While the Big Three made a splash at the start of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, the OHL dominated the rest of the first round.
Much of the discussion prior to the draft was focused on the top three prospects – Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine and Jesse Puljujarvi. They went first, second and fourth overall, respectively. However, after that, the OHL made its presence known quickly and often.
London made themselves known immediately, as star defenceman Olli Juolevi went to Vancouver with the fifth overall selection. The slick, smart defenceman is known for his vision and calm nature on the ice. He also put up 42 points in 57 games. He was immediately followed by winger Matthew Tkachuk, who went sixth to Calgary. Tkachuk, the son of former NHLer Keith Tkachuk, had 30 goals and 107 points in 57 games for the Knight this season. The Knights finished off the round with power forward Max Jones going 24th overall to the Anaheim Ducks. Jones is known for playing a bit on the edge, though he backed it up with 52 points in 63 games last season.
Windsor Trio Proves Worth
The Windsor Spitfires were just as active in the first round, seeing three of their stars go in the middle part of the first round. Defenceman Mikhail Sergachev made the top 10, going ninth overall to the Montreal Canadiens. Selected by the Spitfires in the 2015 CHL Import Draft, Sergachev had 57 points in 67 games, on his way to being named OHL Defenceman of the Year.
Just two picks later, Ottawa traded up to ensure they could grab Spitfires’ center Logan Brown at No. 11. Brown had 74 points in 59 games this season and was considered a potential top 10 pick. Brown, originally acquired from the Niagara Ice Dogs, has become everything the Spitfires and their fans had hoped for. He’s expected to lead the team into their Memorial Cup season in 2016-17.
Not long after, Winnipeg traded up to pick 18 and jumped at the chance to take giant defender Logan Stanley. The 6-feet-7-inch, 225 pound prospect really came into his own this season, showing both significant toughness in the defensive zone, as well as more confidence with the puck offensively. Stanley was rated anywhere from mid-first-round to sometime early in the second round. The Jets, though, clearly wanted him, and Stanley could prove to be a solid addition to their roster down the road.
Steelheads Snap Spotlight
Not to be outdone, the Mississauga Steelheads stepped up to the plate and had two of their stars drafted in the first round. Winger Alexander Nylander, son of former NHL star Michael Nylander, was picked up eighth overall by the Sabres. Nylander garnered much attention this season with his puck-handling, scoring 75 points 57 games, en route to OHL Rookie of the Year.
After the two Spitfires were chosen, New Jersey selected offensive center Michael McLeod at No. 12. In 57 games for the Steelheads, McLeod had 21 goals and 61 points.
At the start of the season, Sarnia defenceman Jakub Chychrun was considered a top-five prospect. Most expected him be gone around the time Juolevi and Sergachev were selected. While that didn’t happen, the Arizona Coyotes were thrilled to get Chychrun with the 16th selection. The Coyotes could have a steal here, as the intelligent, mature Chychrun plays a complete game – offensively sound, defensively reliable and he thinks the game as well as anyone.
The OHL was loaded with high-caliber first-round talent this season. While guys like Matthews, Laine and Puljujarvi took much of the spotlight over the last few months leading up to the draft, the OHL took control in the first round.