The 2003 born age group has definitely given the public a great opportunity to see some incredible talent in the Alliance this season. After last year saw a bit of a down year for the association, this year has some top flight talent, some of which could make the jump directly from minor hockey to the OHL.
I started off by having more than 40 names on a list of potential candidates that needed to be dwindled down to 25. Once down to the magic number, there were still some players who I felt deserved mention that for the first time in four season, I will be including a number of players who make the “honourable mention” list.
As for the top 15, players ranked from 6-15 will be released on Thursday while the top five should be out on Friday, just in time for some 2nd period flood reading at the Marlies Holiday tournament.
Let’s get this thing started.
25. Jonah Cochrane (Brantford 99ers)
Cochrane is a big defenseman who has seen plenty of ice time as Brantford only carries five players on the backend. For a bigger player, Cochrane moves very well and uses his combination of size and speed to keep players to the outside. He plays more of a defensive game and there is room to increase his offensive production. Cochrane should get plenty of exposure as the 99ers are poised for a deep run into the postseason.
24. Jordan D’Intino (London Jr. Knights)
If a player rankings were done six weeks into the season, Jordan D’Intino probably would have been very high on many lists. An unfortunate injury as shelved him for more than two months now but it appears as though he is prime for a return. Prior to his departure, he had a higher PPG average than teammate Brett Harrison. Lots of questions remain, but plenty of answers are on the horizon.
23. Braeden Bowman (Kitchener Jr. Rangers)
Quietly one of the better offensive players in the league, Bowman has been a player that the Kitchener coaching staff has leaned on heavily in many different situations. While he’s got a knack for putting the puck in the net, it is his play in the offensive zone and overall vision that makes him a valuable player. He may be overshadowed by others on the team, but Bowman is a key piece to the recent success of the Jr. Rangers.
22. Cole Melady (Huron-Perth Lakers)
The Lakers centre has been the engine that keeps their offense moving. His strongest aspect of his game is his skating and ability to thread passes on a dime. Melady started the year by leading the team in goal scoring, but his since taken on the role of playmaker and facilitator. His offensive output also can’t overshadow his play in the defensive end where he has improved into a solid two-way player.
21. Ray Hamlin (Windsor Jr. Spitfires)
Hamlin got off to a rough start to the year as he missed some action, but the Windsor centre has really started to bring his game back to life in the past few weeks. The Jr. Spitfires captain plays a very physical game and likes to grind away in the corners and along the boards. Hamlin doesn’t have game breaking speed, but uses his positioning and IQ to always keep himself in the best position possible.
20. Nicholas Mazza (Chatham-Kent Cyclones)
One player who probably gets overshadowed the most by others is Mazza, who has been key in the resurgence of the Cyclones over the past couple of months. While he won’t score many highlight reel goals, Mazza picks his spots carefully and makes smart decisions in the offensive zone. Quietly has become one of only four skaters to crack the 20 goal plateau so far this year.
19. Kyle Maloney (Waterloo Wolves)
Creativity is the word I would use to describe the game of Maloney. Very good stick handling and puck control allows Maloney to bring the puck up the ice or from the corners and get into prime scoring positions. Not a very big forward, Maloney’s speed gives him an advantage and also allows him to recover when the creativity backfires.
18. Brayden Hislop (Waterloo Wolves)
One of my favourite defenseman in the league, Hislop is one of the best offensive defenseman in the Alliance. Never one to shy away from joining the rush, Hislop has great accuracy with his shot. He is able to slow down the play in his own zone and rarely makes bad passes out. His ability to hit streaking forwards with the stretch pass has given the Wolves a big weapon on the back end.
17. Camden Daigle (Huron-Perth Lakers)
One of the best pure goal scorers in the league this season, Daigle started the year like a bat out of hell, leading the league in goals through the opening month of the season. While that pace has certainly slowed down, the threat of Daigle on the ice has not disappeared. His puck control in close allows Daigle to maneuver tight spots and find room for his shot. Could see a big jump if defensive and neutral zone play increase to his scoring capabilities.
16. Jake Eaton (Windsor Jr. Spitfires)
Eaton came over from Sun County this season and has been a big part of what Windsor has been able to accomplish this season. Eaton is solid in all aspects of his game and when in the lineup, has been relied upon heavily by the Jr. Spitfires coaching staff. Offensively, Eaton has a knack for making quick decisions and his accurate passing allows him success in that field. With a full lineup together, it will be interesting to see what Eaton can accomplish.
Luc Brzustowski (Kitchener Jr. Rangers) – Strong defensive presence and Kitchener’s number one defense. Has risen considerably over past six weeks,
Christian Kyrou (Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs) – Hasn’t had as big an impact on Chiefs as hoped, but still a threat to take the puck and go.
Josh Cyrenne (Sun County Panthers) – Has the size and shot to make a difference, but questions remain whether he can keep up with the speed at the next level.
Keegan Damota (Brantford 99ers) – Slow start but has come alive since November. One of the fastest forwards in the Alliance when he has the puck.