While there may not be a household name like a Quinton Byfield or a Jamie Drysdale in this year’s draft, the Ontario Hockey League still have a number of quality prospects that will once again take centre stage at the NHL Entry Draft.
This season was unpredictable as there isn’t one name that stands out as a first overall pick. There wasn’t an OHL season due to the ongoing pandemic, but a number of prospects still managed to make the most of their draft year and catch the eye of scouts at different times to make an impression by playing in different leagues. It also helps, that all of these players won gold for Canada at the U18 World Hockey Championships this year.
For this list we are listing the player’s original team where they would’ve played in their draft year and their loaned team in parentheses. Here are the top 10 prospects from the OHL that are up for the NHL Entry Draft.
10. Jack Matier, D, Ottawa 67’s
NHL Central Scouting rank: 79th (among NA skaters)
Matier had a really good rookie season as he was already garnering top minutes and playing an important role with the 67’s. I have him as a fourth-round pick and a top-100 prospect on my final rankings, as he’s very well worth the selection in that range given his play style and ability.
Matier isn’t known for his offensive production, as he registered nine points in 56 games played with the 67’s last season. In his draft year, he only played seven games, all of which were at the U18 Championships recording one assist for Team Canada. His strength lies with his defensive mindset and zone play.
He has great gap control when defending against rushes and he has a really great ability to break up plays in all three zones. In front of the net, he has great strength to tie up the opposition and provide strong coverage. When engaged in puck battles, his size allows him to gain an edge and separate players form the puck to gain possession.
While there’s always room to grow and improve on other aspects of his game–especially offensively– Matier is still worth selecting as he can be a very serviceable third pairing stay-at-home defenseman.
9. Ryan Winterton, C, Hamilton Bulldogs
NHL Central Scouting rank: 33rd (among NA skaters)
A strong, reliable two-way centreman, Winterton is another player who made the most of his opportunity for Canada at the U18 Championship. In his rookie season with the Bulldogs, he finished with 23 points, finishing 19thamong rookie skaters in the OHL.
Winterton possesses great awareness and speed that allows him to attack quickly and help out on the back check. Every time he is on the ice, he shows a high compete level and energy at both ends of the ice. He isn’t afraid to engage in puck battles and constantly apply pressure to force a mistake, as he knows just when to come in to pick off a pass attempt and take advantage of his opportunity.
While his two-way game is strong, Winterton possesses a very lethal shot. His wrist shot is quick with a powerful release and great accuracy on target. His skating and vision allows him to find the open ice and a clear lane for a dangerous scoring chance. He’s always thinking offense and will always elect to shoot, but he is also a very strong passer. With his puck control and hockey sense, he’s definitely going to be a great pickup in the third round.
8. Chase Stillman, RW, Sudbury Wolves (on loan to Esbjerg U20)
NHL Central Scouting rank: 35th (among NA skaters)
If the last name sounds familiar, it should as Chase is the son of former NHLer and two-time Stanley Cup Champion Cory Stillman and younger brother of Riley who is in the Chicago Blackhawks system. With 34 points in 58 games with the Wolves, Chase finished the 2019-20 season ninth among rookie skaters. He then went overseas to play for Esbjerg in Denmark where he averaged two points per game with 16 points in eight games.
Chase’s play style is similar to that of his dad. When the Sudbury Wolves forward is on the ice, he’s always in attack mode as he has great energy and intensity. He already possesses the offensive skillset that’ll garner a lot of attention at the draft, as Mitch Brown of EP Rinkside describes his shot and passing skills as “NHL calibre”.
While he was used in a depth role on Team Canada at the U18’s, Stillman’s game was on full display. He was able to chip in offensively with four points in seven games and be a real force on the forecheck, playing the body and battling for pucks along the boards. He’s definitely a prospect that can go in the late second or early third-round of this year’s draft.
7. Ethan Del Mastro, D, Mississauga Steelheads
NHL Central Scouting rank: 57th (among NA skaters)
Even though Del Mastro had seven assists in 57 games with the Steelheads in 2019-20, he’s definitely capable of being a strong puck-moving defenseman. His offensive production would’ve been pretty high if there was an OHL season.
Del Mastro is also a very reliable and menacing defender. With his NHL-like frame, he stands at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds. He’s a still a very fluid skater as he has great mobility, but he’s definitely not afraid of playing the body. He has a long stride and good speed to catch up to the puck carrier and laying a big hit on his opponent. He was very active in this department at the U18 Championship. He has a long reach and active stick. He’s able to break plays up effectively and create turnovers, leading to a quick transition with his passing.
Del Mastro isn’t just a smart and determined player on the ice, he prioritizes his education off the ice earning excellent grades in the past. This year some of his courses include physics and kinesiology.
6. Wyatt Johnston, C, Windsor Spitfires
NHL Central Scouting rank: 16th (among NA skaters)
During the 2018-19 season, Johnston dominated the AAA scene with the Toronto Marlboros, registering 48 goals and 94 points in 73 games. As a result, he was drafted sixth overall by the Spitfires in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection Draft. Johnston finished the season with 30 points in 53 games, finishing 14th overall in rookie scoring.
An extremely versatile centreman, Johnston plays a very efficient game, where he has great attention to detail and a high-end work ethic. He isn’t flashy by any means but he’s always making the smart plays in all three zones of the ice. He provides great puck support in battles along the boards and isn’t afraid to get involved and provide a strong net front presence. He has quick hands in tight areas and great hand-eye coordination.
While he does have good size (6-foot-1) and speed, it is still something that Johnston would like to improve on. His two-way ability is something that teams definitely value and he would bolster their centre depth.
5. Brett Harrison, C, Oshawa Generals (on loan to KOOVEE U20)
NHL Central Scouting rank: 50th (among NA skaters)
Harrison always has a knack for making life difficult for the opposition. That is always the main goal for the Generals forward, as he’s always looking to go into the gritty areas and make a big time play. No matter where he is, he wants to make his presence felt.
Harrison’s 6-foot-2, 185 pound frame allows him to engage in battles down low and always outwork the opposition. He knows how to gain the inside edge and force turnovers and retrieve the puck. His 21 goals had him tied for third among rookies in 2019-20 as he always has the ability to drive to the net for rebound opportunities or deflections from the point. He’s difficult to contain and tie up as he has great strength to outmuscle defenders for a loose puck.
While Central Scouting has Harrison ranked pretty low among North American skaters, other outlets see value in him. He can be a really excellent selection in the early stages of the second round.
4. Brennan Othmann, LW, Flint Firebirds (on loan to EHC Olten)
NHL Central Scouting rank: 8th (among NA skaters)
Othmann has the perfect combination of feistiness and goal scoring awareness. He has shown this in his GTHL days with the Don Mills Flyers and at the U18 Championship.
Othmann is regarded as one of the top goal scorers in this draft as he’s always finding the back of the net. He’s always in position for a one-timer, using his quick release from his wrist shot. He knows how to read the ice and find the open space to get a prime scoring opportunity. He gets a lot of power with his wind up and has no problem wiring the puck on net. He also isn’t shy of making highlight reel plays, like this goal in the gold medal game against Russia at the U18 Championship.
It’s not just his shot that makes him an offensive threat. While he isn’t the best skater, he’s still able to read the play and make a mad dash to the net on an odd man rush and he can sneak in behind the defense undetected for a quick tap-in goal. He can be a nuisance as he constantly applies pressure and disrupts plays forcing turnovers and a quick transition.
Wherever there’s a play that’s unfolding expect Othmann to be in the middle of it all. Some aspects of his game– like his defensive game– are a work in progress, but he has a lot of tools that can make him a very dangerous winger on both sides of the puck.
3. Francesco Pinelli, C, Kitchener Rangers (on loan to Jessenice)
NHL Central Scouting rank: 15th (among NA skaters)
Like Othmann, Pinelli was also a major standout in the GTHL AAA scene. But both are different players as Pinelli has the makings of being a very strong, playmaking centreman. He was just under a point per game with Jessenice recording 11 points in 13 games.
Pinelli’s greatest asset is his high-end vision as it aids him in his puck distribution. He has a keen eye of spotting his teammates and is able to make crisp passes and making smart decisions with or without the puck. His hands allow him to make moves in tight areas, while drawing in opponents to make a quick pass to an open player.
He’s a very strong skater with good edges that allow him to maneuver out of tough situations with control. He’ll maintain control until he sees the perfect opportunity, as he’s able to find the right time to make a play. He provides great support for his teammates as he’s always in a great spot to receive and distribute the puck.
When things aren’t going his way, Pinelli uses that to his advantage. He was benched during Canada’s 4-2 win against Latvia at the U18 Championship as he struggled during that game. Pinelli was dialed in and delivered from that moment on, showing that he’s able to bounce back in tough situations. This included a hat trick in a 7-0 win over Switzerland, finishing the tournament with seven assists and 11 points in seven games. That mindset and determination makes Pinelli that much more of a top prospect in this draft.
2. Mason McTavish, C, Peterborough Petes (on loan to EHC Olten)
NHL Central Scouting rank: 2nd (among NA skaters)
If there is any forward that pushed his way into talks of being a top-10 pick in this draft, it’s the Petes power forward. McTavish had a stellar rookie campaign as he finished second among OHL rookies in goals (29) goals and points (42), only behind potential 2022 first overall pick, Shane Wright.
McTavish always plays with a high level of intensity and purpose every time he’s on the ice. He’s always a force to be reckoned with in the offensive zone, whether it’s his physical edge or with his powerful shot. He’s the kind of player that will always standout in the big moments of a game and take charge to gain momentum.
His 6-foot-2, 207 pounds frame allows him to drive hard to the net and power his way through defenders without any issue. His net front presence makes him difficult to contain as he can easily tip pucks in or get an easy rebound. He averaged 0.69 goals per game this with EHC Olten, scoring nine times in 13 games. He’s got a strong shot with a fast release that makes him dangerous in the slot when he gets a one-time opportunity. He may not have quick hands, but he’s very deceptive with his decision making with the puck.
When Wright missed two games in the round robin of the U18 Championship, McTavish stepped up as a leader in his absence wearing the ‘C’. He made his presence known and he put his best foot forward. In Canada’s 4-2 win over Latvia, he had two goals and an assist and received player of the game honours.
1. Brandt Clarke, D, Barrie Colts (on loan to HC Nove Zamky)
NHL Central Scouting rank: 7th (among NA skaters)
Everyone loves high-end, puck moving defensemen. We see the excitement with the way Cale Makar and Adam Fox played this season. Clarke, the Colts defenseman, has the potential to be another highly skilled defenseman to enter a league that’s getting a lot of offense from the blue line.
Recording 15 points with HC Nove Zamky and another seven at the U18 Championship, Clarke is always thinking offense. His skating, speed and mobility are what stand out when you watch him play. He has no problem being the one leading the offensive charge, breaking out of his zone and carrying the puck or jumping into a rush and attack. He possesses strong vision and crisp passing to find his teammates. Whether it’s quick passes on the power play or making a long breakout pass, he has the accuracy to make those plays quickly and effectively.
When facing pressure defensively, he does a really great job at taking his time to curl back and assess his options. When he gets a green light to skate up, that’s when he can be gone in a flash. He has great hands for puck control and slick edgework that allows him to shift his body and protect the puck upon entry of the offensive zone with great control.
There is always improvement for him defensively. While he does have great size and strength to battle in the corners and engage physically, there are times where he can get caught out of position. Once he develops the sense of when to prioritize defense, he will have the foundation of a well-rounded game. He is one of many defenseman that will hear his name called early in the draft.
Hockey has been a big part of my life since watching my first Leafs game to currently coaching minor hockey. I previously interned at The Hockey News and worked on Toronto Marlies broadcasts for Rogers TV. Aside from hockey, I also enjoy drumming, animation and impressions/ voices.