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2024 NHL DRAFT: EARLY SEASON FAVOURITES – Ontario – Jakub Fibigr, Lukas Fischer, Ben Danford, Liam Greentree

Time for another series at McKeen’s from our scouting staff. The 2024 NHL Draft season is well under way and our scouts have been busy soaking in the action around the globe. Analyzing early season play can be difficult; perhaps even a bit of a ruse. Hot starts aren’t always sustainable and cold starts are not always indicative. However, players can still catch our attention in positive ways and that’s what this series intends to highlight.

Brock Otten - Director of Scouting & Regional Ontario Scout

Jakub Fibigr - Defense - Mississauga Steelheads

6’0, 171lbs - 2006-07-22

I was really happy to see Fibigr commit to the Steelheads after being selected by them in the CHL Import Draft. He was a standout for me at the Hlinka/Gretzky as part of a solid Czech group and I felt confident that he could bring a puck moving element to a Mississauga defense that badly needed it heading into the year.

Fibigr has done just that early on. He has become an immediate top pairing defender for Mississauga, playing in all situations while partnering with team captain Chas Sharpe. Often it can take some time for Import defenders to adjust to the CHL, so his quick adaptation has been extremely impressive.

One of Fibigr’s key attributes is his four-way mobility. An effortless skater in all directions, he uses this to be aggressive in all facets on the ice. His linear quickness allows him to lead the breakout or jump up into the play. It also allows him to be quick to loose pucks or to close off would-be attackers. He is aggressive in the offensive zone and in the neutral zone, both to keep pucks in or to be a disruptive force for other team’s breakout attempts. Additionally, his terrific agility allows him to defend well in transition; his gap control always stands out in a positive way.

Another standout quality of Fibigr’s is his compete level. He’s far from a physical specimen; he very much fits the stereotype of being “average sized.” However, he is aggressive in taking the battle to opposing forwards, consistently making his presence felt. He steps up early on attackers near the blueline to disrupt entry. He engages along the wall and consistently competes in 50/50 battles. He jousts near the crease and makes forwards earn space in the middle of the ice. He isn’t always on the winning end of these battles and that points to a need to get stronger given his lack of reach, but the effort is consistent.

Has Fibigr’s game been flawless thus far? Absolutely not. He seems to get burned at least once per game because of his aggressive approach. He will need to learn to pick his spots better, both in terms of when to jump up to keep pucks in and when to step up in the neutral zone without leaving his team vulnerable behind him. Adjusting to the pace of the OHL, from a decision-making perspective, has been an issue at times. Yet, given the many positives of other components of his game, I am willing to bet that these types of errors become less frequent as the season goes on. Regardless, it is something to monitor.

Where Fibigr fits into an incredibly strong Ontario defense group remains to be seen. The rest of the scouting year will be used to truly determine his upside as a pro.

Bring on the Videos!

Really strong defensive shift here by Fibigr. This is a pretty good example to show how he usually plays from the offensive blueline out. He takes an aggressive route to close off a clean entry with his feet and body, then he engages physically to try to help his defensive partner win that 50/50 battle.

More great defensive work from Fibigr. This time, we see his footwork on display. Look at how he recovers to quickly close off Malcolm Spence’s lane to the net, separates him from the puck, and then draws a penalty against Spence out of frustration. It should be noted that Spence is one of the most difficult players to stop in the OHL with open ice due to his combination of size and quickness.

Fibigr goes for a skate and gains the offensive blueline with ease, nearly setting up a goal in the slot after circling the net.

Far from a dynamic clip, but I chose it for a few reasons. One, we again see Fibigr’s impress footwork and speed. Look at how quickly he builds speed to help him gain the red line. Later, we see his aggressive approach again as he pinches in to play the body and disrupt a clean breakout.

Another good look at Fibigr’s strong rushing ability thanks to his high end skating ability. He gets easy separation from a forechecker by building speed quickly then fights through contact to track down his own chip into the one to create a good scoring chance.

One of those poorly timed pinches that I mentioned. But, to Fibigr’s credit, he hustled hard to get back and ended up executing a perfectly timed stick lift on Rasmus Kumpulainen to prevent a great scoring chance.

Lukas Fischer - Defense - Sarnia Sting

6’3, 170lbs - 2006-09-09

The son of former Detroit Red Wings defenseman and current Red Wings Director of Player Personnel Jiri Fischer, Lukas is playing in his first full OHL season. He signed with Sarnia roughly half way through last year, after starting the year playing in the USHL and with the Detroit Compuware program. Fischer played sparingly last season on a strong, veteran laden Sting team, but he is now leading the Sting in ice time to start this year and quarterbacking their top powerplay unit.

Upside is the key word here. The runway for physical development is through the roof. Fischer is already 6’3 as one of the youngest players eligible this year. Lukas’ older brother Braiden (who plays for St. Thomas University in the NCAA) is listed at 6’7, while father Jiri played in the NHL at 6’5 and around 225lbs. It seems completely conceivable that Lukas could at least get to his father’s size by the time he is ready to turn pro.

It’s not all about size though, it’s Lukas’ physical tools and athleticism that make him such an intriguing prospect. His skating ability is terrific, especially for someone with his length. Long, powerful strides allow him to chew up ice quickly and efficiently. He can have a profound impact as a puck mover because of it. As he gains further confidence in his rushing ability, look for this part of his game to grow further. Defensively, his combination of length and quickness allows him to be incredibly disruptive. He defends pace well and he is difficult to pin inside his own zone with how he handles retrievals and wins battles below the goal line.

Really, the aspect of Fischer’s game that has impressed me the most is how composed and mature his game has become so quickly. While he can impress with his puck rushing skill, he’s been most effective making quick decisions to start the breakout in the defensive zone, even under intense pressure. He kills plays with his length and strength and then can either use his feet or a quick pass to get Sarnia out of trouble. He is limiting turnovers, even playing against the opposition’s best and is one of the key reasons the Sting have been way better than everyone anticipated they would be.

Eyes will be on Fischer to see how his game comes together over the course of the season, but given his bloodlines, intriguing physical tools, and positive development, he has made a huge leap in my personal rankings. It is early, but he could easily end up being a first round NHL draft pick when all is said and done.

Bring on the Videos!

Strong shift from Fischer that results in a goal. We see his strong footwork as he keeps Cole Davis to the perimeter. Then he stays high in the defensive zone to make a great play on the puck and it’s off to the races.

Not a great turnover by Fischer, but look at his work on the backcheck to break up this play. With his length and quickness, he can be such a disruptive force.

No hesitation at all from Fischer on this retrieval. He shoulder checks then takes a route to the puck that allows him to build speed quickly to avoid the forecheck. This leads to an eventual clean entry for the Sting.

I absolutely love this play from Fischer. Great defensive support to his partner to break up Kaden Pitre’s net drive, then he gets inside leverage on Pitre, executes a perfectly timed stick lift, and effectively starts the breakout.

Really good work by Fischer at the offensive blueline. Holds the line to keep the puck in and eventually makes a great cross ice pass to help set up a premium scoring chance. That pass was impressively precise as he thread the needle between two Flint sticks.

I’d love to see just a little more of this from Fischer given his size advantage. But, he absolutely crushes a Saginaw player as they try to hunt down a loose puck behind the net. If the physical component of his game becomes more consistent…look out.

Ben Danford - Defense - Oshawa Generals

6’2, 195lbs - 2006-02-06

Danford has been one of the biggest surprises for me to start the OHL season. I liked his play as an OHL rookie last year, where he was one of the most effective ‘06 defenders in the defensive zone. However, I had questions about his offensive upside and puck play. These questions were heightened following the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup, where I thought Danford struggled at times against elevated competition.

However, to start the year, Danford has shown impressive growth with the puck on his stick. He has been way more involved offensively than I anticipated he would be. When you pair that with his strong defensive play, you suddenly have a defender with a higher ceiling as a pro and that ultimately makes him a more attractive NHL draft prospect.

Danford’s bread and butter as an NHL draft prospect will be his strong defensive play. He is a tireless worker in the D-zone who already has to be considered one of the top shot blockers in the OHL. His positioning and anticipation are terrific. He consistently wins battles for the puck and his skating is good enough that he’s able to stay ahead of the action and keep attackers to the outside. He defends the crease with authority and has a sneaky physical side that gives him a leg up positionally.

There is bound to be some concern that Danford is not a dynamic mover. He is certainly an adequate skater, but he is not as quick or fluid as some of the other top end blueliners available from the OHL this year. However, given his strong defensive instincts and good length, I don’t see his skating being an issue preventing him from being a pro level player. If he could add more explosiveness and improve his overall agility and quickness in all four directions, it would probably help his offensive game and the consistency of his contributions.

That brings us to his offensive game. He’s been quite aggressive in both leading the attack and jumping up in the play to start the year. Danford stood out in a positive way for how he held the offensive blueline last year as a rookie, but we did not see the kind of creativity and assertiveness that we have seen this year. As mentioned, this is definitely a good sign as it pertains to his upside and scouts will be using the rest of the year to try to ascertain what kind of role he could play at the pro level if everything goes according to plan regarding his development.

Bring on the Videos!

First the poor plays from the Hlinka/Gretzky. Danford gets muscled off the puck and the Finnish player takes it in and scores.

Another poor Hlinka/Gretzky play. This time, Danford makes a weak backhand clearing attempt that fails to clear the zone and results in Switzerland gaining possession. Thankfully, we’re seeing less of this to start this OHL season as Danford is surveying his options and making confident plays with the puck to help the transition game.

A tremendous defensive play by Danford. He steps up to block Fibigr’s point shot then competes to chip the puck ahead before securing possession and sliding a puck into the slot for a scoring chance.

Really skilled play at the point by Danford that sees him spin off a check and get the puck to the net to help Oshawa tie the game. Last year, we would have seen Danford hold the line by dumping that puck back into the corner. This year, we’re seeing that confidence with the puck blossom.

OK, let’s ignore the missed tripping call on Danford that starts this play. Instead, let’s focus on the confidence to lead the rush and the execution on a perfect backhand saucer that leads to an Oshawa goal.

Liam Greentree - Wing - Windsor Spitfires

6’2, 198lbs - 2006-01-01

It is the year of the defenseman in the OHL, but there are bound to be a few forward prospects to emerge as first round talents and Greentree is undoubtedly one of them. It has been an ugly, ugly start to the year for the last place Windsor Spitfires, but the 6’2 winger has been one of the lone bright spots. After playing more of a depth role for Canada at the summer’s Hlinka/Gretzky Cup, Greentree has returned to the OHL and become an impact play driver in his sophomore season.

While it might be a bit of a stretch to call Greentree a power winger, due to the fact that he’s not overtly physical, he does use his size well to protect the puck, win 50/50 battles, and drive the net. However, what makes Greentree so dangerous is that he’s more than just a traditional North/South player. He loves to attack East/West and get himself into the middle of the ice. He’s able to do this consistently thanks to his strong agility and his ability to blend skill and quickness. He is very good on his edges and will utilize c-cuts, quick pivots, and mohawking to help him escape pressure and get the puck to the middle of the ice. He also has great linear acceleration for a player of his size and once he builds to top speed, he can be very difficult to knock off stride.

As an offensive player, other than his ability to create in small spaces, Greentree’s shot has to be considered his main weapon. While the majority of his goals this year have come from good work near the crease, it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing him pot goals from a distance. He has a lightning quick release on his wrist/snap shot and he is adept at using drag moves to build deception and create better shooting lanes. He’s hit a bunch of posts so far this year with his cannon and it should be viewed as an above average skill.

At this point, the only thing missing from Greentree’s game is that consistent physicality. Given Windsor’s poor start, I’d love to see him become a more persistent threat without the puck. He can be active on the forecheck and he will engage in pursuit, but his work in his own end has been inconsistent. Last year and in limited action at the Hlinka/Gretzky Cup, we saw flashes of a true power forward who could push through people in addition to using his skill to create. Thus far this season, we have seen less of that. The fact that no player on Windsor can create in the offensive zone besides Greentree may have something to do with that, but it’s still something NHL scouts will be looking for and it would help elevate him into the upper echelon of forwards available this year.

Bring on the Videos!

Greentree has earned a ton of breakaways this year. Watching video of his season thus far, it seems like he’s averaging about one per game. Here we see his separation ability, in addition to his finishing ability.

This is a good look at Greentree’s strong edgework. He easily slips into the middle to get himself a prime scoring chance from the slot but sails the shot wide.

Not only is Greentree skilled, but he’s also a highly intelligent and creative player. This is a terrific example of that. He fakes the drop pass and curls up ice to create a potential odd man rush.


It seems like Greentree makes a play like this once per period. His skill level with the puck and creativity are not being talked about enough.

More than just a bullish goal scorer, Greentree also has great vision with the puck. Exhibit A here as he tracks down a loose puck and finds a streaking Rodwin Dionicio for the goal.

The aforementioned drag move that Greentree loves to use to help him create space.