Many watchful eyes will be set to descend on St. Mary's, Ont. as early as tomorrow afternoon as the 2016 Alliance Face-Off showcase kicks off for the minor midget age group. While the Alliance will always be - or has in recent memory - been a top-heavy league, there's certainly more than a few players that OHL scouts can get legitimately excited about in the loop this season.
MM Alliance Schedule: Link
There's little doubt at this point that the London Jr. Knights are going to be the team to beat, but that's not to say teams like Waterloo, Cambridge, and perhaps even Kitchener, won't be nipping at their heels.
Beyond the standings, forwards are going to be the theme of the season, as the Alliance has some very legitimate high-end talent up front. While ideal size might not be there for all of them, players like Ryan Campbell (Cambridge); Ryan Suzuki and Aidan Prueter (London); Keean Washkurak (Waterloo); and Justin McCombs (Kitchener); are all very much in the first round conversation, and should shape up as surefire top-40 picks at this point.
One player that will be of special intrigue on our end, is Chatham-Kent Cyclones defenseman Grayson Ladd, who we only caught one viewing of last season and missed him in the Titans Tournament due to an injury sustained in the team's first game against Whitby. Ladd was not included in our rankings from last season due to the limited viewing, but our brief glimpse gives a strong indication that his game is very much for real. Playing on a team that has limited talent around him, it's pretty clear that he's going to be the focus of not just scouts, but the opposition as well.
The new season also presents an opportunity for viewings of Cambridge defenseman Colin O'Hagan, who's 2015/16 season was marred by a variety of injuries. While his game doesn't project to the same level of Ladd's, he does have a decent set of tools that should endear him to OHL scouts, so long as he can stay healthy.
Our trek to St. Mary's gets the green light on Saturday morning where we'll take in the full day of affairs from the Pyramid Recreation Centre.
Also of note, the Alliance Bantam Face-off kicks off tomorrow afternoon in Belle River, Ont. and will also feature all 12 Alliance teams in action. While that tournament unfortunately isn't on the schedule this year, our viewing directory of the Alliance teams will continue to grow in the coming weeks. A copy of the tournament program with complete rosters can be accessed here.