Here is a look at the impact the Ontario Hockey League has had on the first round of the National Hockey League Entry Draft over the past 20 years:
Annual Number of 1st Round NHL Draft Picks from the OHL
Over the course of two decades the OHL has not been able to get more than 11 players picked in the first round – could this be the year? As it currently stands, 12 of the top 30 NHL Draft Prospects on the North American Skaters list are from the Ontario Hockey League; Matthew Tkachuk, Jacob Chychrun, Alexander Nylander, Olli Juolevi, Michael McLeod, Mikhail Sergachev, Max Jones, Logan Brown, Nathan Bastian, Alexander Debrincat, Logan Stanley and Timothy Gettinger.
Each of these players are apart of an exciting team that are just weeks away from the OHL Playoffs. Draft stocks can be raised and lowered during playoff hockey, if these dozen players can remain in their respective positions, it will be a very exciting year for the league in terms of contribution to the NHL. If these players remain where they are currently ranked, it can also mean some solid post season showdowns. Of course, we must remember the addition of Auston Matthews to this list of prospects – but that doesn’t mean the subtraction of an OHL pick in the first round.
If the playoffs started today:
Kingston Frontenacs vs. Oshawa Generals
Barrie Colts vs. Peterborough Petes
North Bay Battalion vs. Ottawa 67's
Niagara Ice Dogs vs. Mississauga Steelheads
Erie Otters vs. Saginaw Spirit
Sarnia Sting vs. Sault St. Marie Greyhounds
London Knights vs. Owen Sound Attack
Kitchener Rangers vs. Windsor Spitfires
Nothing is final with about eight games remaining in the regular season, some of these match-ups are sure to be shuffled up. The Generals and Bulldogs will be closely watched - as they battle for that 8th seed. Oshawa still has to take on the conference leading Frontenacs twice while Hamilton's upcoming schedule appears a little easier with the Petes, Storm, 67's and Wolves on deck for the upcoming week.
The four-five series is more often than not the most exciting face off to watch, but with a very tight Eastern Conference, it's still quite hard to predict. The Steelheads had a hard time this past weekend, losing 10-2 to the Attack at home on Friday night and then were shut out by the Colts on the road 8-0 the following evening. Head Coach and General Manager, James Boyd, gave the team a couple of days rest. A rejuvenated line-up combined with the potential return of Mike McLeod in the near future, the team has the chance to break away from the congested pack.
I will wait until later in the week to start talking about player match-ups but one to keep your eye on this week is Mike Amadio. He currently has 86 points on the year, good for 7th in the league in scoring while the Troops are 6-2-2 in their past 10.
Amadio became the franchise's fifth member of the 40 goal club (he now has 43) two weeks ago at the Hershey Centre. He's the first to do so since the team relocated to North Bay and joins Cody Hodgson, Evgeny Grachev, Wojtek Wolski and Raffi Torres:
Amadio has 24 points in the post season over the last three years - his playoff experience combined with a potential Ottawa first round match-up could result in a dominant performance.
I started this piece with the idea that an abundance of NHL prospects within the league could make for an exciting show of playoff hockey, but the North Bay Captain who was a fourth round pick still headlines the post season for me.
Regardless of the potential 12 first rounders, the skill the OHL has to offer this season - through all age groups - is sure to get you on the edge of your seat.
More to come as the playoff picture becomes more clear!