The Soo Greyhounds are attracting plenty of scouting attention with the likes of young Jared McCann and slick Russian import Sergey Tolchinsky.
Much of the focus though has been on breakout sophomore defender Darnell Nurse who ranks among the OHL's top 15 blueline scorers with 17 points in 23 games - and tied with Ryan Murphy.
The Hamilton, Ontario native produced just 10 points in 53 games as a rookie in 2011-12, yet distinguished himself in a shutdown role while matching up nightly against the opposition's top lines.
This season, thrust into an expanded role due to a rash of injuries and suspensions on the blueline - most critically to the veteran pair of Ryan Sproul and Colin Miller - Nurse has impressively stepped up to the challenge.
McKeen's reporter Sean Lafortune provides scouting observations on Nurse and two other draft-eligible Greyhounds in Tolchinsky and Tyler Ganly - plus a look at one for 2014 in McCann, the fourth-overall pick in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection.
Darnell Nurse (D, 2013) - represented Canada on the international stage twice within the past six months - winning bronze at the U18 World Championships and gold at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial in August .. boasts impressive pedigree coming from a family of athletes, including father Richard, a former CFL wide receiver, and his uncle Donovan McNabb, a former all-star NFL quarterback .. fluid skater who is smooth and able to change direction quickly, due to his edge work and pivoting skills .. though his straight-ahead speed lacks some explosiveness, he compensates with his lateral quickness and effortless crossovers that allow him to constantly stay involved in the play .. sticks with plays, exploits his agility and wide wingspan to force opposition skaters to the outside .. a sound stick checker - excels at always getting a piece of the puck to break up a play .. can be a 1-on-1 obstacle in the corners due to his size, but needs to do a better job of physically containing forwards .. moves the puck effortlessly and can transition to attack in a heartbeat .. handles the puck well and is a decent passer, albeit can be inconsistent as a distributor .. passes could be more crisp and on the tape .. also makes peculiar puckmoving decisions at times, forcing pucks into coverage or trying to go solo through an entire team .. tends to over-extend himself and attempts to do too much with the puck .. his inconsistent decision making has raised questions about his hockey sense - an area scouts will be monitoring closely as the season advances .. inconsistently aggressive - will finish checks with vigour at times, only to let up the next time out .. increasing his physical intensity and reliability will add another dimension to his game .. not afraid to drop the gloves, albeit is not an accomplished fighter .. must continue to upgrade his strength and add mass to a slight, rangy frame .. a character player with leadership abilities as he works hard off the ice .. deserves credit for improving his offensive game yet his value at the next level will be in his ability to keep things simple, play with a competitive streak, while maintaining his defensive assignments.
Sergey Tolchinsky (RW, 2013) - skilled forward turned heads at last year's U-17 World Challenge in Windsor, scoring six goals and leading Team Russia to their first gold medal at the event since 2000 .. small, flashy dynamo with lightning quick feet and hands .. demonstrates an ability to back defenders up with a dynamic acceleration kick and excellent top gear .. makes sharp lateral shifts and clever plays in tight spaces .. boasts top-end elusiveness and in-tight puck control .. teases and tempts defenders while pulling the puck back and finding an open lane .. a deft one-touch passer with a quick, accurate shot .. blessed with outstanding hand-eye coordination as well .. can be guilty of overhandling the puck and attempting fancy plays in risky areas of the ice .. plays with an extremely short stick yet still gets surprising velocity on his wrist shot .. not always willing to enter contact zones or fight through checks .. does exhibit some feistiness in down-low puck pursuits, but can be reluctant to make a physical sacrifice .. needs to dial up his defensive-zone intensity and overall consistency, as he suffers from the odd lapse of focus and is too easily beaten in defensive situations .. struggles to defend or slow opponents down due to his diminutive stature and general lack of energy away from the puck .. currently sitting among OHL rookie scorers (23-11-10-21), Tolchinsky has adjusted well to the OHL landscape, playing a regular shift in the top six while also being awarded with power play time .. will have to show NHL scouts that he can be an impact player at even strength in 5-on-5 situations - and not rely solely on the man advantage, where the bulk of his points are coming from.
Tyler Ganly (D, 2013) - a former fifth-round selection in last year’s OHL Priority Selection, Ganly played midget hockey last season with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens and also saw a handful of games with the former Brampton Capitals of the OPJL .. icetime has been increased substantially with all the injuries and suspensions on the back end, and he has responded well through the opening quarter of the season .. plays a solid defensive game as he is tough and willingly comes to the aid of his teammates .. naturally aggressive, shows no hesitation to drop the gloves - and boasts a good right hand .. feet are still awkward as he lacks some agility and athleticism .. does a solid job of getting into proper positional lanes and using his frame to take up space .. still loses the foot races however, and will need to upgrade his acceleration .. possesses an okay shot from the blueline, while his puck skills are improving with each contest .. rarely strays from his defensive-zone duties, understands his role on the team .. proving to be a serviceable player as he continues to earn more ice time with his steady play .. certainly shows promise and potential moving forward, given his mature play and impressive development so far in his rookie campaign.
Jared McCann (C, 2014) - the fourth-overall selection in the 2012 OHL draft has had no difficulty adapting to the pace and speed of the league .. already skates a regular shift centering the second line for the Hounds while seeing occasional time on the power play .. a dynamic skater whose acceleration ranks among the upper echelon of his peer group .. able to generate the kind of speed from his crossovers that can paralyze defenders .. can make plays with the puck, however it is his ability to exploit his shot that makes him such a threat in the offensive zone .. packs a shot that is hard and heavy and features a hair-trigger release .. his defensive game is a work in progress at this stage, as he is still unaware of where to position himself .. sticks up for himself - has shown that he won’t be intimidated .. attacks the boards and willingly goes into danger areas, albeit his enthusiasm has left him vulnerable to big open-ice hits .. will need to be more selective in terms of his puck pursuits this early in his OHL career .. does have a good frame which still needs to fill out and add mass .. blessed with game-breaking offensive ability, McCann will be expected to shoulder a bulk of the load with a number of key forwards such as Nick Cousins and David Broll likely departing after this season.