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.


2021 NHL Draft: Who Is Owen Power?

Although the 2021 NHL Draft remains months away, Chicago Steel defenceman Owen Power has already garnered a great deal of attention. Read why Power will challenge to be selected first overall in the 2021 NHL Draft, here!

Although the 2020 NHL Draft has been pushed back due to the ever-changing circumstances revolving the COVID-19 pandemic, this hasn’t stopped many throughout the world of hockey from discussing one of the top prospects eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft. Sure, the event remains months away from occurring, however this hasn’t had an affect on the chatter revolving Owen Power — a towering young defender widely projected to challenge for the distinction of being chosen first overall in an NHL Draft.

Yet, with this being said, just who is Power and why is receiving such high praise at the tender age of 17-years-old? Well, in order to answer this question, let’s delve into Power’s playing past — doing so will allow us to piece together how he has become the dominant force which he is today.

A History of Dominance

It should come as no surprise to learn that Power has been dominating his peers for quite some time. A product of the GTHL and the Mississauga Reps’ organization, Power skated for the Reps for the majority of his minor hockey career and was quick to set himself apart from his competition. In his season of eligibility for the 2018 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection, Power captained the Reps to a 22-4-7 regular season record — a mark which stood as the second best in the GTHL. As a result, Power and the Reps were able to embark upon a fairly successful postseason campaign. Although they ultimately fell to the Toronto Marlboros in the final round of the GTHL Playoffs, the Reps moved onto the 2018 OHL Cup and put forth an impressive showing — Power would record a goal and two assists during the event.

As a direct result of his steady play, the Flint Firebirds nabbed Power with the 22nd overall selection in the 2018 Priority Selection — a slot much lower than many had predicted, as there were rumblings Power could opt to follow the USHL and NCAA route. Not surprisingly Power was chosen by the Chicago Steel in the 2018 USHL Futures Draft roughly a month later, a choice which essentially cemented Power’s move to the United States given he was the third player chosen in the event.

So, come the 2019-20 campaign, Power took his talents to the USHL and the Steel. To no one’s surprise Power made an immediate impact, stabilizing the Steel in their defensive end while helping to fuel their offensive attack in turn. By the time COVID-19 reared its ugly head and forced the cancellation of the USHL season, Power had collected 12 goals and 40 points across his 45 regular season games played as a rookie — an output which illustrated Power’s ability to transition to a higher difficulty of play without issue. In the process, Power had put the USHL and the hockey world as a whole on notice. In fact, not only was he named as a First-Team All Star but Power was also chosen as the USHL’s Defenceman of the Year — joining the likes of Neil Pionk, Brandon Montour and John Moore as recent recipient’s of the distinction.

A Powerful Scouting Report

As we’ve seen, Power has a glaring track record of success and has only continued to strengthen his respective game with each passing season. Yet, what does Power bring to the ice which makes him such a dominant force in today’s game, you ask?

Well, for Power, his game revolves largely around his size and physicality. At the age of just 17-years, Power already stands 6-foot-5 and tips the scale at 210-pounds — an impressive frame for a player of his age. This fortunate frame has allowed Power to dominate less physically mature opponents everywhere he has played and has unquestionably allowed him to thrive and develop with a much greater level of consistency than his peers. However, Power is far more than simply a big body, as the native of Mississauga, Ontario has honed his physicality and developed an understanding of how to use it as a part of his much larger skill set on the ice. Rather than attempting to rag-doll his opponents, Power is calculative and precise with his physical exertion — opting to separate attackers from the puck in order to gain possession for his team.

Owen Power of the GTHL's Mississauga Reps. (Photo Credit: Aaron Bell, OHL Images)
Power, competing as a member of the GTHL’s Mississauga Reps. (Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

Moreover, Power is a smooth-skating and fleet-footed defenceman despite his size. Unlike many hulking defenders who sacrifice foot-speed for strength, Power has come to boast the best of both attributes and can take his opposition by surprise as a result. Rarely beaten to pucks within his own zone and no slouch when it comes to joining the rush, Power can accelerate to his top speed relatively quickly and is downright difficult to stop once he builds a significant amount of momentum passing through the neutral zone. Perhaps the area of the ice where Power’s agility is most notable comes below his own goal line — Power can stick with and smother opposing forwards with ease and out-race them to loose pucks as they occur.

Where Power’s game has grown the most in recent years comes in the offensive zone. While he appeared somewhat hesitant to shoot the puck during his U16 season with the Reps, Power has worked on his shot and improved it dramatically — as was abundantly clear during his rookie USHL campaign with the Steel. More confident in his shot and release, Power routinely displayed the ability to put the puck on net from the blue line with poise, velocity and consistency. Capable of creating shooting lanes and finding seams to the net, Power has developed into a versatile threat from the back-end owing to his ability to shoot the puck as well as play-make.

Perhaps the most important facets of Power’s game are his on-ice intelligence and composure with the puck, as these abilities are what truly set Power apart from his competition on a nightly basis. While most players often make accurate decisions with the puck, Power routinely makes calculated and precise decisions on the ice — and with a level of consistency which stands far above his peers. This level of on-ice intelligence allows Power to out-think and out-smart his opponents each time he takes to the ice, as the youngster scarcely makes mistakes and displays the ability to control and distribute the puck with absolute confidence and absolute ease.

What Lays Ahead?

For Power, his future in the game of hockey is exceedingly bright.

Provided the 2020-21 NCAA season will take place despite COVID-19, Power is slated to suit up for the University of Michigan — a school which has had an immense amount of success of late with respect to drawing high-end NHL prospects. Among these notable commitments poised to play alongside Power is Brendan Brisson — a teammate of Power’s with the Steel this past season who is currently projected to be chosen in the second-round of the 2020 NHL Draft. However, when the time comes for Power to walk across the NHL Draft stage, many are predicting that the youngster will be amongst the first few players selected in the 2021 event.

The fact that Power could become one of the NHL’s next top-defenders goes without saying — a sentiment which was echoed by Craig Button of TSN late last year as he forecasted the prospect class eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft. In Button’s early look at the 2021 class, he projected Power to be chosen second overall behind Finish-born sensation Aatu Raty — a reality which would see Power be the first defenceman selected in the Draft. Although Brandt Clarke of the Barrie Colts and future University of Michigan teammate Luke Hughes will certainly challenge Power for the distinction, the youngster’s raw power, intelligence, and ability to thrive at both ends of the ice could prove far too lucrative for NHL organizations to pass upon.

Kitchener Rangers: 5 Storylines to Follow in 2019-20

The Kitchener Rangers are a team saturated with elite talent and remarkable depth. Although a few question marks do remain, expect the Rangers to be as potent and persistent as ever during the 2019-20 OHL season.

The Kitchener Rangers have come to be known as a perennial powerhouse in the Ontario Hockey League’s Western Conference, and for good reason.

Over their past fifteen years of play, the Rangers have fallen short of the postseason on just two occasions — an era of success highlighted by the franchise’s OHL championship during the 2007-08 season. And, fortunately for the Rangers and their passionate fanbase, this fact appears destined to remain unchanged in the years ahead.

Kitchener Rangers. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
The Rangers’ crop of seasoned veterans will play a major role in the team’s potential success this coming season. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.)

Currently defined by their ideal mixture of seasoned veterans and highly skilled young prospects, Kitchener boasts a deep and competent roster which should push deep into the playoffs this coming campaign. Although a number of questions marks do remain — the majority of which we will touch on below — the Rangers are poised for success not only this coming season but long into the future to boot.

However, before the Rangers can attain this almost certain success, they will need to answer a handful of questions specific to their current roster.

Five Storylines to Follow in 2019-20

As mentioned, here are five storylines for fans of Kitchener and the Rangers themselves to follow throughout the upcoming 2019-20 OHL campaign. While it goes without saying that positive outcomes in all of these situations would be ideal, the Rangers stand as a remarkably deep team seemingly capable of overcoming any adversity or shortcomings which it may face.

1. Can Jacob Ingham Stabilize the Rangers’ Crease?

When the Mississauga Steelheads targeted goaltender Kai Edmonds of the Barrie Colts this offseason, it meant that they needed to trade their long-time starting netminder in Jacob Ingham. Long a fan favourite in Mississauga, Ingham has become widely known for his ability to make timely, highlight reel saves with a startling level of consistency. Further, as a prospect of the Los Angeles Kings, Ingham takes to his crease with poise and features the size and raw athleticism necessary to thrive in the OHL-level and beyond.

Jacob Ingham of the Mississauga Steelheads. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
Jacob Ingham boasts the ability to raise his game to the next level when the situation demands. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.)

This level of production and effort is exactly what the Rangers coveted when they landed Ingham from the Steelheads, as Kitchener has long lacked a definitive starting goaltender. If able to arrive in Kitchener and put forth a consistent and effective effort on a game-by-game basis, Ingham could very well lead the Rangers upon a deep playoff run despite the perennial strength of the OHL’s Western Conference.

2. Will Valade and Sebrango Take the Next Step?

The Rangers landed two stellar young players in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection.

At 17th overall, Kitchener nabbed Reid Valade — a former standout with the Toronto Marlboros of the GTHL who brought speed, skill, and a total of 20 points to the ice in his rookie OHL campaign. Secondly, the Rangers were able to steal Donovan Sebrango with the 40th overall choice in the event — a selection which paid immediate dividends, as Kitchener received 26 points from the youngster as a freshman.

Reid Valade of the Kitchener Rangers Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images
An increase in ice time could lead to a dramatic rise in Valade’s offensive output. (Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images)

Now, with the 2019-20 OHL season upon us, the Rangers will undoubtedly expect to receive a greater level of production from both Valade and Sebrango. Sure to be rewarded with increased playing time this coming season, Kitchener will stand as a much deeper and potent force if both Valade and Sebrango are able to take the next steps within their personal developments. If Valade can dramatically increase his offensive productivity while Sebrango polishes the fine details of his game, the Rangers could rather easily boast a dynamic roster capable of competing with the Western Conference’s power-house teams.

3. Is Pinelli Ready to Dominate?

Signed by the Rangers to round out the month of July, the impending arrival of Francesco Pinelli has Kitchener’s management team and fans alike drooling with anticipation. As a member of the Toronto Red Wings in 2018-19, Pinelli put forth an overwhelming 49 goals and 114 points in just 71 games played — a mark which stood alongside the likes of Shane Wright and Brennan Othmann in the GTHL. Perhaps most impressive of all was the manner in which Pinelli recorded his point total, as the youngster was a natural leader who directed his team with poise in all three zones of the ice.

Nabbed by the Rangers 13th overall in the 2019 OHL Draft, Pinelli will quickly prove to be a tremendous selection. (Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/OHL Images)

So, could Pinelli become a dominant player in his rookie OHL campaign? Absolutely.

The driving force behind Pinelli’s on-ice consistency and lethality at both ends of the ice is the youngster’s impressive level of maturity. Not phased by tough calls or unfortunate plays against his team, Pinelli boasts a level of poise and calm typically reserved for seasoned veterans and has the ability to rally and re-direct his team when necessary. Come his freshman campaign with the Rangers, expect Pinelli to seize increasingly important minutes while playing a surprisingly significant leadership role to boot. In short, Pinelli could very well captain Kitchener in the years ahead.

4. Can Vukojevic Lead Kitchener’s Blue Line?

Despite initially intending to embark upon a career in the NCAA, Michael Vukojevic left the Green Bay Gamblers of the USHL for the Rangers in 2017-18 and hasn’t looked back. Since arriving in Kitchener, Vukojevic has developed exactly as expected — dominating both ends of the ice owing to his intimidating size and strength while providing intermittent offence from the blue line.

The result?

Michael Vukojevic of the Kitchener Rangers Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images
Vukojevic quickly evolved into a minute-munching defender for the Rangers in his sophomore OHL season. (Photo by Luke Durda/OHL Images)

Well, Vukojevic heard his name called in the third round of the 2019 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils and will surely be in contention for a place within Team Canada’s WJC roster in the years to come. Now, the main question facing Vukojevic will be exactly how potent and persistent of a defenceman he can become at the OHL-level. Sure, he has dominated his opposition and caught the attention of scouts in the past, but can Vukojevic take the next step in his personal development and become the go-to blue-liner for the Rangers? Likely to tackle greater playing time once again this coming season, Vukojevic will hold the opportunity to prove himself as a premier major-junior player on the fast track to significant success at the professional-level.

5. Will Jonathan Yantsis Score 50 Goals… Again?

To say that Jonathan Yantsis exploded during the 2018-19 season would be both accurate and underwhelming. After scoring just five goals and 12 points for the Rangers in his first full regular season campaign with the team, Yantsis hammered home a whopping 50 goals and 73 points in his sophomore OHL season. This dramatic increase in offensive production saw the native of Markham, Ontario improve his goal total by 45 and his point total by 61 — marks which stood amongst the best in major junior hockey.

Now, the test facing Yantsis will be his ability to prove that his dynamic offensive season of 2018-19 was not a fluke. Fortunately, Yantsis has a number of factors working in his favour. First and foremost there is Yantsis’ size, as the youngster stands 6-foot-2 and tips the scale at 210 pounds — a reality which makes him difficult to knock off of the puck as well as a force on the Rangers’ forecheck. Secondly there are Yantsis’ smooth hands while in control of the puck, as he boasts the ability to elude defenders, deflect pucks, or fire the puck home with a well-placed shot. Essentially, if Kitchener wishes to stand as a threat in the Western Conference, they’ll need veteran players such as Yantsis to dominate the ice on a regular basis.

2019 OHL Draft: 5 Studs Who Went Un-Drafted

Although the 2019 OHL Draft is in the books, we’ve taken a moment to profile five of the best players who weren’t — for whatever reason — selected on Draft Day. The list is impressive to say the least and might surprise you.

The 2019 OHL Priority Selection is in the rear-view mirror, however, there’s no time like the present to reflect on what was one of the most skilled draft classes in quite some time.

We all know that Shane Wright was nabbed by the Kingston Frontenacs with the first overall selection, and that a number of wildly talented players who will have an instant impact in the OHL next season followed closely behind the latest player to be granted exceptional status. However, very little time has been taken to discuss those who were not chosen in the 2019 OHL Draft — of which there are were a number of substantial omissions.

Related: “2019 OHL Draft – 15 Potential Steals”

So, as we continue to break down and analyze the 2019 OHL Draft, we’ve taken the time to profile and highlight four players and one goaltender who should have been drafted this past April, yet were not. All five of these young men boast incredible skill and the personal drive necessary to become impact players in the immediate future.

Exactly why these five youngsters went un-drafted will forever remain a mystery, however, the fact remains that all of which continue to hold bright futures in the game.

5 Un-Drafted Gems

Here are — listed in alphabetical order — our top-five players who were not chosen in the 2019 OHL Draft who unquestionably should have been. Of the five, four of which skated in the GTHL last season while one put one an impressive performance in the T1EHL.

Joshua Cini

2018-19 Team: Mississauga Rebels (GTHL)

2018-19 Statistics: 7G, 16PTS

Prospect Pipeline Final 2019 OHL Draft Ranking: 212th

Although his offensive production didn’t jump off of the sheet, Joshua Cini is a player who deserved to be drafted in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection. A hard-working forward and tireless skater, Cini consistently displayed the ability to generate offensive opportunities for the Mississauga Rebels this past season. With an engine that never quits, Cini displayed his strong skating abilities and work-ethic with each passing game and came to play a vital two-way role for the Rebels.

While his plans for the upcoming 2019-20 season remain unknown thus far, it goes without saying that Cini could very well embark on an OHL career in the immediate future. If he chooses to play his Midget season in the GTHL, there is no question that Cini will be selected by an OHL franchise in the U18 Priority Selection — his skill-set and work-ethic will be simply too valuable to pass upon a second time around.

Anthony Demkiw

2018-19 Team: Toronto Titans (GTHL)

2018-19 Statistics: 56GP: 8G, 20PTS

Prospect Pipeline Final 2019 OHL Draft Ranking: 237th

It’s no secret that the Toronto Titans were amongst the poorest team’s in the GTHL this past season — the club battled to a 3-25-5 record. However, despite the state of the Titans’ season, the club featured more than its fair share of bright spots. Alongside the impressive performances of Amadeus Lombardi and Andras Mihalik was Anthony Demkiw — a skilled centre who represented the Titans at the annual GTHL Top Prospects Game.

Although of a smaller stature, Demkiw battled tirelessly in each passing game and quickly became a fixture for the Titans in a variety of situations. A skilled puck-handler who oozes creativity, Demkiw displayed the ability to generate offensive opportunities for his team in the face of over-whelming competition while providing a physical edge as well. If Demkiw can contribute offensively on a more consistent basis, he should have a long future ahead of himself in the sport.

Ethan Esposito

2018-19 Team: Mississauga Senators (GTHL)

2018-19 Statistics: 11G, 18PTS

Prospect Pipeline Final 2019 OHL Draft Ranking: 209th

After appearing in a handful of games for the Vaughan Kings as a bantam player in the 2017-18 campaign, expectations surrounding Ethan Esposito were at a high as he entered into his minor midget campaign. However, skating as a member of the Mississauga Senators in 2018-19, Esposito battled with horrid puck luck throughout the season and played to deflated offensive totals as a direct result.

As an extremely hard-working winger who never takes a shift off, it came as a massive surprise to see that Esposito was not selected on draft day. All throughout the 2018-19 season, Esposito displayed the ability to single-handedly generate offensive opportunities for his team while playing a physical role to boot. However, as mentioned earlier, tough puck luck hampered the youngster’s offensive output — a reality which surely affected him as the 2019 OHL Draft unwound.

In short, don’t be surprised to see Esposito play a starring role for a team in the immediate future — whether it be at the OHL-level or not.

Samuel Moncada

2018-19 Team: Toronto Nationals (GTHL)

2018-19 Statistics:

Prospect Pipeline Final 2019 OHL Draft Ranking: 3rd (Goaltenders)

All throughout the 2018-19 GTHL season, Samuel Moncada was virtually unbeatable. Playing a style eerily similar to that of Jonathan Quick, Moncada regularly made highlight-reels saves and was a crucial component within a highly successful Toronto Nationals’ team. Moreover, Moncada was named to the GTHL Top Prospects Game and regularly gave the Don Mills Flyers fits in their explosive matchups this past season.

However, come the 2019 OHL Draft, Moncada did not hear his name called. As one of the most electrifying goaltenders competing within Ontario this past campaign, Moncada’s omission came as an absolute shock to the minor midget hockey community. Ranked as the third-best goaltender eligible for the draft in our final goaltender ranking of the season, Moncada was likely inhibited on draft day by his small stature — a ridiculous misconception which continues to be held by the vast majority of OHL franchises.

Sure, he battled injury too, but Moncada’s raw skill-set is simply to impressive to pass upon. In short, a team will be very pleased to have Moncada this coming season.

Dante Palombo

2018-19 Team: North Jersey Avalanche (T1EHL)

2018-19 Statistics: 44GP: 32G, 72PTS (AYHL+T1EHL)

Prospect Pipeline Final 2019 OHL Draft Ranking: 193rd

A shifty skater and natural playmaker, it appeared as though Dante Palombo was destined to be selected by an OHL franchise during the 2019 Priority Selection. Across his 44 games played during the 2018-19 season, Palombo recorded a combined 32 goals and 72 points — an output which established him as an offensive dynamo for the North Jersey Avalanche. However, the 2019 OHL Draft came and went, and Palombo’s name was not called.

Well-known for his ability to generate offensive opportunities while playing with grit and a physical edge, Palombo has the skill-set necessary to thrive at the next-level of competition. And, although he likely wouldn’t have been able to ascend to the major-junior ranks this coming season owing to his improving size and strength, Palombo’s innate skill-set should allow him to become an impactful player at the next-level — whether that comes in the OHL or not. Ultimately, OHL teams may regret passing on Palombo, as he holds the potential to become a dynamic force in the seasons ahead.

2019 OHL Gold Cup: The Top Performers

The 2019 OHL Gold Cup is in the books and GTHL Blue are your champions! With the final tournament of the 2018-19 campaign completed, we’ve highlighted our top performers from the star-studded event.

To cap off the 2018-19 minor midget season, 160 of the top 2003-born players from Ontario recently gathered to participate in the 2019 OHL Gold Cup.

The tournament — which took place over roughly a week’s time — pitted eight regional teams against one another in what is essentially a year-ending best-on-best tournament. Representing the province in the tournament were two teams from both of the GTHL and OMHA, as well as clubs which showcased the top talent from each of Alliance Hockey, HEO, HNO, and the NOHA.

Come the championship game, it was GTHL Red and GTHL Blue who clashed — with the latter of which taking home the OHL Gold Cup owing to an electrifying 5-4 victory. Despite trailing by three goals mid-way through the second-period, GTHL Blue rebounded to tie the game before taking the lead for good with less than five minutes remaining in the third periods. Of note was the play of Pasquale Zito, who picked up two points including the game winning goal to seal GTHL Blue’s championship.

However, plenty of exhilarating hockey took place over the course of the week outside of the championship game, as the very best talent which the province has to offer showcased their elite talents. With this being said, we’ve highlighted five players and one goaltender who stood out significantly over the course of the 2019 OHL Gold Cup.

While others surely could have made this list, the six youngsters below consistently impressed in our tournament viewings.

The Top Performers

Here are our top performers from the 2019 OHL Gold Cup. The players we have identified below are listed in alphabetical order rather than in order of their respective performances.

Marc Boudreau

2018-19 Team: Toronto Marlboros (GTHL)

Drafted: Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, 59th Overall

Gold Cup Statistics: 3G, 2A, 5PTS

Although his team came up short in their Gold Medal game against Team GTHL Blue, Marc Boudreau proved to be an unrelenting force throughout the 2019 OHL Gold Cup. Owing to his hard-working nature and determination on the ice, Boudreau played an influential role in all three zones and came to be counted upon by his coaching staff regardless of the situation.

Come to the end of the tournament, Boudreau had tallied three goals and two assists for a four game total of five points. Placed in a tie for fifth-overall in tournament scoring, Boudreau’s ability to impact the outcome of every single game in a variety of different ways spoke to his value as a prospect and bright future within the game. A downright steal by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in the third-round of the 2019 OHL Draft, Boudreau’s consistency and raw lethality should allow him to translate to the OHL-level with ease in the year’s ahead.

Ryan Burke

2018-19 Team: Elgin Middlesex Chiefs (Alliance)

Drafted: Sudbury Wolves, 155th Overall

Gold Cup Statistics: 3G, 4A, 7PTS

Despite his smaller stature, Ryan Burke played a crucial role in Team Alliance’s success throughout the 2019 OHL Gold Cup. Although the likes of Brett Harrison, Cayden Faust, and Maddox Callens were expected to lead the way offensively for Team Alliance, it was Burke who instead took the tournament by storm. Once the dust had settled, Burke stood as the tournament’s third-highest scoring player with three goals and seven points in his four games played.

A tireless force on the ice who can overwhelm his opposition with his tenacity and determination, Burke’s endless fore-checking and pursuit of the puck helped to generate countless offensive opportunities for his team. Moreover, Burke was wildly unpredictable once in possession of the puck, as his speed alongside his offensive creativity forced opposing defenders onto their heels with impressive consistency.

Brandt Clarke

2018-19 Team: Don Mills Flyers (GTHL)

Drafted: Barrie Colts, 4th Overall

Gold Cup Statistics: 3G, 5A, 8PTS

Brandt Clarke is — without a doubt — one of the most talented defenders poised to enter the OHL in quite some time. As confident and creative as they come, Clarke can control and dominate the pace of play when in possession of the puck and has the ability to dictate the play at both ends of the ice. It is this skill set which Clarke once again placed on full display in the OHL Gold Cup, driving his team’s success in all three zones while standing as a pillar defensively to boot.

Although his team ultimately fell in the Gold Medal game, Clarke had once again put on an overwhelming display offensively. In fact, despite his position on the ice, Clarke finished in a tie with former Don Mills Flyers teammate Brennan Othmann for the tournament lead in point-scoring with eight total points. Come the 2019-20 OHL campaign, expect Clarke to ascend to the major-junior level with absolute ease.

Braeden Kressler

2018-19 Team: Mississauga Senators (GTHL)

Drafted: Flint Firebirds, 28th Overall

Gold Cup Statistics: 2G, 3A, 5PTS

Braeden Kressler was a vastly underrated player in the months preceding the 2019 OHL Draft — a reason why he wrongfully fell into the second-round and was selected by the Flint Firebirds at 28th overall. In time, expect Kressler to emerge as one of the clear-cut steals of the 2019 OHL Priority Selection. Emphasizing this point was again was Kressler and his play at the 2019 OHL Gold Cup, as the youngster put forth an impressive two-way display for tournament champion GTHL Blue.

Although many view his stature as a negative, Kressler once again proved that his speed, strength, and immense skill-set can overcome any obstacle placed in his way. And, such was once again the case in the OHL Gold Cup, as Kressler routinely dissected opposing defences en route to creating devastating offensive opportunities for his squad. What’s more is that when tasked defensively, Kressler had no issue dismantling plays devised by his opposition — an indication of his versatility and well-rounded game.

Patrick Leaver

2018-19 Team: Smiths Falls Bears (HEO)

Drafted: Oshawa Generals, 158th Overall

Gold Cup Statistics: 2W, 1.53 GAA, .929 SVP

Although he only played in two games for Team HEO at the 2019 OHL Gold Cup, goaltender Patrick Leaver was nothing short of stellar when called upon. In his first start of the tournament, Leaver allowed just one goal in his team’s 4-1 victory over Team HNO. Then, when tasked with shutting down a high-powered team in GTHL Blue, Leaver turned aside 26 of 28 shots despite playing to a highly entertaining 3-1 loss.

What separated Leaver from his competition throughout the OHL Gold Cup was the youngster’s composure and raw athleticism in-goal. Calm and poised in his crease, Leaver allowed the play to come to him and didn’t take himself out of position in order to make saves. However, when the situation demanded, Leaver was quick to display the athleticism and focus which made him an eight-round choice of the Oshawa Generals in the 2019 OHL Draft.

Brennan Othmann

2018-19 Team: Don Mills Flyers (GTHL)

Drafted: Flint Firebirds, 2nd Overall

Gold Cup Statistics: 3G, 5A, 8PTS

Winning has a way of following Brennan Othmann, and such was once again the case in the OHL Gold Cup as the youngster helped lead GTHL Blue to a tournament championship. Across his games played in the event, Othmann fired home three goals and added five assists for a tournament-leading eight points. Utilizing his size and skill, Othmann regularly picked apart opposing defences while standing as a versatile presence as well.

Nabbed by the Flint Firebirds with the second overall choice in the 2019 OHL Draft, Othmann showed once again why he should have little trouble adjusting to the pace of major-junior hockey. A fluid skater who can accelerate to full speed in a matter of strides, Othmann’s creativity and shot should see him become a premier OHL talent ahead of his NHL Draft season.