As the calendar flips from 2017 to 2018, the OHL season is shifting into high gear. The trade deadline is approaching and contenders are emerging. Additionally, top prospects are trying to prove they’re for real ahead of the 2018 NHL Draft.
Some of the big names getting ready for the 2018 NHL Draft have been talked about all year long. Some started hot and are cooling off in the winter months. Others are making their big push, rocketing up the Prospect Power Rankings.
OHL Prospect Power Rankings for the 2018 NHL Draft: December
One big carry over from November’s rankings though? The name at the top.
1. Evan Bouchard, D, London Knights – TI Score: 64.5
November Rank: 1st, 40.5 points
Bouchard continues to hold top spot in the rankings after another strong month. The third-year defender racked up a TI Score of 24 in December after a 28 score swing in November. His numbers across the board stack up favorably with other draft eligibles. His 33 assists are one shy of the lead among 2018 prospects and his 13 goals are the most by a defenceman. He’s currently second on the Knights in scoring, and has been held scoreless just five times since the beginning of November. In 10 December games, he put up five goals, 11 assists, and a plus-seven rating. Bouchard’s month was so good, that the OHL named him Defenceman of the Month.
2. Barrett Hayton, C, SSM Greyhounds – TI Score: 49
November Rank: 8th, 26.5 points
Hayton shoots up the rankings from eighth to second, for his performance during the Greyhounds’ winning streak. When it comes to the rankings, he picked up 22.5 points on his competition. Over his 11 December games, he had five multi-point games, including back-to-back two-point nights to close out 2017. He finished the month with five goals, mixing in seven assists, and had just one game with a minus rating (+12). Overall, his 15 goals are one shy of tops among 2018 NHL Draft eligibles. The Hounds’ winning ways have been good for everyone involved. This isn’t the first draft eligible from the Soo you’ll be hearing about this month who jumped up the rankings.
3. Ryan Merkley, D, Guelph Storm – TI Score: 49
November Rank: 2nd, 36 points
Merkley continues to produce offensively, and it continues to show in the rankings. He looks ready to lead the Storm in scoring for a second straight season, and continues to show off. Merkley leads the field in assists (34) and power play points (24). He and Evan Bouchard are the only draft-eligible defencemen with more than 10 goals. With the puck, there isn’t much he can not do. Without it however, there are still questions. With over half of his points coming on the man advantage, his plus/minus has sagged. It currently sits at -18 and is the worst among 2018s. It’s also the worst on his own club, where Guelph’s leading scorers have the worst and third-worst plus/minus. Despite a four-game scoreless stretch, Merkley still had a good December. He finished the month with three goals and ten assists in 11 games, but was minus-six in the process.
4. Akil Thomas, C, Niagara IceDogs – TI Score: 47.5
November Rank: 3rd, 33.5 points
Third on his team in scoring, Thomas continues to show consistency in the rankings. After opening in fourth following October, he moved up to third in November and is back to fourth entering the New Year. Thomas closed out 2017 on a six-game point streak, adding two goals and six assists to his monthly totals. He actually had an assist in all six of those games, finishing December with eight helpers and one scoreless game. During his last 14 games he’s been held of the scoresheet twice. He’s also tops among potential draftee forwards in assists (28) and power play points (17). It’s business as usual for Akil Thomas.
5. Ryan McLeod, C, Mississauga Steelheads – TI Score: 46
November Rank: 5th, 33 points
Another player who loves his spot in the rankings: Ryan McLeod. In all three editions of the power rankings, McLeod has been fifth each time. That consistency has flashed on the ice as well, as he’s put up 18.5, 14.5 and 13 ranking points across those three months. While Mississauga’s uneven performance has disappointed, McLeod has been a bright spot, sitting second in team scoring. He’s first on the Fish in assists (28) which has him tied with Thomas among draft eligible forwards. His 38 points also have him four shy of tying his career high. After a cold finish to November with five-straight scoreless games, he began December with four points in two games. Overall he finished the month with three goals and nine assists, and is winning faceoffs at a 53% clip this year.
6. Nathan Dunkley, C, Kingston Frontenacs – TI Score: 44.5
November Rank: 7th, 31 points
Nathan Dunkley had one of the biggest jumps between October and November; another 13.5 ranking points helped him in December. Dunkley is one of just four forwards with more than 20 assists (20), and just six of his 33 points have come on the power play. While had had a quieter December after a red-hot November, he was still good. Overcoming a three-game scoreless streak, he finished with four goals and three assists. It will be interesting to see whether the acquisition of Gabe Vilardi will help or hurt Dunkley.
*****Editor’s Note: Since the Power Rankings were posted, the London Knights traded Cliff Pu to Kingston for Nathan Dunkley. Dunkley joins Evan Bouchard as the second member of the Knights in the top ten. He should get plenty of ice time down the stretch.*******
7. Aidan Dudas, C, Owen Sound Attack – TI Score: 42.5
November Rank: 6th, 32 points
Dudas continues to put up points in bunches, as he holds down a spot in the rankings for the third-straight month. While he closed December with one point in five games, he had a pair of three-point games and a two-point game. Those big days helped him wrap December with two goals and eight assists. He lost a lot of ground with a -11 rating though. That took him from a plus-four on the season to a minus-seven.
8. Allan McShane, C, Oshawa Generals – TI Score: 41.5
November Rank: 4th, 33 points
One of the sweetest set-up men entering the 2018 draft, McShane is third among forwards with 23 helpers. Second on the Generals in scoring, six of his assists came in the month of December. McShane’s streaky months continued as December (like October) were all about assists. The former Otter has just two goals in September, October and December, with the eight others coming in November.
9. Rasmus Sandin, D, SSM Greyhounds – TI Score: 35
November Rank: N/R, 19.5 points
Sandin is the first of two newcomers to this month’s rankings, and it’s his first appearance in the Power Rankings. Like Hayton, the Hounds’ red-hot stretch has led to a great December for Sandin. He’s one of 12 players on the Soo with over 20 points, and Sandin didn’t even play until October 27, spending part of the year in Sweden. Sandin finished the month with two goals and seven assists, including a two and three-point game. He’s tops in the league among rookie defencemen in scoring, which isn’t surprising considering the ground he’s made up in the rankings. He was the OHL’s top rookie for December.
10. Andrei Svechnikov, C, Barrie Colts – TI Score: 34.5
November Rank: N/R, 24.5 points
After missing November thanks to a broken hand, Svechnikov made the most of limited time in December. He went scoreless in his return to the lineup on December 8, but had points in four-straight after that. It started off with a two-assist game, then four goals (including a hat-trick) over two games, bookended with another assist. He was held scoreless in his final game before leaving for the World Juniors, but seven points in a six-game span isn’t too shabby. Svechnikov is primed for a big second half, potentially sitting atop the rankings once again. Especially after logging five assists in four Round Robin games for Russia at the World Juniors.
Missing the cut…
Guelph’s Cam Hillis finished a point shy of making the top ten this month. Hills’ 14 goals are good for third place tie among 2018 NHL Draft eligibles. He’s one behind Hayton and two behind Serron Noel (32 ranking points) and Dudas. The Rangers’ Riley Damiani finished 2017 with a TI Score of 33. Damiani has mostly spent the year in a second line role in Kitchener, and entered the New Year with 24 points in 37 games. Brady Hinz’ slide continues into December. After just squeaking into November’s rankings, and a red-hot start to the year, he and the Sting have cooled off.
Embed from Getty Images