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.

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5 Underrated 2019 NHL Draft Prospects

While the annual NHL Draft showcases a great deal of elite talent, it often overshadows a number of its hidden gems in the process. Here are five of Prospect Pipeline’s most underrated NHL prospects eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft.

The annual NHL Entry Draft is an event which draws the interest and imagination of the hockey world.

With an arsenal of incredible young talent eager to make an impact at the NHL-level, one single selection can hold the power to influence both the immediate and long-term futures of a given franchise.

However, it is often the prospects chosen by an organization outside of the first-round who are the most important. Although viewed as long-term projects, these late-round gems are often far more determined to reach the NHL-level having been passed over time and time again in the Draft. Whether they were physically immature at the time or fresh off of a substantial injury, it is these young yet overlooked stars who regularly come to dominate their peers.

Now, with the 2019 NHL Draft just around the corner, Prospect Pipeline has set out to profile and analyze five of this year’s most underrated young prospects.

While you will likely have heard the names of the players listed below before, the time has come to learn why each of these prospects stand poised for immense success in their respective leagues in 2018-19.

5 Underrated Prospects to Watch

Cole Caufield

Position: Centre/Right-Wing

Height/Weight: 5-foot-6, 160-pounds

2017-18 Team: U.S. National U18 Team, NTDP

Cole Caufield scored 54 goals in 59 games played for USA Hockey’s NTDP in 2017-18 — a goal total which now stands as the storied program’s second-greatest ever, and just one tally behind Auston Matthews’ record of 55 established in 2014-15.

A lethal scorer who can pot the puck in a variety of ways, Caufield is a dangerous player every time he takes to the ice. Boasting a strong shot, Caufield can hammer the puck past opposing goaltenders from a distance or bury a loose puck laying in the goal-mouth in the blink of an eye. Always close to the puck and extremely potent with it on his stick, Caufield is a natural offensive player who always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

Cole Caufield
Despite his size, Caufield has consistently dominated his opponents. (Photo Credit: Rena Laverty and USA Hockey’s NTDP)

However, despite his goal-scoring exploits, many scouts and analysts remain unable to see past Caufield’s size. Standing 5-foot-6 and 160-pounds, Caufield is regularly one of the smallest players on the ice — a fact which has undoubtedly impacted his perceived value as a prospect over the years.

Yet, in spite of his size, Caufield has continued to produce with remarkable consistency — a fact which should shatter common misconceptions and establish the native of Mosinee, Wisconsin as a prospect of first-round calibre in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Anttoni Honka

Position: Defence

Height/Weight: 5-foot-10, 170-pounds

2017-18 Team: JYP U20, Jr. A SM-liiga

Speed, skill, and confidence have come to define Anttoni Honka’s game, and are a major reason why the nimble Finnish defenceman will be a first-round choice in the 2019 NHL Draft.

However, Honka should — realistically — be able to crack the top-15 in the coming Draft, as the younger brother of Dallas Stars prospect Julius Honka is a dynamic offensive-defenceman who can also play a sturdy defensive game.

In 2017-18, Honka skated primarily for JYP U20 of the Jr. A SM-liiga where he recorded an impressive 17 points in 28 games played. What’s more is that Honka played well enough to appear in 20 games for JYP at the Liiga-level, where the native of Jyväskylä, Finland potted two goals and nine points while competing against a much tougher and developed form of competition.

Honka is a smart player who compensates for his lack of size with his skating and offensive instincts; he has an excellent understanding of the game. – Goran Stubb, NHL Director of European Scouting

Known for his offensive flair, Honka is a shifty and mobile skater who uses his mobility to his advantage. Capable of burning opposing players as he darts up the ice, Honka can lead the rush or join it in progress in order to provide a secondary outlet during odd-man rushes — he loves to unleash his wicked one-timer whenever possible.

Ultimately, Honka boasts the ability and poise of a terrific two-way defender. If able to add greater strength to his frame, Honka could work his way into the top-10 in the 2019 NHL Draft rather than simply the first-round.

Blake Murray

Position: Centre

Height/Weight: 6-foot-2, 180-pounds

2017-18 Team: Sudbury Wolves, OHL

Despite yet another dreadful season for the Sudbury Wolves in 2017-18, the franchise’s first-round choice from the 2017 OHL Priority Selection presented the organization with a glimmer of hope for their future.

In his rookie campaign with the Wolves, Blake Murray established himself as a dynamic offensive player and prospect of immense value ahead of the 2019 NHL Draft. Although his skating will need to improve in order to attain success at the next level, Murray’s hockey I.Q. and ability to process the game at a high-pace allowed the native of Uxbridge, Ontario to pot 21 goals and 44 points in his inaugural OHL campaign.

Blake Murray of the Sudbury Wolves. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Murray is one of the most intelligent and calculative players in the OHL today. (Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

Now, with greater offensive help on the way to begin the team’s 2018-19 season in the form of Quinton Byfield — the first overall selection in the 2018 OHL Priority Selection — Murray will have a much stronger supporting cast to skate alongside this coming campaign. Given his impressive size, understanding of the game, and a strong shot defined by its unique release, Murray owns all of the tool necessary to inflate his draft stock this coming season.

If able to earn his place amongst the OHL’s scoring leaders this season, Murray could come to be viewed as a potential top-15 selection in the 2019 NHL Draft.

Jamieson Rees

Position: Centre

Height/Weight: 5-foot-10, 175-pounds

2017-18 Team: Sarnia Sting, OHL

If you’re searching for a driven competitor with a workhorse mentality, look no further than Jamieson Rees of the Sarnia Sting.

Nabbed by the Sting with the ninth-overall choice in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection, Rees collected five goals and 20 points in 46 regular season games played with Sarnia in his rookie campaign. Unfortunately, Rees fell victim to a pair of ankle injuries during the 2017-18 season which not only limited his on-ice effectiveness but also impaired his confidence as he transitioned to the OHL-level.

Jamieson Rees, Sarnia Sting
Although slowed by injuries as a rookie, Rees is an energetic competitor with plenty to prove in Sarnia. (Photo Credit: Metcalfe Photography)

Now, with injuries behind him and a Gold Medal in-hand from his recent play with Team Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, Rees enters the 2018-19 OHL season as a reinvigorated player with plenty to prove. As a terrific skater who is relentless in his pursuit of the puck, Rees should develop into a dependable offensive force for the Sting this coming campaign and one capable of producing on a nightly basis.

Although he stands as a potential second-round selection in the 2019 NHL Draft as the 2018-19 season approaches, Rees could ascend high into the first-round if able to piece together a healthy and strong offensive season for Sarnia.

Nathan Staios

Position: Defence

Height/Weight: 5-foot-9, 170-pounds

2017-18 Team: Windsor Spitfires, OHL

It’s hard to believe that the Windsor Spitfires were able to select Nathan Staios with the 17th overall choice in the 2017 OHL Priority Selection.

In captaining the GTHL’s Vaughan Kings in his minor midget season, Staios had proven himself to be a dynamic two-way defender capable of making an impact at both ends of the ice. As a strong and agile skater, Staios’ ability to move the puck to his teammates before joining the rush allowed him to secure his own zone before providing an added dimension to his team’s attacking game.

He (Staios) is a real good kid. He moves the puck, he keeps his head up, and he has a hard shot. – Warren Rychel, Windsor Spitfires General Manager

In his rookie season with the Spitfires, Staios netted three goals and 12 points in 54 games played — a relatively meagre total which was not accurately reflective of his lethal abilities on the ice. Heading into the 2018-19 OHL season and his first year of NHL Draft eligibility, expect Staios to significantly increase his offensive totals from one campaign ago.

Boasting great wheels, excellent vision, and a booming shot, Staios’ skill set is simply too powerful to be contained. Long a quality defensive player, if Staios can improve his attacking game, the native of Oakville, Ontario will surely creep into the middle of the first round come the 2019 NHL Draft.