Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects. It’s that time again, major junior hockey is back and we’re here to preview the new season for you. All three leagues are kicking off this week. With that in mind, we continue our division previews today as we make our way around the country.
You can check out all of this year’s Top Shelf Prospects articles here.
2018-19 OHL West Division
Top Three Contenders in Projected Order of Finish
The Spirit are built around their strong and experienced blueline. They added Bode Wilde over the summer, and have Reilly Webb, Keaton Middleton, Hayden Davis, and Caleb Everett already in the fold, providing excellent depth. Up front, Blade Jenkins, Brady Gilmour, Cole Coskey, Nicholas Porco, Damien Giroux combine with newcomers Albert Michnac and Cole Perfetti to provide offence. They may lack star power at forward, but the Spirit generate offence through their depth. Arizona Coyotes draft pick Ivan Prosvetov is new to the OHL and will be asked to provide quality goaltending.
Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds
The Greyhounds were a dominant team last year but unfortunately were upset in the OHL Final. Like most dominant CHL teams, they have lost plenty of talent to graduation but don’t call this a rebuild yet. In Morgan Frost and Barrett Hayton the Greyhounds have the best one-two centre combination in the league. Matthew Villalta is back as the team’s starting goalie. Meanwhile, Jordan Sambrook and Mac Hollowell will patrol the blueline. Keegan Howdeshell provides overage veteran leadership. The team will look to players like Joe Carroll, Cole Mackay, Roman Pucek, and Ryan O’Rourke to step up and play big roles this year.
In Michael DiPietro, the Spitfires have the best goalie in the OHL. His presence will cover up a lot of mistakes from a young and rebuilding club. Cole Purboo, Curtis Douglas, Cody Morgan, and Luke Busa will be asked to provide offence, while youngsters Will Cuyle and Jean-Luc Foudy should provide some spark as OHL rookies. The defence corps is a young group. Sean Allen and Connor Corcoran will be veteran leaders as Grayson Ladd, Lev Starikov, and Nathan Staios go through their draft years.
Players to Watch
Ty Dellandrea, Centre, Flint Firebirds
Drafted in the first round by the Dallas Stars, Dellandrea scores goals with an excellent wrist and snapshot. He has the hockey IQ to find soft spots in the opposing defence and gets his shot off from the high slot. His shots are powerful and accurate. He also has a good backhand. Dellandrea gets to the dirty areas of the ice, where he has the hand-eye coordination to get deflections and pounce on rebounds. He could be even more effective there with a bit more strength, as this would help him to establish a position in front of the net. He goes there often without the puck and provides a good screen in front of the goalie.
As a playmaker, Dellandrea plays a very straightforward, north-south game. He makes quick smart, passes to teammates. Dellandrea is not the type of player to make a number of fancy moves or stickhandling with the play or to try to thread the needle on a dangerous pass. Instead, he makes the smart play, keeps the puck moving, and looks to maintain possession down low. This is another area where he needs a bit more lower-body strength to dominate down low.
Blade Jenkins, Left Wing, Saginaw Spirit
A New York Islanders draftee, Jenkins plays a power forward style of game. He is quick to get in on the forecheck and can hammer a defenceman into the boards. Jenkins pressures defenders into mistakes and can pounce when they do. He is willing to aggressively drive to the front of the net both with and without the puck. Jenkins uses his body to protect the puck down low on the cycle game and make plays. He is willing to try a number of creative passes, through tight areas. However, Jenkins has a tendency to try and do too much, and can often give the puck away on a play that is not there.
Jenkins has a hard and accurate wrist shot. He could stand to shoot more often as his shot and quick release can fool goaltenders. However, he seems to want to be more of a passer than a shooter. He also has a decent backhand, especially in close to the net. Jenkins goes to the front of the net and create havoc for goalies.
Bode Wilde, Right Defence, Saginaw Spirit
Another Islanders pick Wilde pairs excellent size with smooth-skating and two-way ability. He is strong on his skates defensively, with the physicality to clear the front of the net as well as win battles in the corners. His speed and footwork allow him to keep attackers in front of him, maintain good gap control and force them to the outside. He also has very good acceleration in both directions. This also allows him to join the rush. Wilde also shows good edgework and pivots. He transitions quickly from offence to defence and vice-versa. He also has the agility to walk the line, opening up shooting and passing lanes on the power play.
Wilde has an absolute bomb of a point shot and understands how to keep it low and on the net to give teammates an opportunity for a deflection or rebound. Wilde can really fire the puck. He can also get it done in a variety of ways with an excellent wrist shot, and strong snapshot. His shots all feature a quick release as well. This makes him a real threat from the point. Wilde is able to get his shot off, and on net despite traffic.
Adam Ruzicka, Centre, Sarnia Sting
At 6’4″ Ruzicka has excellent size. The Calgary Flames prospect’s skating is decent, especially given his size. However, it also does not stand out. His first step is clunky and his acceleration needs some work. However, once he does get going Ruzicka moves pretty well. He also has power in his lower body, fighting through checks when at his best. He is strong on the puck and can cycle down low as well as win battles along the boards. Ruzicka isn’t the lightest on his feet though and could use some work on his agility and edgework.
There is a lot of skill here. Ruzicka can play a power forward style of game. When he is at his best, he works the puck along the boards and out of the corners and drives it to the front of the net. He has the hands necessary to bury pucks in close. Ruzicka also has an excellent wrist shot and snapshot. He can also play the role of playmaker. Ruzicka has the ability to make saucer passes, or to get the puck through tight spaces. He has the vision to wait for a teammate to get open. Ruzicka makes tape-to-tape passes in good areas. When Ruzicka is on his game, his size and power can make him very effective in protecting the puck, working the cycle game, and waiting for an opportunity.
Morgan Frost, Centre, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
A Philadelphia Flyers draft pick, Frost led the OHL in scoring last year. He uses his speed, quickness, and agility to really challenge defenders in one-on-one situations. He is extremely hard to contain off the rush, as he can use his skating to create openings. Frost also recognizes that if a defender is playing a little bit too far off of him; he can slow up. This creates both passing and shooting lanes which he can take advantage of. He sees the ice extremely well and anticipates the movements of his linemates. As such, he makes smart plays with the puck and sets them up for scoring chances. He can also create in the offensive zone, especially on the power play where he is able to quarterback the play from the point.
While Frost is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, he has the soft hands and quick reflexes to finish plays in close to the net. He also has a good accuracy as well as a quick release and can score from the slot. Frost really improved his wrist shot and slap shot last season. By getting stronger, he has added power to his shot.
Barrett Hayton, Centre, Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds
Drafted fifth overall by the Arizona Coyotes, Hayton has a heavy shot and a good release. A big reason for his increased goal scoring this year has been his ability to get into the right spots and use that wrist shot more often. He has also improved his accuracy but can still stand to get better in this area. His slap shot needs some work though, as it lacks power and his wind-up is very big. Hayton is not afraid to get to the front of the net. Once he gets there, he battles hard for position and has the soft hands to finish plays in tight. Hayton scores on tip-ins, quick one-timers and by quickly pouncing on rebounds.
Hayton plays a straightforward game. He protects the puck well on the cycle and has some soft hands. However, he is not the type of forward to dangle a defenceman and get past him in a one-on-one situation. Instead, Hayton looks to keep the puck moving, find the open man, and then get it to the net. He is a smart player, who makes quick, smart plays with the puck on his stick. He is also good on the forecheck. While he does not lay a lot of big hits, he gets in quickly, pressuring defenders and creating turnovers.
Michael DiPietro, Goaltender, Windsor Spitfires
Drafted by the Vancouver Canucks, DiPietro is slightly undersized compared to most of the goalies who have been drafted in recent years. He makes himself look bigger by coming out of the crease far and cutting down angles. Excellent skating ability allows DiPietro to play out of his net while getting back quickly on dekes, as well as moving across the crease laterally. Playing an aggressive hybrid style, DiPietro is very athletic. He uses his quick legs to take away the bottom of the net, as well as a good blocker and glove upstairs. His rebound control is also very good for an 18-year-old, as he swallows up pucks or deflects them into the corners.
DiPietro has excellent puck tracking ability, as well as excellent lateral movement. He can track cross-ice passes and seems to be in position before the puck arrives. He does a very good job of keeping his shoulders square to the shooter. DiPietro also gets himself back in position quickly, coming up square to shooters, and making himself big for rebound attempts. His legs are strong, giving him a good push on moving side to side.
2019 NHL Draft Prospects to Watch
Ethan Keppen, Left Wing, Flint Firebirds
Keppen plays a power game. He gets to the front of the net, both with and without the puck and creates havoc. He has the hands to score goals on one-timers, deflections, and rebounds. Keppen also battles hard in the corners and is strong on the puck in the cycle game. He could stand to improve his skating.
Nicholas Porco, Left Wing, Saginaw Spirit
Porco is a playmaker off the wing, with good vision and the ability to extend plays and wait for teammates to get open before feathering them a tape-to-tape pass. He reads the play well and makes good decisions on when to make that pass to an open teammate. Porco’s speed makes him dangerous off the rush, however, he also controls the puck well in the cycle game and works hard down low.
Jamieson Rees, Centre/Left Wing, Sarnia Sting
Rees put up four points in five games in helping Team Canada to the gold medal at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup. He is a quick forward with strong stickhandling ability. This makes him extremely difficult to defend in one-on-one situations. Excellent acceleration means that if Rees generates space from his defender and gets a step, he can be gone and drive the net in a flash. He was good at playing a puck protection game down low at the Hlinka tournament, cycling the puck and setting up teammates.
Joe Carroll, Left Wing, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Carroll is another big and strong winger. At six-foot-two he has excellent size. This helps him to win battles on the boards and in front of the net. Carroll causes havoc in front of the net and is effective at screening goalies. He also makes plays on pucks and can score in tight to the net. Carroll also has a good wrist shot and a quick release.
Grayson Ladd, Right Defence, Windsor Spitfires
Ladd is a smooth skater who plays a responsible game. He uses his slick edgework, agility, and backwards speed to maintain good gap control. Add in a quick stick and the ability to poke check an attacker and Ladd is very difficult to beat in one-on-one situations. While he is not a big hitter, Ladd is not afraid to battle in the corners and in front of the net. He makes a good first pass out of the zone but is not one to provide a lot of support in the offensive end.
Cody Morgan, Centre, Windsor Spitfires
Morgan is undersized but still plays a gritty game. He is strong on the forecheck, winning battles for the puck and creating offence through turnovers. Once he gets the puck, he is able to control it and cycle down below the hash marks. He sees the ice well and makes smart plays to set up teammates. Morgan supports the defence down low and has strong defensive positioning and instincts. He can work on his skating to further improve his two-way game.
Lev Starikov, Defence, Windsor Spitfires
Starikov put up five goals and 13 points in 66 games as an OHL rookie last season. At six-foot-six, he has the type of height that will intrigue NHL scouts. At just 187 pounds, Starikov will also need to bulk up over the coming years. He has a very good slap shot and uses his agility to open up shooting lanes and get the puck on net. He also is a strong stickhandler who can carry the puck through the neutral zone. Starikov can use his size and long stick to cut down passing and shooting lanes in the defensive end.
2020 NHL Draft Prospects to Watch
Evan Vierling, Centre, Flint Firebirds
The second overall pick in the OHL Priority Draft, Vierling is a great skater. He has an outstanding first step and top-notch acceleration. He can go 0 to 60 in a flash. Vierling pairs this speed with outstanding stickhandling ability. He takes defenders wide and can cut to the net to create scoring chances. He also has very good vision and playmaking skill. Vierling is a smart play who identifies openings and has the patience to wait for the perfect moment to set up a scoring chance with a tape-to-tape pass.
Cole Perfetti, Centre, Saginaw Spirit
The fifth overall pick in the OHL Priority Draft, Perfetti has outstanding hands. He can make moves in a phone booth. Perfetti also has very good edgework and combines his hands with the ability to make quick cuts and changes of direction. This makes him extremely dangerous in one-on-one situations whether it be working out of the cycle or coming in off the rush. Perfetti sees the ice extremely well and only needs to create a small amount of space to be able to set up a linemate.
Will Cuylle, Left Wing, Windsor Spitfires
The third overall pick in the recent OHL Draft, Cuylle was recently traded to Windsor. Already coming in at six-foot-one and 201 pounds, Cuylle is a power forward in the making. He has an excellent array of shots, including a strong wrist shot and snapshot. Both feature excellent releases. He gets to the net and can score in tight with good hands.
Jean-Luc Foudy, Centre, Windsor Spitfires
The younger brother of Liam Foudy, he shares the same outstanding skating ability. He should soon be amongst the fastest players in the league, with quick acceleration and outstanding edgework. Foudy can generate breakaways by getting behind the defence. He will need to work on improving his hands and his shooting and passing skills to pair with that skating ability and become a truly dynamic offensive threat. He is also well-advanced defensively for a 16-year-old.
Main Photo: PETERBOROUGH, ON – OCTOBER 26: Blade Jenkins #19 of the Saginaw Spirit skates behind Dylan Wells #30 of the Peterborough Petes in an OHL game at the Peterborough Memorial Centre on October 26, 2017 in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)