The OHL Cup has been dominated by teams from Toronto and its suburbs for years, but that doesn't mean every player to watch hails from around the Big Smoke. This year's edition of the minor midget showcase tournament includes a pretty solid Quinte Red Devils team, representing the area around Belleville and Cobourg, a couple hours east of Toronto.
And the leader of that Quinte squad is captain Brady Gilmour, who is also expected to go as high as top-five in the OHL draft this summer. Gilmour actually comes from Grafton, which is even smaller than Belleville and Cobourg.
“It's a really tiny place, probably 2,000 people,” he said. “It's like a hamlet, it's not even considered a village. Great small town, everyone's friendly; they really support me and other athletes from there.”
A smart center who exhibits excellent poise with the puck, Gilmour helped Quinte build a 4-1 lead on the Thunder Bay Kings on Thursday, but had to sit out most of the third period after he was shaken by the effects of a head-shot late in the second. Gilmour's importance became apparent as the Kings mounted a comeback that eventually ran out of time and the Red Devils captured the win.
“It's a great tournament, obviously best-on-best,” Gilmour said. “It's a big honor for our team to be here and hopefully we come out on top.”
Gilmour prides himself on his 200-foot game and his vision, both aspects of which have garnered him comparisons to former OHL great Logan Couture, now with the San Jose Sharks. But the OMHA (East) player of the year also knows he has work to do before graduating to major junior.
“I'm going to work on my skating and strength so I can play at the next level,” he said. “I have a skating coach and I'm working out in the summer a lot, so it'll be good.”
Here are some other players that caught my eye on Thursday:
Jacob Brown, C, Thunder Bay Kings – A high-motor player who helped mount the ultimately unsuccessful Kings comeback against Quinte, Brown is great on the forecheck, blocks shots and generally plays fearless out there. Left winger Matthew Caruso also looked good, killing penalties, playing physical and bringing a quick shot.
Kyle Auger, D, Thunder Bay Kings – Auger had a frustrating game against Quinte, taking a couple early penalties, but there's no question why scouts like him: The offensive defenseman can skate like the wind and is confident rushing the puck.
Keegan Ferguson, D, Quinte Red Devils – At 6-foot-1 and 172 pounds already, Ferguson has great size on the back end and he moves very well, jumping up on the play when appropriate. Another Quinte D-man I liked was Colin Vandenhurk, who has a very heavy shot.
Greg Meireles, C, Ottawa Jr. 67's – This kid does everything fast. A gifted pivot with great speed and sweet hands, Meireles even pulled off the Tomas Hertl (or Stamkos or Malik) through-the-legs move with a defender on his back, though the goalie stopped it. Meireles has excellent playmaking vision and can also quarterback the power play. Led the tournament in scoring early on.
Jacob Paquette, D, Ottawa Jr. 67's – Already 6-foot-2 and 195 pounds, Paquette is a solid all-around defenseman who makes a good first pass and plays the point on the power play. His twin brother Samuel also had a good game playing on the wing for Meireles.
Andy Baker, RW, North Central Predators – Great breakaway speed and a quick shot makes Baker a potent finisher. The Preds had some nice high-end skill with Baker and Kyle Heitzner, who has a wicked wrister.
Liam Donnelly, C, Oakville Rangers – Apologies for the cross-sport reference, but I see some Marshawn Lynch in Donnelly. Like the NFL fullback, Donnelly is hard to stop when he's on the rush, charging down the ice with offense on his mind.
Liam Hawel, C, Ottawa Valley Jr. Titans – A very aggressive and offense-minded center, Hawel will draw a lot of interest due to his 6-foot-3 frame. Right now he's only listed at 165 pounds, but he already plays with great physicality.