OHL Prospect Profile: Devin Kaplan

Devin Kaplan of the AYHL’s North Jersey Avalanche is one of the most lethal power-forwards eligible for the 2020 OHL Draft. Blessed with size and speed, Kaplan is the total package and will be highly sought after in the years ahead.

– Devin Kaplan –

North Jersey Avalanche (AYHL) | Centre | 2020 OHL Draft Eligible

Bridgewater, New Jersey | 6-foot-2, 190-pounds | January 10th, 2004

Power forwards with speed and skill are extremely difficult to come by, but that’s exactly what you receive from Devin Kaplan of the North Jersey Avalanche on a nightly basis. Blessed with outstanding size and strength at a young age, Kaplan uses his 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame to toy with his opponents. Capable of protecting the puck with absolute ease before skating it into high percentage scoring situations, Kaplan is as dominant as he is promising — a reality which makes him one of the most highly touted perspectives eligible for the 2020 OHL Draft.

Strengths:

  • Skating Speed, Strength and Agility
  • Puck Protection
  • On-Ice Vision
  • Shot Strength, Release, and Accuracy

When Kaplan gets moving, he stands as nothing other than an unstoppable force. At top speed Kaplan is an intimidating sight, as his quick lateral movements and agility combined with his size make him next to impossible to defend. Owing to his skating abilities Kaplan can create a wealth of time and space for himself with the puck, as opponents are often unsure whether he will opt to rush the puck wide or bulldoze his way towards the net. Once in proximity of the net, Kaplan loves to unleash his wicked wrist shot — a facet of his game defined by its lethal velocity and remarkably consistent accuracy.

 

However, if the opportunity to blast the puck on net does not present itself, Kaplan’s composed and calculative nature immediately take over. Not one to commit turnovers or rush himself into mistakes, Kaplan regularly surveys the ice — protecting the puck all the while — before moving the puck to a fellow teammate who stands in a dangerous location on the ice. Kaplan’s on-ice vision alongside his impressive shot combine to make him a versatile offensive player who can generate offence in a variety of forms — a reality which makes him arguably the most dangerous player on the ice on any given night and during any given game.

Areas of Improvement:

  • First Step Acceleration
  • Teammate Utilization

Since Kaplan stands as one of the very best prospects eligible for the 2020 OHL Draft, there isn’t too much room for improvement within his game as it stands. Yet, with this being said, Kaplan isn’t perfect. In terms of specific areas of his game to improve upon, there are Kaplan’s first step acceleration as well as the frequency in which his utilizes his fellow teammates in the offensive zone.

Like most players who mature physically at a young age, Kaplan’s acceleration on the ice remains a work in progress. While it is not below-average by any means, Kaplan’s acceleration will undoubtedly improve as he becomes more comfortable in his sizeable frame and as he adds greater lower body strength in the months and years ahead. Moreover, we’d like to see Kaplan utilize his fellow teammates in the offensive zone with a greater frequency, as Kaplan can — at times — attempt to do a little too much on his own before moving the puck throughout the ice.

Future Projection:

Ultimately, Kaplan is a terrific young prospect and one of the most intriguing power-forwards born in the year 2004 and beyond. However, like a number of prospects eligible for the upcoming 2020 OHL Draft, Kaplan is committed to an NCAA program and may never set foot in the major-junior circuit. With a commitment to Boston University in hand, it’s likely that Kaplan will remain in his native country as he continues to polish his game ahead of the 2022 NHL Draft.

If he does opt to play in the OHL however, we could be looking at the second coming of Quinton Byfield.

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OHL Prospect Profile: Lane Hutson

Lane Hutson of the AYHL’s North Jersey Avalanche is one of the top prospects eligible for the 2020 OHL Draft. With blistering speed, natural instincts, and a nose for the net, Hutson is one of the top 2004-born players in North America.

– Lane Hutson –

North Jersey Avalanche (AYHL) | Defence | 2020 OHL Draft Eligible

Chicago, Illinois | 5-foot-10, 175-pounds | February 14th, 2004

There’s a reason why Lane Hutson of the North Jersey Avalanche committed to Boston University at such a young age. A fast and fluid skater who can generate offence with ease regardless of the strength of his competition, Hutson is one of the very best defenceman born in the year 2004 — he also happens to be eligible of the 2020 OHL Priority Selection.

Related: 2020 OHL Draft Rankings

Yet, as previously mentioned, Hutson is currently committed to an NCAA program — a reality which could very well mean that Hutson will never don a major-junior uniform. And, given his breath-taking skill-set, Hutson has done nothing other than earn the right to decide where he will play in the years ahead. Whether he opt to develop in the NCAA or OHL, the fact remains that Hutson is a stellar young prospect with a bright future ahead of himself.

With this being said, let’s dive deeper into Hutson’s game.

Strengths:

  • Skating Speed, Acceleration, and Agility
  • Puck Poise and Vision
  • On-Ice Intelligence
  • Playmaking Abilities
  • Transition Game and Offensive Instincts

Standing as the foundation of Hutson’s game are his elite skating abilities, as the young defender boasts the ability to surge past opposing players at will. Further, he can hit top speed in a few short strides and features the edge-work and agility necessary to play an explosive offensive game while maintaining his responsibilities defensively to boot. Combined with Hutson’s skating abilities are his stellar on-ice vision and poise while in possession of the puck. Even while operating at top speed Hutson remains calm and calculated, and can devise game-changing opportunities without breaking a sweat.

This impressive on-ice intelligence — in addition to his natural talents — makes Hutson a truly lethal two-way defender. Owing to his on-ice vision, Hutson is a dynamic playmaker who can fuel his team’s offensive attack. When within his own zone, Hutson will flash electrifying passes to his teammates to kick-start quick and efficient breakouts. Further, having joined the rush at top speed, Hutson can devise high-quality scoring chances with ease and often pounds the puck into the goal himself.

Areas of Improvement:

  • Personal Strength
  • Physical Play

As mentioned above, Hutson is one of the top defenders eligible for the 2020 OHL Draft. Yet with this being said, Hutson — like all players his age — isn’t without areas in need of improvement.

Related: 2020 OHL Draft – Prospect Profiles

Essentially, if Hutson wishes to become a stable two-way defender capable of securing his own zone with consistency while fuelling offence at the next level, he’ll need to add greater size to his frame. Now, it goes without saying that most players of Hutson’s age face the same dilemma, but if Hutson hopes to continue climbing the ranks as quickly as he has in the past he’ll need to add greater all around strength as soon as possible. Having done so, Hutson will be able to engage opposing players within his own zone physically on a more consistent basis and with a great level of effectiveness.

Future Projection:

In short, Hutson is a truly dynamic two-way defenceman and one of the top prospects eligible for the 2020 OHL Draft. Although he will likely opt for the NCAA route, Hutson must continue to be regarded as one of the top young talents competing within North America and a youngster whose future in the game is blindingly bright. Once stronger, Hutson should be able to ascend to the USHL or NTDP in the coming years with relative ease.

OHL Prospect Profile: Dylan Gratton

Dylan Gratton of the T1EHL’s North Jersey Avalanche is one of the top-defenders eligible for the 2019 OHL Draft. Although committed to the NCAA, Gratton could very well be drafted by an OHL franchise come April, 2019.

– Dylan Gratton –

North Jersey Avalanche (T1EHL) | Defence | 2019 OHL Draft Eligible

Pottstown, Pennsylvania | 6-feet, 160-pounds | Feb 25th, 2003

Although a commitment to Penn State University will deter a number of OHL franchises from selecting him, the fact remains that Dylan Gratton of the North Jersey Avalanche is one of the top defencemen available for the 2019 OHL Priority Selection.

Of solid size, Gratton is an exceptional skater who processes the game at an elite-level. A natural two-way defender who loves to join the rush and contribute to his team’s attack, Gratton’s poise and composure while in possession of the puck stand at a remarkable level and help to amplify his tenacious defensive game.

While a future in the OHL could be unlikely, it goes without saying that a franchise will step up and select Gratton with a mid-to-late round pick — were he not committed to the NCAA, Gratton surely would have heard his name called in the opening round of the event.

Strengths:

  • Skating Speed and Acceleration
  • Offensive Instincts
  • Defensive Positioning and Gap Control
  • Poise and Composure

As mentioned above, Gratton is a tremendous skater whose speed and agility stand as the foundation of his overall game. Capable of traversing the ice with ease, Gratton is purposeful and efficient in his movements — an ability which allows him to log major minutes in a variety of situations without tiring.

Related: 2019 OHL Draft Rankings

One particular situation in which Gratton excels comes in the offensive zone. Owing to his mobility on the blue line, Gratton can fire crisp and accurate passes to his teammates as well as fire the puck on-goal from his perch. Aware of when to pinch and carry the puck down low, Gratton has a stellar feel for the game and rarely makes mistakes which put his team at a risk defensively.

Related: 2019 OHL Draft Prospect Profiles

In fact, it is Gratton’s combined offensive and defensive play which make him a prospect of such immense value. In addition to his flair in the opposing zone, Gratton is routinely the first player back on defence — utilizing consistent gap control and strong positioning in order to limit and squash the plays devised by his opposition. Mix in an incredible level of poise while in possession of the puck, and Gratton stands as a lethal two-way defender of incredible potential.

Areas of Improvement:

  • Defensive Focus
  • Personal Strength

Since Gratton is such a strong and well-rounded defenceman, there aren’t a number of glaring deficiencies within his game at this point in time — we’ll have to nitpick.

One area in which Gratton can improve is his focus defensively. Owing to his innate offensive instincts and skills with the puck, Gratton loves to contribute to his team’s attack. However, Gratton can get overly focused trying to create offence at times and, for a split-second, neglect to place his focus primarily on the defensive zone. Now, this is not say that Gratton routinely neglects his own zone, but rather that he can at times place too great of an emphasis on creating offence.

Related: 2019 OHL Draft – T1EHL Profiles

The other facet of his game which Gratton would do well to improve is his personal strength. Although of good size considering his 6-foot tall stature, Gratton weighs in at just 160-pounds and far from the strongest player on the ice. Once able to add greater strength to his growing frame — like the vast majority of players his age — Gratton will undoubtedly stand as an overwhelming force on the blue line capable of altering the outcome of any given game in the blink of an eye.

Future Potential:

At the end of the day, Gratton has all the makings of a top-pairing defenceman at the professional-level.

While his future remains somewhat uncertain, Gratton would surely be made a first-to-second round choice were he to commit himself to the OHL-level. However, with a slew of options ahead of himself such as the USHL, NTDP, and NCAA, attracting Gratton to a Canadian major-junior team could prove to be too great of a challenge.

In short, if Gratton chooses to forgo the OHL and follow a different developmental route, expect the native of Pottstown, Pennsylvania to be a star regardless of where he plays — the youngster is simply that good.

OHL Prospect Profile: Jeremy Wilmer

Jeremy Wilmer of the North Jersey Avalanche is one of the best T1EHL players eligible for the 2019 OHL Draft. Although is playing future is unclear, Wilmer’s similarities to Johnny Gaudreau are unquestionable.

– Jeremy Wilmer –

North Jersey Avalanche U16 | Forward | 2019 OHL Draft Eligible

Rockville Center, NY | 5-foot-7, 150-pounds | August 16th, 2003

Jeremy Wilmer could become one of the Ontario Hockey League’s most tantalizing players in the coming years — if he choses to make the jump to the major-junior circuit and forgo his NCAA commitment, that is.

Skating for the North Jersey Avalanche U16 Team within the T1EHL in 2018-19, Wilmer will undoubtedly have a handful of options to choose from with regards to the future of his hockey career. Committed to Boston University, Wilmer could opt to play in the USHL next season or skate for the U.S. NTDP — he is simply that good.

However, for hockey fans throughout Canada and the province of Ontario, the hope is that Wilmer will bring his electrifying skill set north of the border for the foreseeable future. Eligible for the 2019 OHL Priority Selection, one OHL franchise could be in for a pleasant surprise of they choose to select Wilmer within the draft.

Strengths:

  • Speed and Agility
  • Offensive Creativity
  • Playmaking Prowess
  • Confidence and Composure

When it comes to Wilmer, envision Johnny Gaudreau of the Calgary Flames.

Incredibly shifty and seemingly possible to contain, Wilmer is a crafty yet decisive skater who uses his edges and creativity to his advantage with each passing shift. A threat in the offensive zone owing to his stellar skating, Wilmer can keep his defenders on their toes given his unpredictability and will make his opposition pay dearly if afforded too much time and space to operate.

Related: 2019 OHL Draft Rankings

Gelling nicely with Wilmer’s skating abilities is the youngster’s raw creativity when in possession of the puck. Capable of navigating to dangerous areas of the ice in an efficient manner, Wilmer can devise and implement high-percentage scoring plays rarely seen throughout the course of an average game. Fuelling this creativity is Wilmer’s playmaking prowess, as the youngster can distribute the puck with a purpose while rarely turning committing giveaways.

Related: 2019 OHL Draft Prospect Profiles

The glue which holds Wilmer’s overall game together is the native of Rockville Center, New York’s unparalleled confidence and composure with the puck. As mentioned above, Wilmer rarely turns the puck over and is resilient in his ability to generate offensive opportunities in one way or another. With maturity beyond his years, it should come as no surprise to learn that Wilmer committed to Boston University at the age of 14-years.

Areas Of Improvement:

  • Personal Strength
  • Defensive Ability

In terms of the areas in which Wilmer can improve, there aren’t many.

In fact, given the strength and consistency of Wilmer’s overall game, we’ll have to nitpick a little in order to provide constructive criticism.

First and foremost there is Wilmer’s physical stature, although this reality is something which Wilmer himself does not have the power to alter. Standing a mere 5-foot-7 tall, Wilmer is regularly one of the smallest players on the ice — however, this perceived deficiency has not held in back to date. Until he grows in height, Wilmer can work to improve his personal strength and in particular his lower-body.

Related: OHL Prospect Profiles – T1EHL Reports

Once stronger, Wilmer will stand as a far more stable player and one capable of playing a greater role defensively. At the moment, Wilmer can struggle to pin and smother attacking forwards within his own zone — a reality which can lead to prolonged zone time for his opposition. Once physically mature, Wilmer should be able to play an influential role in all three zones of the ice.

Future Potential:

At the end of the day, Wilmer possesses the skill-set necessary to become an incredibly potent player at the next-level.

Although his stature will inhibit him to some extent, Wilmer’s personal abilities are simply too strong to be contained. As an incredibly creative player and a consistent one at that, Wilmer’s ability to troubleshoot his opposition and adapt to their defensive tactics should allow for his prolonged production against stern competition as he ages.

In short, should Wilmer make it clear that he intends to play at the OHL-level next season, expect the American to be chosen inside of the first round of the event. However, if his intentions remain unclear, look for an OHL franchise to nab Wilmer with a mid-round pick with the hopes that he jumps north.

In particular, American-based OHL teams such as the Erie Otters and Flint Firebirds could hold a distinct advantage.