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The OHL Players To Watch This Year – Early Season Results

November 1, 2018, 9:58 AM ET [11 Comments]
Adam French
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In August I wrote a brief outline about some of the players to watch this year in the OHL. Players I was excited to see for the first time and some players who I was expecting to have dominant defining years. My original list can be found in this blog

https://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=94493

if you care to read it, or you can just look at the list of names below.


Marco Rossi (2020)
Liam Kirk (Coyotes)
Morgan Frost (Flyers) and Barrett Hayton (Coyotes)
Quinton Byfield (2020)
Ryan Suzuki (2019)
Michael DiPietro (Canucks)

Without further ado, here is the update


Marco Rossi (2020)

16gp 9g 9a 18p

Having seen him play live in five games, all I can say is that he was worthy of the hype. Not only is he the best Austrian prospect since Vanek, he’s one of the better European prospects to make the move to the OHL in recent years. The 67’s have come out of the gate hot on the backs of the top line in the OHL. Rossi playing the role of the ultra-creative puck distributor on the line. Going into the year I was not sure where he would line up. Being an undersized rookie playing for the first time on the smaller ice surface meant he could have been converted to wing or be protected behind veteran Chemelevski. His talent is so evident however that he was thrust immediately onto the top line and has not looked back.

He’s extremely quick, very elusive and despite being only 5’9 and 174lbs gets into the cycle with ease. He’s just so hard to get off the puck and his edgework is so fast that he spins defenders around in circles when they try to pin him in the corner.

I really like the way he dominates the neutral zone, not only with speed, but with vision. He reads lanes so well and has really helped Felhaber’s strong skating to be used to its fullest extent. His play really reminds me of Claude Giroux when he entered the league. That level of high end creativity mixed with a desire for the puck that shocks players who just look at his size.

He’s shockingly good at faceoffs which is something I didn’t expect when reading up on his play in Switzerland. Especially as a 17 year old. He gets really low, almost to the point of his stance being comical. Yet it works…so…profit? Not sure if it will work in the NHL given how touchy the linesmen are, but it’s nice to see that he is showing the abilities of a natural centre iceman.

His dominant 5 on 5 game and slick play has me very excited to see how he does next season in his draft year.


Liam Kirk (Coyotes)

16gp 2g 2a 4p

Well…I was looking forward to seeing him play for the novelty of a British born and raised hockey player…and now I see firsthand why there aren’t any. Not to be terribly mean or anything, but Kirk looks like a bust to me. A 7th round bust, so hardly an issue, but a bust nonetheless.

Playing as the third line left winger, Kirk has shown very little outside of a workmanlike attitude. Which is commendable, but not very effective. From the game I watched, he made a ton of what I can only describe as “Jason Blake” style of shots. Chugging into the zone, looks up, shoots right at the goalies chest, skate into the boards, and turn around as the opponent’s storm his own zone while he’s out of position. He did that seven times in one game and judging by the amount of shots he has been credited with taking this season, I can only assume he is doing that consistently.

It’s early and he’s coming into a huge culture shock, but I’m not very impressed. He doesn’t seem to have a defining feature to his game to latch onto. Maybe he will pick it up and shock me.


Morgan Frost (Flyers) and Barrett Hayton (Coyotes)

17gp 12 g 20a 32p and 10gp 7g 10a 17p

If you weren’t convinced that Frost was too good for the OHL last season, you should be now. He’s just tearing the league apart. He sits second in the OHL in scoring and will more than likely walk away with the scoring title. He and Hayton play about half the game each as the 1-2 centre punch and are heavily relied on. Frost has been given the responsibilities of being their special teams…specialist, mainly because he’s so much more skilled and mature than everybody around him. Flyers fans, you have another good one coming. Give a raise to the guys who have been picking your first round forwards.

After seemingly making the Coyotes out of camp; Hayton was sent back to the OHL in what I can only assume was a troll job. He didn’t play a single minute and likely made fools of some fantasy players taking him super late in the draft. He has had the start of the year that he needed to. He had to prove he has the offensive chops to warrant the 5th overall selection. With 7 goals and 17 points in just 10 games, I think it’s safe to say that he has. Like Frost, he is killing it on special teams with 4 of his goals coming that way. He’s improved his faceoff play and I really like that he’s running his own line to strong effect.

I think both guys will be on Team Canada at the WJC’s.


Quinton Byfield
(2020)

15gp 7g 5a 12p

The 16 year old 6’5 214lb behemoth has had a quality start to the year. Unfourtunately he plays in the hellish organization known as the Sudbury Wolves, but I’m hoping he can break the trend of “ruined” players that try to escape there. He sits second on the team in scoring and is tied for first in goals. After the first line of Levin-Byfield- Nizhnikov there really isn’t a lot of depth outside of poor draft eligible Blake Murray who is marooned alone on the second line.

The early comparisons to Ryan Getzlaf are a bit misleading in my opinion. He needs to get a lot stronger and more aggressive if he wants that designation. He’s more like a centreman version of JVR from what I’ve seen. Really great hands around the net, a quality shot and despite not being physical, does find himself in front of the net a lot. Improving his skating some more would go a long way next year where he will be contending for a first round selection.

He also wears a bowtie to the game. I know this because I saw him enter TD Place on October 28th. How can you not love a giant wearing a bowtie? Speaking of that game, he got handled by Rossi the entire night and could not deal with his speed. Ottawa outshot them something like 55 to 20. It was a nice 2020 showdown. He didn’t really have a scoring chance to speak to, but made a really nice in tight pass on the Power Play that Levin whiffed on.


Ryan Suzuki (2019)

13gp 6g 18a 24p

As advertised, the top prospect coming out of the OHL this season is turning heads. I know Kaliyez is very impressive too. Much like all sibling rivalries, Suzuki had a lot of expectations thrust on him. Nick went 14th in the Priority Draft, Ryan 1st. Nick went 13th overall to Vegas, and Ryan is ranked in the top-10. He’s currently in 9th in the OHL in points and has been excellent for the Colts leading the way for them. His Power Play wizardry is wonderful to see and his vision is superb. His offensive instincts are really apparent. He sees plays before they happen.

In the game against the 67’s he was very strong. It was a really hard fought loss to the 67’s and a nice matchup of two really good top lines. He made a really smart play on Chiodo’s goal. In a weird theme of the games I’ve watched, Marco Rossi was the best player on the ice and he won the First Star of the Game. He was double shifted playing on the second line at times to get him more shifts which was nice to see.

Ryan Suzuki has the makings of a top-6 centre and wouldn’t it be something if the Habs took him? They look like they’ll be picking around where he should be.


Michael DiPietro (Canucks)

10gp 2.58GAA .914SV%

Another year and another season of DiPietro being amazing. All he does is play great and get zero respect. The reigning Goaltender of the Year is still eligible to play for Team Canada being 19. I really hope they go with him. He has proven in the past that he is a big game goaltender and he’s having another great season.


Thanks for reading.
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