Crunch time is here. The NCAA field is set and major junior teams have punched their post-season tickets. In Europe, the playoffs are already in full swing and youngsters are making an impact. Speaking of youngsters, I had the chance to scout some of the next-next generation at the OHL Cup, featuring many of the best minor midget players in Ontario (and some from the U.S.). The final was anti-climactic, as the Toronto Jr. Canadiens ran over the Vaughan Kings 5-1, but there were still good performances on both sides.
So for a special edition of Prospect NTK, I'm going to tack on reports on some of the players who impressed me at the OHL Cup. I didn't see everyone, so this is just based on my viewings. But before that, let's get to some of the traditional prospects making noise right now.
Alexander Nylander, RW, Rochester Americans (AHL) - It's been a tough go for Nylander since he was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres, particularly when he started off this season on the shelf. But the talented right winger has come on strong and he now has 15 points in his past 15 games, including six in his past three. The skill was always there, but consistency will get Nylander to the next level. NHL arrival: 2018-19
Nick Suzuki, C, Owen Sound Attack (OHL) - The Ontario League's player of the week on the strength of seven points in his past three games, Suzuki also hit the 100-point mark in that span, putting him among a small group of players on the circuit. The Vegas Golden Knights first-rounder has a ton of skill, but always plays a well-rounded game for a solid Attack team. NHL arrival: 2019-20
Adam Boqvist, D, Brynas (Swe.) - He's not Rasmus Dahlin, but he's not too bad himself. Boqvist is a premier defense prospect for the 2018 draft and could easily go top-five thanks to his excellent rushing abilities and the fact that he can still play on the defensive side of the puck, too. Currently playing in the junior league playoffs, Boqvist has five points in his first two games, including the series-winning goal against Sodertalje. NHL arrival: 2020-21
Dillon Dube, C, Kelowna Rockets (WHL) - I feel like Calgary fans need some good news right now, so here it goes: Flames pick Dube was just named WHL player of the week on the strength of seven points in his past two games. Fast, smart and talented, Dube is a character kid who is developing nicely and will be one to watch in the pros next season. NHL arrival: 2019-20
Nicolas Beaudin, D, Drummondville Voltigeurs (QMJHL) - The Quebec League player of the week is also a 2018 draft prospect and Beaudin is getting accolades at the right time. Very smart, the young blueliner makes a good first pass and has nice escapability thanks to his skating. He's not known for his dynamism necessarily, but seven points in three games helps. His 57 assists on the season was amongst the best in the league for a blueliner. NHL arrival: 2021-22
Wouter Peeters, G, Youngstown Phantoms (USHL) - The goalie of the week in the United States League, Peeters is a Chicago Blackhawks draft pick from Belgium. The big netminder has six wins in his past eight appearances, with the most recent outing ending in a 39-save shutout. Competitive and hard-working, Peeters has a golden opportunity to develop in a Hawks system bereft of goaltending prospects. NHL arrival: 2021-22
OHL Cup scouting report
Quinton Byfield, C, York-Simcoe Express: He's the real deal. Already 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds, Byfield also has excellent speed, making him very difficult to stop. He uses his defensemen very well when he's cycling in the offensive zone and he's physical when he needs to be. Step to him and you're probably getting crushed.
Evan Vierling, C, York-Simcoe Express: On most other squads, Vierling would get even more attention, so let's give him a shout-out here. A fast and offensively dangerous center, Vierling has great playmaking skills and he can finish - he actually led the tourney with four game-winning goals in six games and was second in scoring with 11 points.
Jack Bar, D, York-Simcoe Express: On the back end, the Express had a nice threat in Bar, who has a great point shot and good instincts. He's a right-handed shot and is already committed to Harvard.
Cameron Butler, RW, York-Simcoe Express: A great combination of size (6-foot-4, 183 pounds), vision and skill. Butler also showed off some pretty nice hand-eye co-ordination out there.
Dylan Robinson, C, Toronto Jr. Canadiens: Robinson definitely has the look of a pro center. He's got decent size already and is pretty good on faceoffs. Toronto counted on him for a lot of penalty-kill minutes in the final and he popped in a nice goal on a quick shot. Good speed and he finishes his checks.
Daniil Chayka, D, Toronto Jr. Canadiens: What I liked the most about Chayka is that he doesn't rely on his size to be effective. Yes, it's great that he's already 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, but the kid loves to rush the puck up the ice from the back end and thanks to his skating, he's pretty good at it. Born and raised in Russia, Chayka will be eligible for the OHL draft (not the import draft), according to my sources.
Isaac MacLeod, LW, Toronto Jr. Canadiens: The player of the game for the final, MacLeod had points on the first three goals of the final, putting the game out of reach early. Speed, great anticipation and creativity plus good hands equals trouble for the opposition.
Cole Perfetti, C, Vaughan Kings: Perfetti created a lot of chances in the final but I felt like he didn't get much help. He scored Vaughan's only goal and brings great hands and creativity to the table. He spins off checks and zips in passes to scoring areas. He's a University of Michigan commit.
Nate Hanley, C, Elite Hockey Group: Part of an all-star American squad, Hanley is a Northeastern commit who showed off nice hands and playmaking ability. He also did some good work on the penalty-kill, taking away time and space from the puck carrier.
Jakson Kirk, RW, Guelph Gryphons: What I liked the most about Kirk is that he hit everything that moved, often making a big impact. But the right winger also has good speed when he takes the puck on the outside and his on-ice vision was solid, too.
Christian Linton, G, Guelph Gryphons: I know that predicting goalies at 15 years of age is a fool's errand, but Linton is already 6-foot-2 and moves very well in his crease. He split starts at the tournament and came away with a .935 save percentage.
Nolan Dillingham-Morelli, D, Mississauga Rebels: Fast, aggressive and mean, Dillingham-Morelli was often on the ice against Byfield when the Rebels played the Express. The young blueliner also has some offense to his game.
Pacey Schlueting, D, NOHA: Representing Northern Ontario, Schlueting tied for the team lead in scoring and acted as captain on the all-star squad. He's very mobile, has a nice shot and uses his body to get out of trouble when the forecheckers bear down.
Ryan Gagnier, C, Sun County Panthers: Another player who has all the appearances of a solid pro center, Gagnier is a skilled pivot who finishes his checks. Led the team in shots on net.
John Ulicny, RW, Sun County Panthers: A speedy winger with a lethal wrist shot, Ulicny had the overtime winner in a crucial round robin game against Cambridge. Great first three steps and a nice tournament overall.