After four months of hockey and a whirlwind of games, we have finally reached, in my opinion, the top five players in the Alliance association. The top five is mainly dominated by incredibly skilled forwards and a player who I’ve heard some comparisons to a top end defenseman from last season.
One thing should be noted about this list. These are the top players in the Alliance in my opinion, regardless of eligibility for certain drafts. That may be a giveaway as to who could possibly be involved in the top five, but just wanted to make that clear ahead of time to avoid any confusion.
5. Stephane Crevier (Sun County Panthers) – Stephane is a player whose play has improved drastically from the beginning of the season. A dangerous threat on offense, Crevier uses his fantastic speed and tight puck control to get himself into prime scoring spots. Crevier holds a precise shot and is money when receiving a pass in the slot. Crevier’s vision makes everyone around him a better player making him a key piece for the Sun County Panthers. The combination of Crevier and Aidan Pitre could lead to Panther upsets in the future.
4. Keean Washkurak (Waterloo Wolves) – The Wolves captain brings a combination of speed, skill and physicality that makes him a dominant force on the ice. Washkurak may have the best acceleration in the association and has the option to either get around the defenders or go straight through them. Washkurak can go anywhere in the offensive zone and create havoc. Whether he is cycling on the outside or battling in the corners, Washkurak frequently comes out ahead. I could see Washkurak making the transition to junior hockey come next fall.
3. Grayson Ladd (Chatham-Kent Cyclones) – Ladd leads the pack of defense in the Alliance this season thanks to his quick thinking and hockey sense on the back end of the Cyclones lineup. Although his season has been slowed down by a couple of injuries, Ladd has always maintained his high level of play. Ladd is able to find the open man to get the rushes started, but is also confident enough to bring the puck up himself. I’ve heard some compare him to Owen Lalonde and while those are lofty comparisons, Ladd is already at a level that can see him transition quite smoothly.
2. Brett Budgell (London Jr. Knights) – There was a lot of talk about Budgell entering his first season in the Alliance. The Newfoundland native put up ridiculous numbers with the St. John’s Bantam team over the past two seasons and was already considered a top prospect for the 2017 QMJHL Draft. His transition to the Alliance has been seamless and he has proven to be a top tier player. Excellent in nearly every aspect of the game, Budgell is a steady forward that can do it all. Budgell has deceptive speed and the strength to muscle his way past defenders. The question of eligibility for the OHL Draft still remains, but should he be an option, I don’t suspect he will last very long.
1. Ryan Suzuki (London Jr. Knights) – The top spot in the first set of rankings belongs to London forward Ryan Suzuki, which shouldn’t be much of a shock to anyone. Suzuki has far and above been the best player in the Alliance and is being talked about as a potential top five pick in the upcoming OHL Draft. Suzuki has an incredible vision on the ice and some of the smoothest stick handling I have seen. While he has a knack for setting up his teammates, he can just as easily pick a corner himself. That was evident in his debut with the GOJHL London Nationals where he scored twice. Suzuki looks to be on a similar path as his brother Nick, although it looks like Ryan will go close to ten spots higher than his older brother did. If you haven’t seen London play just yet, mark it on your calendars as Suzuki is worth the price of admission.