Russians Vladislav Namestnikov (London) and Alexander Khokhlachev (Windsor) are 11 and 12 on the list respectively and are two very skilled and impressive prospects. Namestnikov had a slow start in his adjustment to the OHL, but has come on of late for the Knights. One scout saw him this week and described him as "very slick", vowing to move him up in his rankings. Khokhlachev got off to a great start and has continued his torrid scoring pace with nine goals and 28 points in 19 games with the Spits. He doesn't have a lot of size, but is explosive, creative and deadly with the puck.
Stefan Noesen and Swede Rickard Rakell are both with the Plymouth Whalers and are having solid, if unspectacular seasons. Noesen is a Texas native who has come on in impressive fashion in his second OHL season leading the team in scoring with 23 points, while Rakell is in his first North American campaign after taking a page from Landeskog's book. He's got nice speed and hands, but must get stronger before he'll be ready to compete for NHL employment.
London defenseman Scott Harrington rounds out the top-15, and has had an up-and-down season thus far. Although big, mobile and skilled enough to be a stalwart two-way defenseman, reports are that he's just not put it together enough this season. And, the hockey sense is a bit questionable, too. Will he have the vision and split-second decision-making skills to be a factor at the next level?
Oshawa's Lucas Lessio at 17 was a surprise as a player a bit low for what has been said of him on the street. Another Oshawa forward, he's not quite at a point-per-game clip with 15 in 20 games, but when on his game is a horse. If he can find better consistency the rest of the way, he should rise.
Shane Prince at 18 is an interesting option; although small, he's very fast and has been an opportunistic scorer and fan favorite in Ottawa this season. One scout still felt Prince was too high, even at 18 though.
Barrie center Mark Scheifele is 19th on the Central list and is attracting attention from some of the independent scouting sources as an intriguing draft prospect. That said, our source is not sold.
"I know a lot of guys out there like (Scheifele), but he doesn't do much for me," the NHL scout said. "I see him as a mid-rounder and just don't think much of his overall game and potential."
Garrett Meurs (21), David Broll (24) and Austen Brassard (25) are all preseason contenders who finished in the top-25.
Meurs hasn't been able to get it going after being seen as the player most likely to lead the Whalers in scoring after Tyler Seguin's departure. He has fine skill and is a nice playmaker, but simply hasn't gotten untracked.
Broll is a big, aggressive power forward for the Erie Otters, but his skating is poor with very little initial burst and a lumbering stride/heavy feet. Unless he can pick up a step, he'll be graded down significantly as a legitimate top-two round player.
Brassard is cut from the same cloth as Broll and it's really a six one way, half-dozen the other with these two, because it all comes down to personal preference as both bring a similar kind of style and upside to the mix.
Notable omissions were center Alan Quine, who was dealt to Peterborough for Spooner, and Mississauga defenseman Stuart Percy.
"Quine could end up being this year's Joey Hishon," the scout said, pointing out that Hishon, a first-round pick of Colorado last season was not in Central's OHL preliminary rankings a year ago. "Percy plays on a very defensive club and hasn't put up much in the way of numbers. I'm a little surprised he's not on the list, but you can make a case as to why he's not."
As far as goalies go, Owen Sound's Jordan Binnington was No. 1, followed by Matt Mahalak of Plymouth, who has been a major disappointment after coming into the season with a lot of hype. In only six games, Mahalak has a horrific .828 save percentage for the Whalers and has sat while No. 1 Scott Wedgewood (New Jersey prospect) has taken the ball and run with it. Mahalak could be one of those goalies you see every year: they come into their draft season with a ton of promise, don't live up to it and fall in the draft, only to resurrect their stock and status the following year and play their way into top prospect discussions later when the pressure of the draft season is behind them. The Islanders' Kevin Poulin comes to mind. Belleville's Tyson Teichmann, who captured gold for Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka in August, is another disappointment this season and was seventh out of eight on the list.
That's a wrap on the OHL list-- I hope you were able to get through this and found the insights informative.