Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL) play-by-play announcer Reed Duthie spent a good deal of time talking to the Scouting Post last week on some of the best options coming out of the Ontario Hockey League for the next NHL entry draft.
Over the weekend I posted Duthie’s background and his thoughts on B’s prospect Zach Senyshyn, who posted a two-goal game last night against Sudbury to tie his 26-goal total from his rookie OHL season a year ago. This time, he did it in 37 games as opposed to 66, so Senyshyn is certainly living up to his 15th overall draft grade from last June. You can go here to read that post.
This coming June, the NHL draft is being held in Buffalo, which is appropriate because there is a lot of high-end talent and depth coming out of the OHL for the late 1997 and 1998-born players. We’ll just jump into it. The players covered are in order of where Red Line Report has them in the OHL’s pecking order at mid-season, which can change a good bit based on key factors such as the World Jr. tournament, second-half of the OHL season and playoffs,and the World Under-18 tourney in April. Out of respect to my employer at Red Line, I am not sharing the actual ranking numbers with you, but this does give you an idea of how our Chief Scout and Ontario scouts saw it over the first half of the 2015-16 campaign.
Reed breaks down the key OHL players in the first of a two-part series that will post this week. We start at the top and will continue in the next post with a couple of significant WJC standouts in Alex Nylander and Olli Juolevi.
Jakob Chychrun, D Sarnia Sting: The son of former NHL defensive defenseman Jeff Chychrun is a different player than his dad was, bringing a mix of high-end mobility, skill and awareness to make him a two-way threat from the blue line and the 2016 draft class’s best bet to one day develop into a No. 1 at the NHL level. Here’s an impressive rookie season goal courtesy of TVCogeco:
GP- 33 Goals- 5 Assists- 19 Points- 24 PIM- 20
Reed Duthie: If he’s not the first player taken out of the OHL, then I think somebody’s gone crazy. He’s an all-around stud defenseman. His positioning is right on, he can skate with the best of them, he can throw the body, he can put up points. I think personally he’s immediately ready to step into the NHL. We haven’t had (the Sting) in Hamilton yet, but I’ve watched him a few times in preparation for other games and Jakob’s just on another level. I think there’s a definite chance he steps right into the National Hockey League. Physically, he’s ready to do it and personally, I was shocked when he got cut from the Canadian team at the World Juniors- I thought he would be a shoo-in for that squad. There are some parts of his game he needs to work on, but I don’t see him being that far off from Aaron Ekblad.
Scouting Post: What are the warts on his game that you alluded to?
RD: I’ve heard people talk about his consistency and it’s a lot like what I said about (Zach) Senyshyn in terms of people just saying he doesn’t have that consistency you want in a top player every single night. But at 17 years old I would challenge you to find a defenseman who does. I remember seeing Aaron Ekblad and thinking at times he looked out of it and at times he looked like a world beater, and I’m seeing the same thing out of Jakob. There’s no reason that people should be overanalyzing his competitiveness and I think they’ll be punished for it eventually if they do harp on that. Jakob is the kind of guy- you’ll get a much better sense of him when the OHL gets to their playoffs and when you see him on an every night basis at a high level against high-end opponents, you’ll get a sense of how good he really is.
Matthew Tkachuk, LW London Knights: Keith’s eldest son has ties to Massachusetts but was born in Arizona and raised in the St. Louis area, now plays junior hockey for Dale Hunter and one of the most storied and successful (over the past 15 years) OHL franchise in London. Like his dad, he’s a power forward who can hurt you in a variety of ways. He’s a better skater and playmaker, but probably not as physically dominant as the 1990 first-rounder for Winnipeg was at the same age. This video posted by “big white 06” will give you an idea of what he can do:
GP- 29 Goals- 14 Assists- 45 Points- 59 PIM- 40
RD: Matt is a tremendous hockey player with high-end hockey IQ, excellent skater, pushes the play- he’s got all the skills you want from somebody in the middle of the ice to make an impact. The downside with Matt is that sometimes you can question the hockey IQ a little, and not so much his smarts in the play but along the lines of a Brad Marchand– he gets called for being a little hot-headed and taking an undisciplined penalty here and there when he likely shouldn’t but the skills far outweigh any downside for him. He’s got the size to do it, he’s got the compete level, which is sometimes a little too high, he’s got all the skills offensively. He could probably use some improvement in his backchecking- he’s on a good enough London team that they score enough that they’re not really going to worry about that at this point. But, there are a couple of things he could work on- he’s a definite NHL player.
Mikhail Sergachev, D Windsor Spitfires: Good-sized frame at 6-foot-2 and already north of 200 pounds at age 17. Has a well-rounded package of offensive skills and defensive prowess. Russian player who brings more of a North American-style game to the rink with him each night. Here are highlights from his first 2-goal OHL game back in November from Hockey U20:
GP- 38 Goals- 10 Assists- 16 Points- 26 PIM- 30
RD: He’s got a lot of the “Russian” skills to him- you’re not going to find a smoother talent in the OHL. Everything he does looks like he’s not making much of an effort, and yet he’s probably exerting maximum effort and I say that because some have felt that he can be lazy, but I don’t see that at all out of him. I think he’s a tremendous hockey player- he’s already got nine goals, I believe, on the season- he’s got just a bomb of a shot. He’s another defenseman like Chychrun- who’s physically ready for the rigors of the NHL, but his game is going to take some refining. I guess I would call it Dennis Wideman syndrome- at times, he’s as likely to pass it to his teammates as he is to pass it to the opponents. It’s all done with the thought of pushing the play (and the pace) forward and making things happen but sometimes he’s a little too over the top with it, but I think if he can get into a team and a system in an NHL situation where they can settle him down a little bit and just let him know that he doesn’t have to push it so hard, he’ll be fine.
Alex DeBrincat, RW Erie Otters: Small but dynamic scorer and natural sniper leads the OHL goals and is deadly accurate between the hash marks, where he does most of his damage. More from bigwhite06 to show you DeBrincat’s scoring ability from earlier this season:
GP- 30 Goals- 33 Assists- 23 Points- 56 PIM- 12
RD: I could talk about DeBrincat for hours. Being a little man myself, I love the kid. I talked about it with Tkachuk- and you saw it at the World Juniors- he can be a little bit of a hot head at times, but he has a better way of taking it out on people vis a vis the scoreboard.He does not take penalties very often and usually, when he takes a tough hit, he doesn’t take a number, but the number goes up on the scoreboard. Tremendous shot- his size at the next level could hurt him, but his skating will make up for it. I believe he’s a better skater than a lot of people thought he was last year- I thought being overshadowed by Connor McDavid and Dylan Strome had a lot to do with that- he was underestimated. He has a tremendous shot and he can set up plays, he can work in the corners, he can work a point on the power play…just about anything you want him to do he can. Again- as is the case with a lot of these young very talented offensive players, the defensive side of the game is going to take some refining. He’s probably going to have to spend some time in the American Hockey League to used to the physical rigors of the pro game but with his skills and talent- you can’t teach what DeBrincat has.
SP: The big thing with DeBrincat is the concern about the size- you addressed it, but he’s listed at 5-7, 160 pounds- is he so dynamic and talented a la maybe a Johnny Gaudreau style of player that you throw caution to the wind and you look at a Gaudreau or maybe a Brendan Gallagher and say, hey- look, we don’t need to be as concerned about the size because the skill and creativity is there in spades?
RD: A year ago, I might have wondered if there was more of a concern there with the McDavid effect creating some of the hype around DeBrincat, but this year he’s doing it himself and doing it more even before they sent Dylan Strome back to Erie and being able to produce without that supporting cast around him. It’s kind of funny that you mention Gaudreau and Gallagher because I’ve mentioned both as comparables and I almost see him as a blend between the two. He really gets under people’s skin and I’m not sure it’s that he does a lot of chirping at ice level or what it is, but he really gets people mad at him and he’s got a little more skill than Gallagher- more to the Gaudreau side. If you’re defending him and you get out of position or take a bad penalty because of something he’s done, he’s going to make you pay for it. I think that’s what’s been so valuable for him and why he’s going to succeed at the NHL level as long as he stays away from what he did against the Canadians in the World Juniors.
We’ll be back with more on the OHL and 2016 draft picks with part 2 in the next day or so, so be sure to bookmark the blog and keep checking in.
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