OHL Weekly Wrap Up: Central Scouting, Shane Wright Struggles, & More

The second week of the Ontario Hockey League season is finished and it was another cracking week of junior hockey. More milestones were reached, but the focus was stolen by what’s next: the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. The preliminary rankings were dropped, but that’s not everything that happened. Here’s what you need to know about the week that was in the OHL!

NHL Central Scouting “Players to Watch” Released

On Tuesday, NHL Central Scouting’s Preliminary Players to Watch list was unveiled, grading players on a letter scale. Players who received an “A” grade are currently first-round candidates, players who were given a “B” are second or third-round candidates, players who were given a “C” are fourth, fifth, or sixth-round candidates. Some players are also given a grade of ‘”LV,” meaning injured players and have insufficient viewing from the scouts.

With the entire 2020-21 season being missed, it comes as no shock that only two players in the OHL have been listed as “A” prospects to start things off. Of course, one of these players is Shane Wright, and the other is the Guelph Storm’s first-year player, Matthew Poitras. It would be shocking to see these be the only two players expected to be drafted in the first round when the 2022 NHL Entry Draft comes up, but for now, they are the only two in that top tier.

In the “B” tier, there are 21 OHL players. Some of the more intriguing names on that list are Liam Arnsby of the North Bay Battalion, Pano Fimis of the Niagara Ice Dogs, Paul Ludwinski of the Kingston Frontenacs, and of course Ty Nelson who is also a member of the Battalion. The list is filled with good players and you could continue down the list and find players who could very easily end up being first-round picks, but I won’t name them all.

Pano Fimis, Niagara IceDogs
Pano Fimis, Niagara IceDogs (Josh Kim The Hockey Writers)

Related: 2022 NHL Draft Rankings: Baracchini’s Top 32 Preseason Rankings

An additional 43 players fall in the “C” tier, but once again, there are plenty of interesting prospects in that pool. Brett Brochu of the London Knights, Jacob Frasca of the Barrie Colts, Max Namestnikov of the Sarnia Sting, and Teddy Sawyer of the Ottawa 67’s slot into that category.

All 20 of the OHL’s franchises had at least one of their players appear on the preliminary rankings, with the London Knights leading the way with eight players. They were closely followed by the Guelph Storm and the Sudbury Wolves, who had six each, and the Niagara Ice Dogs and the North Bay Battalion, who each had five.

Shane Wright Starting Slow

Of all of the hype heading into the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, a lot has been surrounding the Kingston Frontenacs forward. There were some lofty expectations for the former exceptional status player, but in the early part of the season, the numbers haven’t exactly been there. While it was unfair to expect instant and constant dominance at such a high level of hockey, Wright just doesn’t seem to have his skates underneath him just yet.

Shane Wright Kingston Frontenacs
Shane Wright of the Kingston Frontenacs. (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

There should be little reason for concern with Wright, at least not yet. The Frontenacs’ captain is in the same boat as just about every other player in the OHL right now in the sense that this is the first time he has played competitive hockey in a long time. He was fortunate enough to play in the world U18’s in the spring, but that’s still not close to today.

Related: OHL Weekly Wrap Up: Calum Ritchie, Struggling Contenders, & More

It’s also unlikely that a slow start will persist for Wright. He is expected to be the first-overall pick in the 2022 NHL Entry Draft for a reason, and with the talent he has, it would be a monumental collapse if he didn’t finish the season with over 110 points, possibly even 120 or 130. Even though he is off to a slower start than expected, he still has six points in five games, including two goals. He’s going to be fine, but the slow start is still surprising nonetheless.

The Mighty Midwest

Last week, the Knights were the focus after a strong start, but now, the Kitchener Rangers are also on my radar after finishing the second week of their season with a perfect record. It’s still very early and it’s almost impossible to know what will happen at the end of the season, it seems like both the Rangers and Knights will be competing to reach the OHL final.

Brett Brochu London Knights
Brett Brochu of the London Knights (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

While the Knights are frequently mentioned among the Canadian Hockey League’s upper echelon franchises, the Rangers should also be mentioned in that category. It always seems like these two division rivals are competing for championships come playoff time, and that doesn’t look like it will be any different this season.

Hot Power Plays, but What About the Penalty Kill?

Focusing on the special teams for a moment, a bit of a trend is starting to happen. The top four teams in the OHL are over 30% on their power-play chances. Those teams are the Ottawa 67’s (36.8%), Knights (35.3%), Owen Sound Attack (33.3%), and Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (32.3%). Once again, it is early in the season, but all of these teams have had their fair share of chances early on. The fewest power plays from these four teams are the Knights with 17 chances, and the most are the Greyhounds with 31. Simply put, these teams have had their power-play units on fire coming out of the gate.

Deni Goure Owen Sound Attack
Deni Goure of the Owen Sound Attack who leads the OHL in power-play goals as of October 21, 2021 (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

However, what is interesting about these four teams is how their penalty kills have been on the other end of the spectrum. The Knights are far and away the most efficient at killing penalties of the bunch and currently sit at fifth in the OHL in that department. For the rest of the teams, it isn’t pretty. The Attack is in 11th (76.9%), the 67’s are in 19th (68.4%), and the Greyhounds are 20th (65.0%). Worth noting, of course, is that the sample size for these team’s penalty-killing units is much smaller than their counterpart in their power-play unit in some cases. The Attack has been shorthanded more than and any of the teams were focusing on with 26 penalty kills, but the 67’s and Greyhounds have had more power-play attempts than penalty-kill attempts.

Perhaps this is one of those things that you will look back on at the end of the season and think nothing of it. Still, nevertheless, it’s an interesting trend that, if left unchanged, would make the league’s top power-play units less of an advantage and more of a tool to help mitigate the losses felt on the penalty kill.

Just Getting Going

It feels like it was just yesterday when training camps were getting underway in OHL cities, and before you know it, we’re going to be crowning one deserving team as 2022 Memorial Cup champions, but for now, there is still plenty of OHL hockey to be had. The season is off to a roaring start with surprises just about everywhere you look. Perhaps those will come up (or down) to the levels that were expected by the end of the season, but that’s junior hockey. Expect the unexpected, predict the unpredictable.

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