How the OHL’s top-rated prospects have started the season

Jeff Marek highlights some of his top prospects for the upcoming NHL draft as the OHL takes on Team Russia.

When NHL Central Scouting released its Players to Watch list earlier this month, 29 skaters were given an “A” rating. Roughly 20 percent of that group ply their trade in the OHL: Erie’s Ivan Lodnia, Windsor’s Gabriel Vilardi, Hamilton’s MacKenzie Entwistle and Matthew Strome, and Mississauga’s Nicolas Hague and Owen Tippett.

And since we’re 20 percent of the way through the OHL campaign already, I figured the synergy was just too awesome not to check in on the O’s Big 6. So here we go. Thanks to for assistance with a bunch of these numbers.

Name | Pos | Team GP G A P1 P All P eG/60 eP1/60 eP/60 Sh/GP Sh% eTOI/GP GF%Rel GF% GFoI GAoI
Owen Tippett | RW | MISS 12 10 3 11 13 17 2.79 3.06 3.62 4.33 19.23 17.95 37.96 74.07 20 7
Nicolas Hague | D | MISS 11 5 4 7 9 12 1.5 2.09 2.69 2.18 20.83 18.23 22.96 65.38 17 9
Ivan Lodnia | C | ER 11 6 2 7 8 12 2.52 2.95 3.37 2.91 18.75 12.96 3.17 64.71 11 6
Matthew Strome | LW | HAM 12 6 2 8 8 14 1.78 2.38 2.38 2.67 18.75 16.83 -1.84 58.62 17 12
MacKenzie Entwistle | RW | HAM 12 5 1 6 6 10 1.91 2.29 2.29 2.67 15.62 13.11 -27.31 40.0 8 12
Gabriel Vilardi | C | WSR 7 2 3 5 5 11 1.15 2.89 2.89 2.71 10.53 14.84 59.72 87.5 7 1

While Mississauga has gotten off to a middling start, looking at the above 5-on-5 stats, the two Steelheads are impressing most, Hague especially. The six-foot-six behemoth has improved pretty much every facet of his game this season, and it’s showing up on the score sheet. He’s first among all OHL defencemen in goals and points, and goals and points per 60 minutes. In primary points per 60, he trails only former teammate Sean Day.

Tippett—who has 13 points in his past six games, including 11 goals—is firing shots like he’s playing a frantic game of Call of Duty. His 10 goals and 11 primary points are tied for first and fifth in the league, respectively, while his G/60 is seventh and his P1/60 is in the top 20. (For context, Tippett and Erie’s Alex DeBrincat are tied for first goals, and DeBrincat leads P1 with 14 and P1/60 at 4.64. Sudbury’s Dmitry Sokolov leads in G/60 at 3.83.)

Tippett’s been on the ice for a whopping 20 goals at 5-on-5 already, scoring 50 percent of them. His two-way play has been excellent.

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With Hamilton, Strome has been cruising the past four games at 2.00 P/G. But what stands out the most with him and fellow Bulldog Entwistle is the negative numbers in the goals-for percentage relative to their teammates. That’s what happens when your team gets out of the gates flying to lead the league in 5-on-5 goals and goal differential. (The surging Otters have just caught them in both categories.)

Veteran Bulldogs Matt Luff and Michael Cramarossa have been on fire (as has been draft-eligible import Marian Studenic), so that has taken pressure off Entwistle and Strome, and impacted the negative differential. It also doesn’t help that among the players highlighted here, they have the worst 5-on-5 on-ice goals-for and -against ratios.

Erie has been on a tear of late, and Lodnia’s production has been impressive in that it’s come while not playing with DeBrincat and the league’s leading scorer, Taylor Raddysh. While some would say that means he’s not seeing the best quality of competition, he’s been up against better players than Tippett and Strome to date, and that P/60 mark is top 25 overall.

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In Windsor, the team has weathered negative goal and shot differentials at 5-on-5 by dominating with the man advantage (18-54, 33.3%) and crushing every team that tries to stop it—No. 1 centre Logan Brown has 14 PP points already, nearly half his total from all of last season.

Vilardi is the early favourite to be the highest drafted of the Big 6. He’s playing out of position on the deep Spitfires and began the season on the shelf. So he’s behind in overall totals and still working his way back into a comfort zone. And the Spits are dominating at 5-on-5 when he’s on the ice—Vilardi’s GF% leads the league and he’s one of the only plus players among Windsor’s big scorers.

All in all, it’s an impressive bunch. Each has been pretty impressive at 5-on-5 and all six will be in the running to be picked on Day 1 of the NHL Draft in Chicago this coming June, with Vilardi, Hague and Tippett vying for the top 10.

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