TORONTO, ONT. -- They're here. The first look at the '02 age group in the form of a Top 200 ranking is now available for subscribers to access.
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The group is headlined by an impressive collection of talent at the top, which we reviewed in depth just a couple of days ago. But that's not where the storylines end, as this crop should see no shortage of jostling for position as the bantam season enters its final stretches and players depart for what always proves to be an important summer of off-season development.
It's still very early
Unlike our pals out West, players in Ontario have the added benefit of a full extra year of development prior to their draft season. The Toronto Marlboros got a first-hand taste of that as they wound up taking home the title in the prestigious John Reid Memorial Championship this past weekend, in a tournament field that will feature multiple top 10 picks in this year's WHL Bantam Draft.
That said, the tiers of this draft class are starting to become clearer. While there is always the added variable of physical growth and development between now and next April - and frankly, beyond - the picture is starting to become clearer. Which brings us to...
The 02's are shaping up to be a quality crop
We've alluded to it many times before, but this age group is on track to be one of the better ones in recent memory for Ontario-born players. While the high-end talent is matched in the US, the Canadians probably have a bit of an edge in terms of the overall depth of the age group at this point. Time will tell whether this hypothesis proves correct, but if you're looking for size, skill, and players that can play unique roles, there's a lot of upside in this crop right now.
Where did we see these players, anyways?
Since the start of September, it's been a busy schedule that's seen us take in nearly every major bantam tournament in the province, as well as several trips to the other side of the border. Aside from the four major tournaments in the hotbed of Toronto; Buffalo, Detroit, Kitchener, London, Peterborough, Port Huron, and Oshawa have been some of the major stops. This all on top of a glut of league games, too, of course.
It doesn't end there, though. With playoffs soon to ramp up, the Alliance playoffs, SCTA's, OMHA's, and GTHL playoffs are all viewing opportunities that'll factor into our yet-to-come final ranking at season's end.
There's more to see
While we've seen no shortage of games thus far, there's still lots to be seen just yet. In our initial rankings, you'll notice that players from the Ontario teams of Cambridge, Elgin-Middlesex, and Southern Tier aren't particularly represented. That'll change before our final rankings as circle their games on the calendar, but unfortunately, we didn't feel comfortable enough to make accurate calls on them just yet.
On the US side, the two major teams of viewing interest that we've yet to see live are the New Jersey Devils Youth, featuring Boston College commit Jason Siedem, and the Pittsburgh Penguins Elite, playing out of the T1EHL loop. We'll see if we can make some headway on either of those teams before the season comes to a close, as they're also factored in as limited viewings.
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