Our prospect expert runs down the best teams in the Ontario League and though some very important players may be headed to the pro ranks, it’s going to be another stacked season.
If you hadn’t been beaten over the head with the news already, the top prospect in the NHL draft this year is Connor McDavid of the Ontario League’s Erie Otters. But will the stellar center’s team win the title? He’ll have to do a lot, since there’s no guarantee left winger Andre Burakowsky will be back in town – the Swede could go to the Washington Capitals or even the American League. Similarly, Kingston may get Sam Bennett back, but he might end up in Calgary, while Darnell Nurse could be in Edmonton. But even without Nurse, the Soo Greyhounds will be strong. I surveyed a group of experts to find out how strong, then added a player to watch on each team.
1. Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – One to watch: Vancouver Canucks first-rounder Jared McCann has a quick release, a 200-foot game and is pretty swift of faceoffs.
2. Plymouth Whalers – Columbus Blue Jackets first-rounder Sonny Milano will miss time at the start (facial injuries), but will light it up with his nifty hands once he debuts.
3. Guelph Storm – St. Louis Blues first-rounder Robby Fabbri was a force at center in Traverse City and will once again help power the Storm attack.
4. Niagara IceDogs – Brendan Perlini will miss some time with a broken hand, so let’s show some love for big New York Rangers pick Ryan Mantha on the blueline.
5. Erie Otters – Since you already know about McDavid, keep an eye out for fellow draft-eligible center Dylan Strome, who is big, smart and skilled.
6. Windsor Spitfires – New York Islanders first-rounder Josh Ho-Sang will have a ton of motivation to score at will after his Team Canada summer snub.
7. Peterborough Petes – Anaheim Ducks first-rounder Nick Ritchie was already a brute force; imagine what another summer of training has made the skilled power forward.
8. Kingston Frontenacs – Power forward Lawson Crouse will bring back some great size and scoring ability; he’ll be a first-rounder in 2015.
9. Oshawa Generals – Look for Islanders first-rounder Michael Dal Colle to challenge for the scoring crown thanks to his quick release and puck protection abilities.
10. London Knights – Draft-eligible Mitchell Marner has grown since joining London, meaning his electrifying game no longer comes with the caveat that he’s under 5-foot-11.
11. North Bay Battalion – Ottawa Senators prospect Nick Paul (acquired in the Jason Spezza deal) has great size and also some wickedly slick hands.
12. Owen Sound Attack – Detroit Red Wings pick Zach Nastasiuk is a heart-and-soul player who uses his size to protect the puck.
13. Kitchener Rangers – Buffalo Sabres prospect Justin Bailey has size, speed and talent; look for a big jump in production from the right winger.
14. Barrie Colts – Draft-eligible Swedish import Rasmus Andersson is a big body who can do a little of everything and will help cushion the loss of Aaron Ekblad on the blueline.
15. Ottawa 67’s – Draft-eligible Travis Konecny is a smaller player with a lot of fight and a ton of talent. He’ll lead an Ottawa team that is finally not a mess.
16. Sarnia Sting – Top CHL import pick Pavel Zacha is a talented power forward who will also be a top-10 selection in the 2015 NHL draft.
17. Mississauga Steelheads – Colorado Avalanche prospect Spencer Martin will hold down the fort in net once again and he’s looking to step his game up.
18. Saginaw Spirit – San Jose Sharks pick Dylan Sadowy was lightning for the Spirit last year and returns with his competitive, do-everything game.
19. Belleville Bulls – Vancouver prospect Jordan Subban is the smallest of the clan, but has great jets and offensive acumen from the blueline.
20. Sudbury Wolves – Minnesota Wild pick Pavel Jenys comes over via the import draft, where he’ll bring size and some great skill on the rush.