Jakob Chychrun scored with 2.7 seconds left to complete a 4-3 comeback win over visiting Erie Jan. 8, 2015 (Photo courtesy of Metcalfe Photography)
This June there will be prospects from many different leagues that will walk up the NHL Draft stage and put on the jersey of the team that select them. Players from the OHL, WHL, QMJHL, NCAA, and Europe will all be expected to make up the first round. Each of those leagues has had their fair share of excitement this year when it comes to 2015 draft prospects, but next year the OHL could be the most exciting league to watch for the NHL Draft.
The OHL will have forwards and defenseman eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft, some that could go in the first round and others that will be selected deeper in the draft. The OHL will also be featuring who I think will be the best player out of the draft, Jakob Chychrun of the Sarnia Sting.
Chychrun is a mobile, two-way defender and surprisingly mobile for being 6’2″ and 194 lbs. TheScout.ca describes him as a pure professional.
"“Remarkably agile and coordinated for a player of his size. Generates excellent propulsion from a wide, powerful stride aided by exceptional lateral agility. Smooth, soft passer, creates long stretch passes on the tape and will tailor his delivery speed. Calmly diffuses threats and finds safe, productive outlets. Thrives orchestrating the breakout and loves to attack. Adept at opening up shooting lanes as he has a gift for moving backwards with the puck and walking the line at the point. A physically imposing defender, he understands his strength advantage and plays to it. Stays in motion, possesses a wandering quality which often lends himself to chase the puck in the defensive zone. Overextends himself at times, is prone to the odd turnover when trying to do too much. Projects as a franchise level defender, one who has the ability to impact the game in all three zones. Has committed to the Sting and should see prime minutes right off the bat.” – TheScout.Ca"
Watching Chychrun playing this past year was very similar to watching Aaron Ekblad when he was playing with the Barrie Colts. He plays one step ahead of the competition every game and is always making an impact with the Sarnia Sting.
Chychrun has the ability and potential to go first overall in 2016, but he needs to stay healthy in order to keep up with Auston Matthews, another 2016 1st overall potential. Chychrun has acquired many injuries already in his first year in the OHL. If he continues to be a human band-aid, Matthews will walk away as #1 easily.
Besides Chychrun, the OHL could provide a few more prospects inside the top 10 of the 2016 NHL Draft. London recently had forward Max Jones commit to the team and he is thought to be a serious candidate to be drafted inside the top 5 next year.
"“One of the best players on the ice at the recent Select 15’s program over the summer. An instinctive player who brings a unique blend of skill, determination, and toughness. Unusually calm in possession, can dangle due to soft hands. Packs a tricky shot that is as much about timing and accuracy as it is about power. Intentions are masked due to excellent body language and overall presence. Stays in constant motion, has a knack for getting to loose pucks, powered by impressive anticipation. Fiery and competitive, extremely difficult to play against, specifically in puck battles. Can go overboard, doesn’t always know when to pull back, can take some undisciplined penalties. Can struggle with tunnel vision when in possession at times, fails to makes the proper assessment, can hold onto the puck for a bit too long. Making more astute reads of the ice in possession will be a key. Must continue to develop a more well-rounded two-way game, keeping his feet moving in the defensive zone and injecting himself into the defensive zone with passion. Projects as a skilled finisher who plays a mean, uncompromising game at the next level. Committed to the US NTDP for the 2014-2015 season, but is expected to suit up for the Knights at some point in the future.”"
Max Jones had tremendous success with the US development teams and will look to get even better by playing in a more challenging league, but also with more developed teammates in London with the Knights.
The London Knights stick out as the early favorites for the top team in the OHL with the additions of Matthew Tkachuk, Max Jones and the rumored transaction of Michigan defender Zach Werenski. Jones will surely stay atop the draft rankings with teammates of that caliber.
The same scenario goes for Matthew Tkachuk who is also eligible for the 2016 draft. Matthew Tkachuk declined to go to The University of Notre Dame in favor of coming to the Ontario Hockey League with the London Knights. Tkachuk is the son of former NHLer Keith and plays a similar style to Max Jones. He’s tough and wins battles, but also has a scoring touch.
Going back to defense, Sean Day of the Mississauga Steelheads is another highly touted blueliner coming out of the OHL. Day has been promoted as a top draft pick for 2016 since he was granted exceptional status to enter the OHL a year younger than eligibility.
"“The first thing you notice about this kid, who was granted “exceptional status” to enter the OHL a year early, is the impressive, fluid feet and all-encompassing mobility. The second thing is the size and strength he has, which allows him to be physical. He is an offensive-minded D-man who can rush the puck end to end with his quick hands and creativity or make that long-range pass to spring a forward.” – Future Considerations"
Day has been playing in OHL for 2 years and has amassed 16 goals and 36 assists in 121 games. He has also shown promise and improvement in his defensive game as well. The intelligence can be seen through his actions with and without the puck.
But wait, there’s more!
Logan Brown had a high expectations to live up to when the Windsor Spitfires traded 6 draft picks for him after the Niagara IceDogs had drafted him. His 2014-2015 season was his first in the OHL and he held his own on one of the more less skilled teams in the league.
Brown had 17 goals and 26 assists in 56 games with the Spits and was quite explosive. Brown takes chances and they often pay off for the North Carolina native. His explosiveness is noticeable in his legs and his hands. Brown exhibits good speed and a powerful, but accurate shot.
Brown also isn’t afraid to use his wingers either. He told The Canadian Press back in January “I like to pass and utilize my wingers and I think I have good vision out there… Everyone likes to score goals, but I like to contribute my helping my teammates score and helping stop the other team from scoring.”
"“A high potential scorer who has the tools to be one of the best in his age group. Son of former NHL defenceman Jeff Brown. Tall, rangy pivot with smart hands and a blazing shot. Eats up the ice with huge, silky strides and boasts elite top speed. More meticulous with the puck, especially in traffic, and also developed better patience and focus on scoring areas, exploiting his extended reach and gift for creating shooting lanes. Lethal when driving off the boards and exploiting mesmerising one-on-one moves. An intuitive defender, has made steady gains in his work away from the puck as well as his overall physical play. Possesses a lethal shot, a tricky release point and elite velocity. Still lacks that natural mean streak to fully complete the ‘power forward’ equation. Continues to make gains in his consistency from game to game, showing more intensity and aggression as he matures.”"
Another slightly overlooked 2016 NHL Draft prospect is Jordan Kyrou. Kyrou also played his rookie season for the Sarnia Sting this past season.
Jordan Kyrou is a great offensive prospect that shows a high-ceiling when it comes down to puck skills, passing, and intelligence. He uses speed to gain space and look for an open shot opportunity or a open lane to pass the puck for a scoring opportunity.
Kyrou has rather displeasing stats after his first year; however, Kyrou still is able to impress the people that watch him.
Ryan Jankowski, Hockey Canada’s director of player personnel, saw Kyrou’s true potential when he saw him play.
"“What topped it off for me was seeing him play the weekend before we announced our rosters. He’s got skill, he’s got offensive creativity and he’s got a real nifty stick. He’s exactly the type of player we want to bring to the (Program of Excellence).”"
This came when Jankowski was putting together the rosters for the U-17 camp.
Other than these key players, there are many prospects eligible for the NHL Draft in 2016 that could rise up. Guys like Tim Gettinger of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, and Victor Mete of the London Knights are two prospects to really watch to see how far they can move up (or down) in the 2016 draft rankings.