World's Best/Only Hockey Recruiting Overview: 2020, Part 1, Yes Part 1 Comment Count

Brian May 15th, 2018 at 11:08 AM

Previously: 2018 and 2019.


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.

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.

Before the draft a couple of OHL scouting sites were touting him as a potential top five pick, with Priority Selection ranking him fourth amongst OHL draft eligibles. OHL Prospects:

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.

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:  

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.


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.

…and November:

…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:

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…

…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.

Coach quote:

"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.



May 15th, 2018 at 12:10 PM ^

Back to the old days of constantly wondering who was going to defect to the OHL. Scary, but good to be back at it. With the noticable improvement in coaching around here, the future is looking good


May 15th, 2018 at 1:31 PM ^

i don't really understand being drafted by ohl vs going to college. what affects eligibility? why would someone commit to school, then go to ohl? which is better talent wise? in the first section, Brian mentioned being under usa hockeys wing until matriculation. what's that mean?


May 15th, 2018 at 1:51 PM ^

(1) An NHL team can recall a player from the OHL, play him a few games (up to 10, I think), and then send him back down to his OHL team.  As a result, the OHL is considered a minor league--and therefore professional--by the NCAA.  OHL teams can draft anybody who meets the age/residency requirements, so being drafted doesn't affect eligibility.  If a player wants to go to college, they will generally play in the USHL instead of the OHL.

(2) Players commit to colleges and then go to OHL all of the time.  Whether because they changed their minds, or committed to a "big time" college in order to get a better deal from the OHL, it's pretty normal.  There are more and less desirable OHL teams, and a player can use their college commitment as a bargaining chip to avoid having to play in Sault Ste. Marie.    Just like high school baseball players committing to a college but then signing a minor league contract out of high school--Derek Jeter comes to mind.  The Montreal Expos could have drafted him, but if they had, he would have gone to Michigan to play baseball, and they knew that.  So Montreal passed and the Yankees drafted him instead, knowing that they could sign him.  Jeter got everything he wanted out of his commitment to Michigan--a better team drafted him.

(3)  People argue about this all of the time.  A frozen four NCAA team is just about as good as a Memorial Cup CHL team, in terms of the number of future NHLers on the team.  The CHL team might have more "future superstars," and the NCAA team might have more total future professionals.  If you look at the dregs of the leagues, though, the OHL beats the NCAA.  The NCAA players also are 2 years older on average than the OHL players, so the OHL can rightfully claim that it is the "fastest path" to the NHL.

(4) "Under USA's wing" is referring to the USNTDP program.  The National Team Development Program takes the best 16 & 17 year olds in the USA and has them play together as a team.  Michigan gets a lot of kids who end up going to the USNTDP, and a large majority (80-90 percent) of the USNTDP players end up going the NCAA route.  It really does give the top players in the US something to do to develop their talents other than going to the OHL.  The program kind of "protects" most of those 40 players for college hockey.  A 5-star USA player will end up at the USNTDP when he is 17, but a 5-star Canadian will have to pick either the USHL or the (higher-level) Canadian Junior leagues.


May 15th, 2018 at 2:40 PM ^

I'm no expert (others - please feel free to correct any mistakes) but I know enough to be dangerous so here goes:

1. Per the NCAA playing in the USHL is fine, but spending even 1 prtactice with an OHL team makes you ineligible for good. Not sure on all the details why the NCAA feels this way, but basicaly OHL means no Collge Hockey.

2. Just like football, often times a commitment is made to lock in a sure thing. You never know who will draft you in the OHL, so even though you may want to play in that league if you get drafted by a team with a coach you don't like, a style of play you don't like, and located in some Canadian city 1,500 miles from home you may decide college is the better choice. may as well lock in your college option just to be safe. Also like football, sometimes a kid will have every intention of going one route (e.g. U of M to play for Mel) but then another team (e.g. OHL's top run team) comes along and fills your head with dillusions of grandeur and your hand with few $ and next you know the kid changes his mind.

3. I will probably defer to the experts on this one, but my sense is that there may be more overall talent in the OHL, but it is close enough that it really shouldn't be a factor. It's maybe like comparing the Big Ten to the SEC.

4. Brian was referring to the USA Hockey NTDP (National Team Development Program). It's a program run by USA Hockey where they select the top US born players and bring them to Plymouth for full time training and play. They have a 17 year old team and an 18 year old team. I believe what Brian was alluding to was that these teams have large coaching and training staffs that have daily interactions with the players, so it is much less likely for something like what I outlined in the second part of #2 above to occur.            


May 16th, 2018 at 12:15 PM ^

If Bakanov didn't bother even trying to get into the OHL draft this year, I don't see him going anywhere besides Michigan, unless he eviscerates the USHL and starts getting nudged in other directions for 2019.

As for the mini puck wizard, Perfetti has about 0.1% chance of ever suiting up for Michigan. Just like basically every highly ranked Ontario kid that's committed before him - Marner (though he may not have ever actually verbally committed, he used the scholarship offer to swing his draft spot to London), Domi, Marcantuoni, Lessio, probably some others I'm forgetting about.

Yinka Double Dare

May 15th, 2018 at 3:07 PM ^

I found "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" right below a picture of him in basically a Blackhawks jersey (yeah, I know, it's his junior team, but...) kinda amusing.

Woulda been more dead-on if he wore jersey number 19 with the C on the jersey. 


May 15th, 2018 at 4:11 PM ^

Avid Michigan fan and OHL fan from Flint, now living in Traverse City. Sick of Brian bashing Flint every chance he gets. Flint is not owned by the OHL! Flint is owned by Rolf Nielson who is a siv of a owner!!! The OHL has appointed the coach because of Nielson’s Idiotic decisions. I prefer OHL hockey to NCAA hockey but like both. Flint has had some very good players come through and has got some great crowds in their first 3 years in Flint. Still hoping to get Owen Power to report to Flint and playing in n the OHL closer to his family and other OHL cities.


May 15th, 2018 at 11:02 PM ^

If the OHL is making the decisions for the franchise, and they are (deservedly so, for those who recall what led to this), then it is basically a ward of the OHL. 

Flints fans and some of the players may well be fine but they are not an attractive franchise in the OHL and a player in a position like Power's doesn't have to go there and almost certainly won't, whether the alternative is college or another franchise.


May 16th, 2018 at 9:46 AM ^

You have a good way with words.  You essentially tell people to shut the fuck up, but you say it nicely, so they don't even know you eviscerated them until they look down and see blood.  I love reading your posts when you reply to some foolish argument.  I was once nicknamed 'Ginsu' by coworkers for the same trait, but I learn from you!  LMAO!!!


May 16th, 2018 at 1:59 PM ^

The OHL Flint Firebirda are still a great destination for OHL young men. Ty Dellandra very well could be a #1 pick in the NHL draft and could have theee to four others drafted. Our #1 OHL pick has reported to Flint the last three years (the other, Ryan McCleod wanted to play with his brother in Missisauga. He too will be another #1 pick in the NHL draft. All OHL players get to play games closer to family and friends. Call Flint what you will, but OHL players in Flint, London, Kitchener, etc. all get great paid accomodations for high schools and universities, billet families, their own team bus, and paid food regardless if the coach and GM are appointed or not. Perhaps the #1 junior hockey league in the world.


May 15th, 2018 at 4:22 PM ^


May 15th, 2018 at 7:13 PM ^

While certainly quite positive, I don't think either of this is really new news, except that there was an outside shot of Wahlstrom going to Europe or reporting to Cape Breton in the QMJHL. Nice to hear he'll be deciding soon; as a top-10 draft prospect, I'm sure both BC and Michigan would really like to know whether or not he'll be on the roster as soon as possible for scholarship reasons.

Hughes has pretty much always been projected to either spend another year with the NTDP or enroll at Michigan. His situation probably depends on where Quinn ends up in the draft and whether his NHL team wants him right away - my completely uneducated guess is, if Quinn goes to a team like Detroit who has had success with NCAA players staying in college for development and he spends his sophomore year in Ann Arbor, that Jack does whatever he needs to do over the summer and shows up at Michigan in the fall. Doubly so if Wahlstrom picks Michigan, because the two of them were dynamite together on the U18 team, and Hughes is going to need a winger who can take advantage of his playmaking skillset to hold onto his current #1 draft projection for 2019. I'm not sure that Michigan's current roster for next season has that type of player on it.


May 15th, 2018 at 11:05 PM ^

It seems like a pretty sure thing that the only college Jack Hughes would play at next year would be Michigan. Whether he ever attends college is much less certain.

We're in a weird spot where we could put a team on the ice with Wahlstrom and both Hughes boys, or we could have a team with none of those players. This is about as pivotal as it gets.