2017 NHL Entry Draft

2016-17 OHL Preview

New OHL season features strong crop of prospects
Steve Kournianos  |  09/19/2016 |  New York  |  [hupso]

Photo courtesy of Terry Wilson / OHL Images

Mississauga winger Owen Tippett is a top prospect for the 2017 NHL Draft

East Division

Kingston Frontenacs
Coach: Paul McFarland (3rd Season)
2015-16 record: 46-17-3 (1st, East Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs
Round 1: Oshawa (4-1)
Round 2: Niagara (0-4)

 OHL Rank (2015-16)

6th (21.5%) 18th (16.5%) 7th (252) 3rd (189)

Outlook: The Frontenacs may not showcase as prolific an offense as it did a year ago. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be exciting to watch. And while coming close to last season’s franchise-record 46 wins and 95 points likely is a bridge too far, Kingston can still boast a formidable lineup, even with anticipated losses like LW Michael Dal Colle (NYI), C Juho Lammikko (FLA) and RHD Roland McKeown (CAR), while top scorer RW Spencer Watson (LAK) is out until December recovering from wrist surgery. Not all news is bad, however, as mammoth G Jeremy Helvig (CAR) and powerful LW Lawson Crouse (ARI) return to lead a roster chock full of skill players. The Fronts have a slew of quality 2017 NHL Draft prospects, beginning with Finnish import RW Linus Nyman (Ranked No. 93) and LW Jason Robertson (Ranked No. 78). Nyman is an explosive player who can finish as well as he can create opportunities, while Robertson last year finished second in the league among 2017 first-year draft eligibles with 18 goals in 54 games. On defense, Kingston features three draft-eligible defenders with size – LHD Jacob Paquette (Ranked No. 39), RHD Eemeli Rasanen (Ranked No. 121) and LHD Jakob Brahaney (Ranked No. 264). Paquette is a cerebral positional defender who was named to Team Canada’s recent entry for the Ivan Hlinka but bowed out of the tournament because of a right arm injury.

2017 First-year draft eligibles

23 Tyler Burnie RW L 6.04 188 9-Feb-99
77 Eemeli Rasanen D R 6.06 205 6-Mar-99
22 Jakob Brahaney D L 6.01 181 26-Mar-99
6 Jacob Paquette D L 6.03 208 26-May-99
13 Colin Van Den Hurk D R 5.11 185 26-May-99
75 Linus Nyman RW L 5.1 150 11-Jul-99
19 Jason Robertson LW L 6.02 196 22-Jul-99

Ottawa 67’s
Coach: Jeff Brown (3rd Season)
2015-16 record: 36-29-2 (2nd, East Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs
Round 1: Niagara (1-4)

OHL Rank (2015-16)

8th (19.6%) 12th (79.7%) 11th (234) 9th (219)

Outlook: The good news is that Ottawa made the playoffs for the second straight season. The bad? The 67’s were knocked out of the first round in each of them, with last year’s five-game drubbing to Niagara revealing more mediocrity than promise. The 67’s will rely on young forwards like LW Travis Barron (COL) and 2017 draft prospect C Sasha Chmelevski (Ranked No. 44) to make up for the loss of super-scorers C Dante Salituro (CBJ) and LW Jeremiah Addison (MTL), the latter being traded to Windsor during the summer. LW Austen Keating (Ranked No. 73) is a highly-cerebral forward who was invited to Canada’s Hlinka camp, but you have to wonder if he’ll be the dynamic player he was prior to the concussion he sustained last season. Russian import RHD Andrei Golikov (Ranked No. 314) was the 67’s top pick (32nd overall) in the 2016 CHL Import Draft and will add physicality, but don’t expect him to replace the big minutes of graduate LHD Stepan Falkovsky (CGY). In goal, G Leo Lazarev (2017 draft overager) is the incumbent, and replacing traded G Liam Herbst (Undrafted) with G Olivier Lafreniere likely translates into an increased work load for Lazarev.

2017 First-year draft eligibles

No. Name Pos S HT WT DOB
2 Noel Hoefenmayer D L 6’0 190 6-Jan-99
16 Ben Evans C L 6’0 195 16-Jan-99
9 Austen Keating LW L 6’0 170 7-Mar-99
18 Hudson Wilson D L 6’3 192 3-May-99
5 Andrei Golikov D R 6’3 175 31-May-99
89 Sasha Chmelevski C R 6’0 186 9-Jun-99

Peterborough Petes
Coach: Jody Hull (6th Season)
2015-16 record: 33-28-2-5 (3rd, East Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs
Round 1: North Bay (3-4)

 OHL Rank (2015-16)

19th (14.8%) 20th (75.3%) T-9th (240) 15th (259)

Outlook: Expect the Petes to make some noise for several reasons, beginning with the expected return of scorers C Jonathan Ang (FLA) and C Stephen Lorentz (CAR), as well as leading defender RHD Matthew Spencer (TB). You have to figure the addition of Finnish RW Jonne Tammela (TB) and draft-eligible Czech RW Matyas Svoboda (Ranked No. 51), plus the maturation of C Zach Gallant (Ranked No. 247) will bolster a power play that let the Petes down a year ago. G Dylan Wells (EDM) heads into the season as Peterborough’s starter following G Matthew Mancina’s trade to Mississauga and should excpect to see anyhwere from 40-50 starts. And keep an eye on Russian puck wizard RW Pavel Gogolev (2018 Draft), who was the eighth overall pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection.

2017 First-year draft eligibles

23 Matyas Svoboda  LW L 6’2 213 2-Jan-99
29 Josh Barraclough RW R 6’1 194 4-Feb-99
12 C.J. Clarke RW L 6’0 201 8-Feb-99
11 Zach Gallant C L 6’1 184 6-Mar-99
7 Nick Grima D R 5’11 188 7-Mar-99
15 Nick Isaacson LW L 6’2 180 11-Aug-99
2  Cole Fraser D R 6’2 191 23-Aug-99

Oshawa Generals
Coach: Bob Jones (2nd Season)
2015-16 record: 27-33-4-4 (4th, East Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs
Round 1: Kingston (1-4)

 OHL Rank (2015-16)

7th (19.6%) 17th (76.6%) T-16th (197) 14th (235)

Outlook: The Generals went from 2015 Memorial Cup champions and Canadian Hockey League darlings to near the bottom in quite a hurry, as no OHL team last season was hit by graduations as hard as they were. It didn’t help that star LW Michael Dal Colle (NYI) got off to a terrible start, prompting a midseason trade to Kingston. This season, Oshawa will rely on C Anthony Cirelli (TB) and C Domenic Commisso (2017 draft overager) to run the offense, with the arrival of Latvian draft prospect C Renars Krastenbergs (Ranked No. 177) and draft-eligible C Jack Studnicka (Ranked No. 87) forcing GM Roger Hunt to trade veteran faceoff specialist C Sam Harding (2017 draft overager) to Kingston. Slick puck mover LHD Mitchell Vander Sompel (NYI) leads a solid back end and will quarterback one of the OHL’s better power plays, and two-way LHD Riley Stillman (FLA) is a candidate for a breakout season. Youngster RW Robbie Burt (2017 draft eligible) likely assumes a depth role, while LW Daniil Antropov (2018 Draft) — a top pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection — is the son of former Toronto Maple Leaf Nikolai Antropov. The goaltending situation is quite clear, with returning starter G Jeremy Brodeur (2017 draft overager) looking to post another strong campaign.

2017 First-year draft eligibles

11 Renars Krastenbergs C L 6’0 175 16-Dec-98
23 Jack Studnicka C R 6’1 170 18-Feb-99
30 Kyle Keyser G L 6’2 185 8-Mar-99
35 Barrett Mundell G L 6’2 182 8-Mar-99
4 Matt Stoia D R 6’1 176 24-Mar-99
15 Kyle MacLean  LW L 6’0 180 29-Apr-99
7 Sullivan Sparkes C L 5’11 175 4-May-99
18 Robbie Burt RW R 6’0 210 29-May-99

Hamilton Bulldogs
Coach: John Gruden (1st Season)
2015-16 record: 25-35-8-0 (5th, East Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs

 OHL Rank (2015-16)

15th (17.0%) 10th (80.4%) T-16th (197) 16th (235)

Outlook: It was a rough first year for Hamilton, which not only failed to make the playoffs, but came up short in generating any sort of buzz in a demanding and passionate hockey market. That should change this season under new head coach John Gruden, who inherits essentially the same roster from last year, but one whose top-end talent is undeniable. The Bulldogs have a pair of outstanding two-way defenders in LHD Ben Gleason (2017 draft overager) and LHD Cole Candella (VAN), while hard-shooting and physical RHD Reilly Webb (2017 draft eligible) should expect a bigger role now that he’s recovered from an injury-plagued season. Up front, the top line of LW Matt Strome (Ranked No. 57), C Niki Petti (Undrafted) and RW Matt Luff (Draft eligible overager) should be one of the league’s best. Hamilton is one year better in terms of overall forward depth, with draft-eligible banger C Mackenzie Entwhistle (Ranked No. 89) and Slovakian C Marian Studenic (Ranked No. 36) both candidates for special teams play. Towering C Connor Roberts (2018 draft) — the third overall pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection — is still a little raw for an expanded role, but his size and skill makes the Bulldogs’ bottom-six all the more dangerous. Lastly, the club’s goaltending situation looks fine on paper, with G Connor Hicks (2017 draft overager) the starter and prospect G Kayden Flucher (Ranked No. 449) a solid option for backup.

2017 First-year draft eligibles

33 Kaden Fulcher G L 6’3 182 23-Sep-98
28 Marian Studenic C L 6’0 165 28-Oct-98
18 Matthew Strome LW L 6’3 203 6-Jan-99
12 Zachary Jackson LW L 6’3 189 11-Jan-99
15 Fedor Gordeev D L 6’6 209 27-Jan-99
11 Isaac Nurse RW R 5’9 165 16-Mar-99
9 Reilly Webb D R 6’3 201 4-May-99
44 MacKenzie Entwistle RW R 6’3 181 14-Jul-99

Central Division

Barrie Colts
Coach: Dale Hawerchuk (7th Season)
2015-16 record: 43-22-0-3 (1st, Central Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs
Round 1: Mississauga (4-3)
Round 2: North Bay (4-0)
Round 3: Niagara (0-4)

 OHL Rank (2015-16)

5th (21.7%) 4th (83.4%) 2nd (295) 8th (207)

Outlook: Dale Hawerchuk’s rebuilding Colts were carried last season by 100-point seasons from veterans C Kevin Labanc (SJ) and LW Andrew Mangiapane (CGY), and stellar netminding from G Mackenzie Blackwood (NJD). All three, including offensive-minded RHD Rasmus Andersson (CGY) have moved on to greener pastures, leaving the team in the hands of younger, less experienced prospects. And while replicating another solid wire-to-wire season may seem like too tall of an order, that doesn’t mean they won’t look fun and fast in the process. The Colts’ strength will lie in their heady defense corps, led by draft-eligible overagers LHD Cameron Lizotte (2017 draft overager) and RHD Justin Murray (2017 draft overager), They added two highly-regarded 2017 draft prospects — Swedish LHD Tom Hedberg (Ranked No. 140), Ohio native RHD Joey Keane (Ranked No. 88) — and will look to puck mover LHD Kade Landry (2017 draft eligible) to provide some punch as a depth defender. Offense from the back end will be critical since the forward ranks were depleted, but Hawerchuk unloaded a bunch of picks for Russian sniper LW Kirill Nizhnikov (2018 Draft). And he may be listed at only 5’6, but LW Lucas Chiodo (Ranked No. 481) is one of their top playmakers, while C Kyle Heitzner (2017 draft eligible) is a late-round pick who had a strong preseason.

2017 First-year draft eligibles

31 Ruan Badenhorst  G L 5’10 169 3-Oct-98
8 Lucas Chiodo LW L 5’6 155 31-Oct-98
6 Kyle Auger D R 5’9 170 2-Jan-99
21 Jason Willms  C L 6’0 189 8-Feb-99
33 Christian Propp G L 6’2 182 27-Mar-99
11 Jaden Peca RW L 5’10 160 18-Apr-99
5 Christopher Cameron D R 6’4 231 29-Apr-99
7 Kade Landry D L 5’10 180 3-May-99
15 Kyle Heitzner C L 5’10 165 17-Jul-99
25  Tom Hedberg D L 5’11 161 10-Aug-99
** Joey Keane D R 6’1 190 7/2/99

North Bay Battalion
Coach: Stan Butler (19th Season)
2015-16 record: 35-23-6-4 (2nd, Central Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs
Round 1: Oshawa (4-3)
Round 2: Barrie (0-4)

 OHL Rank (2015-16)

14th (18.8%) 8th (81.5%) 9th (240) 11th (227)

Outlook: The Battalion was served with a cold plate of revenge by Barrie via a convincing four-game sweep in the second round, leaving head coach Stan Butler with a bitter taste from not only an early-round exit, but the prospect of losing his four best players to graduation. C Mike Amadio (LAK), RW Matthew Santos (undrafted), RHD Kyle Wood (ARI) and G Jake Smith (undrafted) all moved on, leaving a void in terms of production and leadership. LHD Cam Dineen (ARI) — one of the CHL’s top scoring defenders last year — returns with some blue line help in the name of Swede RHD Adam Thilander (Ranked No. 64) and LHD Brady Lyle (Ranked No. 115). Butler has always employed a defense-oriented system, but the lack of quality scorers beyond LW Daniil Vertiy (Ranked No. 202) and RW Zach Poirier (2017 draft overager) will sting. Look for top prospect C Adam McMaster (2018 draft) to inch his way into the top six and provide the Battalion with a consistent effort. Replacing Smith in goal will not be easy, but G Brent Moran (DAL) was a capable backup who earned the starting nod.

2017 First-year draft eligibles

3  Adam Thilander D R 6’1 187 18-Sep-98
23 Daniil Vertiy LW L 5’11 206 12-Nov-98
20 Jacob Ball LW L 6’3 196 16-Jan-99
24 Brad Chenier LW L 5’11 186 20-Jan-99
35 Matt Woroniuk G L 6’2 192 25-Mar-99
11 Daniel Walker LW R 6’4 195 18-May-99
22 Brady Lyle D R 6’1 196 6-Jun-99
2 Eric Allair D L 6’0 208 1-Jul-99
26 Alex Robert RW R 6’0 161 6-Jul-99

Niagara Ice Dogs
Coach: Dave Bell (1st Season)
2015-16 record: 35-26-4-6 (3rd, Central Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs
Round 1: Ottawa (4-1)
Round 2: Kingston (4-0)
Semifinals: Barrie (4-0)
Finals: London (0-4)

 OHL Rank (2015-16)

14th (18.8%) 2nd (84.2%) 13th (213) 6th (198)

Outlook: The Ice Dogs shocked the major junior circuit with a spirited run into the OHL Finals before bowing out to London’s blitzrieg, losing to the eventual Memorial Cup champions in four games. First-year coach Dave Bell has his work cut out for him, as there are key leaders to replace and new faces to familiarize with. Gone are NHL blue-chippers G Alex Nedeljkovic (CAR), RW Josh Ho-Sang (NYI), LW Brendan Perlini (ARI) and LHD Vince Dunn (STL), leaving G Stephen Dhillon (2017 draft overager) as a key cog in maintaining Niagara’s reputation as a tough team to score against. Two-way LW Graham Knott (CHI) is back and looking to taken advantage of a consistent top-line role, while imports C Pavel Dyomin (Ranked No. 138) and LW Ondrej Machala (Ranked No. 151) are two impressive offensive-minded forwards. C Ben Jones (Ranked No. 146) and C Akil Thomas (2018 Draft) are the Ice Dogs’ last two first round picks in the OHL Priority Selection who should challenge for a regular shift on what looks like an undernourished group of forwards. And RHD Hayden Davis (Ranked No. 242) is a complete prospect who will be groomed to become their top-pairing defender.
2017 First-year draft eligibles

16 Danial Singer RW R 5’7 165 10-Feb-99
29 Liam Ham D L 5’9 192 3-Feb-99
19 Pavel Demin C L 5’9 156 19-Apr-99
26 Andrew Somerville D L 5’10 165 30-Jul-99
15 Oliver Castleman LW L 5’10 180 15-Sep-99
18 Matthew Philip C R 5’11 175 31-May-99
20 Ondrej Machala LW L 6’0 176 11-Jan-99
3 Ben Jones C L 6’0 187 26-Feb-99
11 Ryan Smith C L 6’0 190 4-Jun-99
31 Colton Incze G L 6’1 205 31-Jan-99
27 Cal Davis LW L 6’2 152 21-Mar-99
5 Drew Hunter D R 6’2 186 6-Feb-99
6 Hayden Davis D R 6’2 193 21-Jul-99
21 Cameron Bisson RW R 6’3 178 18-Jan-99

Mississauga Steelheads
Coach: James Richmond (1st Season)
2015-16 record: 33-30-2-3 (4th, Central Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs
Round 1: Barrie (3-4)

 OHL Rank (2015-16)

12th (19.2%) T-13th (79.4%) 12th (215) 12th (229)

Outlook: No team personified mediocrity better than the Steelheads, who hovered at or near .500 from beginning to end before losing to Barrie in the first round. The results were somewhat shocking when you consider how they boasted a lineup with five 2016 NHL draft picks, including two lottery picks — RW Alex Nylander (BUF) and C Mike McLeod (NJD). In a perfect world, the aforementioned duo will return to join RW Nathan Bastian (NJD), LHD Sean Day (NYR) and LHD Austin Osmanski (BUF) and form not only an OHL title contender, but one for the Memorial Cup as well. Augmenting the 2016 draftees are two potential first rounders for 2017 — RW Owen Tippett (Ranked No. 15) and LHD Nicolas Hague (Ranked No. 24), and two European imports on defense in Finnish RHD Ville Saarijarvi (DET) and LHD Jacob Moverare (LAK). Mississauga addressed a void in goal by trading for G Matthew Mancina (Undrafted), and RW Ryan McLeod (2018 Draft) returns from a strong Ivan Hlinka tournament to add speed and skill to the bottom-six. On paper, the Steeleheads are undoubtedly the favorites to win the Eastern Conference. You have to wonder, however, if the amount of talent simply makes for a kitchen with too many cooks.

2017 First-year draft eligibles

15 Shaw Boomhower C L 5’11 185 31-Oct-98
41  Nicolas Hague D L 6’5 216 5-Dec-98
74  Owen Tippett RW R 6’2 204 16-Feb-99
18 Aidan McFarland LW L 5’11 191 5-Apr-99
17 Scoley Dow LW L 6’1 189 12-May-99
28 Matthew Titus RW R 6’1 174 15-May-99
94 Jeremy Goodwin LW L 6’3 190 4-Sep-99

Sudbury Wolves
Coach: David Matsos (2nd Season)
2015-16 record: 16-46-5-1 (5th, Central Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs

 OHL Rank (2015-16)

17th (16.1%) 16th (78.7%) 19th (183) 20th (328)

Outlook: The good thing about being a bottom feeder in the Ontario Hockey League is that sometimes time and experience are all it takes to gain respectability. Star players come and go with regularity, thus opening the door for struggling teams to attack that void and take a leap up the standings. Coach Dave Matsos has a young team on his hand  — only a third were born in 1997 or sooner — but you have to figure the Wolves are on the way up regardless. C David Levin (2018 Draft) is a dynamic scorer who looks ready to justify his selection as the OHL’s first overall pick in 2015, while RW Dmitri Sokolov (MIN) hopes to rebound from injuries that plagues his conditioning. Polish import LW Alan Lyszczarczyk (2017 draft overager) was their most consistent scorer, and look for physical LW Carson Macauley (2017 draft eligible) and speedy C Ben Garagan (2017 draft eligible) to help form a respectable third line.  The defense has promise, led by LHD Kyle Capobianco (ARI), who should anchor the top pairing and play in all critical situations. Youngster RHD Reagan O’Grady (Ranked No. 153) is a mature two-way defender, but look for a solid rookie season from RHD Owen Lalonde (2018 draft), a cerebral puck mover with an elite understanding of the game. Sudbury has uncertainty in goal following the trade of G Troy Timpano (2017 draft overager) to Erie, and it looks like G Zach Bowman (2017 draft overager) will be given the lion’s share of minutes.

2017 First-year draft eligibles

28 Drake Pilon RW R 5’9 174 2-Oct-98
29 Darian Pilon LW L 5’9 174 2-Oct-98
12 Brady Pataki RW R 6’2 217 3-Oct-98
5 Brandon Bastasin D L 6’3 201 5-Nov-98
7 Reagan O’Grady D R 6’2 197 15-Dec-98
22 Ben Garagan C L 5’11 174 6-Jan-99
30  Jake McGrath G L 6’1 158 7-Jan-99
14 Owen Lane LW L 5’9 183 16-Jan-99
8 Conor Ali D L 6’0 185 9-Mar-99
18 Macauley Carson LW L 6’1 205 12-Mar-99
20 Shane Bulitka LW L 5’11 176 9-Jul-99

Midwest Division

Erie Otters
Coach: Kris Knoblauch (5th Season)
2015-16 record: 52-15-1-0 (1st, Midwest Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs
Round 1: Saginaw (4-0)
Round 2: Sault Ste Marie (4-1)
Semifinals: London (0-4)

OHL Rank (2015-16)

2nd (25.3%) 5th (82.6%) 3rd (269) 2nd (183)

Outlook: Erie is expected to bring back another powerhouse roster with or without star C Dylan Strome (ARI), so a fourth straight 50-win season is not out of the question. The Otters feature a deep group of forwards, beginning with diminutive RW Alex DeBrincat (CHI), who silenced prognosticators with his second straight 50-goal season while leading his club to the OHL’s regular season crown. Rugged power forward LW Taylor Raddysh (TB) rejoins DeBrincat on the first line, and look for Russian import and 2017 draft prospect C German Poddubyi (Ranked No. 157) to compete for the top center slot. RW/LW Ivan Lodnia (Ranked No. 71) was one of the OHL’s top rookie scorers last season and had a solid Ivan Hlinka tournament for the United States, and RW Kyle Maksimovich (2017 draft overager) and C/W Brett Neumann (Ranked No. 353) are two undersized skill forwards whose versatility likely lands them into the top six. The back line took a hit with the departure of puck mover LHD Travis Dermott (TOR), and there’s a slim chance physical two-way RHD Erik Cernak (LAK) returns. That leaves overagers LHD T.J. Fergus (2017 draft eligible) and RHD Darren Raddysh (undrafted) to steer a lunchpail group that lacks a legitimate difference maker. In goal, newly-acquired G Troy Timpano (2017 draft overager) will need to outplay G Jake Lawr (2017 draft overager) for a starting nod that is still up for grabs.

2017 First-year draft eligibles

40 Anand Oberoi G L 6’4 165 10-Feb-99
13 Brett Neumann C R 5’8 166 15-Feb-99
22 Josh Wainman D L 5’11 168 20-Feb-99
8 Carson Edwardson C L 5’11 161 9-Jun-99
39 Gera Poddubnyi C L 6’1 183 9-Jun-99
3 Ryan Martin D L 6’0 191 14-Jun-99
43 Ivan Lodnia C R 5’10 181 31-Aug-99

London Knights
Coach: Dale Hunter (16th Season)
2015-16 record: 51-14-2-1 (2nd, Midwest Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs
Round 1: Owen Sound (4-2)
Round 2: Kitchener (4-0)
Semifinals: Erie (4-0)
Finals: Niagara (4-0)
Memorial Cup: 4-0

OHL Rank (2015-16)

1st (29.1%) 6th (82.3%) 1st (319) 1st (182)

Outlook: It was a dream season for London in terms of both team and individual accomplishment, as its Memorial Cup victory was immediately followed by an NHL Draft that saw seven players selected from its roster – including three in the first round. Led by a trio of star forwards – C Christian Dvorak (ARI), LW Matt Tkachuk (CGY) and RW Mitch Marner (TOR) – the Knights scored a league-best 319 goals, which was the most by a London team since 1985-86. And while it’s likely all three begin the season with their respective NHL clubs, London was able to do what it always seems to accomplish – lure top end talent to keep the machine chugging. Expect two forwards – LW Max Jones (ARI) and C Cliff Pu (BUF) – to shine in expanded roles the way they did last year while the Knights’ top players participated in the world junior championship. Adding Finnish playmaker C Janne Kuokkanen (CAR) will soothe the sting of losing an elite set-up man like Dvorak, and 2017 draft-eligibles C Robert Thomas (Ranked No. 178) and LW Alex Formenton are two promising forwards who may have earned their way into the top nine. A defense that allowed a league-low 182 goals-against remains formidable with or without LHD Olli Juolevi (VAN), who was the fifth pick in the NHL Draft and another candidate to begin the campaign elsewhere. LHD Victor Mete (MTL) is capable of leading the rush and running the power play, while rookie LHD Ian Blacker (Ranked No. 69) and LHD Jacob Golden (2017 first-year eligible) are two prospects who could see their roles expand as the season progresses. G Tyler Parsons (CGY) will return following a remarkable season and should be considered the early-season favorite to win the OHL’s top goalie award.

2017 First-year draft eligibles

42 Jacob Golden D L 5’11 161 20-Mar-99
11 Cole Tymkin RW R 6’0 178 5-Apr-99
28 Josh Nelson C L 5’10 168 27-May-99
24 Ian Blacker D L 6’3 178 27-May-99
27 Robert Thomas C R 6’0 184 2-Jul-99
6 Riley Coome D R 6’4 184 7-Jul-99
80 Alex Formenton LW L 6’1 157 13-Sep-99

Kitchener Rangers
Coach: Jay McKee (1st Season)
2015-16 record: 44-17-5-2 (3rd, Midwest Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs
Round 1: Windsor (4-1)
Round 1: London (0-4)

OHL Rank (2015-16)

4th (22.2%) 11th (80.1%) 4th (256) 5th (197)

Outlook: Kitchener managed to distinguish itself while playing in the OHL’s toughest division, ranking in the top five in both offense and defense, and finishing fourth overall with 95 points. And while they were a notch below Midwest powerhouses London and Erie, the Rangers made a habit of lighting up the scoreboard with an entertaining brand of hockey. Yes, center depth is thin following the graduation of captain C Ryan MacInnis (ARI) and C Gustaf Franzen’s departure for Sweden, leaving LW Adam Mascherin (FLA) as the linchpin on offense. But the Rangers may get slick LW Jeremy Bracco (TOR), plus expanded roles for C Connor Bunnaman (PHI) and LW Mason Kohn (2017 draft overager). The forward ranks will receive an injection of youth, beginning with speedy C Greg Meirless (Ranked No. 116) and German import C Cedric Schiemenz (Ranked No. 334). The flanks feature prospects LW Dylan Seitz (Ranked No. 360) and LW Nick McHugh (Ranked. No. 351), as well as undersized playmaker RW Joseph Garrefa (Ranked No. 308). The defense is an area a strength for rookie head coach Jay McKee – a defenseman himself during a lengthy NHL career. LHD Connor Hall (PIT) is capable of all the tough assignments, and lightning-quick puck mover LHD Elijah Roberts (Ranked No. 61) will be asked to run the power play along with heralded rookie LHD Giovanni Vallati (2018 Draft). Veteran G Dawson Carty (Undrafted) will take over as the Rangers’ top netminder while G Luke Opilka (STL) is out following hip surgery.

2017 First-year draft eligibles

35 Chris McGonigle G L 6’3 200 19-Sep-98
88 Greg Meireles C R 5’10 173 1-Jan-99
81 Dylan Seitz LW L 6’2 185 15-Jan-99
98 Elijah Roberts D L 5’10 158 23-Jan-99
21 Nick McHugh LW L 5’10 162 13-Feb-99
48 Cedric Schiemenz C L 5’11 160 1-Mar-99
25 Alex Peterson D L 6’3 174 26-May-99
34 Luke Richardson G L 6’3 158 28-May-99
4 Joseph Garreffa RW L 5’7 166 9-Aug-99

Owen Sound Attack
Coach: Ryan McGill (2nd Season)
2015-16 record: 32-25-8-3 (4th, Midwest Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs
Round 1: London (2-4)

OHL Rank (2015-16)

10th (19.4%) 7th (82.0%) T-14th (209) 10th (222)

Outlook: The Attack deserve credit for not only giving the eventual-champion London Knights their toughest series of the playoffs, but for also finishing with a respectable record in what many considered the best division in major junior hockey. And while the Attack is not ready to surpass the Eries, Londons and Kitcheners of the world, they will feature a competitive, balanced lineup that may end up surprising people. In goal, G Michael McNiven (MTL) returns to provide Owen Sound with consistency and the ability to steal games. The blue line is another area of strength for second-year head coach Ryan McGill, who will lean on NHL draftees RHD Thomas Schemitsch (FLA) and LHD Jacob Friend (LAK), while grooming 2017 draft prospects LHD Markus Phillips (Ranked No. 82) and RHD Sean Durzi (Ranked No. 292) to handle the puck-rushing responsibilities when the veterans need support. Up front, C Nick Suzuki (Ranked No. 26) is a dynamic playmaker who last year was one of the CHL’s top 1999-born players, and LW Jonah Gadjovich (Ranked No. 193) will be counted on to take some heat off of top goal scorer RW Petrus Palmu (2017 draft overager).

2017 First-year draft eligibles


21 Jonah Gadjovich LW L 6’2 201 12-Oct-98
5 Sean Durzi D R 5’11 185 21-Oct-98
24 Maksim Sushko  RW R 5’11 175 10-Feb-99
18 Markus Phillips D L 6’0 200 21-Mar-99
12 Nick Pryce LW R 5’11 180 23-Mar-99
7 Zachary Roberts LW R 6’0 180 4-Aug-99
37 Nick Suzuki C R 5’11 183 10-Sep-99

Guelph Storm
Coach: Jarrod Skalde (2nd Season)
2015-16 record: 13-49-4-2 (5th, Midwest Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs

OHL Rank (2015-16)

18th (15.4%) 18th (76.4%) 20th (156) 19th (297)

Outlook: The Storm didn’t make the sweeping changes one would expect on the heels of a horrendous campaign in which it finished at or near the bottom of every major statistical category. Guelph is bringing back an almost identical roster to the one that won only one of its first 14 games in 2015-16, and it remains to be seen whether last year’s debacle will count as legitimate development time. Still, the Storm bring in Russian LHD Dmitri Samorukov (Ranked No. 17), one of the 2017 draft’s top defense prospects and a physical blueliner capable of providing stability. He’ll be a nice compliment to puck mover LHD Garrett McFadden (2017 draft overager), whose puck skills get overlooked since he plays for a doormat. They’ve already welcomed RHD Ryan Merkley (2018 Draft) – the top pick in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection and a high-profile prospect to look out for even if he’s still growing into his frame. Guelph’s weakness lies within the forward lines, with rugged RW Givani Smith (DET) its only game changer. C Albert Michnac (Ranked No. 304), a finesse player who was the Storm’s second import pick from last year, should get a long look in the top six, and massive LW Isaac Ratcliffe (Ranked No. 50) is a low-slot option for a power play that has to improve. Guelph’s acquisition of G Liam Herbst (Undrafted) gives them stability in the crease and is capable of stealing a game every now and then.

2017 First-year draft eligibles

20 Albert Michnac C L 5’11 175 18-Oct-98
14 Cedric Ralph C L 5’9 165 21-Jan-99
26 Nick Deakin-Poot C L 6’4 208 28-Jan-99
19 Isaac Ratcliffe LW L 6’6 195 15-Feb-99
16 Nate Schnarr C R 6’3 180 25-Feb-99
13 Quinn Hanna D R 6’3 192 14-Apr-99
22 Liam Stevens LW L 5’9 186 23-Apr-99
5 Dmitri Samorukov D L 6’0 165 16-Jun-99
32 Anthony Popovich G L 6’1 174 1-Aug-99

West Division

Sarnia Sting
Coach: Derian Hatcher (2nd Season)
2015-16 record: 42-19-5-2 (1st, West Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs
Round 1: Sault Ste Marie (3-4)

OHL Rank (2015-16)

11th (19.3%) 1st (84.3%) 5th (243) 4th (192)

Outlook: It’s tough to call Sarnia’s 91-point season disappointing, but that’s what happens when you lose in the first round to a rebuilding Sault Ste Marie club. Whatever the Sting was during the regular season — structured, disciplined and clutch — disappeared come playoff time. Replacing C Pavel Zacha (NJD) won’t be easy, but the return of stars RW Travis Konecny (PHI) and RW Jordan Kyrou (STL) in addition to two European standouts in C Adam Ruzicka (Ranked No. 15) and LW Filip Helt (STL) should create serious matchup problems for opposing coaches. C Anthony Salinitri (PHI) is poised for a breakout season playing alongside LW Ryan McGregor (Ranked No. 126). And keep an eye on Finnish LW Louis Latta (2017 draft overager), who was Sarnia’s second rounder in the 2015 CHL Import Draft. The defense is led by none other than all-world LHD Jakob Chychrun (ARI), who is looking at his second straight season logging close to 30 minutes a game. The goaltending situation is tenable for now, with G Aiden Hughes (Ranked No. 312) and G Justin Fazio (2017 draft overager) likely sharing the workload.

2017 First-year draft eligibles

19 Ryan McGregor LW L 6’0 157 29-Jan-99
23 Egert Curtis LW L 6’1 196 4-Feb-99
22 Sean Josling RW R 5’11 166 22-Mar-99
30 Aidan Hughes G L 6’4 242 10-Apr-99
6 Kelton Hatcher D L 6’1 176 19-Apr-99
21 Adam Ruzicka C L 6’4 202 11-May-99

Windsor Spitfires
Coach: Rocky Thompson (2nd Season)
2015-16 record: 40-21-6-1 (2nd, West Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs
Round 1: Kitchener (1-4)

 OHL Rank (2015-16)

3rd (23.6%) T-13th (79.4%) 6th (253) 7th (200)

Outlook: The Spitfires were an interesting team in that they featured some of the OHL’s best talent but silently fizzled out in a short postseason. Three Spits – LHD Mikhail Sergachev (MTL), C Logan Brown (OTT) and LHD Logan Stanley (WPG) – were picked in the top 20 of last June’s NHL Draft, while RW Christian Fischer (ARI) reached the 90-point mark in his first OHL season. And though there’s a fighter’s chance all four return for this coming season, the onus will be on Windsor’s depth players to carry their own weight if they are to challenge for a league title. Remember, the Spits are hosting the 2017 Memorial Cup, which will serve as the perfect opportunity for stud 2017 draft prospect C Gabe Vilardi (Ranked No. 11) to showcase his combination of size and skill. Inconsistent play in between the pipes was s big reason for their first round ouster, but G Michael Dipietro (Ranked No. 67) is one of the better draft-eligible goalies in the Canadian Hockey League. Another youngster who showed maturity and promise is LW Luke Boka (Ranked No. 154), a hard-nosed winger who plays a two-way game but is ready for a look in the top nine.

2017 First-year draft eligibles

24 Maddux Rychel LW R  6’3  222 21-Jan-99
29 Jasper Forgrave RW R 5’10 155 13-Mar-99
64 Michael DiPietro G L 6’0 193 9-Jun-99
61 Luke Boka RW R 5’11 192 12-Jun-99
26 Cole Purboo RW R 6’3 215 18-Jun-99
30 Lucas Patton G L 6’1 181 18-Jul-99
13 Gabriel Vilardi C R 6’2 193 16-Aug-99

Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds
Coach: Drew Bannister (2nd Season)
2015-16 record: 33-27-7-1 (3rd, West Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs
Round 1: Sarnia (4-3)
Round 2: Erie (1-4)

OHL Rank (2015-16)

9th (19.4%) 15th (79.0%) 8th (243) 13th (233)

Outlook: Expectations in Sault Ste Marie at the beginning of last season were tempered following a mass exodus of talent. But a 36-point drop in the standings was harsher than most predicted. Still, the Greyhounds battled through some early-season chemistry issues to not only sneak into the playoffs, but pull off an opening-round victory over favored Sarnia. Fans will want to see a little more from this year’s club, which returns several key pieces, especially up front. LW Boris Katchouk (TB) and RW Jack Kopacka (ANA) remain critical to the offense now that RW Zach Senyshyn (BOS) is a strong candidate to begin the season in Boston. Look for power forward RW Tim Gettinger (NYR) as a possible top-line replacement, with additional goal-scoring support coming from 2017 draft eligibles C/W Liam Frost (Ranked No. 58) and C Liam Hawel (Ranked No. 257). The Soo also added Finnish playmaker C Otto Makinen (2017 draft overager), who was a mainstay for Finland’s U18 team. The defense has an experienced blueliner in LHD Colton White (NJD) and a possible returnee in RHD Gustav Bouramman (MIN), although the latter is entertaining a return to his native Sweden. A contingency would be to entrust a trio of newbies – LHD Anthony DeMeo (Ranked No. 135), RHD Conor Timmins (Ranked No. 266) and RHD Mac Hollowell (Ranked No. 273) – all of whom are quality rearguards capable of providing offense. Replacing the puck-handling abilities of graduate G Brandon Halverson (NYR) won’t be easy, but G Joseph Raaymakers (2017 draft overager) is ready to assume the starting role.

2017 First-year draft eligibles

21 Conor Timmins D R 6’1 182 18-Sep-98
11 Mac Hollowell D R 5’9 166 26-Sep-98
22 Liam Hawel C R 6’5 179 18-Apr-99
29 Dougie Newhouse G L 6’0 165 24-Apr-99
16 Morgan Frost C L 5’10 170 14-May-99
31 Matthew Villalta G L 6’2 170 3-Jun-99
7 Anthony DeMeo D L 6’0 184 16-Jun-99

Saginaw Spirit
Coach: Spencer Carbery (1st Season)
2015-16 record: 24-36-5-3 (4th, West Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs
Round 1: Erie (0-4)

 OHL Rank (2015-16)

16th (16.3%) 9th (81.1%) T-14th (209) 18th (282)

Outlook: Saginaw returns an experienced lineup, specifically a defense corps that was bolstered by the addition of Czech RHD Filip Hronek (DET), who was a standout at last year’s world junior championship. He joins fellow 2016 draftees LHD Markus Niemelainen (EDM) and LHD Keaton Middleton (TOR) – two gargantuan one-on-one defenders who can shut down opposing top lines. Another 2016 draftee who will play a critical role is G Evan Cormier (NJD), a 6’3 butterfly netminder who some feel hasn’t shown the OHL what he’s truly capable of. The Spirit will need a consistent season from speedy C Tye Felhaber (2017 draft overager) whose disastrous first half likely prevented him from getting drafted, while C Mitchell Stephens (TB) is their best player who missed a chunk of time last year with an injury. A trio of 2017 draft eligibles – C Brady Gilmour (Ranked No. 91), RW Cole Coskey (Ranked No. 155) and RW Kirill Maksimov (Ranked No. 156) are all candidates for the top six.

2017 First-year draft eligibles

91 Gianluca Fuoco LW L 6’1 185 1-Jan-99
24 Brock Hill D R 6’2 205 27-Jan-99
7 Kyle Bollers LW L 5’11 160 12-Mar-99
6 Robert Proner D L 6’2 210 12-Mar-99
20 Brendan Bonello G L 6’2 215 1-Apr-99
9 Brady Gilmour C L 5’10 170 18-Apr-99
25 Kirill Maksimov RW R 6’2 190 1-Jun-99
49 Cole Coskey RW R 6’0 190 1-Jun-99

Flint Firebirds
Coach: Ryan Oulahen (1st Season)
2015-16 record: 20-42-4-2 (5th, West Division)
2015-16 OHL Playoffs

OHL Rank (2015-16)

 20th (13.9%) 19th (75.5%) 18th (184) 17th (279)

Outlook: The Firebirds seemed to be in the news for all the wrong reasons, most of which had nothing to do with the product on the ice. With the highly-publicized rift between ownership and the coaching staff seemingly behind them, the Firebirds can focus on improving the dreadful record they finished with in their inaugural OHL season. Yes, rookie head coach Ryan Oulahen is faced with the reality that top player C Will Bitten (MTL) wants to play elsewhere. Yes, top defender RHD Ville Saarijarvi (DET) got his wish and was traded to Mississauga. And no, top OHL prospect LHD Ty Dellandrea (2018 Draft) isn’t quite ready to save the fledgling franchise on his own. As cliché as it sounds, the Firebirds will need a complete team effort in order to see improvement in the standings. The addition of mobile Czech RHD Michal Steinocher (2018 Draft) — the eight pick in this year’s Import Draft – and Detroit-raised puckmover LHD Jalen Smerek (2017 draft overager) gives Oulahen options to improve what was an ineffective power play. And he’ll likely lean on RW Nicholas Caamano (DAL) and a slimmed-down LW Luke Kirwan (2017 draft overager) to make up for the loss of Bitten’s goal scoring. The goaltending situation is untenable, as neither G Matthew Menna (2017 draft overager) nor G Garrett Forrest (2017 draft overager) are capable of carrying a team for an entire season. If Bitten is moved, it would be folly for the Firebirds to not receive a reliable netminder in return.

9 Jack Phibbs LW R 6’0 183 5-Mar-99
12 Jake Durham RW R 5’11 199 7-Apr-99
6 Samuel Duchesne D L 6’2 166 29-May-99