On Monday, I crossed the border and braved some terrible weather to take in an OHL game between the Windsor Spitfires and Sarnia Sting. Sarnia came away with a 6-3 victory in an entertaining up-and-down game.
The primary reason for the trip was to get a look at some of 2016 NHL Draft prospects playing in the game, and this game had some fantastic ones. Here's my notes on some of the first-time eligibles from the game:
Overall, it was a pretty quiet game for consensus #2 pick Jakob Chychrun. There wasn't really anything that is going to go on his highlight reel, but his incredible skill was still evident in a lot of the little things he did. Looking over my notes, everything he did was a positive. He's a smooth four-direction skater that pivots well and shows decent explosion when joining the rush offensively. His hands were really good. Probably his best play of the night was gaining the blue line on the PP, then flipping a pretty sauce pass to a teammate at the blue line to establish possession in the zone, in a situation where 99% of players are either dumping the puck or losing possession at the line. His best scoring chance also came on the power play when he took a pass off his skates and still managed to get a quick shot off. Defensively, he wound good all night, save one silly holding penalty. He gapped well and showed good D zone awareness and physicality. I didn't see anything that made me reconsider Auston Matthews as the top overall pick, but I wouldn't be disappointed if my team ended up picking Chychurn
I really liked Russian defenseman Mikhail Sergachev(or Sergachyov, depending on your interpretation of Cyrillic), who has made a huge move up draft boards this year. He reminds me a lot of another defenseman I have ranked high in the first round in BU commit Dante Fabbro. He doesn't have blazing speed, but everything he does is so smooth. He's never rushed despite pressure and always finds a way to make a skill play with the puck to move it to a teammate rather making the safe play and punting it up the boards. I'll give him the slight edge over Fabbro just because he has a little extra bulk which made him more effective along the boards and gave him the ability to shrug off forecheck pressure.
From what I've gathered, the consensus on 6'7" defenseman Logan Stanley is that he's a 2nd/3rd round guy, with Craig Button being the outlier by ranking him in his top 30. I'll side with Button on this one. Stanley definitely looked like a first round pick here. There just aren't many defensemen that big that skate as well as he can. His puckhandling is just okay, but he's a monster-sized 17 year old kid, that's to be expected. He's a punishing hitter and showed some nice offensive abilities. In the third period when Windsor was trailing, Sergachev and Stanley alternated shifts while the other four defensemen rotated through the two other D spots. I see a lot of upside with Stanley.
I was interested to see big forward Logan Brown. After seeing Blaine HS forward Riley Tufte last week, and a few times in the past month, I wanted to make a direct comparison between two of the better big, skilled forwards available in the Draft. Of course, it's still tough to make that comparison because the levels of competition are so vastly different. Brown's best asset is that he handles the puck so well for a 6'5" forward. In this game, things just weren't quite clicking for him. Everything he tried ended up getting broken up. I liked the way he uses his big frame to protect the puck and create space. Tufte is much faster and a better skater though. If I had to choose between the two, I think I would take Tufte at this point.
I didn't know anything about Jordan Kyrou prior to this game, but I was incredibly impressed. Turns out pretty much everyone has him ranked in the second round, so I'm not exactly breaking new ground with that discovery. He showed tremendous explosion on a first period scoring rush. I love how agile and shifty he is, which allows him to open up the ice by creating passing angles. Sarnia had him playing with Toronto draft pick Nikita Korostelev(who I also liked) in the first period. and he was really effective. In the last two periods, he moved to a line with American Sasha Chmelevski and wasn't as effective, but still had a beautiful assist in the third period. He still has a long ways to go physically, but I'd definitely look at him in the early stages of the second round.
Anthony Salinitri and Cole Carter have generated some talk as a mid-to-late round picks. Neither a lot in this game that made me think he has to be drafted, but he might be worth a later round pick. Tyler Nother played a quiet, steady game. He's not going to do anything flashy, but made a nice, safe pass out of the zone every time he had the puck. Maybe a late round pick. Luke Kirwan hasn't developed much since leaving the NTDP a few years ago, and I'd be surprised if he gets drafted at this point.