There are new faces on our top 15 mens prospects, and a group of 2001 prospects in the waiting. A huge offseason and preseason awaits for a group of 1998 OHLers, and Junior hockey debuts await for other prospects.
With a look forward to next season, 2002’s Craig Spence and Tate Bowden are projected OHL picks, while Brett Brochu, Ben Brooks, and Addy Stubberfield will also be on OHL watch lists as the season starts.
Here is a look at our top 15, plus a group who will have to fight out a more permanent spot on our list in training camp.
15. Cole MacKinnon, Lucas Fancy, Connor Wright, Bailey Smith, Briar Dittmer, Aidan Lachine – 2001 – We expect the remainder of the Junior C underage cards to come from this group. The rest of this group, and potentially a few others, from Chatham-Kent’s minor midget ‘AAA’ team are likely to head to Windsor for Major Midget. It’s the best developmental option, and likely a better option than Junior C for most.
14. Brady Pataki (St. Thomas Stars, GOJHL) – 1998 – When he was drafted into the OHL, his then Sudbury Wolves said Pataki was a lock to be an NHL draft pick in 2017. Unfortunately, things didn’t materialize like planned; but don’t count this skating tank out. Physically strong enough for the next level, Pataki hasn’t found production like the Minor Midget ‘AAA’ postseason that propelled him into the scouting spotlight. Property of a deep London Knights organization, Pataki will need an incredible camp to earn a roster spot. A trade or return to Junior B is more likely.
13. Eric Carter (Chatham Maroons, GOJHL) – 2000 – Carter had a good season with the Dresden Kings, asserting himself more often in high traffic areas. He’ll need to continue elevate his compete level in Junior B. We expect his numbers to hold similar to what they’ve been the last few years, but he’ll likely start from a depth role and need to earn special teams time.
12. Alec DeKoning (Sarnia Legionnaires, GOJHL) – 1998 – One of the best in Junior B. He’s creative, but undersized. DeKoning plays in all situations, and is the go-to player for Sarnia. DeKoning will look to rebound after a slow postseason. We expect he’ll have a breakout season topping the point-per-game threshold, with room to spare.
11. Dylan Schives (Chatham, Maroons, GOJHL) – 2001 – Had a good season with the Chatham-Kent Cyclones Minor Midget ‘AAA’ team last year, and was thought of by some as a late round prospect for the OHL Draft. The right handed defenseman will undoubtedly have growing pains at the Junior B level, but stealing this coveted spot gives him a step ahead when it comes to development. A smooth puck mover, it will be interesting to see if his size impacts his effectiveness in Junior B.
10. Levi Tetrault (Guelph Storm, OHL) – 1998 – This will be a very crucial offseason, and preseason for Tetrault. With eight defenseman eligible to return from last year’s roster, two selected in the first three rounds of the OHL Draft, one of whom has already committed to the team, there will be a dog fight for roster spots. Injured much of last season, Tetrault has an opportunity to rebound, as overage spots may limit Guelph’s returnees on the blueline, but if he doesn’t, he may follow Pataki into the GOJHL.
9. Nolan Gardiner (Ottawa 67s, OHL) – 1998 – He has always been unheralded since coming out of a strong Chatham-Kent Cyclones ‘AAA’ age group. After his first full OHL season, Gardiner needs to assert himself as a player who can not only be counted on for energy and checking line minutes, but for depth scoring. This is a player who knows how to step up to, and meet challenges. Similar to Tetrault and Pataki, other players will be knocking down the door for his roster spot.
8. Grant Spence (Chatham Maroons, GOJHL) – 2000 – They should have kept him last season, but Spence will arrive on the scene with the Chatham Maroons for 2017-2018, and will look to earn call ups to a deep Oshawa Generals team. He should contribute immediately for the Maroons given the opportunity. He has matured on and off the ice, and filled out his frame.
7. Evan DeBrouwer (Prince George Spruce Kings, BCHL) – 1997 – Having a solid season in the BCHL with 39 games and 5 in the playoffs, DeBrouwer is headed for a new team next season, and still projects as a solid NCAA goalie. At what level is yet to be seen, as most DI players are committed by his age. Similar to Krieger ahead of him, his position on this list depends on the commitment he is able to obtain from a college program this season. If it’s DI, his stock rises, if it’s D3, he’ll slide.
6. Brendan Harrogate (Mississauga Steelheads, OHL) – 1998 – Harrogate is buried behind an incredibly strong Mississauga forward corps. Spencer Watson and Nathan Bastian graduating to pro helps, and Owen Tippett and Michael McLeod, both high first round NHL picks have a shot to stick in the bigs. If a line of players moves on, Harrogate will finally get the chance to play scoring minutes.
5. Trent Fox (Mississauga Steelheads, OHL) – 1997 – Fox bounced back and had a solid post season helping Mississauga to an OHL Western Conference championship. He has all the tools, but needs to stick in one place this season and have an overage season similar to the one that propelled his older brother Dane into a category with the OHL elite. This is the most important offseason of his hockey career.
4. Ross Krieger (North York Rangers, OJHL) – 1998 – His game rebounded once he was given the opportunity in the OJHL last season. Still hoping for a DI commitment, Krieger has the skills, and grades to achieve that goal. This season will decide his longterm projection on this list. If it’s not DI, he’ll slide, but all indications show he’s capable of playing at that level.
3. James McEwan – (Guelph Storm, OHL) – 1997 – McEwan had a dip in production while dealing with injuries last season. Look for a big overage season from the Chatham product on an improving Guelph roster, that now features several NHL picks. He’ll have opportunities to play pro when his season finishes, and will face the decision of USport or pro the year after.
2. Joseph Raaymakers – (Soo Greyhounds, OHL) – 1998 – Lost his starting job, and then won it back in the playoffs, but with his partner, Matt Villalta going in the third round of the NHL Draft, the writing is on the wall for Raaymakers. He put up spectacular post season numbers, but whether he starts next season in net for the Greyhounds, gets traded, or battles it out as a tandem in the Soo is yet to be seen. Still a pro prospect, attending Tampa Bay Lightning development camp this summer, this is a crucial season for Raaymakers.
1. Grayson Ladd – (Kitchener Rangers, OHL) – 2001 – A high first round OHL draft pick, Ladd will suit up as a 16-year-old in the OHL next season. A fluid skater who makes an intelligent first pass, Ladd will be looked at to add offense to his game, and now begins the task of bulking up to face stronger competition. He’s an instant top prospect following the draft, how long he remains at the top depends on his performance this season and next.