The London Knights have been a powerhouse for years now and while GM Mark Hunter is now part of the Toronto Maple Leafs brass, there’s no reason to believe the OHL franchise will take a step back. In fact, thanks to a demonic recruiting summer and the return of some of the league’s top offensive lights, London is poised to dominate after an uncharacteristically short playoff run last year.
Who will be chasing the Knights? Below you’ll find my rankings, based off surveys of OHL experts. You will also find players to watch for each franchise. Two teams have moved since last season: Belleville is now Hamilton, while Plymouth is now Flint. Let’s take a gander, shall we?
Defenseman Jakob Chychrun brings size, speed, toughness and a cracking shot to the ice and really; you can’t ask for much more in a prospect. That’s why the Sarnia Sting sophomore will be the top 2016 draft hopeful to watch in North America this season and by far the most coveted defenseman.
Welcome back to the Futures mailbag, where prospects and the draft are always in the spotlight. We’re getting into real games these days and the All-American Prospects Game hits Buffalo next Thursday, so we can officially say it’s hockey season. Remember: if you have a question you would like answered, hit up my Twitter page (@THNRyanKennedy) and tag your query with the hashtag #thnfutures. Let’s get to it:
TRAVERSE CITY, MICH. – The here and now is going to be painful for Carolina Hurricanes fans. But the future? Much, much brighter. GM Ron Francis and his staff have very quickly built one of the most impressive cadres of blueliners in their prospect pipeline and at least one of those players will likely suit up in Raleigh this season.
The first of the three major junior circuits to kick off its season, the Quebec League won’t have the same big impact on the NHL draft this year as it did in 2015, but there are many good prospects to watch overall. Also, goaltending will be a big unknown for many teams. Those who get great performances will soar, those who do not will plummet.
Below, you will find my preview of the ‘Q,’ with predicted standings based on consultations with experts from Quebec and the Maritimes. Also, prospects to watch for each squad. By coincidence, the top three teams happened to come from the three different divisions, but treat this list as more of a power ranking.
This is how I see the league shaking out this season:
This year’s Memorial Cup finished in fantastic form with Oshawa edging Kelowna 2-1 in overtime. Anthony Cirelli, a rookie who had been passed over twice in the OHL draft and signed with the Generals as a free agent, scored both goals in a fairytale performance. The game was marked by excellent matchups, stellar goaltending and a lot of drama. Come to think of it, I wouldn’t have minded seeing a rematch or two.
Which got me thinking: why not make the final a best-of-three affair? In fact, why not revisit the Memorial Cup’s format altogether? It wouldn’t be the first alteration in the tournament’s illustrious history.
Personally, my biggest gripe is the length of the tournament. One game a day? That spreads things out way too much during a time when there isn’t a lot of other hockey going on (the NHL conference finals are usually on at the time and that’s only a game per night itself). I also struggle with the concept of a host team, one that gets an automatic berth – though the Quebec Remparts did themselves proud this year, both on the ice and in the party-throwing department. Still, on principle, there have been problems in the recent past with London, Saskatoon and Shawinigan, all teams that bombed out of their playoffs and had about a month off before the Memorial Cup began. Read more
Welcome back to the Futures mailbag. We’re only one week away from real, regular season hockey being played in the Quebec League and other junior circuits will follow after that. In the meantime, here are more prospect and draft questions from you, the readers. If you have a query for me, hit me up on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy and attach the hashtag #thnfutures to make sure I see it. Let’s get to the questions!
He’s the youngest of three hockey brothers, but that doesn’t diminish the expectations surrounding center Ryan McLeod, a potent offensive force whose OHL rights were just traded to his hometown Mississauga Steelheads.