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OHL Draft Preview

The OHL Draft takes places on Saturday, and it is always a pretty interesting event. Technically the players are picked on Saturday, but most of the first round of the draft is completed the week prior as teams and players jockey for leverage to get the best deal. Nothing rivals the OHL Draft in terms of rumors, innuendo, hollow promises, and backroom dealing.

We'll start with an OHL Mock Draft. The picks and commentary come courtesy of our resident OHL expert. Just to highlight how crazy the first round of this draft can be, there are two versions. The first is the 12pm Thursday edition. By 8pm, there were quite a few changes, which I'll list in parenthesis and italics under that pick.

1. Sudbury - John McFarland RC Toronto Jr. Canadians
- no suspense here

2. Erie - Greg McKegg LC Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs
- could go to an American, and are having trouble getting players to commit to them. Though they cannot afford not to have this pick show up after wasting picks on Brandon Maxwell and Riley Sheehan inside the top 50 last year.

3. Owen Sound- Steven Shipley LC Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs
- not a lot of suspense again.

4. Kingston- Erik Gudbranson RD Ottawa Jr. 67’s
- an absolute monster, only willing to report to clubs where he could continue his education in a French school. At 6’3", great feet, huge mean streak, and HUGE offensive upside….could be the best pro the 1992 Ontario crop develops.

5. Peterborough Ryan Spooner LC Ottawa Jr. Senators
- small but totally electric.

6. Barrie Ryan O’Connor RD Toronto Jr. Canadians
- small but swift d-man with great offensive upside; will run the Colts power play for four seasons.

7. Ottawa Greg Sutch RW York-Simcoe Express
- Where things become VERY interesting; have heard Sutch all along though I would not be surprised to see Stephen Silas, Brock Beukeboom, or Tyler Mort go at this spot. We will stick with Sutch.

8. St. Mike’s Devante Smith-Pelly LC Toronto Jr. Canadians
- Could easily be Tyler Seguin, who is saying he will only report to certain teams, but Smith-Pelly has been the most improved player throughout the entire season, and the Majors staff loves him. He can create space for Jordan Mayer for years.

9. Plymouth Brandon Saad LW Pittsburgh Jr. Hornets
- A.J. [Jenks] meet your new left winger…..the lack of commitment to the USNTDP and Plymouth’s success in recruiting high end U.S. born talent make this a match makers delight. Could be Cody McNaughton if Saad does not work out.
(Switch this pick to Austin Watson RW Compuware)

10. Saginaw Cody McNaughton RW Toronto Jr. Canadians
- a hyper-competitive kid (over 250 PIM’s) who can also hurt you on the scoreboard.

11. Sarnia Tyler Toffoli RW Toronto Jr. Canadians
- Can’t imagine them passing on Seguin, but I will go with my gut on this one.

12. Guelph Philip Lane RC Rochester Alliance
- relationship here is through Ryan Callaghan, and the agent, Steve Bartlett. Has not yet committed to the USNTDP. IF not Lane then Seguin or Stephen Silas.
(Switch this pick to Freddie Hamilton RC Toronto Marlies)

13. London Brock Beukeboom RD Central Ontario Wolves
- son of Jeff Beukeboom, seems like a fit here. If [Michigan recruit Jon] Merrill gets picked, this is where it will happen.

14. Niagara Sam Carrick RC Toronto Red Wings
- A feisty competitor who will be extremely tough to play against, if his skating improves, could be a steal.

15. Brampton Freddie Hamilton RC Toronto Marlies
- could be a team that steps up on Jeff Skinner, but I am not certain. Hamilton is the easy fit, and a good all around player.
(Switch this pick to Tyler Seguin RC Toronto Young Nats)

16. Oshawa Alex Aleardi RC Detroit Compuware
- is coming to the league, though at his size it may not be the best decision. Oshawa may also like Jeff Braithwaite or Tyler Mort here. They’re downfall has been defence and goaltending the past few seasons.

17. Windsor Austin Watson RW Detroit Compuware
- too much deception here saying they will pick a defenceman – if it is a defenceman it would be Stephen Silas.
(Swtich this pick to Stephen Silas LD Halton Hurricanes)

18. Soo David Quesnele LW Soo North Stars
- A near certainty as he is a local kid and brother plays for the Soo. They need help up front and would fit the coaches’ style. Strong, tough, and can score.

19. Belleville Steven Beyers RC Halton Hurricanes
- good skater, with high level of skill.

20. Kitchener John Parker RC New Jersery Rockets
- have the resources and track record of convincing players to report. Given the alternatives .

That makes the first round look like this:
1. McFarland 2. McKegg 3. Shipley 4. Gudbranson 5. Spooner 6. O'Connor 7. Sutch 8. Smith-Pelley 9. Watson 10. McNaughton 11. Toffoli 12. Hamilton 13. Beukeboom 14. Carrick 15. Seguin 16. Aleardi 17. Silas 18. Quesnele 19. Beyers 20. Parker

As for some of the rumors and what-not that are out there...

Bob Miller of The Wolverine had a post on the OHL Draft. At this point, recruits Jared Knight and Jon Merrill are both committed to going to the NTDP. It seems pretty much definite that Knight will be playing in Ann Arbor next year. I haven't heard much about Merrill, but the lack of buzz is probably good news for Michigan.

Some prospects have been working on their epistolary skills this past week. Maine recruit Austin Watson has sent out a couple letters saying he is totally committed to the college route and won't report to whomever drafts him. The problem is that nobody believes him. It should help him end up on the team he wants too.

Another letter-writer is Toronto Young Nats forward Tyler Seguin. He sent out a letter to every team on Thursday saying that he would be exploring the NCAA route and not reporting to any OHL team. Odds are, it's another ploy to land with a specific OHL team. His route should be pretty clear based on where he is drafted.

Seguin's Young Nats teammate Jeff Skinner has also been rumored to be looking at the NCAA route. There were even some internet rumors of a college commitment, but I haven't been able to confirm anything. Again, probably the lower that he goes in the draft, the better. He's said he's not reporting to whomever drafts him, but the general opinion is that it's closer to 50/50.

Among some of the uncommitted American kids, the fact that Brandon Saad and Phil Lane dropped out of the projected first round sometime this afternoon is a promising sign. Alex Aleardi seems very likely to go to the OHL, either to Oshawa or Kitchener.

Paul Shaheen's Research on Ice Newsletter also had an OHL Mock Draft earlier this week. The top few picks were pretty much the same, but the later rounds were a little more interesting. Ohio State recruits Alex Lippincott and Zac Dalpe were in the first round, as well as UMass recruit John Carlson. I'd be surprised if anyone took Dalpe or Carlson that early though, since they'd most likely be banking on things going poorly for them in college.

While many north of the border like to brag about how players like Pat Kane, Peter Mueller, and Sam Gagner chose the CHL over the NCAA, that's not the whole story. Were it a straight decision between the two, all three would have likely gone the college route. But qualifying for the NCAA meant the additional baggage of extra time in junior hockey for all three, and ultimately, that was the tipping point in the CHL's favor. It's pretty rare that you see a player that has already completely high school choose the CHL over the NCAA, unless that players struggles(on the ice or in the classroom) at the college level.

That said, Dalpe is an Ontario native, so there may be the bonus of playing close to home for him. A lot will probably depend on which team drafts him.

There are some other Americans to keep an eye on in the draft as well. Apparently Erie really liked Pittsburgh defenseman Stephen Johns, but he's committed to the NTDP, and I don't think the Otters can risk having a top pick not show. I haven't heard Chase Balisy's name much this week. He'll still probably end in the OHL though.

Finally, no matter what happens, Kingston will find a way to screw things up and Neate Sager will be there to shake his head in frustration.