With only 3 days remaining until the NHL Draft, Neutral Zone is pleased to release our Day 5 of NHL Draft Countdown Series where we are giving you an inside look at 60 NHL Draft prospects for free from all the leagues around US, Canada and Europe. This segment is the Ontario Hockey League where we have been following most all of these players since they were bantams or minor midgets and have their rankings from where they stood going into their OHL Draft year in 2018. By clicking on the player name it will take you to their individual page where there are scouting reports, rankings and more background information.
QUINTON BYFIELD (LC, 6’4, 215, Sudbury Wolves)
As a Minor Midget Quinton was almost unanimously viewed as the Top draft choice of his age group. He was well over 6’2 in his U16 year and seemed to be a man amongst boys. This physical specimen came with the tool kit fully loaded. A strong and explosive skater who could literally blow by you or go through you with the puck on his stick. He could hurt you in so many ways, and literally change a game with a robust shift. If there was any doubt about Quinton’s game it was his consistency. There were times when his play would wane, primarily in tournament of playoff play when the good teams would key in on him. However his upside was just too much to pass up and the Sudbury Wolves made Quinton the first overall pick of the 2018 OHL Priority Draft.
Quinton seemed to easily transition to the Major Junior game. His frame grew to a 6’4 and 2015 pound package, his skill set was tremendous and his powerful skating allowed him immediate success. In his rookie year he led his team in scoring burying 29 goals and 61 points and finishing only behind Cole Perfetti and Marco Rossi in scoring for his age group. He followed up this past year again leading his team in scoring. He missed 17 games yet still racked up 32 goals and 82 points in only 45 games.
As a pro prospect there is no need to be concerned about any of Quinton’s skill set not translating to the pro level. He has all the physical tools to allow him to succeed. Questions still exist about his consistency. He was under-whelming during the CHL prospects game, and he was under-whelming at the World Junior Championship. However the consistency worries will not impact his draft status. Any good organization with a good coach and good mentors for Quinton will be able to pull that consistency out of him that has been missing at times. NHL Draft Grade: A
MARCO ROSSI (LC, 5’9, 185, Ottawa 67s)
As a 15 year old Marco was playing Elite Jr. A in Austria’s U20 league, and led a team stacked full of older players in points scored per game. His transition into Canadian Major Jr. A was seamless, arriving to play for the powerhouse Ottawa 67’s and finishing 4th in team scoring potting 29 goals and adding 36 assists for 65 points in only 53 games. This point total led his OHL age group in points scored per game.
Rossi’s NHL appeal is his ability to shoot, score and make the most creative plays all while at 100% speed, a big plus in today’s NHL Puck Possession game. He can blow by defenders wide, he can weave his way through tight spots down the middle of the ice, he can tight turn away from defenders when seemingly corralled only to attack and exploit a different seam, and he can come out of the corner with puck on stick off of the cycle and penetrate the slot. Not overly big, but that will not stop any team from valuing Marco highly in this draft. Hard to hit what you can’t catch. NHL Draft Grade: A
JACK QUINN (RW, 5’11, 175, Ottawa 67’s)
No prospect in Ontario has elevated more in a few brief years than prospect Jack Quinn. As a U15 player Jack was competing in the second tier U15 AA level in the Ottawa area. It was only in his U16 year that Jack played AAA hockey and his trajectory has taken off since then. Team leader that year at the U16 level, his first and winner of the HEO U18 Top Rookie.
Team leader in goals the following year as a 16 year old playing in a very good CCHL Junior A league, with an additional 8 games played as an underage Major Junior player in Ottawa. And once again winner of the CCHL Rookie of the Year.
At the Major Junior level Jack had a decent full first year with 12 goals and 20 assists on a very veteran Ottawa 67’s team. Then this past year Jack absolutely exploded sniping a phenomenal 52 goals, second only to Nick Robertson of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Projecting as an NHL prospect scouts will love that Jack plays a very hard committed 200 foot game. Very good puck skills, solid on his blades with balance and great edges, quickness and explosiveness in his stride and the ability to hit and jump into holes where he can rip off very hard accurate shots. Then upon turnovers few match Jack’s effort in getting back into his end, picking up checks, pressuring from behind and doing some heavy defensive lifting. Don’t be surprised if Jack is taken higher than his draft rankings indicate. He has shown the exceptional ability to find the twine and should a team picking early in the draft have that high on their wish list it would be hard to pass on Jack’s potential. NHL Draft Grade: A
TYSON FOERSTER (RC, 6’2, 195, Barrie Colts)
Tyson is another player who has really increased his trajectory since his Minor Midget year. On his Barrie Minor Midget team Tyson was a team leader who displayed an above average IQ, was a strong play maker, used in all situations and angled defensemen well when in forechecking. We had Tyson ranked 44th on our list but he fell to 55th before being selected by his hometown Barrie Colts. The knock on him was always his skating, good but not great. Strong on blades but not exceptionally quick or fast. However he made their squad out of Minor Midget and had a real decent rookie season potting 10 goals and adding 13 assists for 23 very respectable points. Then like Jack Quinn had an explosion of a second year.
In my viewings of him this past season I thought Tyson’s skating had progressed enough to be a very good NHL selection. He still is not amazingly quick or speedy, but he is exceptionally strong on his blades, great balance and is tough for opponents to knock off the puck. When on the attack Tyson is more likely to fight through you or off you then blow by you. But he is effective. His bread and butter though is his offense. First off he has an explosive shot. It comes off his stick quick, hard and accurate. He tallied 36 goals this season, 80 points and led the second place scorer on his team by 33 points. He excels setting up for a one timer on the power play. When receiving a Royal Road pass he can shoot it past or through the goalie. However don’t mistake his just as a shooter. He has great IQ and when teeing it up is smart enough to make an excellent pass if a defender takes his shot pass away. As for his skating, I watched him closely against some of the best prospects in Canada at the CHL Prospects game. Tyson was arguably one of the most dominant players on the ice and his skating was just fine so this will not impede his draftability nor his progression. NHL Draft Grade: A
EVAN VIERLING (LC, 6’0, 170, Barrie Colts)
Evan is a bit of an enigma pick. We absolutely loved him in his Minor Midget year with the York Simcoe Express. He was very quick to get into a great high gear and was very unselfish using his vision and passing skills to make those he played with better. He absolutely shined in big games, elevating his play and had a penchant for scoring big goals. In fact the weekend his team won the OMHA Minor Midget Championship we felt Evan was his team’s best player, no small feat given that there was a kid named Byfield on the team.
Evan seemed to progress well into the Major Junior A level. The second overall pick to Flint in the draft behind Byfield, Vierling contributed a decent 6 goal 27 point season in his rookie year. However year 2 he seemed to get out of the gate slow and couldn’t quite find his game. However a mid-season trade to Barrie and the chance to center prospect Tyson Foerster seemed to ignite Vierling and he had an exceptional second half producing at better than a point per game pace. There is no doubting his skating translates to the pro level. The edges, speed, agility are all there. If there is a knock it is that he needs to develop a shot that can produce at the pro level, and he needs to add some intensity to his defensive game. So in my mind he is a gamble as a high draft choice but one who could pay big dividends should he continue to develop without set back. NHL Draft Grade: A-
JAMIE DRYSDALE (RD, 5’11, 170, Erie Otters)
Drysdale is an elite two way defender and among the top defenders available in the 2020 NHL draft. A right shot, smooth skating defender, Drysdale has always been among our favourite defenders in Ontario. Drysdale is an example of the new prototypical two way threat on the backend with his above average skating he can also defend effectively. He is offensive minded and moves pucks efficiently but his primary asset is his skating and his ability to transition from defense to offense. Drysdale will not overpower opposing forwards with a bruising style but he does not give offensive players an inch and is supremely confident with his gap control on the defensive side of the puck. Drysdale has been on our radar for 3 seasons since Minor Midget where he dominated the Greater Toronto Hockey League in 2017-2018. He has excelled at every level and his game has evolved nicely in the transition from Minor hockey to Major Jr A and to the World Jr Championships with the top Jr players in the world this past Christmas. His skating is on par with any player available in this year’s draft. Drysdale was among the OHL league leaders in points for defensemen and one of the best two way defenders at any age – he was doing this as a second year defender this past season. We continue to see an excellent upside for Drysdale and expect him to be a dominant all round player in the OHL next season. NHL Draft Grade: A
COLE PERFETTI (LC, 5’10, 185, Saginaw Spirit)
Perfetti’s vision on the ice, puck support for his teammates, and strong edgework allow him to break down opposing defenders. He is a gifted offensive player who has scored at every level. Cole first appeared on our radar as a Bantam playing up an age group with a strong 2001 Minor Midget team in Whitby, Ontario. Perfetti was dominant as an underage player as a Bantam and has continued his dominant offensive play in the last 4 seasons – consistently scoring at every level. He has always impressed us with an elite IQ and ability to elevate players around him. He distributes pucks effectively and is aggressive at getting pucks to good scoring lanes. After a successful rookie season in the OHL with Saginaw – where he led all rookies in scoring – Perfetti continued to produce offensively in his sophomore season. Perfetti was in the top 2 in scoring in the abbreviated 2019/2020 OHL season as a second year player. Perfetti is dangerous with time and space and particularly effective at managing pucks on the powerplay. We continue to see good development of Perfetti’s strength as he matures and this core strength is adding to his pace through the neutral zone. NHL Draft Grade: A
RYAN O’ROURKE (LD, 6’2, 180, Soo Greyhounds)
An elite all round defender. The second year player is team captain for the Greyhounds and does it all. He plays a solid defensive game, moves pucks with authority, and plays in all key situations for his team. O’Rourke plays a competitive game in his zone and maintains a tight defensive gap on all opponents. He is mobile and tough and was difficult to beat with his sturdy defensive play. Offensively, he engages with good reads on the offensive blueline and is very effective in getting pucks through to the net area. He is an elite passer who starts the transition game for the Greyhounds and will join the rush in support of the attack. O’Rourke in our view was a steal as the last pick in the first round in the 2018 OHL Draft. As a 16 year-old entering the OHL Draft we had O’Rourke much higher on our list than most. Based on the rankings we see on O’Rourke this year entering the NHL draft he may be a steal again. He is as well rounded as any current 18 year-old defenders we have viewed over the past 4 years. NHL Draft Grade: A
JACOB PERREAULT (RW, 5’11, 200, Sarnia Sting)
Perreault has a good first step, reaches top speed quickly, and loves to shoot the puck. A sturdy right winger with a nose for the net, Perreault scored 30 goals as a 16 year-old in his first year in the Ontario Hockey League and scored 39 in his shortened 2020 sophomore season. Perreault has a strong core and a real sturdy frame he uses well on the net drive. He elevated these assets in 2020 and his 5 on 5 game developed significantly. Perreault was difficult to deal with on the net drive and in tight spaces in good scoring lanes. He generated offense on most shifts in games we viewed this season. His two way game developed this season as well. Perrault’s board play in his own zone is clean and efficient and gets the transition started. His explosive first few steps get him into the attack quickly in transition. A player we see as one of the best pure scorers coming out of the Ontario Hockey League for this year’s NHL Draft. NHL Draft Grade: A-
LUKE EVANGELISTA (RW, 5’11, 165, London Knights)
Evangelista continued to impress us with his consistent play this season. Evangelista is a high skilled, high IQ right winger Evangelista and operated very well on the wing on London’s top line this season. Evangelista had a dramatic improvement in his stat lines from his rookie season in 2018/2019. He didn’t score in his rookie season and had 2 points in 27 games. This year he scored 61 points in 62 games in his sophomore season and worked his way into a top 6 forward role on a veteran London team. Evangelista is a defensively reliable player who makes good reads in defensive situations and has a smart first touch under pressure in the defensive zone. His vision, his first touch of the puck, and ability to adjust his feet when receiving pucks make him elusive in all 3 zones of the ice. His smart play in high pressure defensive situations offer him the opportunity to play important minutes at a young age with older more experienced players. A skilled, high IQ forward who does many things well and plays a versatile role for the Knights – he kills penalties and is productive in powerplay situations. NHL Draft Grade: A-
Photo Credit: Dan Hickling/Hickling Images