TORONTO, ONT. -- The weekend after the Port Huron Silver Stick and THE CUP North American Championship was a bit more quiet, albeit it was still headlined by the HEO Bantam AAA All Star Game, as well as the Toronto Marlboros impressive tournament championship at the prestigious John Reid Memorial Championship, where they went on to knock off a number of the top teams in Western Canada.
The new week kicks off with the impending release of our Mid-Term Top 200 for the '02 age group later tonight, which will be available to subscribers on the Rankings tab. Before that, we did release our publicly available Top 10 last night, and what a group that's turning out to be. Be sure to register to get a look at that and a whole lot more.
High-end talent is abundant in this crop
While it's too early to make a call on the 01's just yet, it's probably fair to say that the 1998-2000 birth years weren't exactly Ontario's finest. That's now being reflected in the NHL Entry Draft and isn't exactly a positive trend. The 02's appear poised to turn things around, though, as the crop features no shortage of top-end talent not only for the OHL Priority Selection, but also looking ahead to the NHL's Entry Draft.
This theme is consistent on the US side of the border, as there's also a nice littany of top-end talent in the '02 age group. While the depth of the group in the USA takes a bit of a dip relative to their Canadian peers, this is shaping up to be a very intriguing age group.
Size and skill dominate the top
Unlike their '01 peers, the '02 crop features no shortage of skilled players who also possess excellent size already at this early juncture. Frankly, our Top-40 features more players in excess of 6-feet than not, with many of those players exceeding that mark by at least a couple of inches.
That's not to overlook some of the smaller players, who also will play a major factor in how this age group shapes up heading into next year and beyond, as players like Antonio Stranges, Cole Perfetti, and Tyler Tullio are just a few names who could change the draft dynamic, especially if they hit a growth spurt before next April.
Let's talk the Top 10
Headlining the age group is Boston University commit Dylan Peterson, who has torched the HEO Bantam AAA loop to the tune of 20 goals and 40 points in just 24 games played. All this has come while playing on the worst team in the league, which makes it all the more impressive. While Peterson isn't the clear-cut #1 for everyone, and will likely see no shortage of challengers at his back, the 6-foot-2 centre has really established himself as the most dynamic player in the age group for us and justifies himself as the top player right now.
Behind him, Chicago Mission defenseman Gerard Keane is about as smooth as they come and is quite advanced, especially at the bantam level. After playing up with the 01's last season, Keane easily could have done so again this season, but his return to the 02's just adds to the riches that lace their team's roster.
York Simcoe forward Quinton Byfield solidifies the #3 spot largely due to the raw athleticism and long-term potential his game brings to the table. He's got some areas to polish up, but even with that in mind, he's still one of the most dominant players in the age group. He edges out Team Meijer's Tanner Latsch in that regard, as the Wisconsin commit has some similarities to Peterson but might have a touch less upside in the long run. Either way, there's not a lot separating most of these players.
Mission has another entry into the Top 5 with Notre Dame commit Wyatt Schingoethe, who makes the game look far easier than it is most of the time. He looks like he'll be all but a lock for the NTDP and is well on track to develop as an excellent NCAA player. It's somewhat scary to think that a 6-foot-3 forward putting up two points a game playing up an age group checks in at #6, but that's where York Simcoe winger Cameron Butler sits for us right now. We'd like to see his footwork improve a bit, but if it does, he's got all the tools to make a challenge to any of the names listed above him here.
The other defenseman in the Top 10, Whitby's Ryan O'Rourke, is also playing up this season after coming over from the Jr. Canadiens last year. Assuming some of those US commitments hold true, it's safe to say that O'Rourke will be in firm contention to lock down a Top 5 slot or better in next year's draft as he's a very impactful two-way defenseman.
A trio of forwards round out the top group, leading off with Syracuse's Ryan Kirwan at #8. The younger brother of Flint forward, Luke, the younger Kirwan is a relentless offensive player who can rack up scoring chances against any opponent. His skating needs to come a bit, but he's another legit talent. Fresh off their John Reid Championship, Toronto Marlboros' forwards Will Cuylle and Stephen Halliday round out this impressive group. Cuylle doesn't have the same level of offensive talent the other players here do, but his bull-in-a-china-shop mentality makes him a force that's tough to contain. Halliday, who comes to the Marlboros from the ISS Kings, is a mythodical forward who - sometimes quietly - goes about his busineses, which is producing points. His skating also needs to develop a bit, but he's a bonafide Top 10 player at this point, as well.
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