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We are going to let Brock Otten, McKeen’s Director of Scouting, take the wheel in this week’s Prospect Report with notes on NHL drafted players and how they have progressed in the first third of the Ontario Hockey League season. Brock has been covering the OHL for over a decade through his blog, “OHL prospects” in addition to his work with McKeen’s, including helping to edit and write out annual McKeen’s NHL Draft Guide. Some of these prospects have taken significant strides since their draft year, others are making their case for a spot in the World Juniors later this month, and all should be on your radar for their potential NHL impact.
The McKeen’s team are scouting and writing about prospects all season long and provide in-depth reports on our website.
PROSPECTS IN THE NEWS: Top Drafted Players in the OHL
We have written a lot about the top draft eligible players from the Ontario Hockey League so far this year, but what about those already drafted by NHL teams? Which NHL prospects have elevated their games with the return of the OHL? We’re now nearly one third of the way through the 2021/22 season and some prospects have certainly impressed. Here are twelve names you should know, if you don’t already.
Brandt Clarke - Defense - Barrie Colts (Los Angeles Kings)
The most recent eighth overall selection in the NHL Draft, Clarke entered the OHL season as the hands-on favorite to win the league’s top defender award (Max Kaminsky trophy) and he has not disappointed. Currently producing at well over a point per game, Clarke has helped keep the Barrie Colts above water despite the team’s goaltending struggles. A highly intelligent and skilled offensive defender, Clarke is extremely dangerous anytime he has the puck. Leading up to the draft, the talking points surrounding Clarke were his awkward and stiff skating stride, and his inconsistent defensive play. However, he has taken some steps forward in both of these areas, looking more fluid in his movements this year and more consistently engaged in the defensive end. Not only is Clarke the league’s best defender, but he may be one of the top players overall. He should be a big part of Canada’s effort at this year’s, upcoming, World Junior Championships.
McTavish has spent the majority of the season in the NHL with the Anaheim Ducks where he scored his first NHL goal, but also battled some minor injuries. Recently the Ducks returned McTavish to the OHL, and he responded with a hat trick in his first game back with Peterborough. Suffice to say, McTavish should have an excellent finish to the year. The question is...will that finish be in Peterborough? The Petes currently find themselves in last place in their division and would get a bounty in return for McTavish should they look to trade him in what will almost certainly be his final year in the league. The big, power center is an absolute load to handle for opposing defenders, both in transition and down low. His physical approach and high IQ make him a terrific two-way player and his lightning quick release and heavy shot make him a high-end goal scorer. Like Brandt Clarke, McTavish should be an offensive leader for Canada at the WJC’s.
Brennan Othmann - Left Wing - Flint Firebirds (New York Rangers)
A first round selection by the New York Rangers this past summer, Othmann is an intense and driven goal scoring winger. The start to his draft +1 season has been terrific as Othmann finds himself just outside the top 10 of league scoring. However, what has been most impressive is how he is doing it and how he is driving the bus in Flint. He has double the number of goals of his next closest teammate and has been involved in nearly 50% of the Firebirds offensive production this season. Talk about taking on a leadership role. As much as his quick release and goal scoring instincts are hyped, it is his playmaking ability and quickness that are undervalued, with both qualities looking clearly improved.
Ryan O’Rourke - Defense - Soo Greyhounds (Minnesota Wild)
O’Rourke returns to the OHL after spending all of last year in the AHL with Iowa. Minnesota could have kept O’Rourke in the AHL again due to an exemption but opted to return him to Sault Ste. Marie so that he could further grow his offensive game and confidence. So far, so good, as he has clearly taken a step forward as an offensive player and powerplay QB. As of writing this, O’Rourke currently leads all OHL defenders in powerplay assists and the Greyhounds have the top rated powerplay in the league. As an NHL player, O’Rourke is not likely to be a top offensive contributor. His tough as nails approach in the defensive end makes him more likely to be a shutdown type. However, he has unquestionably improved in the areas that Minnesota hoped he would when they opted to return him, and this makes him more likely to be a competent, top four defender at the NHL level in the future.
Jan Mysak - Center - Hamilton Bulldogs (Montreal Canadiens)
After a bit of a slow start to the year, Mysak has caught fire in recent weeks for the Bulldogs. In his last eight games he has 11 goals and 17 points. Mysak is another player who spent last year in the AHL, where he played pretty sparingly with Laval. It clearly took a bit of time to get his timing and confidence back, but he is rolling now heading into the World Juniors, where he will captain the Czech Republic team for the second year in a row. Mysak remains most dangerous when he is aggressive in driving to the net with the puck on his stick, as he manipulates traffic and space with his quick hands. However, his two-way approach is an underrated component of his game, and his versatility is something that makes him a valuable prospect in the Canadiens system.
Luke Evangelista - Right Wing - London Knights (Nashville Predators)
Thus far in 2021, the London Knights have been the best team in the OHL by a significant margin and Nashville second rounder Luke Evangelista has been the team’s best and most consistent skater. He is currently leading the OHL in goal scoring and has put himself in position to contend for a spot on team Canada at the World Juniors. As a draft eligible player, Evangelista excelled as a playmaker down low because of his quick hands and vision. Now, his game has become more well-rounded as he has added strength to be better on and off the puck, playing in all situations for London. As you might have guessed from his goal totals, his confidence in using his shot, especially his one timer on the powerplay, has really improved too.
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Wyatt Johnston - Center - Windsor Spitfires (Dallas Stars)
Johnston was a bit of a surprise first round selection this past draft by the Stars, however his projection as a rangy, two-way, middle six pivot definitely caught their attention. A late bloomer physically, Johnston has a wide range of tools in his toolbox. He is a competitive two-way forward who loves to play near the crease and below the goal line. He shows good awareness with the puck in the offensive end and excels as a playmaker, especially coming off the wall where he can keep plays alive with his hands and feet. However, this year, his skating looks improved and that added extra gear has made him a more consistent offensive weapon for the Spitfires.
Oskar Olausson - Right Wing - Barrie Colts (Colorado Avalanche)
A first year OHL player, the Colorado Avalanche first round selection was drafted by the Colts in this summer’s Import Draft. He has stepped right in as a first line winger and is currently leading a somewhat disappointing Colts team in scoring. Olausson's speed from the right side has been extremely noticeable and it is clear that he possesses significant potential as a goal scorer because of his quickness and shooting ability. Right now, the thing holding him back from being one of the best forwards in the OHL is consistency. However, as stated, Barrie has struggled to find their own identity and meet expectations so far in 2021. If the Colts, as a team, start to play better, perhaps Olausson’s play and production will reach a new level in the second half of the year (when most first-year imports often find their groove).
Sasha Pastujov - Right Wing - Guelph Storm (Anaheim Ducks)
Pastujov, who came to the OHL from the U.S. NTDP has been extremely impressive in his first OHL season with the Guelph Storm. The Anaheim third rounder has consistently been among the league’s leading scorers to start the year and currently finds himself just outside the top five. Once inside the offensive zone, Pastujov is extremely difficult to pin down. He is skilled. He is intelligent with the puck. He is elusive because of his high-end anticipation and awareness. He always seems to keep his feet moving in the offensive zone and never gives up on a play. When the pace slows down, he truly takes over. However, he is still working to be more dangerous in transition by improving his linear quickness and this will be critical to him finding success as an offensive player at the next level.
Josh Bloom - Left Wing/Center - Saginaw Spirit (Buffalo Sabres)
We, at McKeen’s Hockey, were pretty high on Bloom heading into the 2021 draft despite him (and other OHL’ers) not playing last year. He ended up being a third-round selection by the Buffalo Sabres and the early returns have been pretty terrific as Bloom has been an early standout this season. Blessed with size and quickness, Bloom is also a highly intelligent player. That combination has allowed him to not only consistently find the score sheet, but also become a strong two-way presence for the Spirit. While short handed goals are not a definitive marker of a strong defensive forward, it should be noted that he already has six shorthanded goals on the year. Involved in every aspect of the game, Bloom’s confidence with the puck is really taking off and Sabres’ fans should be excited about his development this year.
Brandon Coe - Right Wing - North Bay Battalion (San Jose Sharks)
The only overage forward to make this list (2001 born), San Jose could have opted to have Coe play in the AHL this year. However, their decision to return him to the OHL for one final year looks to have been the correct one to help him build up confidence in his offensive game. He currently leads the OHL in scoring and has consistently been one of the best players in the league for the surprise North Bay Battalion. Coe has always been an impressive skater (in the conversation as the OHL’s quickest player), but he has really learned to harness and control his speed this year. He has also increased his physical intensity. The combination of those two things has turned him into a dominant force. Still without an NHL contract, Coe has made the decision to sign him an easy one with his start to the year.
Jack Thompson - Defense - Sudbury Wolves (Tampa Bay Lightning)
A former third round pick of the Lightning, Thompson has returned to the OHL and become one of the league’s top two-way defenders. He excels in all situations for the Sudbury Wolves and his skating ability is an asset for him at both ends of the rink. Drafted as more of an offensive defender, Thompson has worked hard to round out his game and his improved strength and physical intensity have greatly helped with that. The right shot defender has many qualities that could make him a long time NHL defender and he may just be one of the CHL’s most underrated players and prospects