Better late than never as they say. November was another good month for Alliance alumni when it came to Junior Hockey. While some players were sent back to Jr. B teams as players were returned to the OHL from their NHL clubs, many Alliance players were thriving at the Jr. B level while the ones left at the OHL level were still making their mark on games.
In addition to the 2000 born players getting their feet wet, you have the 1999 born players gaining traction as the 2017 NHL Draft is quickly approaching and players are either rising or falling down the mock draft lists.
Now that we have somewhat solidified where these guys will be playing for the remainder of the season, these won’t just include those that are in the OHL, but those were are making their impacts in others leagues across Southwestern Ontario.
Brady Hinz – Sarnia Sting (Huron-Perth Lakers)
Hinz continued to impress and even surprise some scouts as he has been steady in his production level for the Sting. Hinz put in three goals and six points over 11 games in the month of November and was solid on the defensive side of the puck as well, contributing a +1 rating.
Hinz will continue to gain more experience as the season progresses and could see a few extra minutes with Adam Ruzicka away at the World Juniors. With the role he currently sees on the team, Hinz is well on his way to becoming a key piece for the 2017/18 Sting team.
Owen Lalaonde – Sudbury Wolves (Windsor Jr. Spitfires)
The 2nd overall pick in the 2016 OHL Draft has seen a big role on a team that has struggled defensively this season. Lalonde ended his second month in the league with two assists in ten games and a respectable -1 rating on a team that has surrendered the third most goals in the league.
Lalonde. like Hinz, is seeing some solid minutes in big game situations. Lalonde is seeing powerplay time with the Wolves and has also been out there for the penalty kill. The Wolves are chalked full of young talent due to struggles in recent years and Lalonde is the key player on defense in Sudbury with an aging group.
Mitch Hoelscher – Elmira Sugar Kings (Waterloo Wolves)
The Ottawa 67’s prospect has been every bit as good in Jr. B as he was during the Alliance season last year. Hoelscher capped off November with five assists in seven games and was named to the GOJHL rookie all-star game.
Hoelscher, who I expect to be with the 67’s next season on a full time basis, will be a key piece of a Sugar Kings team that is chasing Listowel for top spot in the Midwestern Conference.
Spencer Kersten – Waterloo Siskins (Waterloo Wolves)
Another member of the 2015/16 Alliance champion Wolves who are having success at the Jr. B level is shifty forward Spencer Kersten. Kersten, playing with his hometown Siskins, was also named to the rookie all-star game and is one of the leading Siskin scorers this season.
In November, the Owen Sound Attack prospect notched two goals and seven points through five games. A player who shined alongside Hoelscher and Alex Gritz last season, Kersten is beginning to showcase skills that many believed so strong that the Attack got a steal of a pick in round eight.
Blake McConville – Essex 73’s (Windsor Jr. Spitfires)
McConville, who is another Alliance player who was drafted by the Sudbury Wolves, has had a quiet yet very effective season with Essex in Junior C. In the month of November, McConville was a point per game player registering two goals and six assists in eight contests.
Eric Uba – Ayr Centennials (Kitchener Jr. Rangers)
When we talk about players at the Jr. C level, the conversation should begin with former Kitchener sniper Eric Uba, who has been tearing it up for the first place Centennials. Uba, who slipped to Flint in the 9th round of the draft, followed up a monster October with another big November, scoring seven goals and adding four assists in just nine games.
While many believe that Uba could have, and should have, been a member of the Jr. B Dutchmen, I feel like next season will see a big move up the ranks for Uba.
Joel Mazzilli – London Jr. Knights Major Midget (London Jr. Knights)
With all the recent talk about a three round Midget draft for OHL clubs, many eyeballs have been watching Major Midget action this season, much more than ever before. Mazzilli, who is already a draft choice of the Niagara Ice Dogs, has been the best player in the Alliance by a long shot and November solidified that.
Mazzilli burried seven goals in eight games and he has continually stood atop the scoring race. Now that the Midget draft is putting emphasis on Major Midget players, you could see Mazzilli make a significant leap out of minor hockey next season.
Now for the grizzled veterans:
Isaac Ratcliffe – Guelph Storm (London Jr. Knights)
Ratcliffe has really come into his own and is starting to play into his massive frame. Standing at nearly six foot seven inches tall, Ratcliffe has become a force on a Guelph team still searching for success. Last month saw the former London product notch four goals and 10 points in 10 games and he has begun to get noticed by the NHL mock drafts.
The latest mock draft had Ratcliffe securely in the first round with one even having him as a late top ten pick. With his size and increased scoring prowess, the development of the 2015 first rounder will be something to watch over the next few months.
Nick Suzuki – Owen Sound Attack (London Jr. Knights)
Former teammate of Ratcliffe, Suzuki had a slow start to his season after a very successful rookie campaign. The sophomore slump is officially over for Suzuki who dominated the score sheet with 10 goals and 20 points in 12 contests. Along with Ratcliffe, Suzuki is now being mentioned in the conversation for a late first round pick with his offensive upside.
It will be a busy spring for the Suzuki family with Nick possibly being a first rounder in the 2017 NHL Draft and younger brother Ryan more than likely being a first rounder in the 2017 OHL Draft.
Michael DiPietro – Windsor Spitfires (Sun County Panthers)
If you are to look at the league leaders for the majority of the goaltending categories in the OHL, a consistent face you will see is that of former Panther Michael DiPietro. DiPietro is currently leading the OHL in shutouts and is top five in wins, goals against average and save percentage. DiPietro is also one of the leading reasons that Windsor is being considered among the likes of Erie, London and Oshawa as a top team in the league this season.
While not considered a first round pick in many mocks, DiPietro is considered to be one of the best goalies available in the upcoming draft and he may be wearing that Team Canada jersey at this point next year when they make their selections for the World Junior squad.