Bakanov is a sniper
2020 and beyond
War. War with the OHL never changes. Michigan has returned to their Berenson heyday ways, picking off super high-end OHL prospects and watching some of them defect. London already signed Antonio Stranges, one of the four(!) five-star types who'd announced commitments to Michigan by the time the OHL draft rolled around. That particularly sucks because he had supposedly already signed with the NTDP, and none of the other three guys are Americans who can shelter under USA Hockey's wing until it's time to matriculate.
The big-timers, in order of likelihood to actually arrive:
Andrei Bakanov. Bakanov moved from Moscow to play AAA in the States a couple years ago and immediately drew notice thanks to his 6'2" frame and skill to pair with it. He didn't go in the OHL draft because he wasn't eligible; he probably wasn't eligible because he didn't bother applying to overturn whatever bylaw kept him out. Another Russian immigrant was technically ineligible but the OHL swiftly repaired that once he indicated he was interested in the league.
Bakanov subsequently signed a USHL tender with Cedar Rapids and will likely play there for two years before matriculating. He is a big, scoring wing.
Andrei Bakanov (02) commits to Michigan. Moskva, RUS native w/ the Oakland Jr Grizzlies 16U. Strong, powerful skill/power FWD, NHL caliber shot already, great skill set. #WhosNext
— Matt Grainda (@graindaiv) March 31, 2018
His 13-10-23 line in 18 games led the HPHL, a six-team league of major AAA teams in the Midwest, in PPG. They play relatively few games because at that age group there's a ton of going around to various showcase events; the league fills downtime between them. His full season stats are eyepopping:
Bakanov, a six-foot-two, 192-pound forward, spent the 2017-18 season with the Oakland Jr. Grizzlies, totaling an impressive 112 points (57G, 55A) in 77 total games between the program's HPHL schedule and U16 AAA schedule.
You don’t have to watch too long before you see his best trait, a deadly accurate, hard shot that probably gives goalies at this level nightmares. Bakanov has the Russian patience for sure, taking his time to read plays at times and then striking exactly when you least expect it, often drawing peer-to-peer comparisons to famous NHL player Evgeni Malkin. Footwork is a little heavy for Bakanov, but his smooth puck handing and decent smarts help mitigate this issue. … His goal scoring capabilities, his patience with the puck, and his NHL sized frame will be highly coveted.”
Some guy on HF Boards who seems to know what he's talking about:
…really made strides since last year when I saw him. Big kid that gets through the neutral zone with a lot of speed and he has some hands to match. He had a really nice breakaway goal against York Simcoe. Whoever gets him has a player on their hands.
Tenders skip the draft and sign with a USHL program; in exchange the USHL team forfeits their first rounder and commits to playing the tendered player for a majority of the season. The USHL is a brutal league for 16 year olds; most tenders struggle to put up points. If Bakanov can that'll be a great sign for his future.
[After THE JUMP: Swankler.]
Power is an absolute unit
Giant defenseman Owen Power committed just days before the OHL draft, which is sometimes a negotiating tactic. Recent events suggest otherwise. Power did go relatively high in the OHL draft as an early second-round pick, but he went to league-owned bottom-feeder Flint and was recently the #7 pick in the USHL futures draft. That's pretty high for a guy like Power, who could stick with his close-to-home junior league instead of moving to suburban Chicago, and might indicate he's already agreed to report.
Power is a very large man with uncanny mobility:
SCOUTING REPORT: Owen is one of the elite defenders in this year’s draft. He has the complete package - size, skill, skating, hockey sense and he is hard to play against. At 6’4.5” and 210lbs he is an intimidating presence on defence. He logs big minutes for his team and plays in every situation. He has a great understanding of the game and is rarely out of position. Owen does a good job on the offensive blueline with his pass/shot decisions. He is very hard to beat off the rush or in his own end because of his mobility.
#5 @ISShockey top '02 in Ontario is Owen Power of Mississauga Reps. A towering defenseman at over 6'4 Power is a smooth skater for his size showed the ability to contribute offensively off of the rush when needed but stuck to his shut down game when it mattered most. Active stick
— Benjamin Gallant (@BennyGallant) April 5, 2018
#OHLDraft Top Prospect
Owen Power, Mississauga Reps
Able to control the game from the back end, it's hard to find anything wrong with his game. Has all the tools to be a #1 defender at the OHL level#ISSRankings
— ISS Hockey (@ISShockey) March 18, 2018
With a late birthday hard not to see him be a 2021 top prospect. https://t.co/ky2AUKfa2v
— Benjamin Gallant (@BennyGallant) March 18, 2018
He fits Pearson's puck-moving D archetype, he just happens to be 6'5" at 15 or 16.
Perfetti might be trade bait
The third and final big timer still in the class is Cole Perfetti. Perfetti is Canadian and very highly touted, so touted that his commitment barely dissuaded the OHL. Saginaw grabbed him fifth overall. From various message board and Twitter scourings I've assembled this:
- Saginaw has most of their team back and can take a flier on a guy like Perfetti.
- OHL teams that don't sign first round picks by September get a compensatory pick a slot lower the year after, and can then trade that guy for further picks.
- Very Reliable Internet Rumors suggest that Perfetti would report to a couple of OHL teams should he get traded to them.
This isn't looking great; Perfetti will probably get shipped to one of those teams after he's declared "defective" and then evaporate. Chicago did take him in the third round of the USHL futures draft, which is mildly encouraging.
I won't hammer you with scouting reports on Perfetti unless the get-traded-and-report scenario doesn't come to pass. You would very much prefer that scenario:
Player Profile: Cole Perfetti, Vaughan Kings. Gifted offensive player. Might have the best playmaking vision in recent years. Sees plays developing well in advance. The game is in slow motion for him. https://t.co/OT8oWW7JkF pic.twitter.com/l4phVpptwo
— TheScout.ca (@TheScoutDotCa) November 20, 2017
#3 @ISShockey top '02 in Ontario is Cole Perfetti of @vaughankingsAAA. The Michigan commit is a cerebral offensive forward with high end vision. He sees the ice extremely well with high end puck skills. Quick release accurate shot. Uses smarts to break up plays defensively.
— Benjamin Gallant (@BennyGallant) April 5, 2018
Incredible vision. Sees plays on the ice that are hard to see from the stands.
Skating isn't dynamic but gets around the ice well. Able to slow down game with hands, underrated threat to score. https://t.co/9ph0ddoq50
— Benjamin Gallant (@BennyGallant) March 15, 2018
Perfetti promises to be the smallish hyper-talented center who maybe takes a while for NHL teams to swoop in on him, like TJ Hensick, and would be a coup to hold on to.
SOMEWHAT LESS TOUTED FORWARDS
Michigan has three guys beyond the whiz-bang potential first-rounders, two of them tracking very well.
Josh Groll had a breakout season. In May of 2017 he was a late flier by Omaha in the 14th round of the USHL draft; a few months later he had a cup of coffee in the league, scoring on his first shift; by December The Scouting News was touting him as first rounder in a hypothetical redraft. Jeff Cox named him the #1 forward at showcases back in October…
Groll was the best forward here. He has good speed, but he plays a smart and complete game. He has a sneaky release and is able to get a lot of shots off by being around and possessing the puck a lot. His puck support is strong and he makes plays.
…total package. He’s not the tallest player, but he plays bigger than he is. He compares somewhat to Northeastern junior Adam Gaudette in that he’s not the best skater, but he competes, goes to the dirty areas and has a great shot. He scored a goal on a nice tip-in. He beat defenders to the outside. He retrieves pucks to start and keep plays alive. His vision is next level. He is physical and isn’t afraid to throw his weight around. He quarterbacked a power play from the top of the point as the fourth forward out there. Simply put, he was the best player here, and it wasn’t even close.
I'm not sure why he's only played 2 USHL games unless it was an injury callup; he's returned to his AAA team, where he's tearing it up. It's a little tough to tell with West Coast kids since the talent density is rather low out there, but returns from recent national showcases/tournaments are still very good:
— USA Hockey Pacific (@PacificHockey) April 6, 2018
He should join the USHL's Omaha Lancers next year and has a fair chance of producing in a way that makes him seem like headliner 1D, give or take an OHL defection.
it's tough to stop saying "Swankler" once you say it out loud
Austen Swankler's a bit of an oddity in that he was picked relatively high in the OHL draft (third round) and relatively low in the USHL draft (9th) but is currently on his second college commit. First up was RPI, and then he flipped when Michigan came along. (Tough nuggets!) Reviews were middling when he went in the OHL draft…
59th (3rd) OTT - Austen Swankler (PIT) - As expected, great value...smart attacking forward who has a feel for the game.
— TheScout.ca (@TheScoutDotCa) April 8, 2017
Ottawa picks up our 49th ranked player, Austen Swankler at #59. Not a good skater, but he can put up points. #OHLDraft
— Priority Selection (@PrioritySelect) April 8, 2017
…but that's a third rounder who evidently had not committed to the OHL route. His scouting from The Scout Dot Ca prior to that draft:
…pace player who can move pucks quickly and smartly up ice. He processes the game well on the fly and shows good skill in adjusting his attacks as pressure changes. He's a strong handler who protects pucks well and owns the ability to carry an offence. Swankler owns good size and does a lot of the little things right, like filing into support lanes to present himself as an option for line mates. He scored at nearly a point-per-pace in the TIER 1 loop and while he's not technically a 'late birthday (LBD)', he's a younger prospect with some time to improve his already impressive package.
"He's an elite offensive player. Truly can create something out of nothing. He's a step ahead of the game all the time. He's worked real hard to improve in all areas and has a chance to play the game for a long time."
He put up a bucket of points on the midget circuit and should be in the USHL next year.
Stranges's Little Caesars teammate Patrick Guzzo has rather dropped off the radar over the past year. No one on Twitter has mentioned him and I can't find anything new about him since last year's edition of this post, when he was a top 25 player in his '01 birth year. Elite Prospects has him with nine points in 12 games with Little Caesars and a couple of pointless games with the USHL's Waterloo Blackhawks, who took him in the first round of the USHL draft. Maybe he's been hurt?
FWIW, OHL draft scouting take:
…big powerful winger who can barrel his way down ice as he drives the net. Relies on strong puck protection skills to extend possession time with his long reach and good stick strength. Unleashes a high end shot and operates very well in traffic, displaying good touch with the puck and is always aware of his options.
Guzzo went in the 13th round of the OHL draft. The latter rounds of that draft don't reflect talent level much, if at all, for NCAA committed players. He does seem like more of a developmental guy than the rest of the forward class.
Non-Power defensemen and three disgustingly young persons will wrap the series up in the near future.