The Journey: What We Learned in the OHL
Finally, we’re here. The Ontario Hockey League, the geographical and metaphorical center of the Canadian hockey scene. I think I can joke about that because I’ve never actually lived in Ontario. In all seriousness, however, the OHL has been the pinnacle of NHL draft eligible talent in recent and even distant hockey memory.
What was different this year though? Well, for starters, the OHL isn’t looking like it will be a major player in the first round, especially relative to the plethora of names we’ve seen go in the past. Since the 2014 Entry Draft, the OHL has supplied an average of 7.6 players to the pool of first-round talent. This year it’s looking like that number could come in below 5, with it being highly unlikely to see any in the top-15.
Some of the best fantasy stories coming out of the league this year are focused around the emergence of several 19- and 20-year-old prospects.
Sharks prospect Sasha Chmelevski and the Ottawa 67’s appear to be the team to beat on the road to the J. Ross Robertson Cup and even the Memorial Cup. The 19-year-old center has top-six potential with a skillset that could translate to the pro game quite efficiently. He’s got a handful of experience with the Sharks AHL affiliate, the Barracuda, where he wrapped up his D+1 slate. The California native will turn 20 in June and be eligible to play the entirety of next season in the AHL. With a strong pre-season and training camp, there’s a possibility that the former sixth-round pick could make the team out of camp. If not, however, the Sharks will have the flexibility to allow him to develop where he’s best suited. His 11% ownership rate in Fantrax leagues makes him comparable with prospects such as Columbus’ Emil Bemstrom (who is probably underowned), Arizona’s Tyler Steenbergen, and Boston’s Trent Frederic.
The best players from the regular season continue to excel into playoffs as well, with Nick Suzuki, in particular leading the Guelph Storm to an outstanding series win against the London Knights. The 19-year-old Montreal prospect had regressed slightly in terms of offensive projections in the regular season, but he has put his game into high gear at the most important part of the year. Montreal will be expecting a strong training camp from the former first-round draft-pick, with hopes of him being capable of taking on a sheltered role in the NHL relatively soon. Suzuki is owned in a whopping 35% of fantasy leagues, which could make him a difficult commodity to get your hands on in prospect-focused leagues.
Although it hasn't yet been officially awarded, Dallas Stars prospect Jason Robertson has been the league's most outstanding player by a significant margin. His sustained offensive success spanning over his transition from the Kingston Frontenacs to the Niagara Ice Dogs makes the year that much more impressive. Robertson had such an impressive regular season, in fact, that his point-per-game playoff production seemed relatively disappointing. The 6-2 California native will have the opportunity to show his stuff with the Stars in the fall with hopes of filling the void of either Mats Zuccarello or Jason Spezza. Robertson’s 19% ownership rate in Fantrax leagues makes him seem significantly underappreciated as a fantasy prospect asset. If he’s available in your prospect league, you shouldn’t hesitate one bit to make a claim.
Finally, Quinton Byfield joins the storied list of 16-year-old players to have won the Emms Family Award for the league's most outstanding rookie. Byfield won’t be eligible for the NHL draft until the summer of 2020, where he’s expected to land on either side of Alexis Lafreniere at the top of the order.
I’d like to give a special thanks to @Marcus_Griep who has provided some excellent monthly coverage of the OHL over at DobberProspects. The monthly articles are an awesome way to stay up to date with most important fantasy relevant topics in each league, and Marcus’ content is no exception.
With that, I’d like to officially call the “What We Learned” sub-series to an end. I hope anyone who followed the series over the last five weeks was able to get some valuable information from the discussion. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the series as a whole in the comments or on Twitter @olaf1393.
I’m excited to get a start on next week’s article, which will focus on a concept I think will bring an interesting perspective to the upcoming entry draft, and how it relates to fantasy drafts through the summer. Make sure to check back next Saturday for that piece!
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