The 2016 National Hockey League Draft is slowly approaching, and this year’s draft class is looking like it’s going to be a good one. The Ontario Hockey League has put out some outstanding prospect talent in the last few years alone, with Connor McDavid, Aaron Ekblad, Sam Bennett, Dylan Strome and Mitch Marner being just a few names that were selected in the top five of the last two drafts. This year is a little different, the projected first overall pick wasn’t playing in the OHL this season. In fact, Auston Matthews wasn’t playing in North America at all. That being said, the league still has some draft prospects that a lot of NHL teams are high on. Here is a look at some of the OHL’s best draft eligible prospects.
5. Logan Brown, Windsor Spitfires (Centre)
While Brown may have flown under the radar of a lot of people’s lists, his play this season has him deserving of a spot in the top five. Brown is 6’6″, 218 pounds, that is huge by today’s NHL standards, yet he just turned 18 this past March. Brown was acquired by the Spitfires last season when they swung a deal that sent six draft picks to the Niagara IceDogs for the hulking centre. As a rookie, Brown put up respectable numbers and finished fourth on his team in scoring (43) as well as fourth in goals (17). This season Brown proved himself to be a dominant player, as he was second on Windsor in points (74), and first on the team in assists (53). His size and reach are truly Brown’s best assets, which make it very difficult for opponents to knock him off the puck. Brown may slide a little in this year’s draft, but his size alone could see him be taken early in the first round.
4. Olli Juolevi, London Knights (Defense)
Juolevi is a two-way defenseman that has exceptional skating skills. Although he put up above average points with 42 this season with the Knights, the team valued Juolevi very much. On most lists Juolevi is the second best defenseman available, but his hockey sense and two-way play have him already drawing comparisons to New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonough – and we all know how valuable he is to the Rangers. The 18-year-old was third among OHL rookie defensemen in assists (33) and points (42) through the 57 games he played. Not to mention his nine points helped Finland capture their second World Junior Championship in three years. Juolevi will likely be among the first ten players selected in the draft, but is probably a couple of years away from NHL action.
3. Jakob Chychrun, Sarnia Sting (Defense)
The big-bodied defenseman was fourth among all OHL defenseman in scoring (49) in 62 games with the Sting this season. Chychrun was selected 1st overall by Sarnia in the 2014 OHL Priority Selection Draft and entered his second season with high expectations after putting up 33 points as a rookie in 2014-15. Chychrun is a complete defenseman and is said to be the best defender available in the draft this year. He stands 6’2″, 214 pounds and doesn’t shy away from the physical play. His game even has a sense of maturity, as he was named the assistant captain for both the Sting and Team Canada’s Under-18 team this season. One significant improvement Chychrun had this season, was his +/- numbers. He went from a -11 in his rookie campaign to a +23 this year.
2. Alexander Nylander, Mississauga Steelheads (Left Wing/Right Wing)
Alexander Nylander will become the third Nylander to be drafted this June. He’s the son of long-time NHLer Michael Nylander and the younger brother of Toronto Maple Leafs top prospect William Nylander. The youngest Nylander is a highly skilled forward, with a lot of tools that have turned him into one of the OHL’s most dangerous offensive players. Like William, Alex isn’t crazy big, but he makes up for it in pure skill. Just have a look at some of the highlight reel goals he scored this season. Regardless of what team selects Nylander, he won’t be in the NHL next season, as he is committed to playing in the Swedish Hockey League for Rögle BK. He is also behind Tkachuk for third on NHL Central Scouting’s list of North American Skaters.
1. Matthew Tkachuk, London Knights (LW)
It comes as no surprise that Tkachuk is at the top of this list after the season he had with London. This season was Tkachuk’s first in the OHL, after a couple of split seasons in the USHL and USDP. He put up an impressive 107 points with the Knights while playing on the team’s top line with Marner and Arizona Coyotes prospect Christian Dvorak. Tkachuk has decent size and incredible hockey IQ that he likely inherited from his father Keith Tkachuk, who played just over 1,200 games in the NHL. Tkachuk is the second highest ranked North American skater, behind only Pierre-Luc Dubois who plays for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the Quebec league. With his size, skill and hockey sense, Tkachuk is a sure bet to be picked very high in this year’s draft.
I am a recent grad of the Journalism: Online, Print and Broadcast program at Loyalist College. Currently living in a small rural town in Quebec, but I will soon be relocating to London, ON where I will cover the London Knights and Ontario Hockey League prospects.