The Ontario Hockey League never seems to disappoint when it comes to draft eligible prospects making a name for themselves at the NHL Draft. In 2021, it was Mason McTavish (third overall, Anaheim Ducks), Brandt Clarke (eighth overall, Los Angeles Kings) and Brennan Othmann (16th overall, New York Rangers) as the top OHL prospects.
All three of which went on to have successful draft +1 seasons. McTavish, played at all levels and is in the running for an OHL Championship and Memorial Cup, Clarke finished top-five in scoring among defenders and Othmann finished second in league scoring with 50 goals. Let’s not forget about the season that Wyatt Johnston had with his 124-points as he’s looking like a steal for the Dallas Stars (23rd overall).
The 2022 OHL draft class looks to produce another strong crop of prospects with a lot of potential, including a teammate of Clarke and Othmann from their GTHL days. Here are the top-10 OHLers for the 2022 NHL Draft.
10. Matyas Sapovaliv, C, Saginaw Spirit
Central Scouting Rank: 23rd (among NA Skaters)
He’s not as flashy compared to other players on this list, but Matyas Sapovaliv is certainly effective, playing a simplistic style. The 6-foot-4, 190-pound centreman finished the regular season fourth among rookie players with 52 points in 68 games for the Spirit.
Sapovaliv has great defensive awareness. He’s always a factor in defending against the rush and getting into lanes to block a shot or step up and make a timely poke check with his long reach. He’s very mobile for his size, being able to catch up to puck carriers and keep them to the outside. He’s sound positionally and does a great job separating opponents from the puck and gain the advantage in puck battles, showing his competitive side and work ethic.
Related: THW 2022 NHL Draft Guide
While his defensive game is his bread and butter, Sapovaliv does a great job offensively, being able to spot his teammates with his quick and accurate passing. Whether it’s finding the cross seams or quick give-and-go’s in the offensive zone to spring an attacker, he’s always the one starting a play leading to a timely scoring chance or opportunity.
9. Michael Buchinger, D, Guelph Storm
Central Scouting Rank: 30th (among NA Skaters)
Michael Buchinger has continuously stood out to be a possible second or third-round selection in this draft class. He had a strong rookie season finishing in the top-25 in scoring with 44 points.
Buchinger possesses a strong two-way game with a consistent work ethic. He’s tough to go up against in one-on-one situations and displays a great sense of calmness and poise with every decision and play. He’s a very fluid skater– both forward and back– with a great first few steps, edgework and mobility when in transition or defending against the rush. As a result of this, he can get out of tough situations and pressure very easily.
His playmaking abilities are also at the forefront of his game. Whether it’s making a stretch pass to start a breakout or short passes in the offensive zone, Buchinger is always making crisp plays with great precision. Even though he’s a great passer, he has a very underrated shot. He has great power from the blue line with his wrist shot and does a great job to read the play and sneak in from the blue line and get a quick shot on net.
I’m always big on two-way defenders and Buchinger is one that teams should consider with his attitude and skillset.
8. Bryce McConnell-Barker, C, Soo Greyhounds
Central Scouting Rank: 34th (among NA Skaters)
I don’t think Bryce McConnell-Barker gets as much credit or notoriety as some of the other players in this draft. He was further down the depth chart on a deep Greyhounds team, but when he got an opportunity to impress, he most certainly did. He won’t “wow” you with his play, but you’ll be drawn to him when he’s on the ice.
McConnell-Barker is a two-way centreman that possesses a goal-scoring touch. He finished the 2021-22 season with 49 points, 44 of which were primary points showing his ability to lead the offense. Right away you notice the work ethic and intensity that he plays with, as he’s a very competitive player that shows no quit. When you combine that with his strong and deceptive shot and skating ability, you have a player that the opposition should be on high alert.
He has a well-rounded offensive tool kit, but his play away from the puck is just as noticeable as he reads the play extremely well. He’s great on the backcheck to take away passing lanes as well as provide great support and cover for his teammates. With a well-rounded game and ability to find the back of the net, McConnell-Barker should definitely gain some interest from NHL teams.
7. Danny Zhilkin, C, Guelph Storm
Central Scouting Rank: 35th (among NA Skaters)
The Storm were middle of the pack in the OHL this season in the standings and in goals scored (251). With many other talented prospects like Buchinger, Matthew Poitras and Jake Karabela, Danny Zhilkin was the name to keep an eye on in this draft. He stood out at the top prospects game, and finished with 55 points in 66 games, but had the sixth best primary points per game in the OHL with 0.65.
Zhilkin plays with a heavy tempo and pace to his game as he’s a hard worker. His skating and speed is what you notice first, either in transition or on the cycle in the offensive zone. He does a great job to spot the open lanes to carry the puck and has great foot work to maneuver around the opposition. He does a great job to open up the game and create space for himself and his teammates. He’s a great passer, but he also has a heavy shot to finish plays.
If you want someone to start an attack it’s Zhilkin. He displays great control on zone entries, but also has the mindset and ability to be physical and engage on the forecheck. As a result, he likes to play with an edge and never backs down from a battle. He already displays a lot of NHL qualities that can be translated to the NHL.
6. Ty Nelson, D, North Bay Battalion
Central Scouting Rank: 32nd (among NA Skaters)
North Bay’s Ty Nelson is definitely a really entertaining prospect to watch.
An undersized defender at 5-foot-10, Ty Nelson certainly doesn’t let that get the best of him as he plays like a 6-foot-2 defender. He has great strength for his size and isn’t afraid of any battle or situation where he needs to get involved. He finished tied for fifth among OHL rookies with 51 points and first in assists with 42. He went on to add another 10 assists in 13 playoff games.
Nelson is a highly mobile and effective puck-moving defender as he’s always in attack mode. He has fantastic speed and agility and possesses excellent edges when he needs to turn on a dime and make sharp turns or pivots. He has great hands to maintain control of the puck in transition and has a powerful shot from the point, making him dangerous at five-on-five and on the power play. He can spot passing lanes flawlessly and does a great job at creating space to open things up.
There are times where Nelson’s decision making isn’t the best, but there has been progress throughout the season where he isn’t jumping up at the first sight. He can make snap decisions resulting in a turnover and his defensive awareness and positioning was questionable at times. If he’s able to continue to working on that aspect, Nelson is going to be a real impactful defender in the NHL.
5. David Goyette, C, Sudbury Wolves
Central Scouting Rank: 13th (among NA Skaters)
The Wolves centreman had a very impressive rookie campaign, leading all OHLers in goals (33) and points (73), while finishing second in assists with 40.
David Goyette is one of the most skilled and creative playmakers in this draft. He’s a slick puck handler as he has soft hands with great control and is creative and shifty with his movements. Couple that with his skating and edgework to evade opponents, it’s tough to contain him. Even when you think he’s got nothing to work with, he’s able to sneak by and still maintain control of the puck. He has great upper body strength to shield the puck and maintain possession.
While he likes to execute plays in dangerous areas and challenge himself by driving hard into traffic, that can be his downfall. He can take big risks with his decision making as he can try to do too much and it may result in a broken play or turnover. Overall, it’s hard not to like the upside and high-end skillset that he possesses.
4. Owen Beck, C, Mississauga Steelheads
Central Scouting Rank: 10th (among NA Skaters)
One of the top rookies this season, Owen Beck didn’t look out of place as a result of a lost season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Steelheads centre finished tied for fifth among rookies in scoring with 51 points and has 60% even strength goals for percentage when he was on the ice. Clearly, the missed season didn’t impact his production.
Overall, Beck is a smart, agile and crafty two-way centreman. He plays with great energy and a high pace on every shift. He has great hands to make moves in tight spaces and is extremely deceptive with his movements and puck control. He has a great first few steps to get to top speed in transition and his edgework allows him to move through traffic and evade defenders and gain even more speed as a result. He always seems to be in control of a shift because of his ability to set the tempo when he’s on the ice. That alone should make him a highly coveted prospect.
3. Luca Del Bel Belluz, C, Mississauga Steelheads
Central Scouting Rank: 8th (among NA Skaters)
Another Steelheads centre makes it into the top-five. I go back and forth between who should be ranked ahead of one another because both Beck and Luca Del Bel Belluz have a similar skillset. From the beginning of the season to now, you can notice the effort Del Bel Belluz has put into his game to improve his stock.
Del Bel Belluz already possesses great hands and a shot that’s lethal from anywhere on the ice. He had the second best P1/GP among OHL draft eligible players with 0.88 and third best primary even strength points per game with 0.56. Even from his days with the Toronto Red Wings in the GTHL, he showed the promise of a very productive centre with his hands, puck control and shooting accuracy. His skating mechanics and posture was always a sticking point. He vastly improved on that throughout the season as he seems a little quicker with his stride and movement.
Aside from being a factor in the offensive zone, Del Bel Belluz is capable of a steady 200-foot game. He’s efficient at being a presence on the back check, displaying great situational awareness to get into lanes and break up plays. He can very well be a big surprise pick in the draft.
2. Pavel Mintyukov, D, Saginaw Spirirt
Central Scouting Rank: 6th (among NA Skaters)
From the start of the season to now, Pavel Mintyukov has continued to impress as an offensively gifted, puck-moving defenseman. This season, he finished third among defenders in scoring with 62 points and fifth in goals with 17 and a solid P1/GP rate of 0.60. Great production on a Spirit team that was last in the Western Conference.
Mintyukov excels at being a dynamic offensive dynamo on the blueline. He has no problem leading the rush or jumping in on the attack and engage in the offensive zone. He has great mobility as he possesses a smooth stride. He can spot the passing lanes very well to make strong and accurate passes and has a powerful release from the point. He has great offensive awareness as he can provide great support for teammates and get in on the cycle to engage in the play down low. He has great strength to tie up players along the boards or even make an open ice hit.
The biggest question mark with Mintyukov was his defensive play as he could get caught with his pinches and decision making. However, throughout the season, he showed more patience and wasn’t as eager to make a snap decision and get caught out of position. As he improves in this area and continues to develop overall, he could be a real two-way threat.
1. Shane Wright, C, Kingston Frontenacs
Central Scouting Rank: 1st (among NA Skaters)
Following in the footsteps of other exceptional status players like John Tavares, Aaron Ekblad and Connor McDavid, projected first overall pick Shane Wright holds the distinction of being the top OHLer in this draft class.
Wright has been gaining a lot of attention since his time in the GTHL. He had a phenomenal rookie season with 39 goals and 66 points, dominated and captained Team Canada to a gold medal at the World U18 Championship and finished with 94 points in his draft year. He had the best P1/GP and EV P1/GP in the league among draft-eligible players at 1.04 and 0.76, respectively.
There has been a lot of talk of his ability to be an impact player early on this season as he didn’t play with the sense of urgency. Whether it was other teams figuring him out or playing a different style, he was still able to amp up his production, consistency and determination that makes a player a first overall selection.
He already plays a mature, two-way game with great IQ and a high-end work ethic. He displays excellent poise and confidence when he’s on the ice, either with the puck when on the attack or even providing a strong presence on the backcheck to prioritize defense. He’s everything that you want in a centreman as he can attack with such force with his skating and strength. He’s extremely crafty with his passing, has a wicked shot from far out and has soft-hands in tight areas.
While he may not be a high-point producing generational talent, Wright is a talented player in his own right and should still be the top prospect in the draft. He can play a responsible game defensively and still be able to be a consistent 60 or 70-point player in the NHL.
Statistics from Pick224.