Earlier this week, the Scouting Post published Hamilton Bulldogs’ play-by-play announcer Reed Duthie’s recap on the top OHL candidates for the June NHL Entry Draft in Buffalo. You can click here to read Duthie’s thoughts on Jakob Chychrun, Matthew Tkachuk, Mikhail Sergachev and Alex DeBrincat.
Now, we’ll continue through the list of impressive names and talents in the second part of the Duthie Dish- as he provides some firsthand insights into the key players from the late ’97/98 birth year group in the OHL.
Alex Nylander, RW Mississauga Steelheads- The second of former NHL star Michael Nylander’s sons, the Steelheads winger is an exceptionally skilled player who made some positive inroads as a member of Team Sweden at the 2016 World Jr. tourney. He’s a human highlight reel who can push the pace and shows off tremendous offensive creativity. Here’s a look at what Nylander can do from earlier this season posted by DRL Productions:
GP- 33 Goals- 21 Assists- 28 Points- 49 PIM- 6
Reed Duthie: Along with his brother, undersized but tremendously talented player with a great skating stride, but he’s more of a playmaker than a shooter. He has tremendous passing hands and he can find guys through lanes and angles that you just don’t believe the puck is going to make it through there. When you watch Mississauga play, there are a couple of occasions where it seems each game that there should be a certain goal off a Nylander pass and there will be a double-clutch on the shot because the receiver of the pass can’t believe he could get it through in the situation he did. On the power play, he’s positively dynamic. Two things that burn me a little bit about Nylander are effort and defensive positioning. He’s just as likely to cover the point as he is to fly the zone and he will disappear for stretches in a game. I know his brother and his dad would do that at times, but Alex is almost to an extreme- where you wonder where Alex Nylander is and when is he going to show up? And when he does show up, the game changes entirely, but for long stretches of the game, you can be frustrated with him and unless he can sort that out I could see his draft spot falling a bit.
Olli Juolevi, D London Knights- Legitimate two-way defenseman has high-end skating and overall ability with a high potential NHL ceiling in time. He can skate and move the puck effectively and has a real cannon of a shot that he’s uncorking more and more. Juolevi needs refinement in his defensive game and in working on the little things as he adjusts to the North American game, but he could end up being the most productive defenseman to come out of the class of ’16. A look at Juolevi’s 1st OHL goal from this season posted by Hokinaittii:
GP- 28 Goals- 4 Assists- 19 Points- 23 PIM- 6
RD: He was really impressive against Hamilton and anytime I’ve watched the Knights he’s been a real standout player. When he was against Hamilton is when I got the best look at him obviously- being in the arena for those games- but watching him skate is something fun to see. He’s the kind of player that you can put on the ice in any situation. One of the knocks I’d heard on him coming into the season was that his defensive ability could be questionable- maybe not to an Erik Karlsson extent- but he’s definitely an offensive defenseman. Against the Bulldogs we saw him on the penalty kill and I honestly- maybe against your Sarnias or Kingstons you wouldn’t see him on the kill- but he didn’t look out of place whatsoever. He made some nice clears, was in position, wasn’t screening his goaltender, wasn’t trying to look for the offense every time, got it down the rink. Offensively- he’s just a standout. He might be the smoothest defenseman in the draft with the puck, and has a great shot and will find lanes at even strength to get it through to the forwards out in front of the net for good chances. I thought his compete level was right on point- he didn’t take any shifts off. I was very impressed with Juolevi.
It’s the little things- the stick position and the tendency to make himself vulnerable at times and using the wheels to get back into plays at times…those things will have to be addressed. But, I think as people start to see Alex Nylander or even Max Jones, unless there’s an improvement from them, you could see him jump over them at the draft as the season progresses if they aren’t able to address the shortcomings in their respective games.
Max Jones, LW London Knights- Talented winger with good size and pro tools as the son of former NHL forward Brad Jones. He gets lost a little bit in London’s galaxy of stars at times, and he’s struggled to generate consistent offense the way Tkachuk has in his first OHL season. Where Jones showed off potential to be a dynamic scoring forward coming out of the U.S. National Team Development Program, he might project more as a complementary kind of forward and a third-line option than a legit scorer at the next level.
GP- 33 Goals- 17 Assists- 17 Points- 34 PIM- 59
RD: When he played the Bulldogs (at the beginning of the season) he wasn’t getting a whole lot of ice. What I’ve seen of him- he’s a nice shooter and you can teach his size at 6-2, 200-plus. When he’s on his game, he can play in any situation- you can put him on the power play or penalty kill, he’s got decent defensive awareness, he’s a solid skater- I don’t have a whole lot of issues with him, except that against the Bulldogs, he just disappeared and wasn’t a factor. He reminds me a little of Matt Fraser with better wheels.
Michael McLeod, C Mississauga Steelheads- Playmaking center with size and ability- superb skater for his size who can push the pace and is showing an improvement in his all-around game. His play away from the puck is showing signs of improvement, and while not considered a high-end pivot with elite skills, he looks like a safe pick with the potential to develop into something more.
GP- 38 Goals- 16 Assists- 28 Points- 44 PIM- 45
RD: We’ve seen a lot of Mike McLeod in Hamilton and a lot of that has to do with the fact that Mississauga has absolutely haunted the Bulldogs- Hamilton has not beaten the Steelheads yet and McLeod usually plays on that top line with (Nathan) Bastian and (Alex) Nylander and this is not some sort of Nylander making him better thing- McLeod would be just as effective if you put you and me on the wings with him. Super creative player- very quick feet. He’s got quick acceleration, but I don’t think he has top-end speed like you see with Nylander. He’s got quick feet to start the stride but he almost maxes out at a certain level, but especially at the OHL level, it’s not holding him back at all and I don’t think it will at the higher levels either. His vision is right on, and he has a great back check as well. He’s breaking up plays, he’s in the zone, he’s in that center of coverage and he’s forcing everything away from the middle of the ice- you can’t play through him and Mississauga’s got some good defensemen as well that will work along in concert with that. But, you just can’t find your way through the middle of the ice when McLeod is there- his stick is too good, and I think that is only going to benefit him at the next level because he’s not just a one-way player.
Logan Brown, C Windsor Spitfires- Huge center is the son of former NHL defenseman and current Ottawa 67’s GM/coach Jeff Brown. He’s still pretty gangly with his big body and long limbs/skating and foot speed, but there are a lot of impressive raw talents here for NHL teams to ponder. The bigger knocks on him right now are consistency and intensity, so those concerns might drop him a little further than his natural talent would normally dictate, but if the light ever comes on, he could pay off in a big way. Major boom-or-bust potential with this one.
GP- 31 Goals- 6 Assists- 29 Points- 35 PIM- 18
RD: I’m not as bullish on Brown. I think you’re looking at a guy that has a lot of skills but there are some things that have stuck out to me about him that I don’t necessarily think are going to translate at the next level. Obviously, the size is outstanding, at 6-6/215-220- you’re looking at a player that has a little bit of Jimmy Hayes to him or even Joe Thornton if you want. Doesn’t really use the size- tremendous size- and is not really effective with it. It could be that he hasn’t learned how to properly use it yet and I hope for him that’s the case. His numbers are impressive in that he’s a set-up man and anytime you can have his size down the middle, that’s a positive, but his skating stride is probably not where it needs to be, his compete level isn’t where it needs to be, the use of his size isn’t where it needs to be, but that said- I think he has outstanding offensive skills and vision when he gets set up. I think he could be a real asset if he improves his all-around.
Adam Mascherin, C Kitchener Rangers- Short (5-9), but stout (200+ pounds) and packs a wallop with his NHL-caliber shot and refined offensive game for one so young. He uses his natural tools and high-end instincts to find seams against defenses and has raised his production to an impressive level. He’s not a complete player, but his offensive dimension is so tantalizing that he could be similar to another former undersized but dangerous Kitchener player who went a lot earlier in the draft than projected in Jeff Skinner– a top-10 selection in 2010.
GP- 34 Goals- 19 Assists- 28 Points- 47 PIM- 8
RD: Mascherin’s going to be an NHL player. That’s a guy who every time you watch the Kitchener Rangers, he makes an impact. There’s no way to watch that team and not notice him. You’re looking at a team that’s loaded up for more- they want a Memorial Cup in that building and they really want to take a big run and show London that the Knights aren’t the only ones that can compete year in and year out. So, I think you get a better look at him as the playoffs come along and where does he slot in when the games mean the most. He’s got a world of skill, but I don’t think we’ve seen him in a pressure situation yet and that’s where I’m interested in seeing him the most.
Victor Mete, D London Knights- Small defender who is a top-end skater with jets strapped to his skates. Wheels the puck out of his own end so fast that he’d have his hair on fire if he served on a ship with black sails back in the day. Has the vision, passing ability to make an impact offensively at the next level, but like most undersized players on defense, struggles with handling the bigger, stronger forwards he goes up against.
GP- 37 Goals- 4 Assists- 20 Points- 24 PIM- 12
RD: I seem to notice Mete the most on the power play. He has tremendous speed and skill with a good shot, but outside of the man advantage, I don’t notice him as much.If he’s not leading the rush, then he becomes a little bit of a liability on the ice, but then again, he could turn that around pretty quickly. I’m sure it’s something the Hunters are addressing with him and that team produces NHL players like it’s going out of style. I like Mete- he’s the kind of guy that depending on where he goes is going to be key. If he was taken in the third round, let’s say- I would be all over him, but I don’t think he’ll fall down that far. For me with Mete it’s all about the value- when he leads the rush it’s something to watch because he can absolutely fly! When you can skate away from Niki Petti at full speed, that’s impressive., but it will all depend on where Mete is drafted because of some of the other issues.
We segued a bit to talk about one Hamilton Bulldogs player in particular that might not be considered a top-end OHL prospect for the NHL draft but will probably be selected as high as the the third round or more likely in the middle rounds.
Cole Candella, D Hamilton Bulldogs-
RD: I love the kid. What a player. The recent injury he suffered might hurt him a little because he is going to have a little time out- they’re hoping to get him back some time not too long into the new year- but on night one of the season, Justin Lemcke, captain of the Bulldogs, went down with an injury and it was Candella who stepped into the void and has done so very well. He’s a solid defenseman in every zone. His positioning is good- he can carry the puck, he can run a power play. He may not be a prototypical PP quarterback but he’s capable of it. On the penalty kill, his speed and his quickness to the puck is exciting to watch. The Bulldogs usually end up in their zone long when they’ve got the pair of (Connor) Walters and Candella on the ice. They’re just very good at getting to loose pucks and getting them out of the zone. His compete level is very good- you never see him take a shift off. He gets into the corners and drive opponents nuts. We’ve seen him go in against Lawson Crouse and drive Crouse off the puck. It’s the kind of thing you get excited about when you watch him because you can see what there is to grow out of Candella and at 17 years old, he’s been one of the better defenders I’ve had a chance to watch night in, night out that very few people are talking about.
GP- 28 Goals- 3 Assists- 13 Points- 16 PIM- 12