After a six month period that felt like it took no time at all, we have finally reached the unofficial end to the 2017/18 campaign on April 7th with the OHL Priority Selection Draft.
As always, AllianceHockeyScout.com will be there for the entirety of the draft, giving updates and keeping tabs on those Alliance players who find news home with OHL clubs. The Alliance is coming off one of their best showings at the draft last year and it will be hard to duplicate that success this year. In the 2017 Priority Selection Draft, the Alliance saw 46 players taken with all 12 teams being represented. While I can see all 12 teams having at least one player selected, it would be quite the surprise to see the 2002 born players reached the quantity of the 01’s.
With all of that said, here is the final set of rankings prior to the selection draft. There are definitely some changes from the midseason rankings with some new faces also making appearances.
- Blake Butler (Lambton Jr. Sting) – One of, if not the only player from the Alliance who could step into the OHL next season. Butler combines great vision with an elite shot. Butler was a main reason for Lambton nearly sneaking into the playdowns.
- Matt Maggio (Sun County Panthers) – The winner of the Alliance Player of the Year award, Maggio is the best pure goal scorer in the Alliance this year. More work on the defensive end will be needed, but his upside on the offensive end will make an OHL team very happy.
- Sheldon Serraglio (London Jr. Knights) – My top defender in the Alliance could also be considered one of the most underrated. Serraglio isn’t the most flashy player on the ice but he is incredibly effective. His play in his own zone is very good and he makes those who play next to him improve greatly. He is my top defenseman but with the talk I’ve heard of him, or lack thereof, Serraglio could be an early round steal in the Priority Selection.
- Ben McFarlane (Cambridge Hawks) – The top player from our mid-season rankings, McFarlane did nothing wrong to drop to fourth, but it was the play of others that surpassed him. Still with a great shot and even better vision, McFarlane took more of a physical tone to his game in the postseason but still came up with big goals when needed. Don’t be fooled by his small size, McFarlane plays a big game and I expect him to be the first Hawk off the board.
- George Diaco (London Jr. Knights) – A personal favourite player of mine from the 02 class, Diaco led the league in scoring and did so while controlling the offense for London. Diaco was able to take over the game individually when needed, but was the leader on the ice and directed traffic on the powerplay. Another small forward, Diaco’s hard work will make teams very happy.
- Ryan Gagnier (Sun County Panthers) – A big riser from the midseason rankings, Gagnier was arguably the best player for Sun County from the playdowns to their quarter-final run at the OHL Cup. Gagnier is a strong two-way forward who was consistently put up against the oppositions top forwards. While his defensive game is strong, he is more than capable of scoring consistently. I can see Gagnier’s play in front of a busy OHL Cup audience really catapulting him up some teams boards.
- Joseph Serpa (Cambridge Hawks) – Serpa remained one of the most consistent players in the Alliance from start to finish this year. Crafty is the best word I can use to describe him as his play down low made some defenders look silly. Poised with a pass first mindset, Serpa is the ultimate playmaker even he decides against shooting in prime scoring areas.
- Theo Hill (Brantford 99ers) – The first player from the Alliance champion 99ers, Hill brings speed for days. Hill was the best 02 player for Brantford during their run to the title and continued that during the OHL Cup. His breakaway speed creates plenty of scoring chances but Hill also has very smooth motions in the offensive end with a deceptive shot.
- Rylan Bowers (Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs) – Another smaller forward coming out of the Alliance, Bowers was arguably the best player in the league for the second half of the season. Playing a heavy load of minutes, Bowers has a great shot and smooth hands. He has a knack for getting into some physical battles as well. After a slow start, Bowers elevated his game to levels that should see him go in the early mid rounds.
- Quinton Pepper (London Jr. Knights) – A great story from this past season as Pepper joined the Jr. Knights from AA last year to become a key piece on their top line. A strong forward when he has the puck, defenders found it difficult to knock him off the puck down low and his quick movements allowed him to find open lanes for great scoring chances.
- Zane Dalpe (Sun County Panthers) – Dalpe was a part of the three-headed monster for Sun County throughout the regular season. The power forward built off the success he had at minor midget last year to put together a solid campaign. A goal scorer who holds a quick release, At times, Dalpe can allow his emotions to take over which can cause issues but it is that edge that makes him effective on the ice.
- Graham Sutcliffe (Cambridge Hawks) – As the season progressed, it became more apparent that Sutcliffe was the top defender for Cambridge. Sutcliffe makes a lot of smart decisions in his own end and when mistakes happen, he’s able to recover and get back into position quickly. His shot from the point is lethal and Sutcliffe does a fantastic job holding the line in the offensive end. Reminds me a lot of Mark Woolley from a year ago. A dark horse in this draft.
- Sheldon Pryce (Huron-Perth Lakers) – Pryce led the Lakers on offense for most nights while Huron-Perth was surprising many, myself including, with their climb up the Alliance standings. Another quick centre, Pryce shows great vision and is able to split the defense with tight passes. He’s already had a taste of the Jr. B circut and I’d expect him to be a strong rookie candidate next season.
- Carter Schoonderwoerd (Huron-Perth Lakers) – A bit of a drop for Schoonderwoerd, but he is still an interesting prospect. He’s got the size and he’s got one of the quickest releases in the league. His physical game appeared sporadically which was great to see, but it is the skating that will decide how far his game can go. Improvement in that department and Schoonderwoerd shoots up this list drastically.
- Joey Studnicka (London Jr. Knights) – The third member of London’s top line on this list, Studnicka plays the role of power forward very well. Secretly a point per game player, Studnicka came up huge for the Jr. Knights against the 99ers in the final. Studnicka gets into the dirty areas and grinds but can also drive the wing and finish strong.
- Andrew Casasanta (Brantford 99ers) – The facilitator for the champions, Casasanta made those around him better and was top five in the Alliance in assists this past season. Casasanta has good speed and makes very quicks decisions on the rush. He had a difficult playdown and was contained well but the upside is there as seen through 33 games during the regular season.
- Cooper Walker (Cambridge Hawks) – One of the smartest players available in the draft, Walker has obviously learned lots from his father through his playing days. Walker slows the game down and seemingly always think a few moves ahead. He’s got the ability to finish but it’s his puck movement where he shines. Playing the system his father installed with help his transition to junior hockey.
- Brendan Mairs (London Jr. Knights) – Flew under the radar during the regular season, but his postseason solidified his standing. A big forward who can snipe with the best of them, Mairs is a shoot first forward who can hold his own in the defensive zone. He was one of only four players in the Alliance this season to break the 20 goal plateau.
- Matt Sbrocca (Windsor Jr. Spitfires) – Sbrocca ends the year as my top goaltender in the Alliance by a slim margin. Sbrocca was one of only a couple of bright spots for Windsor this past season. Sbrocca really showed a calm demeanor in goal and stood tall against top teams through the year. Sbrocca already has a big frame and his movement shows more like a smaller goaltender. An interesting prospect to follow.
- Matt Onuska (Waterloo Wolves) – If Sbrocca is the top goaltender, Onuska is 1b. Onuska played the 2nd most games of any goalie in the Alliance this year and that is credit to how solid he was. Standing at over six feet tall, Onuska is another bigger goaltender that has great lateral movement. He makes the long shots look easy and makes traffic down low look easy. Onuska is near the top of a long list of good goaltending prospects out of the Alliance.
- Bryce Ryan (Windsor Jr. Spitfires) – One of the best performers at the OHL Combine by any player, Bryce may have made a name for himself in a single weekend. Ryan was a shining star on a dull Jr. Spitfires offense this past year. A big, rangy winger, Ryan has a good knack for scoring despite only registering nine goals on the season. Bryce also nabbed his first Jr. B goal this year in limited action with LaSalle.
- Spencer Lecot (Chatham-Kent Cyclones) – A blue liner with offensive prowess, Lecot elevated his game and was key in Chatham reaching the postseason. Great when moving with the puck, Lecot has a fantastic shot that he uses quite selectively and can found pinching to the faceoff circle to increase his scoring chances. Lecot should be the first of a few Cyclones selected come Saturday.
- Dylan Robinson (Brantford 99ers) – One of the biggest players in the Alliance this season, Robinson had a tendancy to try and take over games from the defensive zone. Robinson pairs a long reach with good hands and skating to effectively bring the puck up. Robinson’s shot from the point is also a strength of his and adds to his offensive abilities. Robinson will need to eliminate some of the icing calls he made when he’s pressure at the next level.
- Owen McGowan (Hamilton Huskies) – It was a struggle for Hamilton this year but McGowan should be hearing his name called on Saturday. McGowan is a smooth D who has a bomb for a shot. He was one of the best defense at bantam and on a stronger team you would hear his name mentioned more often. Improvement in his skating would be a benefit but with a late birthday, McGowan is a player who I see surprising at the next level.
- Michael McKnight (Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs) – Last but not least is McKnight, who makes this list in his first year of playing AAA hockey. A great student of the game, McKnight elevated himself to the top line for the Chiefs and was tied for 5th in scoring. Another late birthday prospect, McKnight moves the puck well and has a deceptive shot. McKnight will be a great story for those players coming up not at the AAA level.