The Sunday Top 10 returns today as we look at players who were previously passed over in the NHL Draft, but are still age eligible. With the new CBA, North American players have the opportunity to be drafted three times before they become unrestricted free agents (well there is actually another rule in place which allows players to be signed in a small window following the draft and during rookie camps, like the signings of such OHL guys like Brian Lashoff and Adam Courchaine in past offseasons). This means that for the 2009 NHL Draft, North American players born in 1991, 1990, and 1989 are eligible to be drafted.
Since the draft has decreased down to 7 rounds, more and more talented players are finding themselves on the outside looking in on draft day. That also means that more and more, players are finding themselves getting drafted at age 19 or 20, following breakout seasons. Just as an example, OHL'ers Andrew Campbell, Matt Martin, Justin Azevedo, Mike Murphy, and Justin DiBenedetto all found themselves drafted in 2008 after being passed over in previous seasons.
Here is my top 10 OHL players who were previously passed over in the NHL draft, but could get a call in the 2009 Draft.
10. Dan Kelly - Kitchener Rangers
Kelly had a bit of a rough season after breaking his ankle early in the season when he was slew footed by Attack forward Garrett Wilson. Kitchener also failed to make the postseason for the first time in Kelly's three year career. However, I don't think either will sour scouts on him. Kelly is widely considered one of the better stay at home defenseman in the OHL. While not physically imposing at only 6'0, 190lbs, Kelly manages to use his great hockey sense and solid positional play to shutdown opposing offenses. In this years OHL Coaches Poll, Kelly was named the third best penalty killer and second best defensive defenseman in the West. He is smart with the puck and makes a good first pass out of the zone. He also has strong mobility and could likely one day be a very serviceable third pairing NHL defenseman. As a 1989 born, this is Kelly's last chance at being drafted.
9. David Kolomatis - Owen Sound Attack
A lot of people in the OHL Scouting community actually believed Kolomatis would hear his name called in 2008, after a breakout season in Owen Sound, however that was not to be. Kolomatis came back this season even better, scoring 18 goals from the blueline. He is a very good offensive blueliner who loves to pinch on the play and has a very accurate shot. A lot of his points are generated from a good low shot which he gets through from the point. He's generally just a very smart offensive player who reacts well to the play. He's also an outstanding skater who uses his mobility to his full advantage. Defensively, I think he has improved. He's still not a strong two way player, but he's making strides and learning to pick his spots better for the rush. If Ryan Wilson can get an NHL contract with the same offensively abilities, defensive shortcomings but minus the outstanding skating, I can't see why Kolomatis should not eventually get a look as well. As an 89, this is also Kolomatis' last chance at being drafted. Actually interestingly enough, Kolomatis recently signed a tryout contract with Providence in the AHL and has already played one game there without registering a point. I wonder if the Bruins are interested in him?
8. Brett Parnham - Oshawa Generals
Another 89 looking to finally be drafted is this crafty, undersized forward. Parnham actually finished second in the OHL this season with 50 goals and was shown a lot of respect by OHL coaches in this years coaches poll. He was named the most dangerous player in the goal area and the player with the best shot in the East. He finished third in voting for hardest shot in the East. He can absolutely light the lamp, that is for sure. Where the concerns come in are his size and skating. At only 5'9, Parnham is the type of player who likes to enter the danger areas and is most dangerous operating in the slot. At his size, will he be able to physically handle the punishment? He's also only an average skater, which means will he be able to outskate defenders to get into scoring lanes at the next level. While his drive and effort are there, you wonder if he could be an NHL player. I think that if he was a little bigger or a little better of a skater, he'd be up near the top of this list. But without those qualities, he's a longshot at best. Still though, you can't deny his ability to put the puck in the net. Parnham is actually another guy who has signed a tryout contract with an AHL team to close out the season. He is playing for Rochester and has 0 points in 6 games. The Rochester Americans are the club team of the Florida Panthers which makes you wonder if they have interest in him.
7. Shawn Szydlowski - Erie Otters
Szydlowski is a 1990 born power forward who was passed over in last years draft. He's taken great strides forward offensively this season, finishing 4th in goals for a very balanced Erie scoring attack. At 6'0, 200lbs, he likes to use his size effectively as he drives towards the net. He is good around the boards and on the cycle and actually is a fairly effective skater for a big man. He also plays on the Erie penalty kill, where he again uses his size and physical play to be a big part of the PK unit. With Hodgman, Biggers, Gazdic and likely Torquato all moving on to the pros, Syzdlowski is likely to take an even bigger step forward next season when he becomes a main cog offensively and on the PK with Ryan O'Reilly.
6. Matt Kennedy - Guelph Storm
In the 2009 OHL Coaches Poll, Kennedy was named the West's most underrated player and hardest working player. I think about sums up his abilities. Kennedy is the type of forward who goes out there and leaves it all on the ice. He forechecks hard, plays both ways, takes the body, fights, and does all the little things that some players are hesitant to do. The biggest difference this season was his production offensively, where he jumped from 17 goals and 21 points in 2008 to 33 goals and 73 points in 2009, leading Guelph in scoring. His skating isn't amazing, but it isn't poor either. He could likely be a contributing player on an NHL checking line sometime in the future. Kennedy also signed a tryout contract in the AHL with Syracuse. Syracuse is Columbus's AHL club which makes you wonder if Columbus has interest in him. In 2 games, Kennedy has been held pointless.
5. Jaroslav Janus - Erie Otters
I think a lot of people probably recognize Janus' name from this past World Juniors where he was absolutely spectacular for a surprising Slovakian team. Truth is, a lot of people expected Janus to get drafted last season after playing decently for a terrible Otters team. However he went undrafted and bounced back strong this season. Janus was probably the main reason Erie was able to return to the playoffs. He is an incredibly athletic goaltender who moves laterally just about as good as any goalie I've seen. He also anticipates the play exceptionally well and is usually able to get himself into good position. On the downside, he has the habit of overplaying and flopping around, and he can get in trouble when teams look to go high. He also needs to continue to work on his rebound control, as often time his highlight reel saves are nothing more than necessity due to a juicy rebound. But the athletic and game stealing ability are hard to ignore. I'd be incredibly surprised if he doesn't have his name called in 2009.
4. Jason Akeson - Kitchener Rangers
Akeson is actually an interesting story. Last season he played for Cumberland Tier 2 and was having a successful season playing with linemmate Eric O'Dell. However just after midseason, his linemmate decided to jump ship to the OHL and had oustanding success with Sudbury, leading to a draft selection in the 2nd round. Trying to prove that he wasn't exactly chopped liver, Akeson also jumped ship late last season to Kitchener, however due to the teams depth, he wasn't really able to contribute much offensively. This season has been a different story, as Akeson finished the season 2nd in scoring in Kitchener. He has elite on ice vision and is an outstanding playmaker. He is able to slow the game down in the offensive zone and has no problem working the danger areas at only 5'10, 190lbs. His size doesn't really hurt him either, as he has excellent lower body strength and works the cycle fairly effectively. He's also a good skater. I think that this guy will continue to get better and better in this league and it'd probably be in some NHL teams best interest to claim his rights sooner rather than later. As a 1990, this is really his first full season in the OHL.
3. Luke Pither - Belleville Bulls
Pither has always been one of those guys who's got a ton of talent, but for whatever reason just was never able to put it all together. There were questions regarding his work ethic and his willingness to play in traffic and this lead to his exit from a vastly defensively oriented Guelph Storm team at the trade deadline. In Belleville, Pither absolutely exploded, being able to use the large ice to explore his offensive creativity and to give him more room to get into scoring lanes. He finished the season with 42 points in 23 games with Belleville. That's nearly as good as John Tavares' point per game average and stretched over a full season at that rate, Pither would have lead the OHL in scoring by a rather significant margin. He has an NHL caliber shot which he needs very little time to get off. He skates well and he loves to lead the charge into the offensive zone. He still has some flaws, like his willingness to become involved defensively and physically, but you can't teach his natural offensive abilities. Again, I'd be surprised if he isn't taken at least with a late round draft pick, especially since it's his last year of eligibility as an 89.
2. Darren Archibald - Barrie Colts
Archibald is another interesting story. He played last season for the Stouffville Spirit of the OPJHL. On that team, he played with current Kingston star Ethan Werek, and 2nd round draft pick and Boston University freshman Corey Trivino. He was overshadowed by them and failed to get drafted in his first year of eligibility. This season he made the transfer for the OHL, similar to Werek, with equally good results. However Werek has been getting all the hype (probably because he's a year younger). However don't sleep on Archibald. I think he's one of the best kept secrets in the OHL. He's got great size at 6'3, 200lbs, and he's still learning to use it. As the season went along, he began to use his size more and began to throw his body around. He's actually a good and elusive skater for his size and is not afraid to take the puck to the net. I think he also has some underrated puck skills, as I've seen him turn a few defenseman inside out. Archibald also had a great playoffs, leading Barrie in scoring in their round 1 loss to Mississauga. He had 4 goals and 3 assists in 5 games. I think he's a budding power forward prospect and I wouldn't hesitate to use a top 3 round selection on him.
1. Matt Hackett - Plymouth Whalers
Hackett exploded on to the scene this season, stealing the starting job from NHL second rounder Jeremy Smith and forcing his trade to Niagara. He has been a force all season and has probably been the 3rd best goalie in the league this season behind Mike Murphy and Thomas McCollum. He is a solid technically sound goalie who challenges shooters, covers his angles well, moves well in his crease, controls rebounds and who is constantly improving. Considering that he's having an outstanding playoffs so far, I expect his star to continue to rise. He was 8th at midterm for NA Goalies on the CSB list, and that was before Plymouth's monster run in the standings where he had a .925 SV% in January and February. I would put him right up there with Edward Pasquale and Scott Stajcer for the best the OHL has to offer at the position for the draft and because of that, I'd anticipate him being a top 60 selection.
Stay tuned for next Sunday's edition where I'll be looking at the 1992 born rookies who impressed me the most this season!