Pavel Zacha of the Sarnia Sting (Photo: SarniaSports,com)

 

In the first part of a series of Top 10s, Youngblood will explore ten exciting players who are embarking on their first OHL seasons. Destined to become fan favourites and fill arena seats around the league, the following prospects are part of a freshmen group who have promising hockey futures. Without further ado, let’s introduce hockey fans to Youngblood’s favourite new OHLers.

 

10. Roy Radke, RW, Barrie Colts (2015 draft eligible)

Drafted by Barrie as a 12th round flier in the 2012 OHL Priority Selection Draft, Radke is a promising power forward who has quickly shown fans that his physicality, swift skating skills and untapped offensive potential was worthy of a homerun swing. Radke entered Colts camp full of enthusiasm and playing his rough and tumble style, gained confidence in his possession game as the days unfolded. Having a player with Radke’s ability in the lineup will provide Head Coach Dale Hawerchuk with flexibility as he can be used to energize the lineup or dominate in the possession game deep inside the offensive zone. Radke enters his NHL draft season as a sleeper but he certainly has Top 60 potential and will be looking to get on scout’s radars quickly.

 

9. Petrus Palmu, RW, Owen Sound Attack (2015 draft eligible)

Finnish import Petrus Palmu (22nd overall, 2014 CHL Import Draft) will be an electrifying talent to watch and should cause scouts to wrestle with the idea of drafting this pint-sized 5-foot-4 winger (ahem, Nathan Gerbe, you’ve got competition). Just weeks ago, Palmu finished second (tie) in Ivan Hlinka tournament scoring after racking up four goals and eight points (4-4-4-8). Accumulating points has never been an issue for the small winger and he proved that after posting the highest point-per-game production (1.74 PPG) of any Jr.B SM-sarja player who skated in at least 20 games (31-25-29-54). Palmu hopes to show scouts that his plus hockey sense, advanced skating abilities and thick frame all trump the fact that he is limited in height.

 

8. Ivan Kashtanov, LW, Sudbury Wolves (2015 draft eligible)

The Russian pipeline of talented hockey prospects remains open and the Sudbury Wolves are welcoming their 2nd round import selection, Ivan Kashtanov, with open arms. Expectations are high in Sudbury for both of their import forwards, Pavel Jenys (Minnesota Wild) and Kashtanov, as the duo paired up to excite fans in preseason action. While Jenys is the power forward of the two, Kashtanov is being praised for his offensive creativity, leadership qualities and rather robust style. The young Russian stands at only 5-foot-10 but boasts a stocky frame and isn’t shy about mixing it up, an element that NHL scouts will fancy as they follow him in his draft season.

 

7. Artur Tyanulin, RW, Ottawa 67’s (2015 draft eligible)

Dominant at the 2013 World Under-17 Championships, Artur Tyanulin exploded for seven goals and a dozen points (six games) for Russia which was good enough to place third in tournament scoring. The Ottawa 67’s fancied Tyanulin’s skillset and made him the 7th overall selection (third among OHLers) in the 2014 import draft. With a similar build as new teammate (and fellow draft eligible forward) Travis Konecny, the 5-foot-9  winger from Kazan is a dynamic offensive talent with outstanding puck skills. Between Konecny and Tyanulin, Ottawa fans may never find the backs of their seats.

 

6. Michael McLeod, RC, Mississauga Steelheads (2016 draft eligible)

The Mississauga Steelheads would be the first ones to admit they landed an absolute steal when they selected Michael McLeod 5th overall last season, after many had the high potential pivot as a top-two candidate. Blessed with elite skating abilities and a lengthy frame, McLeod spent last season flashing jaw-dropping end-to-end rushes with the Toronto Marlboros minor midget squad. It was a familiar scene as McLeod took the ice during Steelheads camp scrimmages and proceeded to finish off a dazzling goal line-to-goal line rush that found the back of the net as the buzzer sounded to end the opening frame. His new veteran teammates were in awe as they sat in the stands watching this rare skillset that will soon be the face of the Steelheads. With the Steelheads looking to add some more bite to their offense, look for McLeod to play an important role in his OHL rookie season.

 

5. Luke Kirwan, LW, Windsor Spitfires (2016 draft eligible)

Void of a 1st round selection in the 2013 draft because of recruiting sanctions, Windsor struck a deal with Guelph earlier this summer to acquire the Storm’s 2013 2nd round selection, Luke Kirwan. The New York native acquisition helps ease the pain of the Spitfires’ lost pick as Kirwan certainly offers first-round worthy talent. Early signs are pointing toward Like Kirwan being the stud that the Spitfires envision after he notched three points in his opening camp scrimmage and then added six goals in the second. Sure, Kirwan will need to prove that he can score at the OHL level in regular season action but his scoring prowess and large power forward frame are qualities that can’t be taught. Kirwan is a projected top 10 pick for the 2016 NHL draft and will immediately provide Windsor with a high-end offensive threat as he competes as a top candidate for OHL Rookie of the Year.

 

4. Rasmus Andersson, RD, Barrie Colts (2015 draft eligible)

It was a pleasant addition when the Barrie Colts were able to draft and receive commitment from Rasmus Andersson after the team graduated franchise defenseman Aaron Ekblad (2015 1st overall NHL selection). Andersson enters the seasons as one of the top defenseman available for the 2015 draft. The swift skating, highly confident Swede possesses a high-panic threshold and handles the puck with the ease of a savvy veteran as he shows an ability to move through the neutral zone untouched. He was a standout instantly at Barrie’s training camp showing virtually no problems transitioning to North America. As the puck drops on the Colts season, look for Hawerchuk to utilize Andersson’s offensive instincts on the powerplay as the blueliner attempts to lock down a first round selection for the 2015 draft.

 

3. Jakob Chychrun, LD, Sarnia Sting (2016 draft eligible)

For the third time in nine years, Sarnia held the first overall selection in the annual OHL Priority Selection Draft. With highly competitive defenseman Jakob Chychrun pegged as the unanimous top ranked prospect, Sarnia made the Florida native its top choice, following similar paths as Sting top picks Steven Stamkos (2006) and Alex Galchenyuk (2010). Chychrun enters an organization built for the future and he will earn top-pairing minutes right out of the gate as Sarnia looks to showcase their young budding talent. Capable of end-to-end rushes, bone-crushing hits or unleashing a booming point shot, Chychrun has the luxury of opportunity on his side to showcase his natural athleticism and skills. A top prospect for the 2016 draft, Chychrun has the leadership abilities, maturity and professionalism to develop into the franchise defenseman that Sarnia has been missing.

 

2. Sonny Milano, LW, Plymouth Whalers (16th overall, 2014; Columbus Blue Jackets)

The Sonny Milano story has been front and centre after the Blue Jackets drafted the highly skilled forward 16th overall at the 2014 draft. Milano struggled internally to make a decision on his immediate future and whether he should honour his commitment to Boston College (a life-long dream) or potentially fast-track his way to the NHL by heading to the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers. In the end, Milano opted to join the Whalers and his individual talent instantly makes him one of the league’s most skilled forwards. It’s expected that Milano will be the centerpiece of the Whalers’ offensive attack looking to extend their 23-season playoff streak. Milano should compete for the league scoring title.

 

1. Pavel Zacha, LC, Sarnia Sting (2015 draft eligible)

Under new General Manager Nick Sinclair, Sarnia made national headlines when they selected talented Czech forward Pavel Zacha, only for the his agent to immediately rip the franchise publically for drafting a player who was expected not to report. Since then, cooler heads have prevailed and Pavel Zacha, his agent and the Sarnia Sting are happy that the skilled pivot is preparing to embark on his first OHL season with the Sarnia Sting. Zacha will step into first line duties alongside fellow draft eligible winger Nikita Korostelev and if the preseason is any indication of what is to come, Zacha and Korostelev are in for big offensive seasons. As a key cog of the Sting’s young offensive line, Zacha’s vision and playmaking abilities have been outstanding throughout preseason but as the 6-foot-3 pivot continues to acclimate himself to the OHL game, he will continue to shine even brighter. Pavel Zacha is projected as a potential top 10 selection for the upcoming star-studded 2015 NHL Draft class.

 

 

 

Honorable Mentions

 

Logan Brown, LC, Windsor Spitfires (2016 draft eligible)

The highly publicized rookie acquisition, 2014 6th overall selection Logan Brown can finally call Windsor home after the Spitfires acquired his rights from Niagara for a boatload of draft picks. Destined for big time action with the future Spitfires, Brown will use his rookie campaign to carve out his niche as a complementary scorer among a group including Joshua Ho-Sang (New York Islanders) and rookie Luke Kirwan.

 

Tobias Lindberg, LC/RW, Oshawa Generals (102nd overall, 2013; Ottawa Senators)

Scott Laughton is off to play professional hockey so Tobias Lindberg will eat up some of those departing minutes. Skating at 6-foot-2, the Stockholm native is a powerful winger who shows good physicality. He won’t dangle through defenders but his speed and ability to drive wide and to the net are difficult to contain. Lindberg projects as a complementary forward for the Generals and will be looking to impress the Senators to earn an entry-level contract.

 

Ryan Mantha, RD, Niagara IceDogs (104th overall, 2014; New York Rangers)

The Niagara IceDogs are expected to move into their new rink come mid-October and fans will need to familiarize themselves with the sound of Ryan Mantha’s board-rattling body checks. Mantha is an impressive skating defenseman who will anchor the IceDogs blue line providing admirable puck-moving abilities and an intimidating physical presence.

 

Dominik Masin, LD, Peterborough Petes (35th overall, 2014; Tampa Bay Lightning)

Looking as though the Petes will be among the Eastern Conference contenders, adding import defender and Lightning second rounder, Dominik Masin, will help solidify a blueline that had some question marks surrounding it after Clark Seymour and Nelson Armstrong graduated. Masin will provide the blueline with stability as this stay-at-home defenseman owns the size, strength and defensive acumen to stifle opposing offenses. It will be interesting to see whether Masin will attempt to employ more offensive rushes into his game at the OHL level which is an area where he certainly could improve. Either way, look for Masin to provide good defensive value for an improving Petes franchise.

 

Be sure to follow the McKeen’s Hockey Youngblood series as Brendan Ross (@RossyYoungblood) continues to break down the happenings inside the hockey prospect world.

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