TORONTO, Ont. -- While there are some teams that might have another name atop their draft board, Jack Hughes' reign atop the '01 throne has never come into much question for us as the Toronto Marlboros pivot finishes atop our final ranking of the age group heading into the 2017 OHL Priority Selection this Saturday.
Our rankings are not a mock draft, nor do they have any bias between American and Canadian players. Based on our body of viewings over the past two seasons, this is the final culmination of our work on the '01 age group as they head into a pivotal point in their development. Featuring over 13,500 words of commentary on ranked players, subscribers can access the rankings using the link below.
While he has top prospect status in our book, it would be a shock to see his Hughes in the #1 hole come draft day as his long-rumoured path to the NTDP was all but confirmed today. It's probably fair to assume there's an unofficially verbal commitment - they're all unofficial anyways - to the University of Michigan behind the scenes, which would potentially allow him to link up with his older brother Quinn at some point, assuming one of or both of them don't turn pro before that could happen.
That said, it would still be a bit of a surprise to see him make it through 21 first round picks without hearing his name called, as there's likely several teams that are sizing up options of who will be available at their pick in contrast to taking a gamble that Hughes might eventually take the OHL route.
Beyond Hughes, the rest of our top-10 has seen a bit of a shuffle with four new faces entering into the fray as this season has certainly had a few surprises along the way.
The biggest leap comes from Trevor Zegras, who is coming off an excellent season with Avon Old Farms and has taken his game to another level starting with the US Select 15 camp last summer. Yeah, there will be some sticker shock seeing him that high; but let's not forget that the dynamic forward put up an impressive 42 points as a true sophomore in a very tough loop this year. Not many would have pegged Joel Farabee to be the best forward on the Under-17 team this year, but we think Zegras could find his way into that similar conversation next year. After an excellent showing at the NTDP Selection Camp, we're comfortable slotting Zegras in at the 2-hole and look forward to seeing how his 16-year-old season unfolds.
Tag Bertuzzi slides a spot to #3 but finished the season on a high with a good showing in the OHL Cup. He's got high-end talent across the board, but the key for him will be ensuring he can consistently retain that form and avoid stretches of somewhat uninspiring play. Alex Turcotte comes in at #4 and is a player that many have pegged right there with Jack Hughes, so yes, we're aware that we're a little different here. All four of these players offer a bit of a different game but the overall difference in their games isn't terribly staggering. The Wisconsin commit may also factor into the OHL Draft as early as the 1st round as he might be a player that eventually considers bypassing the NCAA route to groom his game in the OHL.
Ryan Suzuki is the 5th ranked player on the board and is in good position to potentially be the #1 overall pick when Barrie announces their intentions on Friday. Suzuki is probably the favourite to put up the best point-per-game ratio in the OHL out of this crop and it really wouldn't be a shock to see him potentially be in the mix for 90-100 points as early as his second season in the league.
Mississauga Rebels forward Phillip Tomasino has been on a major upswing since Christmas and has parlayed that into a rise up to #6 on our board. He's not a terribly different player from where he was in bantam, with one key exception: he's finishing far more of his chances and is doing a significantly better job of showing playmaking ability off the rush.
The first defenseman on our board is Marshall Warren, who retains his status as the top defenseman on our board since the start of the bantam season. Warren is a factor at both ends of the ice and can ramp up his offensive game beyond what he showed this year when he wants to play more of a loose style. Nonetheless, he was a key piece of one of the top 16U teams in the country and had the offensive production to back it up. Expect him to be a key cog of the NTDP U17 team next year.
We're going out on a bit of a limb to put Nicholas Robertson at #8, and we've certainly put no shortage of thought into the decision. While he's growing, he's still got some issues in terms of his ability to play in the league at 16 with his current frame. So yeah, there's a concern there, but in terms of pure skill and an ability to create time and space; he's an elite offensive player in our eyes. Let's let time be the jury on whether we're onto something here or if we were just completely off base putting him this high.
We've gone back and forth quite a bit on Nicholas Porco since bantam and we're going to almost break one of our cardinal rules of scouting: does a player's finishing ability correlate to the number of shots they require to score. Yes, Porco was snake bitten for a decent portion of this season, but in a draft that doesn't exactly have a surplus of forwards who can create on their own, Porco's ability to generate chances seemingly at will is impressive. Similar to Tomasino, he's also evolved quite a bit in terms of his ability to use teammates off the rush, and while we'd like to see more accuracy from his shot, the velocity is considerably better than what it once was.
Rounding out the top-10, Brandon Coe was the most improved player in this entire draft crop since bantam - in our opinion. He's parlayed that all the way up into a spot near the top as the now 6-foot-3 winger is an impressive blend of dynamic skating ability, grit, and a surprising amount of skill. If he's open to going anywhere on draft day, he could be in play as early as the top-5.
Just for a recap, here's a rundown on the top-10. For the full top-200, click here ($).
|1.||Jack Hughes||LC||5.11||155||Toronto Marlboros MM|
|2.||Trevor Zegras||LW||5.11||150||Avon Old Farms|
|3.||Tag Bertuzzi||LW||6.00||195||Oakland Jr. Grizzlies 16U|
|4.||Alex Turcotte||LC||5.11||187||Chicago Mission 16U|
|5.||Ryan Suzuki||LC||6.00||160||London Jr. Knights MM|
|6.||Phillip Tomasino||RC||5.10||170||Mississauga Rebels MM|
|7.||Marshall Warren||LD||5.11||159||North Jersey Avalanche 16U|
|8.||Nicholas Robertson||LC||5.07||130||Toronto Red Wings MM|
|9.||Nicholas Porco||LW||6.00||165||Vaughan Kings MM|
|10.||Brandon Coe||RW||6.03||175||Toronto Nationals MM|