Scouting is the most challenging profession (off the ice) in professional hockey, with a seemingly infinite range of draft-eligible players. From this difficult task, there are certainly players who will be dubbed ‘underrated’ from the various Major Junior leagues. This article will be devoted to discussing five players in no particular order from the OHL who could be considered underrated by some, and why they could represent value where they are projected to be selected.
An underrated player for the purposes of this article will be; any draft-eligible player who has professional potential which would normally exceed players drafted where they are expected to be selected. Ice-time, relative strength of teams, injuries, and many other factors could result in a player being underrated, and this article will discuss them all.
On one hand, it’s difficult to say that a goaltender who only played 21 games with a .894 save percentage is underrated but as often the case with junior hockey, the numbers, especially for goaltenders, hesitate to tell the whole story.
Fourth in North American Central Scouting for goaltenders, Ottawa 67’s netminder Will Cranley isn’t ranked low by any means but he could have potential that hasn’t been discovered yet. At 6-foot-4 inches, and 180 lbs, it is possible Cranley still grows, but he would already be one of the taller goalies on the professional stage.
If long-tenured goalie Cedrick Andree graduates to the professional system next season, Cranley’s role on a strong Ottawa team should grow significantly. With this increased ice-time, there should be a definite increase in his consistency and the maturity of his game. With a strong coaching-staff and great fundamentals, Cranley has the makings to feature in the NHL.
A prospective late-round pick, Cranley could prove to be a steal if he’s given a shot at the professional level. A player I’ve personally examined as a former beat reporter on the Ottawa 67’s, Cranley’s a wildcard until he gets more playing time and an opportunity in more meaningful games.
Jean-Luc Foudy of the Windsor Spitfires is an exciting case-study, as from the beginning of the season he could’ve been even considered overrated, but his draft stock has dropped substantially.
One of the more athletic players in the draft, Foudy is a raw prospect, who has the tools to take his game to the next level. With a mediocre faceoff percentage and a more agile build, Foudy could have a renaissance moment if transitioned to the wing.
During the Hlinka-Gretzky Cup, Foudy got a chance to demonstrate his skills and excelled on the wing with four points in five games of the tournament. His speed and tremendous offensive power made him a player everyone’s eyes drew to when he was on the ice. Even with this performance, he is still a consensus second-round pick, as his performances for Windsor failed to truly stand out.
An electric player who once he refines his skills could have the potential to be an elite scorer, Foudy may be a bargain in the second round where he is expected to be selected. If there is any name I’m excited about on this list it’s Jean-Luc Foudy.
Another consensus second-rounder, Slovak Martin Chromiak is another player who could be a value pick from the second round. Previously struggling in a depth-role in his home nation Slovakia, Chromiak’s move to the Kingston Frontenacs proved to be exceptionally successful and increased his draft stock exponentially.
An elite player offensively, Chromiak is perhaps more polished than any of the others discussed on this list. A player I would love to see a transition to the AHL first before challenging the NHL, Chromiak’s forecheck and defensive pressure is what makes him truly underrated as his offensive numbers are more understood. This defensive proficiency is what helps him stand-out at the second-round level, and what gives him his underrated status.
A player who has become yet another young star this season in Kingston, Chromiak’s name is one that has not been getting nearly enough attention. I agree decisively with my colleagues, who believe Chromiak could be a middle-six NHL forward in the future, able to play in any number of roles in the professional game.
This story sounds familiar, an eastern-European winger, who struggled to find success in a limited role in his home-country, moves to the OHL and immediately raises some eyebrows. A player with a slightly larger profile than the aforementioned Chromiak, Jan Myšak is one that impressed as he transitioned away from his home in Czechoslovakia.
Myšak is projected to go anywhere from the top-10 to potentially being a second-round prospect. That discrepancy is largely due to the ambiguity around how much time he needs to develop before he can transition to the professional game.
Although I would be hesitant to say he could turn professional next season, especially with his struggles in the inferior Czech League, Myšak’s impact with the Hamilton Bulldogs changed my opinion on the prospect immensely.
On a struggling Bulldogs team, Myšak managed 25 points in 22 games, with 15 of those being goal tallies. An elite player offensively, if Myšak develops his defensive game in the seasons to come, he could prove to be a bargain in the late first round. As long as Myšak continues to stay healthy, he could prove to be a top-six forward of the future.
80 points in 62 games, centre, six-foot-one, and just shy of 200 pounds, this sounds like the numbers of a prospective first-round pick coming from the OHL. Unfortunately for Tyson Foerster from the Barrie Colts, this seems like it won’t be the case.
An elite offensive player, Foerster’s two-way game needs developing before he lands in the top prospect category. A star player on a mediocre Colts team, Foerster’s plus/minus of a minus-17 definitely could be improved. Although many knock him for the percentage of points he gets on the special teams, I see that as a healthy sign for his offensive IQ as he has shown that he knows how to use the extra space on the powerplay.
If he manages to develop a two-way game, he could be a steal in the second or even third round and prove many of his skeptics wrong.
It is incredibly difficult to decide where a player should be drafted, no matter what the circumstances. For the players in this list, who have been a victim of depth, changed leagues mid-season, or even just seen an adjustment in their role, they may have value beyond what’s expected from their potential draft selection.
The OHL has produced many underdog players from every draft class, and 2020 is sure to be no different. Who do you think could be a dark-horse in this year’s NHL Draft class? Feel free to comment on this post, or reach out on our various social media to discuss all things OHL and the NHL Draft.