OHL Roundtable: 2020 NHL Draft, Sleepers, Offseason & More

Welcome to the first-ever OHL Roundtable Discussion. Joining me in the discussion are fellow writers Aidan Battley, Matthew Zator, Eddy Jones, our prospect expert Josh Bell and our expert OHL writer Mark Scheig.

We discussed the top draft-eligible players from the OHL for this upcoming draft, who the biggest sleeper may be from the 2020 NHL Draft and what team benefitted the most and least from the OHL offseason. Sit back, relax and have some fun while we discuss our thoughts on everything OHL!

Top 5 Draft-Eligible OHL Players

Aidan: Firstly, we have Quinton Byfield. A top-prospect who missed a lot of regular-season time, it is still not even a doubt that he will go in the top three of the draft. Second is Jamie Drysdale, an electric D-man with some incredible NHL comparable. Next up is Austrian Marco Rossi. Rossi has the best hockey-sense to me in the draft and I think it’s very possible if the Ottawa 67’s played in the Memorial Cup, that he would pass Drysdale on my list. Next up is Cole Perfetti, an outstanding player in his own right. Perfetti is often under appreciated among the strong prospects from the OHL.

Quinton Byfield of the Sudbury Wolves (Photo courtesy of the OHL)

Finally, we have Jack Quinn, He rose meteorically in the draft and for good reason as well. Long before he was being discussed in the top 10, I had my appreciation for him. He always had the talent, but he was hidden by an elite Ottawa team. Now that he has gotten to show his OHL potential, Quinn excelled and I think he’s one of the best goal scorers in the league.

Eddy: Byfield is head and shoulders above the rest, literally and figuratively. Drysdale comes in at number two. He’s just so dynamic and comes closer than anyone to Byfield. Next up is Cole Perfetti; he was the catalyst for Saginaw Spirit all season and seems slightly underrated heading into the draft. Rossi comes in close behind after winning the Red Tilson Trophy for Most Outstanding Player in the OHL.

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He’s slightly older than the rest, which played a part in him coming in fourth. The top four are pretty much set and it’s at five where things get interested. I went back and forth on a few players including Jan Mysak, Jack Quinn, Jacob Perreault and Tyson Foerster. Ultimately, I landed on Foerster. I just like his game so much and I think he’s making a push up into the Top 20.

Matthew: Byfield is my top pick in the OHL as he could potentially even leap over Alexis Lafrenière for first overall. He’s that big franchise center that every team needs and can only obtain through the draft. Next is the potential franchise defenceman in Drysdale. He’s just the complete package of mobility, speed and hockey IQ. After them, I have Rossi and Perfetti third and fourth respectively. Finally, coming in fifth, is Mysak. I just think he has a lot of offensive potential with his speed and creativity.

Mark: Byfield is the top prospect available in the OHL and it’s not that close. Drysdale is the next closest. After that, I have Perfetti then Rossi. As for a fifth, it’s close for me between Quinn and Mysak. I give the edge to Quinn as he projects as a lethal goal scorer at the next level, but Mysak has a lot of things you like to see and will make a team drafting later very happy.

Josh: My rankings have: Byfield, Rossi, Drysdale, Perfetti, and Mysak as my top-five OHLers, in that order. I think the top four are basically a given in some order and the fifth gets a bit interesting. I’ve been high on Mysak all season long. He has elite vision, high offensive instincts, and a great shot. I think Quinn is likely to go ahead of him, but I’m banking on Mysak in the long run.

Jamie Drysdale of the Erie Otters (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

Mathieu: My top five includes Byfield, Drysdale, Rossi, Perfetti and then Quinn. Byfield has the chance to become an NHL star and is an all around great player. Drysdale is the best defenseman in this draft and for more it’s not even a debate. Rossi has amazing vision and dominated the OHL this past season. Perfetti plays a great two-way game and will no doubt be a great NHL player. Quinn is an elite goal scorer and could put up 40 goals in the NHL down the line. As others have highlighted, Mysak is a great players and no doubt a special prospect but I have Quinn ranked higher than Mysak.

2020 NHL Draft Sleeper

Aidan: Gee, this is a tough one, if Mysak slips to the second round then I think he becomes a sleeper/value pick in the draft. He transitioned well into the OHL, and players that can transition seamlessly from one environment to the next tend to do well. It may be odd to call him a sleeper, but he’s a player I could see both falling or rising in the draft. 

Eddy: There are a few guys who could fit this description, but one of my favourites all year has been Sudbury Wolves defenseman Jack Thompson. He didn’t light up competition in his draft year, but there is enough there to see that he has NHL potential. Thompson’s skill set is raw, but he has the potential to develop into a top-four defender if everything falls into place. There are facets of his game that he needs to work on, but they’re all things he can improve over time.

Matthew: That’s a tough question with so many possibilities, but I am going with Jean-Luc Foudy. He saw his stock drop a bit from the beginning of the season, but I still think he can be an impact player when he gets to the NHL. He’s probably one of the fastest skaters of this draft class, and we all know what speed can do in the league right now. He also has high hockey IQ and exceptional playmaking abilities, which are also important as a centerman. All in all, I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people and will be a steal if he drops to the second or third round.

Mark: I will continue beating this drum all offseason and beyond. Although some don’t see him as a sleeper, many have him outside the first round. Ryan O’Rourke, in my mind, is a future NHL captain and could be the next Duncan Keith.

Ryan O’Rourke of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. (Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

He plays with an edge, is an incredible leader and can play in all situations. He has the ability to bring his teammates into the game whether it’s physical play or his willingness to drop the gloves. He is everything you want in a defenseman.

Josh: OHL sleeper has to be James Hardie for me. He’s been touted as one of the overall sleepers in this draft class. This is a guy that put up 63 points in 59 games this season. He’s a player that I think has all the right tools and just needs to find a way to best utilize them all together in both ends of the ice. He’s a strong skater, and there’s no questioning his offensive prowess after this season, but his defensive game does need some work, as does his compete. Still, he’s one player that a team should very much take a chance on at the right spot.

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Mathieu: My sleeper pick has to be Rory Kerins from the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Having watched him a lot this past season, he does every little thing right. Not overly flashy, Kerins has great offensive skills and is equally adept in the defensive zone. He reads the play really well and is rarely caught out of position. I think he can develop into a solid two-way player in the NHL and could benefit a team really well down the line.

Best/Worst Offseason

Aidan: To me, North Bay has benefited the most from their offseason, in particular the pickups of Ty Nelson and Matvei Petrov. Sometimes for a team, the only way you can go is up and if they can keep the band together, I expect them to be good in the 2020-21 season.

On the other side of that equation is Ottawa, because very much in the same way that a poor team can only do better, a contender can only fall. Noel Hoefenmayer and fan-favourite Austen Keating among many other key pieces are graduating. While Rossi has a long-shot at professional play, Ottawa is going to be a real wildcard next season. If Rossi, Quinn and Cranley can show their prowess, I still expect them to be a top team, but I think the pandemic cost them their best chance to win it all.

Eddy: It has to be North Bay right? Drafting Nelson first overall in the OHL Draft and then picking Petrov first overall in the CHL Import Draft gives them two exceptional players for their future. Add in Matvei Guskov coming over from the London Knights and you’ve got a fine offseason in the works.

I want to give a secondary shout out to the Sarnia Sting. I like what they’ve done this offseason in drafting Maxim Namestnikov third overall in the OHL Draft and then selecting Slovakian forward Alex Geci in the Import Draft. Maxim is the brother of Colorado Avalanche forward Vladislav Namestnikov and Geci is a big, strong and talented forward who will excel with Sarnia.

They also brought in Cameron Supryka to add to a core that already consists of Jamieson Rees, Jacob Perrault and Benjamin Gaudreau. In terms of who I think has done the least, my vote goes to Sudbury. As of right now it’ll be the Byfield, Murray and Stillman show next year up front for the Wolves. I don’t think it’s enough, and if Byfield leaves… watch out.

Matthew: I am going to echo everyone else so far and say the Battalion. By drafting the dynamic Nelson, they have probably one of the best young defencemen in the game right now. Then they go and snag Petrov as well? Goals and excitement for the Battalion faithful will definitely be the name of the game in 2020-21.

As for the team who’s done the least, I think it’s probably too early to tell especially with the offseason still underway. There’s time for some teams to still make some moves. We also need to see what will come of the top picks in the draft. Some may end up staying with their teams or making the jump to the NHL. We will just have to wait and see, which seems to be a common response to many things in sports right now.

Mark: The easy answer here is North Bay and it’s easy to see why. But I’m going to go a little deeper with this one. I have been impressed with the Erie Otters. There was a drastic need to address goaltending and defense for future seasons. In drafting Spencer Sova who will be Jamie Drysdale’s replacement and Nolan LaLonde who is the future in net, the Otters addressed their most desperate needs and is primed to surprise a lot of teams in the near future.

In the Import Draft, they drafted goalie Alexei Kolosov who if he reports (and there’s a good chance of that), he would slot in as Aidan Campbell’s backup. Weaknesses have been addressed and they are ready for the next step. As for least, it’s too early to say. There is lots still to come but until we see how things unfold with the pandemic, I will reserve judgment on this until more things play out.

Josh: This is early, but watch out for North Bay. Between Nelson and Petrov, there will be some very exciting hockey to watch with the Battalion. Easy answer, but probably the most accurate. As for the team that has benefitted the least so far, I’ll have to agree with Mark. I think it’s too early to tell and so much could happen. Once we see where the draft-eligible players end up (will Rossi and Byfield leave their teams?) I think we’ll be in a better position to judge which teams could have/should have done more.

Mathieu: Like everyone stated, I think the team to watch out for will be the Battalion. With the acquisition of Guskov from the Knights, getting Petrov and Nelson thought the draft and their solid core of players like the Christopoulos brothers and Brandon Coe, they will be dangerous come next season.

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Like Josh and Mark said, I think it is tough to determine at this point what team benefited the least from this past offseason. If Byfield makes the NHL out of training camp next season, I think the Wolves will have a tough time finding a lot of success just because Byfield is such a key cog to their team. They could prove me wrong but at this point if they lose him, I think that would be a really tough blow to their all-around game.

Thank you for taking the time to read our discussion and if you have any questions or comments, we would love to hear from you down below!