Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects. It’s that time again, major junior hockey is back and we’re here to preview the new season for you. All three leagues are kicking off this week. With that in mind, we continue our division previews today as we make our way around the country.
You can check out all of this year’s Top Shelf Prospects articles here.
2018-19 OHL East Division
Top Three Contenders in Projected Order of Finish
The Generals should have a strong offence featuring Jack Studnicka, Allan McShane, Nando Eggenberger, Serron Noel, and Daniil Antropov. They have plenty of depth and will have three strong lines up front. An off-season trade for defenseman Giovanni Villati shows the team’s intent to address weaknesses and make a run this year. He joins Nico Gross and Mitchell Brewer in leading the Generals blueline. Bruins prospect Kyle Keyser provides solid goaltending.
The 67s were a young team last year, who barely made the playoffs and were promptly dispatched by the Hamilton Bulldogs. That experience will serve the team well and they will move up the standings. Sasha Chmelevski leads the offensive attack and could put up a lot of points this year. He is supported by Kody Clark, Mitchell Hoelscher, Sam Bitten, Austen Keating, Tye Felhaber, Graeme Clarke, and new import Marco Rossi. The defence is led by Noel Hoefenmayer, Kevin Bahl, and Nikita Okhotyuk. They lack experience in goal but if things go well early in the year, there will be upgrades available in the trade market.
Like nearly all OHL Champions, the Hamilton Bulldogs have lost a lot of talent over the off-season. However, they return a number of players who should help them score goals. Matthew Strome, MacKenzie Entwistle, and Arthur Kaliyev will score goals. Forward Isaac Nurse should take on a bigger role this year. If they get Robert Thomas back from St. Louis (a doubtful proposition) this projection greatly improves. The Achilles hell though comes at that back end. Nick Donofrio takes over as the team’s top goalie. The defence is also very young, and the team hopes to get Nicolas Mattinen back from the Leafs as an overage player. In any event, they will need D.J. King to take a big step forward if they truly want to compete for more than middle of the pack status.
Players to Watch
MacKenzie Entwistle, Right Wing, Hamilton Bulldogs
Recently traded to the Chicago Blackhawks, Entwistle plays a north-south style of game. He is willing to get dirty in the corners and in front of the net, as well as play a grinding game on the cycle. Entwistle gets to the front of the net where he can bang in rebounds, or quickly one-time passes. He also grabs loose pucks and keeps the offence going by moving them quickly to teammates. Most of his goals come close to the net. Entwistle’s wrist shot is a work in progress. The release is average, and he lacks accuracy when shooting from further out. He also could stand to add upper body strength and power.
Entwistle’s assists mainly come from working down low and digging out pucks. While he is a good passer and has decent vision, he needs to work on his stick handling. He sometimes moves the puck too quickly, as he lacks the confidence to hold it and let the play develop. He is unlikely to make a move to beat a defender in one-on-one situations and can force a pass or a shot as a result.
Matthew Strome, Left Wing, Hamilton Bulldogs
A 2017 Draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, Strome has very good vision and excellent passing skills, including the ability to thread the puck through tight areas. His high-end hockey IQ allows him to see the play developing and make smart passes to his teammates. His ability to protect the puck down low and work in the cycle game buys his teammates time to get open. Once they do, he is able to hit them with a tape-to-tape pass. Strome is more of a natural goal scorer than playmaker though. He has a heavy wrist shot, with very good accuracy and a quick release. He also has an excellent slap shot, which he can unload off the rush, or as a one-timer. Strome also scores goals in tight with soft hands to get deflections and rebounds.
One thing that really stands out about Strome in comparison to his brothers, is the fact he plays as much more of a power forward. He gets in on the forecheck and plays the body. He is very physical in the corners as well as battling in front of the net. Strome is also willing to take the puck to the front of the net if he gets the opportunity to do so, coming out of the cycle. His skating is poor and needs big improvements if he is going to make the NHL though.
Jacob Paquette, Left Defence, Kingston Frontenacs
Paquette is a strong defensive defenceman with a good physical game and excellent positioning. He shows mobility with good speed in both directions and excellent edge work and pivots. Paquette maintains good gap control, and is very tough to beat one-on-one. He uses a long stick to cut down on passing lanes, and is not afraid to use his body to block shots. Paquette throws big hits, battles hard on the boards, and clears the front of the net. He has shown some offensive ability with a good first pass, and a hard shot he keeps low and on net. The offense has been inconsistent though, defence is certainly the bread and butter of his game.
Jason Robertson, Left Wing, Kingston Frontenacs
A Dallas Stars prospect, Robertson is a pure goal scorer. He has excellent hand-eye coordination and scores goals in tight to the net with tip-ins, one-timing passes and pouncing on rebounds. He uses his skating ability to take defenders wide and drive the net, where he can finish with is soft hands. Robertson also has a very good wrist shot, which is accurate and features a quick release. He manages to find soft spots in the defence and get open to allow teammates to set him up.
He is also a good playmaker, with good vision and passing skills. Robertson uses his body well to protect the puck and work the cycle game down low. He can extend plays in the cycle and fight off hits and battle through hooks and holds. However, he is not a physical player. Robertson could stand to really use his size and speed to do a better job at forechecking defencemen and fighting for loose pucks. When he has the puck, he’s good; but if he does not have the puck and has to fight for it, he does not seem to use his body effectively, or show optimal effort.
Gabe Vilardi, Centre, Kingston Frontenacs
A Los Angeles Kings prospect, he could make the NHL with a strong camp. Vilardi has a very long reach and excellent puck handling ability. He uses these assets to extend plays and wait for teammates to get open, before hitting them with a pass. Vilardi has the vision and passing skill to be a solid playmaker, both off the rush and in the cycle game. Vilardi is constantly moving and getting involved in the play. He is extremely gritty and involved in battles along the boards and in front of the net.
The power forward prospect also has a very good wrist shot and an excellent release. His shot is powerful and deadly accurate. He also has the hands to finish plays in tight to the net, scoring on rebounds, tip-ins and one-time plays. His hockey IQ is also above average. Vilardi makes smart plays with the puck, as well as understanding how to get open without it.
Allan McShane, Centre, Oshawa Generals
McShane is more of a playmaker than a goal scorer. He is a smart player, very good at reading the play, anticipating which player will get open, and creating a scoring chance. He can make tape-to-tape passes through the smallest openings. McShane can also make effective saucer passes. On the power play, he quarterbacks things from the point, or from the half boards. McShane is not afraid to take a hit to make a play. He controls the puck well down low and makes plays in the cycle. While his strength is his playmaking, McShane also has a strong, accurate wrist shot with a quick release.
Serron Noel, Right Wing, Oshawa Generals
Drafted by the Florida Panthers, Noel projects as a goal scorer. He has one of the hardest wrist shots in the entire draft, generating excellent power. His accuracy is good, and he features a quick release. Noel uses his size to get to the front of the net. His quick hands help him finish in tight, with tip-ins, scoring rebounds, or making quick moves to beat a goalie in tight. Further out, he needs some work on his one-timer. He also needs to be more consistent in finding opportunities to get his shot off. So much of the NHL game is generating shots, and Noel can sometimes leave one waiting for him to shoot more.
Noel creates offence through his size and strength. He is very good on the forecheck, pressuring defenders and forcing them to make poor decisions. As mentioned Noel is very strong on the boards and in protecting the puck in the cycle. He moves the puck smartly and keeps his head up to find the open man. Noel could use a bit of work on his stick handling ability though.
Jack Studnicka, Centre, Oshawa Generals
Studnicka is a very smart player. He is a strong playmaker. Studnicka has excellent vision and is able to make tough passes to teammates. He moves the puck smartly, putting it in good spaces where a linemate can race onto it if he doesn’t have another play. He is a decent stick handler who protects the puck well down low and in the cycle game.
Studnicka can also score goals. He has a good wrist shot, with power and accuracy. He could stand to work on his release though. Studnicka used his shot a little more often this season, which helped him to keep defences off-balance and gave him more room to operate. He gets himself open for shots by finding soft spots in the defence, and finishing passes from teammates.
Studnicka is willing to get to the net and battle in the corners. He is not afraid to play in the dirty areas of the ice or to take a hit to make a play. However, Studnicka needs to bulk up to continue to play this game at the pro level.
Kevin Bahl, Left Defence, Ottawa 67s
Bahl’s bread and butter is his defensive game. His strong skating, agility, and long stick make him very hard to beat in one-on-one situations. His long reach helps him to take the puck off opponents with an excellent poke check. He has good positioning and that reach also cuts down passing and shooting lanes. Bahl is particularly effective down low on the penalty kill, where he can take away plays in and around the goal line and slot.
Bahl is not the biggest hitter. He is disciplined and does not get himself caught out of position to throw huge checks. However, this does not mean that he is not physical. He is a man-beast on the boards, winning battles and clearing the zone. He also keeps the front of the net clear, allowing his goaltender to see shots and make saves. Bahl is not afraid to put his body on the line and block shots.
Sasha Chmelevski, Centre, Ottawa 67s
Picked by the San Jose Sharks in the 2017 NHL Draft, Chmelevski has outstanding speed as well as excellent acceleration. He is dynamic off the rush and can use his ability to change speeds as a weapon. If defencemen don’t respect his speed, he can beat them to the outside and cut to the net. If they back off too far, he can slow down and use the open space to make plays. He also has excellent edgework. Chmelevski has the ability to change directions on a dime. This makes him extremely elusive, both with and without the puck. He could stand to add a little lower body muscle and be stronger on the puck.
Chmelevski reads the play extremely well and makes very good decisions with and without the puck. His stickhandling is very good, with the ability to control the puck and make fancy moves while moving at top speed. Chmelevski can control the puck, protect it, and make plays in very tight spaces. He also has a strong wrist shot and a quick release. He couples this with an excellent one-timer and the ability to score in tight to the net to be a pure sniper. Chmelevski also has good passing skills, but can sometimes focus a little too much on his own shot.
Kody Clark, Right Wing, Ottawa 67s
The son of former NHLer Wendel Clark, Kody Clark works extremely well down low. He is strong on the puck and controls it below the face-off dots. He extends plays in the cycle game, waiting for teammates to get open or an opportunity to get a step on a defenceman and take it to the net himself. Clark, like his father, has a good wrist shot and release. He is also strong on the defensive end of the ice and has been an effective penalty killer for the 67s. He will take on a bigger role in Ottawa this season.
Semyon Der-Arguchintsev, Centre, Peterborough Petes
Der-Agutchintsev barely made the cut for 2018 NHL Draft as a September 15, 2000 birthdate. He ended up being selected in the third round by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is a skilled playmaker. Der-Argutchintsev is an excellent stickhandler who opens up passing lanes with quick feints, and changes in direction. He can put the puck through tight spaces and put it right on his teammate’s tape. Der-Argutchintsev has good anticipation and sees where his teammates are headed before they get there. He could be more dangerous if he can add some power to his shot. He also needs to bulk up to work along the boards and in front of the net.
Zach Gallant, Centre, Peterborough Petes
A third-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings in 2017, Gallant has been inconsistent across his three years in the OHL. He had 16 goals and 15 assists for 31 points in 54 games last season. He generates offence by forechecking as well as by getting the puck to the net. Gallant’s game is simple but effective. His biggest contributions may come defensively, where he kills penalties, matches up against top lines, and is good in the face-off circle.
2019 NHL Draft Prospects to Watch
Arthur Kaliyev, Left Wing, Hamilton Bulldogs
A second-round pick in the 2017 OHL Draft, Kaliyev made an immediate impact for the Hamilton Bulldogs and helped the team to the OHL Championship. He put up 31 goals and 48 points in 68 games last season. Kaliyev also had 11 points in 21 playoff games. The Staten Island native has a tremendous shot. He picks corners with ease, and his quick release often fools goaltenders. Kaliyev is solid on his skates and not afraid to get to the dirty areas of the ice. He establishes a position in front of the net and is tough to move out.
Kaliyev is also a skilled stick handler who can beat defenders in one-on-one situations. He could stand to work on his skating, as Kaliyev could improve his first few steps and overall top-end speed. He also needs to show more commitment in his own end of the ice. With a couple of small improvements, he could climb even higher on draft boards.
Daniil Antropov, Right Wing, Oshawa Generals
Antropov put up 31 points in 59 games in his second OHL season. Now entering his draft year, he is looking for improved numbers to increase his draft stock. Antropov is a big winger who can drive to the front of the net with a powerful stride. He has the soft hands to finish plays in tight to the net. He sees the ice well and can make passes through tight spaces to set up teammates. Antropov could stand to improve his skating. This would make him a lot more dangerous off the rush.
Nando Eggenberger, Left Wing/Right Wing, Oshawa Generals
Undrafted in 2018, Eggenberger has good size at 6-foot-2-inches tall. He uses that size to play a power game, getting to the front of the net, where he screens goalies, tips in pucks, and pounces on rebounds. He is also very strong on the wall, winning battles for pucks and extending possession in the cycle game. Eggenberger gets in quickly on the forecheck and pressures opposing defenders into making mistakes. He is strong on the puck and his lower body strength gives him excellent balance. Eggenberger has decent vision and can set up a linemate out of the cycle.
He is more of a goal scorer than a playmaker though. Eggenberger has a good wrist shot, and his release is quick and deceptive. He can fool goaltenders from further out. He can use a defenceman as a screen on the rush, as they back off to respect his speed. Eggenberger also has a good snapshot and one-timer. He even has a good backhand.
Graeme Clarke, Right Wing, Ottawa 67s
Clarke had a strong performance in helping Canada to a gold medal at the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup. While he put up just three points in five games, he showed off a well-developed all-around game and could have had even more points with a little luck. He is a sniper, with an excellent wrist shot and release. He also maintains puck possession with strong work along the boards and in the cycle game.
Nikita Okhotuk, Left Defence, Ottawa 67s
Okhotuk is a good skater. He is also an excellent defender. He uses his edgework and agility to keep his man in front of him and maintain good gap control. Okhotuk has solid positioning and a long stick. He has good balance and lower body strength. This allows him to win his battles on the boards and in front of the net. Okhotuk did not score much as an OHL rookie. If he can show some improvements in his offensive game, he will rise up draft boards quickly.
Pavel Gogolev, Right Wing, Peterborough Petes
Undrafted in 2018, Gogolev is a very good skater. He has the speed and acceleration to beat defenders wide and cut to the net. Add to this the ability to stickhandle and make plays while moving at top speed and the potential for a dynamic winger is there. His wrist shot has good power and a quick release but needs a little work on his accuracy. He can also work the half-boards on the power play, quarterbacking things. While he prefers to shoot, he can also make some nice passes. Gogolev needs to show more consistency in his effort level, especially in the defensive end of the ice.
Nick Robertson, Left Wing/Centre, Peterborough Petes
The younger brother of Jason Robertson, Nick is a shifty forward with plenty of skill. His stickhandling is very good and he combines this with above average skating ability to give defenders fits off the rush. Robertson is undersized, but he has a low centre of gravity and is strong on the puck. He also has a very good wrist shot and a quick release. Robertson opens up passing lanes with his ability to change speeds and his soft hands. Once they are opened, he can slide the puck to an open teammate. His hockey sense is good and he makes smart plays with the puck.
2020 NHL Draft Prospects To Watch
Marco Rossi, Centre, Ottawa 67s
Rossi is already being hyped as one of the best players to ever come out of Austria. The diminutive centre is an excellent skater, with very good speed and edgework. He can take defenders wide and cut to the net. Rossi has excellent hands. He creates space by combining his quick fakes and with his quick cuts and changes in speed. Rossi is talented as both a playmaker and a shooter. He has a quick wrist shot with an excellent release as well as the passing skills to set up his linemates and make them better. A late 2001 birthdate, he will be eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft.
Main Photo: ST CATHARINES, ON – OCTOBER 15: Jack Studnicka #23 of the Oshawa Generals skates during an OHL game against the Niagara IceDogs at the Meridian Centre on October 15, 2016, in St Catharines, Canada. (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)