The NHL season has just begun, and while Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid are stealing early headlines with highlight-reel performances, the CHL has been underway for nearly a month already. Nolan Patrick, the early favourite to go first overall in 2017, is off to a hot start with nine points in just six games. Elsewhere, fellow first round prospects Gabriel Vilardi and Owen Tippett have also raced out of the gates, further solidifying their potential to be selected high in the first round.
One player who has the potential to emerge as a scoring star and continue to make his case as a first round prospect is Erie Otters forward Ivan (Vanya) Lodnia. Taken with the Otters’ lone first-round choice in the 2015 OHL Draft, Lodnia’s hectic summer has paid off, racking up an impressive six goals and nine points through his first eight OHL games. Despite his small size, Lodnia is quickly proving that he won’t be held back against bigger opponents, skyrocketing his draft stock and keeping the Erie Otters in the top tier of OHL teams, despite losing captain Dylan Strome.
Showing His Talent on an International Stage
Lodnia’s rookie season in the OHL went about as smoothly as possible, buried in a depth role and being given easy matchups in an attempt to wet Lodnia’s feet by Otters coach Kris Knoblauch. By the end of the season, Lodnia led all 2017 draft-eligible OHL prospects with 39 points, rounding out his game by adding a plus-14 rating to his ledger.
In the summer, Lodnia’s added size and strength put him on Team USA’s radar, and he subsequently played a big role with the American squad in the annual Ivan Hlinka Tournament. Team USA isn’t traditionally as strong in the Ivan Hlinka as they are in the World Under-18 Championships, winning just one out of the last 15 tournaments. However, Lodnia and fellow rising OHL star Sasha Chmelevski combined for seven goals and 13 points in their four games together, propelling the United States to a silver medal in the Czech Republic.
Lodnia’s long summer also included a trip to the All-American Prospects Game, where he was able to tally a goal and tied for the game lead with five shots. Surrounded by some of the top draft-eligible talent the USA has to offer, Lodnia was one of the best players on the ice, showing a glimpse of what’s to come in his second season in the OHL.
An NHL Future?
Lodnia’s name has been well known for a while, but it’s only recently that he’s been mentioned as one of the top North American prospects available for the 2017 NHL Draft. Well under 5 feet 10 inches when he was selected by the Otters in April 2015, Lodnia’s growth spurt has coincided with a sizeable leap in production. Now standing over 5 feet 11 and weighing in around 180 pounds, Lodnia has the size and strength to continue playing his tenacious game against older and stronger opponents.
It’s that combination of aggressiveness and great skill level that have Lodnia primed to help the Otters to a fourth consecutive playoff appearance. His emergence as a top-tier scoring winger has many thinking he’ll be one of the first OHL players to hear his name called next summer.
6 OHLers ranked “A” by Central Scouting: Ivan Lodnia, Mackenzie Entwistle, Matthew Strome, Nicolas Hague, Owen Tippett and Gabriel Vilardi
— Around The OHL (@AroundTheOHL) October 4, 2016
The Otters have been one of the OHL’s strongest teams in the past few seasons, thanks largely to the stellar play of OHL superstars such as McDavid and Strome. Both of their top picks in recent team history have presumably moved on the to the NHL for good, so the Otters’ success this year will fall largely on the shoulders of Alex DeBrincat, Taylor Raddysh and Lodnia, who has all the tools to take a step forward into the OHL’s elite this season.
Joseph Aleong is an At-Large writer for THW from Toronto, Ontario. He is a graduate of Brock University in St. Catharines, ON. Follow him on Twitter @josephaleong11