By Ken Lindberg
The OHL’s closest franchise is the Erie Otters, which has produced NHL talent such as: Tim Connolly, Brad Boyes, Chris Campoli, and even former Penguin Mike Rupp. The current version of the Otters includes three NHL drafted players, all of which were selected in Pittsburgh including: Oscar Dansk 2nd round pick of Columbus, Adam Pelech 3rd round pick of the New York Islanders, and Connor Brown 6th round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs. The team also features 15 year old Connor McDavid who was granted Exceptional Player Status by Hockey Canada which granted him entry into the league a year early.
With that being said let’s now take a look at how the future Penguins are faring in the NHL, and also take a look at some of the players expected to hear their name called at the 2013 draft.
Scott Harrington, and Olli Maata of London:
I decided to keep these two paired up as that’s how it has seemed to be for Dale Hunter (yes last years Capitals Head Coach) and the Knights this season. Both players have seemed to complement each other well while working on the same line, which is great news for Pens fans as both are expected to make a good impact when they arrive in Pittsburgh. I will not talk much on these, as Doug Smith as previously covered the duo on their initial trip to Erie this season.
Matthew Murray of Sault Ste. Marie:
In my first hand appearance of Murray this season, he allowed 5 goals in a shootout win to the Erie Otters. While there is really not much of a way to spin 5 goals into being a good thing, I am going to try anyway. Murray has faced the second most shots in the OHL (behind Dansk), which points more to a weak defensive core in front of him which is precisely the case with the Greyhounds. Murray was rarely out of place against Erie, and with the exception of one maybe two goals was beat due to poor defensive efforts in front of him. His potential alone should have Pens fans very excited as he is more than capable of being at worst a serviceable back-up, and at best a borderline elite goalie. I am leaning more towards the middle however for Murray to be a solid starting goalie, and a real good back-up for Fleury, kind of like how Buffalo has Jhonas Enroth backing up Ryan Miller.
Clark Seymour of Peterborough:
Seymour will be the next of the Penguins prospects to visit Erie as the Petes come in Friday night. Seymour has been a very solid player for the Petes this year, leading me to believe that his low draft spot was due to being a casualty of defensive depth this past year. He has shown a sign of a solid offensive game this season with 8 points (2 Goals, 5 Assists) for Peterborough. His point total is currently tied for a career high right now with about 40 games left to be played, so he should build on his career high pretty easily. I would expect Seymour to continue to blossom this season, with the stress of being drafted lifted off his shoulders. He has been one of the top defenders for the Petes this season as well to go along with 2012 first round pick Slater Koekkoek.
Matia Marcantuoni of Kitchener:
Marcantuoni was largely thought to be a first round pick in the 2012 draft, however an early injury put a hault on those thoughts. Most still see him as regaining is first round potential, which shows how Ray Shero digs deeper into these prospects and find those diamonds in the rough. So far this season Marcantuoni has 2 goals and 2 assists while playing a more physical game for the Rangers. While he is yet to play a full season, Matia seems to have put the injury behind him and I expect for him to have a very good season ending up somewhere around the 35-40 point range, which would be nice progress from his past shortened seasons at Kitchener. Since we are at about the quarter mark in the season, it’s time to take the first look at some prospects eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft.
Stephen Harper of Erie:
Harper is one of the few bright spots on Otters roster this season, as he has elevated his game to new heights through the first 18 games. His 11 points (5 goals 6 assists) are currently good for sixth on the team, but his play while off the puck has caught the eye of many scouts this season. Central Scouting (CSS) had Harper rated as a B player on their initial rankings, and in their most recent update had bumped his rating up to an A which signifies potential 1st round talent. While it is possible for Harper to sneak into the 1st round which would be great news for the Otters. I expect to see Harper coming off the board in the 2nd round. If his scoring picks up to where he ends with 55-60 points, he could play himself into a safe first round spot.
Chris Bigras of Owen Sound:
Bigras is one of the best you will probably see this year in the OHL of draft eligible defensemen. He is a very responsible defender in his own zone and not afraid to check you off the puck with some authority, while also playing a very offensive style in the attacking zone. I would say pretty safely that Bigras is the odds on best two way defender available from the OHL. I can realistically see him being picked up in the first round or very early in the second round. Max Domi of London:
The last name should ring a bell quite a bit as this is former NHL enforcer Ty Domi’s son. Max who plays a complete different game than his dad did has put himself safely in the first round at this point in the season, and with a strong finish as well could put himself in the top 10. Domi is a definite joy to watch as he has all the skills to be a future star of the Patrick Kane mold. If you get a chance to see London play this season I would recommend it hands down as that would be the closest to an NHL run system you might see this season, with Domi being one of the forwards leading the charge.
Other notable players to keep an eye on:
- JP Labardo of Erie
- Troy Donnay of Erie
- Bo Horvat of London
- Nakita Zadorov of London
- Cole Cassels of Oshawa
- Justin Bailey of Kitchener