CHL Roundup - With the three CHL leagues having their playoffs starting soon, we take a look at the top 10 potential draft picks from the Canadian Junior leagues(per ISS Scouting) some of their stats, and what their teams need from them in the playoffs.
1) Aaron Ekblad - Season Stats - GP 58 G 23 A 30 P 53 (+/-) 7 PIM 91
Ekblad had a stellar season captaining the Barrie Colts to a 37-28-3 record. Averaging .91 points a game, Ekblad showed that he also has the ability to contribute offensively from the back end, as well as be a shutdown player. His points per game average in his draft year puts him behind only Zach Bogosian, Morgan Rielly, and Seth Jones when accounting defenseman drafted in the Top 10 from the 2006 draft until now. He is ahead of Alex Pietrangelo, Drew Doughty, and P.K Subban, to name a few. If the stats translate, Ekblad is clearly going to become an elite level defenseman in the NHL.
The Colts will rely heavily on Ekblad in the upcoming playoffs. Their forward core is not as strong as others in the OHL, and their defense is lacking behind Ekblad. It will be interesting to see if, (and how) the Colts progress through the playoffs.
2) Sam Reinhart - Season Stats - GP 60 G 36 A 69 P 105 (+/-) 24 PIM 11
Reinhart led the Kootenay Ice to a 39-28-5 record this season. Reinhart averaged 1.75 points a game, which, when compared to a list of all the CHL forwards taken in the top six spots since 2005, puts him ahead of Stamkos, Mackinnon, Seguin, Huberdeau, Duchene, and Landeskog, to name a few. Reinhart clearly has top level NHL offensive talent, especially in regards to his hockey IQ, vision, and playmaking abilities, which, when combined with his defensive skills, make him the most overall and intriguing forward in the draft.
Reinhart is Kootenay's biggest offensive threat. Without him, their offensive numbers would be significantly less. Kootenay will rely heavily on Reinhart to produce for them in the playoffs. If he does, they could be looking at a deep run. If he doesn't, they may find themselves out early. The team truly only goes as far as he carries them.
3) Sam Bennett - Season Stats - GP 57 G 36 A 55 P 91 (+\-) 34 PIM 118
Bennett and the Kingston Frontenacs had a 39-23-6 record this year. Bennett averaged 1.60 points per game, which, when compared to the aforementioned list, places him ahead of Huberdeau, Nugent-Hopkins, Monahan, and Galchenyuk to name a few. Bennett has high end offensive ability, and could be an elite goal scorer at the NHL level. His compete level is considered to be exceptional as well, which will contribute to his NHL caliber.
Bennett is by far Kingston's best offensive threat, and same as Kootenay will depend on Reinhart, Bennett will be depended on by Kingston. Kingston has played better than Kootenay, however, and may not have to solely depend on Bennett. It's been expected that his level of play will rise as the playoffs get more intense, hopefully bringing out Bennett's best hockey.
4) Michael Dal Colle - Season Stats - GP 67 G 39 A 56 P 95 (+/-) 8 PIM 34
Dal Colle and the Oshawa Generals had an OHL Eastern Conference best 42-20-6 record this year. Dal Colle's 1.42 points per game place him in the company of Bobby Ryan and Matt Duchene. Dal Colle's shot, skating ability, and size, make him a legitimate top level NHL prospect. His plus minus is slightly concerning, however, due to the differential total of his team (+45).
Dal Colle will need to contribute as he has been on his line along with Flyer first round pick Scott Laughton. Oshawa is expected to at least make it to the OHL championship series, and will depend heavily on Dal Colle to do so, and will need him to step his game up in the series if they want to win the OHL championship.
5) Leon Draisaitl - Season Stats GP 64 G 38 A 67 P 105 (+/-) 7 PIM 24
Draisaitl led the Prince Albert Raiders to a 35-32-5 record. Draisaitl averaged 1.64 points a game, placing him a little ahead of Sam Bennett. Draisaitl's exceptional playmaking skills, if they translate to the NHL level, will result in him being an elite level center that puts up high end numbers, especially in the assists department.
Draisaitl's Prince Albert Raiders are matched against the one of the WHL's top teams, the Edmonton Oil Kings. It will be intriguing to see if Draisaitl produces in the series, or if we will see a repeat of the WJC, where Draisaitl failed to produce as the captain of an outclassed German team, and was even suspended a game for an illegal hit.
6) Brendan Perlini - Season Stats GP 58 G 34 A 37 P 71 (+/-) -2 PIM 36
Perlini shone on a Niagara Ice Dogs team that struggled through most of the year, going 24-38-6. Perlini averaged 1.22 points per game this season, placing him in the company of Alex Galchenyuk and Gabriel Landeskog, though the lack of assisting talent on his team may have contributed to the lower numbers. Perlini is mainly a scorer, and with a line mate that can get the puck to him in space, Perlini can become an high end NHL scorer in the future.
The Ice Dogs don't necessarily have playoff expectations, so their run, if they have one, will ride on the ability of the team as a whole to play at another level than the one they've shown. It will be interesting to see, however, how the playoff atmosphere and tension affects Perlini's play.
7) Jake Virtanen - Season Stats - GP 71 G 45 A 26 P 71 (+/-) 23 PIM 100
Virtanen and the Calgary Hitmen went 48-17-7 this season, one of the best in the WHL. Virtanen averaged 1 point per game, which isn't necessarily exceptional in terms of draft stock. Virtanen has blazing speed and acceleration, an above average shot, and quick hands. His lack of production is surprising, and points to a lack of hockey IQ. He may be a project for the NHL team that drafts him, but his skill set will lead him to be at least a Top 6 winger, with the potential to be an elite level scorer at the NHL level.
The Hitmen are a team with high expectations and talent, but will need Virtanen and the rest of its producers to step up if they want to make a run at the WHL championship, which is possible. Virtanen's numbers in the regular season disappointed; it's possible that a successful playoff run from the Hitmen and an elevation of Virtanen's game could see him rise up the draft boards. (Note: The Hitmen take on the Kootenay Ice and Sam Reinhart in the first round of the WHL playoffs)
8) Haydn Fleury - Season Stats - GP 70 G 8 A 38 P 46 (+/-) 15 PIM 46
Fleury and the Red Deer Rebels had a disappointing season, going 35-32-5 and losing to the Prince Albert Raiders in a 1 game playoff for the 8th seed in the WHL's eastern conference. Fleury, as a defenseman, averaged .66 points a game, placing him among the ranks of Griffin Reinhart and Darnell Nurse. Fleury is a mobile two way defenseman, that uses his size to his advantage to shut down smaller opponents, and uses his speed to keep them in front of him. His offensive skills need some work, but his breakout passes are simple and crisp, and he possesses an above average shot. He projects to be a Top 2/Top 4 defenseman in the NHL.
The Red Deer Rebels did not make the WHL playoffs.
9) Joshua Ho Sang - Season Stats - GP 67 G 32 A 53 P 85 (+/-) 26 PIM 44
Ho Sang and the Winsdor Spitfires went 37-28-3 in the season. Ho Sang averaged 1.27 points a game, placing him slightly above Brendan Perlini. Ho Sang, however, plays a high speed game, with quick hands and a deceptive shot, that may not translate to the NHL level. Ho Sang also is on the smaller side, being listed at 5'11 160 lbs. If he can overcome his size, and his play translates, he could be a top 6 NHL forward.
The Spitfires will need a team effort, and a much more explosive offensive effort from Ho Sang than what they have seen in the regular season, if they want to go far in this year's playoffs.
10) Nicholas Ritchie - Season Stats - GP 61 G 39 A 35 P 74 (+/-) 4 PIM 136
Ritchie and the Petersborough Petes went 32-30-6 this season. Ritchie averaged 1.21 points per game, placing him in the same class as Perlini. Ritchie is the stereotypical power forward, with skating skills and a hard shot. He's had injury concerns in the past, which have led to his drop in the draft ranks. He projects to be a top 6 forward at the NHL level.
Ritchie needs to step it up if the Petes will go far in the playoffs
The CHL playoffs are an intriguing time for NHL scouts, as prospects make their final push to impress the scouts and rise in the draft rankings. It will be interesting to see which prospect makes a push for the top spot, or distanced himself from the rest. Even though there may not be a definitive defining game for the number one spot (as there was last year with Mackinnon v. Jones), there should be moments where prospects set themselves apart and secure a top spot in the draft in June.