears as though the Vancouver Canucks stole a player of first-round caliber at 178th overall. With plenty of room to grow and loads of experience to attain, Lockhart should become a prominent offensive player within the Otters’ lineup this coming season — he’ll no doubt prove those who overlooked him wrong in the process.

Francesco Pinelli

2020-21 Statistics: 13GP: 5G, 11Pts (HDD Jesenice, AlpsHL)

2021-22 Team: Kitchener Rangers

NHL Draft Status: Round Two, 42nd Overall (LA Kings)

As a first-round selection of the Kitchener Rangers in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection and the third-highest scoring rookie in his inaugural campaign, it came as no surprise to see Francesco Pinelli projected by many as a first round talent ahead of the 2021 NHL Draft. A player who can score goals, create plays, provide leadership and play a sound 200-foot game, Pinelli has all the makings of a top-six forward at the next level — a reality which should have made him a highly sought after player in the NHL Draft.

Pinelli’s 41 points as a rookie stood as the third-highest total amongst all freshmen in the 2019-20 OHL campaign. (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

However, come Draft Day, Pinelli did not hear his name called. In fact, Pinelli would have to wait until Saturday and the second-round before he discovered where his future in the game lay. Eventually nabbed by the Los Angeles Kings with the 42nd overall selection in the 2021 NHL Draft, to say that many were shocked to see Pinelli fall into the second-round would be an understatement. Long viewed as a consensus first-round pick, Pinelli shockingly fell to the Kings in the second-round — a team which now boasts a wealth of high-end OHL talent in Quinton Byfield, Brandt Clarke and Pinelli. Although Pinelli was surely thrilled to be selected in the Draft regardless of the position, the fact remains that his skill-set and potential should have commanded a first-round selection.

Brenden Sirizzotti

2020-21 Statistics: Did Not Play

2021-22 Team: Ottawa 67’s

NHL Draft Status: Undrafted

Despite putting on a clinic for the Pickering Panthers of the OJHL in the 2019-20 season and being ranked as the 143rd best North American skater as a direct result, Brenden Sirizzotti failed to hear his name called during the 2021 NHL Draft. A second-round pick of the Ottawa 67’s in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection, Sirizzotti skated in nine OHL contests as a rookie, but was largely held out of the team’s lineup due to its incredible depth at every position on the ice. As a result, Sirizzotti was able to shred the OJHL instead, amassing 17 goals and 57 points in just 41 games played — a total which led all 2003-born skaters by a wide margin.

Come the 2021-22 OHL campaign, expect Sirizzotti to make a substantial impact with the 67’s. Boasting blazing speed, terrific hands and the ability to execute highly technical plays at a high rate of speed, Sirizzotti should quickly establish himself as a top-six forward and player who should not have been overlooked in the 2021 NHL Draft. There is a reason why Sirizzotti was named as the OMHA’s ETA Player of the Year in 2018-19, after all — he blasted home 32 goals and 93 points in his 36 league games played as a member of the Whitby Wildcats.

The Top 2002-Born OHLers to Watch in 2019-20

The 2020 NHL Draft will be loaded with elite talent, and a great deal of which will come from the Ontario Hockey League. In fact, the 2002-born group of OHL prospects is one of the strongest classes which they league has ever developed. So, which players should you keep an eye on throughout the 2019-20 OHL campaign? Look no further.

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.

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The 2018 OHL Priority Selection featured one of the deepest draft classes in league history. (Photo Credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

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.

Quinton Byfield

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.

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Quinton Byfield of the Sudbury Wolves. (Photo Credit: CHL Images)

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.

Will Cuylle

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.

Will Cuylle of the Windsor Spitfires. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

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.

Jamie Drysdale

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.

Jamie Drysdale of the Erie Otters. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Jamie Drysdale of the Erie Otters. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

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.

Jean-Luc Foudy

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.

Jean-Luc Foudy of the Windsor Spitfires. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Jean-Luc Foudy of the Windsor Spitfires. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

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.

Tristan Lennox

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.

Tristan Lennox of the Saginaw Spirit. Photo by Natalie Shaver/OHL Images

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.

Logan Morrison

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.

Forward #9 Logan Morrison of the Hamilton Bulldogs
(Photo Credit: Brandon Taylor/OHL Images)

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.

Cole Perfetti

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.

Cole Perfetti of the Saginaw Spirit. Photo by Natalie Shaver/OHL Images
Cole Perfetti of the Saginaw Spirit. Photo by Natalie Shaver/OHL Images

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.

Jacob Perreault

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.

Jacob Perreault of the Sarnia Sting. Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images
Jacob Perreault of the Sarnia Sting. (Photo Credit: Luke Durda/OHL Images)

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.

Antonio Stranges

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.

Antonio Stranges of the London Knights. Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images
(Photo Credit: Luke Durda/OHL Images)

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.

Tyler Tullio

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.

Tyler Tullio of the Oshawa Generals. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Flint Firebirds: 5 Storylines to Follow in 2018-19

The Flint Firebirds are a team on the rise, as an influx of young talent and top prospects could see the organization push for considerable OHL success in the 2019-20 season and beyond.

The future is blindingly bright in Flint, Michigan, as the Firebirds stand poised to evolve into a true contender in the 2019-20 season. Sure, the past in Flint has been rough and tumultuous, however, a slew of wildly talented young players stand destined to change the Firebirds’ fate in the coming campaigns.

Long led by Dallas Stars prospect Ty Dellandrea in a single-handed fashion, the Firebirds will feature a much broader and deep roster when they take to the ice this coming season. Boasting a number of young players poised to breakout as well as incoming prospects sure to leave a lasting impression, a once remarkably thin Firebirds roster is suddenly beaming with high-end talent eager to do damage on a game-by game basis.

Flint Firebirds Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images
Depth, consistency, and character could lead to dramatic success for the Firebirds in 2019-20. (Photo Credit: Luke Durda/OHL Images)

Led by head coach Eric Wellwood, the Firebirds will look to quickly cast aside the negative energy which has — at times — consumed Flint’s direction as a team in years past. The key to achieving this positive state will be to receive consistent contributions from throughout the entire Firebirds roster. Sure, the team’s returning players will be looked upon to carry the majority of the load, however, the time has come for a number of the organization’s younger player to take significant steps in the right direction.

Ultimately, if the Firebirds can receive consistent goaltending alongside contributions from their defence core and bottom-six forwards, Flint could quickly evolve into a legitimate contender with justified aspirations of postseason glory.

5 Storylines to Follow

As follows are our five storylines to watch as the Flint Firebirds embark upon their fifth OHL season in franchise history. Having only reached the postseason on one occasion thus far, positive outcomes in the areas below will prove crucial to Flint’s playoff hopes. If the Firebirds can receive optimal outcomes in all of the situations below, the team could become a true contender rather than simply a competitor.

1. Can Ethan Keppen Continue to Ascend?

As the Firebirds’ first round choice in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, greatness has long been expected from Ethan Keppen. Now, following a solid rookie season in the OHL and a breakout campaign in 2018-19, it appears as though Keppen is poised the achieve the greatness which his specific skill-set commands. An imposing physical force given his 6-foot-2, 215-pound frame, Keppen has quickly developed into an overwhelming force at both ends of the ice — all at the age of just 18-years.

Ethan Keppen of the Flint Firebirds. Photo by Terry Wilson - OHL Images.
Based upon his current trajectory, Keppen should lead the Firebirds’ offence. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson – OHL Images)

The key to Keppen’s breakout this past season were improvements to his shot, an increase in overall confidence, and a sense of authority once in possession of the puck. Although long in possession of a deadly shot, Keppen has refined his rocket and now features a quick release, remarkable accuracy, and ample velocity. These improvements resulted in a 30-goal campaign for Keppen in his first season of NHL Draft-eligibility — a major reason why he stands as a highly valuable prospect and one who should continue to improve and lift the Firebirds in the coming seasons.

2. Will Cody Morgan Reach his Potential?

Despite having completed just two seasons of play in the OHL, Cody Morgan has already skated for three different franchises. Initially drafted by the Kingston Frontenacs in the first round of the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, Morgan was dealt to the Windsor Spitfires on New Year’s day of 2018 before being shipped to the Firebirds exactly one year later. Needless to say, Morgan’s on-going movement throughout the OHL has had a direct impact on his development and his ability to find a sense of calm and belonging at the major-junior level.

Cody Morgan of the Flint Firebirds. Photo by Terry Wilson - OHL Images.
The Firebirds hold a gem in Cody Morgan if he can continue his torrent offensive pace. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson – OHL Images)

However, it appears as though Morgan’s latest stop has him poised for significant success. In his 30 games played for Flint in 2018-19, Morgan recorded 13 goals and 30 total points — two marks which stood as career-highs in only half a season of play. Taking to the ice as a more confident player sure of his abilities, Morgan could be set to explode in a major way come the 2019-20 campaign given the current trajectory of his on-ice productivity. Eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft, a surprisingly high-selection in the upcoming event could be all the motivation Morgan needs to lead the Firebirds’ offensive attack this coming season.

3. Is Evan Vierling Primed to Explode?

After battling through a somewhat slow start in his rookie season in the OHL, Evan Vierling rounded out the 2018-19 campaign in fine form — posting six goals and 27 points in his 60 games played. The second overall choice in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection, Vierling has the skill set of an elite prospect and the drive necessary to formulate a long and successful career in the professional ranks.

Evan Vierling of the Flint Firebirds. Photo by Terry Wilson - OHL Images.
Former second overall selection Evan Vierling stands poised to impress in his NHL Draft eligible season.

As we head into the 2019-20 season, expect Vierling to improve significantly upon the play which he displayed as a rookie. Alongside a steadily developing Firebirds squad, Vierling should come to play an impactful role at both ends of the ice and one which will see him rewarded with valuable playing time as a direct result. Further, with the breakout play of Keppen, the potential return of Ty Dellandrea, and the arrival of Brennan Othmann, Vierling will skate within what will arguably be the greatest Firebirds roster in franchise history.

4. Can Luke Cavallin Command the Crease?

Luke Cavallin was the first goaltender chosen in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection for a reason — the young netminder is incredibly athletic, technical, and intense. Blessed with great size to boot, Cavallin has all the makings of a star goaltender at the OHL-level and beyond. However, owing to the Firebirds’ lack of team success in recent years, Cavallin’s perception in the eyes of NHL scouts has been significantly hampered — so much so, in fact, that Cavallin is ranked as the 23rd-best North American goaltender according to NHL Central scouting.

Luke Cavallin of the Flint Firebirds. Photo by Terry Wilson - OHL Images.
Cavallin has all the makings of a star goaltender — in 2019-20, he’ll have an opportunity to seize the crease. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson – OHL Images)

With this being said, the team which selects Cavallin in the 2019 NHL Draft will be extremely fortunate. Of immense potential, Cavallin boasts the skill set necessary to become a consistent and effective netminder at the OHL-level and beyond. If Cavallin can seize and dominate Flint’s crease this upcoming season, his presence would not only make the Firebirds an instant contender but increase his stock as an NHL prospect as well. With overage goaltender Emanuel Vella at the end of his OHL career, the door is wide open for Cavallin to assert his presence.

5. Will Eric Wellwood Awaken the Firebirds?

Despite a disastrous 0-16-1 start to the 2018-19 campaign, the Flint Firebirds closed out their most recent season in strong form. In their final 11 games played, the Firebirds recorded five wins and — in doing so — they were able to leapfrog the Kingston Frontenacs who had previously sat in 19th overall in the league standings.

Eric Wellwood of the Flint Firebirds. Photo by Terry Wilson - OHL Images.
Wellwood’s OHL experience will aid in his direction of Flint in his second season with the team. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson – OHL Images)

Although they missed out on the opportunity to draft Shane Wright in the process, it has become clear that Wellwood and the Firebirds are determined to build a winning culture in Flint. Now boasting a wealth of incredibly talented young players, Wellwood will be able to use his breadth of playing experience to drive his team into a successful and potentially dominant future in the OHL. As an individual who has both played and coached in the OHL for a number of years, Wellwood’s familiarity with the league and its requirements for success should bode well for his young core of players steadily growing both on and off of the ice.

OHL Prospect Profile: Benjamin Gaudreau

Benjamin Gaudreau is one of the top goaltenders eligible for the 2019 OHL Draft. Of solid size and athleticism, Gaudreau has all the makings of a star netminder at the OHL-level.

– Benjamin Gaudreau-

North Bay Trappers (GNML) | Goalie | 2019 OHL Draft Eligible

Corbeil, Ontario | 6-foot-2, 170-pounds | Nov. 1, 2003

The Major Midget North Bay Trappers were an unstoppable force in the GNML this past campaign, playing to a spectacular 36-0 record in regular season play. One player critical to the Trappers’ success was goaltender Benjamin Gaudreau — a sizeable and highly athletic netminder widely regarded for his calm composure in the crease.

In fact, it was Gaudreau’s uncanny ability to stop pucks which saw him selected to Team Ontario’s roster for the 2019 Canada Winter Games. Although Team Ontario would ultimately fall short to Team Quebec in the final, Gaudreau proved that he could compete and succeed against the most stern of competition at his age level — a major reason why he will be one of the first goaltenders chosen in the 2019 OHL Draft.

Strengths:

  • Size and Strength
  • Lateral Movement
  • Positioning
  • Shot Tracking and Reflexes
  • Composure

Gaudreau is a well-rounded netminder, and one of the very best goaltenders eligible for the 2019 OHL Draft.

Standing 6-foot-2 and 170-pounds, Gaudreau features impressive size and is an intimidating presence in-goal. Of solid strength, Gaudreau is an explosive goaltender who can move throughout his crease with not only speed but power. Precise in his lateral movements and not one to overplay his position, Gaudreau is a highly technical netminder who can make highlight-reel saves when called upon to do so.

Related: 2019 OHL Draft Rankings

In addition to Gaudreau’s impressive size and strength, there is the youngster’s positioning. As mentioned above, Gaudreau does not overplay his stance and knows exactly how to position himself in order to minimize shooting angles and opportunities for his opponents. Further, with exceptional puck-tracking abilities and lightning-quick reflexes, Gaudreau is seemingly impossible to beat — even for the most lethal of shooters.

Related:¬†2019 OHL Draft — Prospect Profiles

The one facet of Gaudreau’s game which glues all of his abilities together, however, is the youngster’s composure and sense of calm within his crease. Not rattled by a goal against or familiar with taking himself out of position, Gaudreau holds steady between the pipes despite the pressure applied by his opposition and simply allows pucks to hit him owing to his size and positioning.

Areas of Improvement: 

  • Rebound Control

Despite his standing as one of the top goaltenders eligible for the 2019 OHL Draft, room for improvement does exist within Gaudreau’s game.

In particular, there is Gaudreau’s ability to control his rebounds. Now, although this is certainly not a glaring issue, Gaudreau can — at times — produce rebounds which afford his opponents which additional chances to put the puck into the back of the net. Now, although his attackers aren’t able to pot these rebounds with substantial consistency, their occurrence could lead to an elevated goals-against-average at the next-level if not eliminated in the immediate future.

Future Potential:

Ultimately, Gaudreau has the skill-set and abilities necessary to become a star goaltender at the next-level. Of impressive size, strength, and innate abilities within his crease, Gaudreau stands as an intimidating presence in-goal who affords his opposition with virtually no opportunities to do damage on a game-by-game basis.

Come the 2019 OHL Draft, expect Gaudreau to be amongst the first goaltenders selected. In fact, don’t be surprised to see the young netminder nabbed by an OHL franchise in the second-to-fourth round of the event — he is simply that good¬†and¬†promising.

OHL Prospect Profile: Jacob Holmes

Jacob Holmes has displayed a very mature and strong all-around game. He is as solid as they come defensively, with great gap control and awareness. He has continued to improve his offensive upside throughout the course of the season as well, boasting a very strong point shot and promising puck movement.

– Jacob Holmes –

York Simcoe Express (ETA) | Left Defence | 2019 OHL Draft Eligible

Alliston, Ontario | 6-foot-1, 176-pounds | July 4th, 2003

Jacob Holmes is an intelligent, mobile defencemen who has somewhat flown under the radar for parts of the 2018-19 season. The captain of the York Simcoe Express, Holmes is beginning to earn the recognition he deserves and rise up the OHL Draft rankings. Playing an effective two-way game, he is often relied upon in all situations and has proven his ability to thrive under a heavy workload.

Related: Check out Prospect Pipeline’s 2019 OHL Draft Rankings.

Holmes earned an invaluable opportunity on the national stage in February, where he represented Team Ontario at the 2019 Canada Winter Games. He flew with the chance, quickly becoming one of the team’s most relied upon and high-scoring defencemen. Holmes displays all of the integral traits to find success at the OHL level, and then some.

Strengths:

  • Positioning & Decision Making
  • Skating
  • Point Shot

Holmes is a defender that can give his team a better chance to win in any situation and at either end of the ice. He has consistently demonstrated tremendous instincts on the ice with both his positioning and decision making, both with and without the puck. Holmes rarely makes a mistake and recognizes when to take the safe play, as well as when it is appropriate to take a chance.

Related: Don’t miss out on any of our 2019 OHL Prospect Profiles.

A strong and smooth skater, Holmes is very difficult to knock of off the puck, but is even more intimidating to go up against as an opposing forward. He is very agile on his feet and can change directions instantaneously without sacrificing any speed. Offensively, he has a very heavy shot from the point and can also distribute the puck well at both ends of the ice.

Area of Improvement:

  • Speed and Puck Skills

Holmes has displayed some very intriguing offensive potential, as both a playmaker from the back end and a shooter from the point. In fact, he has the potential to become a very potent two-way defenceman if he can improve upon his speed and puck skills. Having honed the defensive aspects of his game, Holmes could easily become one of the top defencemen from this year’s OHL Draft with some added offensive flare.

With already excellent skating abilities, Holmes could be a very dangerous option on the rush with some increased speed, allowing him to create odd-man rushes or rush the puck though the neutral zone himself. As well, some slick puck skills at the point would allow him to walk the line with more confidence and open up passing and shooting lanes to take advantage of.

Future Potential:

In all, Jacob Holmes has displayed a very mature and strong all-around game. He is as solid as they come defensively, with great gap control and awareness. He has continued to improve his offensive upside throughout the course of the season as well, boasting a very strong point shot and promising puck movement.

Heading towards the 2019 OHL Draft, Holmes is certainly trending in the right direction. He is beginning to receive his due recognition and just seems to be scratching the surface of his potential. He could very well challenge as a second round pick, if not, a very valuable third rounder.

OHL Prospect Profile: Connor Punnett

Connor Punnett has the ability to be a game changer at both ends of the ice. With intriguing offensive upside, he has displayed the potential to be an elite puck-moving defenceman. Projecting to the OHL level, Punnett has showcased all of the necessary abilities to adapt and thrive at the major junior level.

– Connor Punnett –

North Central Predators (ETA) | Left Defence | 2019 OHL Draft Eligible

Powassan, Ontario | 6-foot-1, 174-pounds | June 16th, 2003

Connor Punnett has quietly put his name on the map as one of the top puck-moving defencemen available for this year’s OHL Draft. His skills at both ends of the ice, as well as upper-level strength and physicality, were two leading reasons for his inclusion on Team Ontario’s roster for the 2019 Canada Winter Games.

Related: Check out Prospect Pipeline’s 2019 OHL Draft Rankings.

A large part of Punnett’s upside comes from his offensive potential. He ranked second among all ETA defencemen in points per game this year, totalling six goals and 26 points over 30 games of action. His play was further rewarded by call-ups to play with the Powassan VooDoos of the NOJHL, where he was able to display his ability to go up against older and stronger opponents.

Strengths:

  • Transition Skills
  • Gap Control
  • Sense & Instincts

Punnett is a defenceman who thrives on the transition game, plain and simple. He is tremendously reliable in his own end, controlling gaps with authority and combining smart body and stick positioning to be an intimidating player to face on the rush. With good size, he isn’t afraid to force opponents into the wall and is very effective below the dots.

Related: Don’t miss out on any of our 2019 OHL Prospect Profiles

With that said, Punnett is excellent at retrieving the puck and moving it up ice in an instant, with slick tape-to-tape breakout passes, effective chips off the wall, and eye-catching breakaway dishes. From the offensive blue line, Punnett excels at getting shots through traffic to produce scoring chances. Further, his sense and ability to read the game is off the charts, playing a game mature beyond his years.

Area of Improvement:

  • Shot Power

In order to be a truly elite offensive defender at the next level, Punnett will need to ads some extra gas to his shot from the point. He’s displayed an ability to sift through traffic and score on the rush, but being able to score from the point at the next level will be crucial in reaching his ceiling of potential.

Especially on the man advantage, Punnett would greatly increase his draft stock with some extra muscle in his slap shot. Although he possesses a smart wrister from the point with which he can get past screens, adding an extra element to his talents from the line would make himself much more potent as a two-way defenceman.

Future Potential:

Overall, Connor Punnett has the ability to be a game changer at both ends of the ice. With intriguing offensive upside, he has displayed the potential to be an elite puck-moving defenceman who can join the rush or skate the puck through the neutral zone himself. He has continued to grow in his defensive reliability as well, playing an intelligent and physical game in his own zone.

Projecting to the OHL level, Punnett has showcased all of the necessary abilities to adapt and thrive at the major junior level. As he continues to grow and strengthen, he will only become a more intimidating defender to face at either end of the ice. In all, Punnett projects as a potential second round pick for the 2019 OHL Draft.

OHL Update: The Most Lethal Rookies in 2018-19

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.

Danlil Chayka of the Guelph Storm. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Danlil Chayka of the Guelph Storm has quietly enjoyed a strong rookie season. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

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

Quinton Byfield

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.

Byfield_TW_CHL_7658
Byfield has continued his dominant ways as a member of the Sudbury Wolves. (Photo Credit: CHL Images)

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.

Jean-Luc Foudy

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.

Jean-Luc Foudy of the Windsor Spitfires. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Jean-Luc Foudy has been a pleasant surprise thus far for the Windsor Spitfires. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

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.

Cole Perfetti

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.

Cole Perfetti of the Saginaw Spirit. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Cole Perfetti has quickly become a standout rookie for the Saginaw Spirit. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

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.

Jacob Perreault

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.

Jacob Perreault of the Sarnia Sting. Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images
Jacob Perreault has become a goal-scoring dynamo for the Sarnia Sting. (Photo Credit: Luke Durda/OHL Images)

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.

Marco Rossi

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.

Rossi_BT3
Marco Rossi has exploded onto the OHL scene and stands as a premier prospect eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft. (Photo Credit: OHL Images)

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.

Will Cuylle

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.

Will Cuylle of the Windsor Spitfires. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Will Cuylle of the Windsor Spitfires continues to dominate owing to his combination of size, speed, and skill. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

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.

Jamie Drysdale

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.

Jamie Drysdale of the Erie Otters. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Jamie Drysdale’s composure and maturity have made him a star on the Erie Otters’ blue line at a young age. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

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.

Vladislav Kolyachonok

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.

Vladislav Kolyachonok of the Flint Firebirds Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images
Confidence and fluid skating are the names of the game for Vladislav Kolyachonok of the Flint Firebirds. (Photo Credit: Luke Durda/OHL Images)

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.

NHL Prospect Profile: Vladislav Kolyachonok

Vladislav Kolyachonok of the OHL’s Flint Firebirds is a lethal two-way defenceman eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft. A native of Belarus, Kolyachonok could be chosen in the first round owing to his combined natural offensive instincts and impressive size.

– Vladislav Kolyachonok –

Flint Firebirds (OHL) | Defence| 2019 NHL Draft Eligible

Minsk, Belarus| May 26th, 2001 | 6-foot-2, 185-pounds

The 2018-19 OHL campaign was an extremely trying one for the Flint Firebirds, who struggled mightily out of the gate and were never able to turn their season around. However, there were rays of hope throughout the season, as a number of Firebirds players began to establish themselves as capable contributors in spite of the team’s struggles.

Of the lot, perhaps the most impressive of which is 2019 NHL Draft eligible defenceman Vladislav Kolyachonok. A natural two-way defender, Kolyachonok’s speed and offensive instincts shine bright on a game-by-game basis, while his ability to adapt under pressure while remaining confident speaks wonders with regards to his potential at the next-level.

With a stellar rookie OHL campaign in-hand, Kolyachonok will enter the 2019 NHL Draft as a potential first-round selection.

Strengths:

  • Skating Speed and Agility
  • Confidence in Possession
  • Offensive Instincts
  • Play Processing

As mentioned above, Kolyachonok is an impressive skater who utilizes his explosive speed and ample agility in order to rush the puck up ice or smother attackers within his defensive zone. Once in possession of the puck is when Kolyachonok’s skating shines the brightest, as the native of Minsk, Belarus can blow past opposing players and his endlessly confident in his ability to do so.

Related: 2019 NHL Draft Rankings

This confidence while in possession of the puck is one of Kolyachonok’s greatest qualities, as it allows the youngster to secure breakouts and transport the puck with an impressive level of consistency. Amplified by Kolyachonok’s puck confidence is the youngster’s offensive capabilities and instincts, as an unparalleled trust in his abilities allows Kolyachonok to play a devastating role in the attacking zone — whether it be from the blue line or below the goal line.

This ability to dominate the offensive zone has an immense influence on Kolyachonok’s approach defensively. While he is a sturdy defender of ample ability who plays well within his own zone, Kolyachonok loves to possess the puck and will not hesitate to skate the puck out of trouble rather than simply clear it off of the glass — an ability which drives possession and offensive opportunities for his team.

Areas of Improvement:

  • Defensive Positioning
  • Physicality

Although Kolyachonok’s skating abilities and confidence with the puck stand as two of the youngster’s most impressive traits, they can — at times — lead to significant defensive lapses. Owing to his natural offensive instincts and drive, Kolyachonok can be caught out of position at times due to his attempts to single-handedly generate scoring chances.

In the years ahead, Kolyachonok will do well to solidify his own zone before attempting to utilize his unique skill set at the opposite end of the ice. One able to do so effectively and with consistency, Kolyachonok will become a truly lethal two-way defender — the mould of defenceman widely sought after by NHL organizations.

Related: 2019 NHL Draft Profiles

In order to immediately improve his defensive game, Kolyachonok would do well to utilize his physicality on a more regular basis. Standing 6-foot-2 and 185-pounds, Kolyachonok features stellar size yet isn’t always willing to use it in order to separate his opponents from the puck.

Future Potential:

Come the 2019 NHL Draft, Kolyachonok may very well be chosen within the top-31 overall owing to his natural offensive instincts and rangy defensive play.

Sure, there is a great deal of room for improvement within Kolyachonok’s game, however, the youngster’s raw skill set is simply undeniable and will be of immense potential once further polished. Although he will likely prove to be a long-term project not ready for NHL action until at least the 2021-22 campaign, Kolyachonok is an intriguing prospect who could ascend much sooner if able to adapt to the North American professional-level.

2019 NHL Draft: 5 Overlooked OHL Prospects

The 2019 NHL Draft features one of the strongest prospect classes in recent history. As a direct result, a great number of young players have been wrongly overlooked and undervalued.

The 2019 NHL Draft will boast one of the strongest prospect classes in recent history — a reality which has overshadowed a number of incredibly promising young players.

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.

Billy Constantinou

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.

Billy Constantinou of the Niagara IceDogs. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Constantinou’s versatile yet lethal game is driving his value as a 2019 NHL Draft prospect. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

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.

Cole Mackay

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.

Cole MacKay of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images
Mackay has quietly become a driving force within the Greyhounds’ offence this season. (Photo Credit: Luke Durda/OHL Images)

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.

Cole Schwindt

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.

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While his offensive game continues to grow, Schwindt’s defensive play can not be overstated. (Photo Credit: Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

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.

Nathan Staios

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.

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Staios is a diminutive defender who boasts a whack of skill and potential. (Photo Credit: OHL Images)

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.

Keean Washkurak

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.

Keean Washkurak of the Mississauga Steelheads. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Washkurak’s speed and tenacity combine to make him a persistent two-way force. (Photo Credit: Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

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.

Having recorded five goals and 17 points in his first 19 games played this season, Washkurak could sneak into the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft if able to maintain and improve upon his current level of play.