Seidel: Sudbury's Byfield leads strong group of OHL draft prospects

Ottawa 67's Tye Felhaber battles with Sudbury Wolves Jack Thompson during first period OHL playoff action at TD Arena in Ottawa on April 5, 2019. Thompson will be a key player for the Wolves next season, coach Cory Stillman says. Errol McGihon/Postmedia Errol McGihon / Postmedia

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Since the summer is almost over and OHL training camps are on the horizon, I thought I’d give the readers a sneak peek into the players that I think will be high NHL Draft picks next year from the OHL.

This past year was a below-average crop in the OHL, but the new season could see as many as 10 OHLers go in the first round in a very deep 2020 NHL Draft.

Quinton Byfield, middle, of the Sudbury Wolves, leaps between Cole Fraser, left, and Chris Paquette, of the Peterborough Petes, during OHL action at the Sudbury Community Arena on Jan. 25. John Lappa/Sudbury Star

 

1. Quinton Byfield, Sudbury Wolves: Byfield is the big, strong centreman that every team covets to create strength through the middle. He has very good offensive skills and should lead the Sudbury Wolves in scoring this year, but he has learned under the tutelage of Cory Stillman how to play away from the puck, which is very impressive and it allows him to play in all situations. Solid character and work ethic give Byfield the chance to equal or potentially surpass Mike Foligno and Ron Duguay as the highest-ranking Wolf ever taken in the NHL Draft.

2. Cole Perfetti, Saginaw Spirit: Perfetti is an offensive machine who had a tremendous rookie year in Saginaw. He is poised to challenge for the league scoring title as a 17-year-old, which is very difficult to do. He understands where to find gaps in the offensive end and is a pure finisher. Besides his ability to score, he has tremendous vision to make passes and create offence for his linemates and that makes him a double threat. Will be in the discussion as a potential top-three pick all year and will be one of the most exciting players in the OHL this season.

3. Jamie Drysdale, Erie Otters: Drysdale showed at the recent Hlinka Gretzky Cup why he is the top-rated defenceman in this year’s draft as we embark upon the season. It wasn’t a coincidence that he was selected to be the captain for Team Canada, because he shows tremendous poise and leadership on and off the ice. He is deadly on the power play with his precision passing, high hockey IQ and his ability to control the game should make him a Top 10 selection in June 2020.

Sarnia Sting’s Hugo Leufvenius (46) and Saginaw Spirit’s Cole Perfetti (91) chase the puck in the third period at Progressive Auto Sales Arena in Sarnia, Ont., on Sunday, Oct. 28, 2018. (Mark Malone/Chatham Daily News/Postmedia Network)

4. Marco Rossi, Ottawa 67’s: Rossi walked into a loaded Ottawa 67’s roster last year and quickly became one of its deadliest offensive threats. He isn’t the biggest player on the ice, but has shown a willingness to go into the dirty areas and compete for pucks. His stick skills are incredible and the 67’s power play should run through him all year, which will allow him to accumulate some very impressive numbers. The 67’s will be a complete powerhouse in the OHL this year and Rossi will be a huge part of that.

5. Jean-Luc Foudy, Windsor Spitfires: Foudy is the younger brother of London Knights star Liam Foudy, who was a first-round selection of the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2018 draft. The younger Foudy may actually skate better than his older brother, which is incredible to say because Liam is one of the fastest players in the OHL. Jean-Luc is quick to pucks and has the skill to create offence on every shift and really challenge defenders. He has to become a little less perimeter this year but his physical tools will make him a guaranteed first-rounder.

Peter Ruicci/Sault StarOne of the most-impressive things about Soo Greyhounds first-round draft choice Ryan O’Rourke’ defensive game has been his ability to stand up and display strong gap control.

 

6. Ryan O’Rourke, Soo Greyhounds : O’Rourke is not a flashy defenceman, but his overall game is so sound and impressive that 31 NHL coaches would love to have him on their back end. He is extremely cerebral and has an incredibly high panic threshold, which allows him to always make the right play. He is already 6-foot-2 and should fill out around 200 pounds, which will give him the chance to physically handle anyone, and his defensive awareness will make him a 20-plus-minute-a-night defender in the NHL in a few years.

7. William Cuylle, Windsor Spitfires: Cuylle was originally drafted by the Peterborough Petes, but refused to report so he was subsequently traded to the Spits and he had a very good rookie year. He potted 26 goals as a 16-year-old with arguably the best shot in the league and the size and strength to get anywhere on the ice he wants to get. He skates well for a big power forward and will put up big numbers in the OHL this year, which should make him a first-rounder in June.

8. Jacob Perreault, Sarnia Sting: The son of the former Toronto Maple Leafs centre Yanic Perreault took the league by storm last year. He scored 30 goals and was one of the offensive catalysts for the Sting, despite only being 16 years old. While displaying his offensive abilities, Jacob really improved his play away from the puck and was one the Sting’s few plus players over the season. He is high on our radar and if he continues to develop like he did last year, he could be a first-round pick.

London Knight Antonio Stranges celebrates after scoring on Sarnia Sting goalie Aidan Hughes during the first period of their OHL hockey game in London on Friday, Oct. 12, 2018. The Knights were sporting custom sweaters in support of the Dream Lottery which raises money for London hospitals. The sweaters will be auctioned off at http://auction.chl.ca/ Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press

 

9. Lleyton Moore, Oshawa Generals: One of my favourite players in the entire draft, Moore is a defenceman made for the new game with his ability to skate and make plays. He was traded from Niagara to Oshawa last year and was injured for a good part of the second half of the season, but when he did come back, he showed no ill effects. I see a lot of Morgan Reilly in Moore’s game, which bodes well for his future as a power-play quarterback for the Gens and a standout defender in the league. His omission on Team Canada’s Hlinka Gretzky team really hurt them, in my opinion, but he won’t go under the radar this season in his NHL Draft.

10. Antonio Stranges, London Knights: A highly-skilled, slick offensive producer is coming out of London (let me put on my surprised face) to play on a loaded team. Stranges is a highlight-reel type of player who has phenomenal hands and has proven deadly on the power play. Dale Hunter still has some work to do to make him a complete player, but that will happen over the season and he should put up big numbers, which will make him a very intriguing prospect to watch over the course of the season.

Honourable Mentions

– Tyson Foerster, Barrie Colts: Barrie scooped up one of the smartest players in the league late in the third round two years ago and throughout his rookie year, he rewarded them for it. He has a very high hockey IQ and a game awareness that is impressive and while he needs to get stronger, he is a dark horse for me as we head into the 2019-20 scouting season.

– Tristan Lennox, Saginaw Spirit: Lennox stepped into the pressure cooker playoffs last year for the Spirit, when Ivan Prosvetov was suspended, and played incredibly. He has good size and mobility and will be the first OHL goaltender drafted next summer.

Brandon Coe of the North Bay Battalion carries the puck behind the Sarnia Sting net as Mitch Eliot gives chase and goaltender Ethan Langevin monitors the action in their Ontario Hockey League game Sunday at Memorial Gardens Feb. 3. Sean Ryan Photo

 

– Brandon Coe, North Bay Battalion: Coe’s development in North Bay has been incremental over the last two years, but the former third-overall pick in the OHL draft has a lot of tools that will be intriguing for NHL teams. He is off the radar right now, but I think the big right-winger will become a big reason for scouts to flock to see the Battalion play.

– Donovan Sebrango, Kitchener Rangers: Sebrango was a part of the silver medal-winning Canadian team in the recent Hlinka Gretzky Cup and he played an important role on that team. His overall game needs to develop and he needs to become more reliable defensively, but he has a lot of tools that teams covet.

– Tyler Tullio, Oshawa Generals: Tullio is a bulldog on the ice that takes no prisoners, but also has enough skill to hurt opposing teams on the scoreboard. He isn’t afraid to get into tough areas and I expect him to be featured with the Generals this season to help provide offence both five on five and the power play.

Sudbury Wolves defenceman Isaak Phillips (7) beats Soo Greyhounds forward Zack Trott (18) to a puck during first-period OHL action at Sudbury Community Arena on Wednesday, March 6, 2019. Ben Leeson/The Sudbury Star/Postmedia Network

 

– Jaromir Pytlik, Soo Greyhounds: Pytlik is a late-born 2001 who joined the Greyhounds mid-season and quietly established himself as a solid NHL prospect. He is a very good skater for a big kid, is strong on the puck and can make plays, which is what NHL teams are demanding in all their prospects.

– Isaak Phillips, Sudbury Wolves: Phillips is another late ’01 who really burst on the scene last season in Sudbury. The athletic defender saw his game continue to improve on a monthly basis last year and although he won’t be an offensive NHL defenceman, he has a chance to become a steady, capable prospect if adds a little nastiness to his game.

– Jack Thompson, Sudbury Wolves: Thompson was a second-round pick by the Wolves and he showed throughout his rookie year, an upside that could become pretty impressive. Smart and efficient with the puck and the underrated skill of getting pucks through on the power play give him a chance to become one of the hidden gems in the North.

— Mark Seidel runs North American Central Scouting. He’s a longtime scout and executive in the OHL and other junior leagues and is active in minor hockey. Reach Seidel at nacs@persona.ca or follow on Twitter @MarkSeidel.

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