Even though many teams and fans have the upcoming trade deadline on their minds, front offices everywhere are starting to sort out their draft rankings for the upcoming class. The depth in any given year affects how hard teams pursue extra selections, and what round they push for. This season, while the top of the draft doesn’t have the franchise talent of the past two (though Nico Hischier is continuing to turn heads as he inches closer to the top of boards) it does have quite a bit of talent throughout the first and second rounds.
Over at the OHL Prospects blog, they’ve released their annual mid-season media/scout ranking for the Ontario Hockey League, a list that is voted on by people like Mike Morreale of NHL.com, Tony Ambrosio of TSN and Corey Pronman of ESPN among many others. Their list ranks the top ten—with a few honorable mentions—with breakdowns from each writer.
Leading the way is Owen Tippett of the Mississauga Steelheads, a player I’ve mentioned in the past as someone to watch at the upcoming draft. None of the voters had Tippett lower than second, and he got 11/17 first place votes easily pacing the group. Tippett is a natural goal scoring talent that looks like he would have a chance at contributing right away in 2017-18, with an NHL-ready shot from anywhere in the offensive zone. His size and speed have him dominating the OHL ranks already, even more so than teammate Michael McLeod who went 12th overall to the Devils last season.
Other than Tippett, the OHL class has (like most seasons) a lot of talent up front including second-ranked Gabriel Vilardi who might jump over the Mississauga winger because of his position. Centers are often taken higher in the draft, and Vilardi offers size down the middle. With the Windsor Spitfires hosting this season’s Memorial Cup, Vilardi will be guaranteed a chance to show off on junior’s biggest stage.
Among the other eight players ranked six of them are forwards including Matthew Strome, the latest child in the hockey playing family. Like his brothers, Strome is a big skilled forward that can play at both ends of the rink, but has a bit more grit in the corners and a mean streak that the other two don’t possess. His future in the NHL isn’t guaranteed, but the possibility of an excellent checking winger with some big offensive upside will still get him taken relatively early in the draft.
It’ll be interesting to see when the first OHL player comes off the board in Chicago on June 23rd, as the top picks currently look like they’ll be (in some order) Hischier from the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, Nolan Patrick of the Brandon Wheat Kings of the WHL and Timothy Liljegren from Timra of the Swedish second league. Last season the OHL had to wait until #5 to send up a player when Olli Juolevi was selected by Vancouver.