2024 OHL Draft Rankings Update - Top 80

Posted on Jordan Malette
Zach Nyman

Another month has passed, so we have yet another shakeup of my OHL draft rankings. The list has been expanded to eighty and can be accessed via the 2024 OHL Draft Rankings page.

In February, I continued on my mission to fine-tune my list as much as possible with isolated shift-by-shift viewings of as many players as I could. I got through a view of almost everyone on my list, which is the key component behind most of the changes in this month's update. After another pass-through, I made fewer and fewer changes, and I'm starting to feel more and more confident about how things are taking shape.

League playoffs have also started to get underway, which I have been and will continue watching closely. We're slowly getting closer and closer to the finish line, with only a month and a half left until the OHL Draft. I'll be cramming in as much hockey as I can over that time to ensure the final product is as precise as I can get it.


Changes in the Top 10

There were two shakeups in the top ten this month; one was a long time in the making, and the other I would have never guessed would happen if you asked me months ago. Since day 1 of the season, Zachary Nyman has been the only constant on my list, sitting at #3 with every passing month. I've been working through the Braidy Wassilyn vs. Adam Valentini debate for months now, and in the back of my mind has always been the idea of Nyman being worthy of being included in this conversation.

It was a bit of a thought experiment that led to the change in deliberating what I would do with the 2nd overall pick, assuming Valentini was selected first. Essentially, it came down to being willing to entertain an argument for players like Nathan Amidovski, Alex Hage, or even Parker Vaughan at two over Braidy Wassilyn. In contrast, I don't think I'm as willing to budge on those players above Nyman. The logic isn't perfect, but these hypotheticals are all I have to challenge myself when you don't have a roster and positional needs to consider that a team otherwise would.

The "surprise" was Parker Vaughan jumping from 10th to 7th. I've long been confident with his placement in a tier with players spanning from 8 to 15 on my list, but recently, I've begun to think he's much closer to players in my top 5. I watched an EMC playoff game over February, which he was excellent in, but the main selling point was his dominant play in a GOJHL game. He was fantastic in that game, taking over whenever he was on the ice and showcasing how well he should transition to the junior game. He's an incredibly powerful skater, tactical puck manager, and has a lethal shot, so Parker definitely has all the tools worthy of a high selection.


The Rise of Ethan Belchetz

For a few months now, I've been quietly, slowly, and slowly bumping Ethan up on my list, waiting for the right time to dive into this one, and this month feels like the right time. I've known where he was likely to go in the draft all season, understanding full well my ranking of him was putting me on an island versus "consensus." There's a lot I can say here, but it can all be neatly summed up into every month you're getting my honest opinion at that time. My goal has never been to mirror what will happen on draft day, but to use my list to showcase who I'd be vouching for if I were on a scouting team. Sometimes, going through my process means starting players lower until I gain confidence in them, and the frequency of monthly updates allows for this to occur naturally without being pressured to place a player where I don't feel comfortable and can slowly adjust things with every passing month.

I could go into great detail explaining why I've had Ethan where I've had him, but all that truly matters is why he's been trending up my list month after month. Many factors go into his continued upward movement, but the most important is the growth and development he's realized over the season. I've watched him a lot, and I mean a lot, over February, and the strides he's made since the start of the year are undeniable. His skating and overall fluidity have improved tremendously over the year. He can change direction more seamlessly, allowing him to play in motion and escape pressure much more easily than at the start of the season. While there is continued room to grow in this department, and getting more agile and quicker laterally will be a crucial area for Ethan's development, seeing how far he's come over the last six months is a good sign for what lies ahead. As a result of this improvement, I am less concerned about how he'll handle pressure at the next level and should be more equipped to fend off junior-level defenders, assuming his skating keeps trending in this direction.

As I started noting around the Silver Stick, the second layer to this is that he's slowly becoming more and more impactful as a passer. He's shown to be more than just an off-puck player who is deadly around the net when his teammates spot him; he can also create for those around him. It's possible I missed this element in my early assessment of his game, but it's slowly starting to come out more and more as the season goes on, leading me to be more optimistic as he diversifies his game.

As evidenced by this lengthy write-up, I've spent a lot of time thinking about Belchetz and where I stand. With him being a candidate for #1 overall, I've been questioned and challenged many times, causing me to double and triple-check my assessment of him before finalizing my list every month. Until now, I've held firm with him in that late first to early second round tier, but for reasons outlined above, I'm starting to feel more comfortable selecting him much earlier, thus the bump to where he is now at 11th. I'll certainly keep watching and tweaking as I see fit, but as of now, I'm not sure I can see a case to move him considerably higher, given where I stand on the players ahead of him, but we'll see how the rest of the year shakes out.


High Risers

Aside from Belchetz, there were some notable upward movements stemming from this goal of fine-tuning my list by hyperfocusing on a player by watching their shifts solely. These isolated check-ins are significantly more detailed, catching everything a player does during a game, and offer a much more concrete view of their skills and projection when compared to watching an entire game where you will inevitably miss some things.

In terms of raw change, Camden McCuaig was the highest riser, moving from 70th to 50th. My rankings are a two-step process, where the first step is determining that a player belongs on the list over the hundreds of players I could include, and the second step is getting them in the right spot. McCuaig's jump showcases this process, where once I finally settled on him being included last month, he saw a significant jump after I started to think about him more relative to players on my list rather than comparing him to players on my watchlist. I highlighted this in my write-up from a recent playoff game, but Camden's overall skating tools and mechanics have all come together nicely since the start of the season, making me much more optimistic about him moving forward.

Pierce Mbuyi jumps from 26th to 17th, landing him in my late first round. The late teens to late twenties range has been very murky to me all year, but with an increased focus on this range, I came out thinking Mbuyi was clearly ahead of his previously early second-round counterparts. His playmaking is the selling point, as he can constantly find his teammates wherever they are on the ice, and he has consistently shown he is among the premier playmakers in the class.

There was a significant theme of defenders on the rise in this month's ranking update. Sam Wathier and Alexander Bilecki entered my late first round, Jet Kwajah and Patrick Babin jumped over 10 spots, and Blake Barnes and Mason Roy saw minor but relevant increases. I could dive into each of these individually, but the core idea is becoming increasingly optimistic about their projectability to the junior level. It always takes me a while to untangle the defence class, but I've grown increasingly optimistic about these players, resulting in bumps in my rankings.

Finally, a trio of GTHL forwards were among some of the highest rises, with Kayden Brand, Jalen Lobo, and Jacob Bultje all receiving notable upticks in their placement. These three can all be grouped into a similar theme of "secondary" players on powerful teams. As their teams are so strong, they can sometimes fall by the wayside in my viewings relative to the many other talented players on their teams. Via isolating their play for a game, it became apparent that they deserved a bump for one reason or another.


New Additions

Ten new faces were added to my list, getting us to a clean eighty before expanding to a final 100 in about a month. I have been tracking all ten of these players closely for the past few months, keeping a close eye on them as I figured they would eventually earn a spot on my list. As such, there isn't really any cohesive theme, and these are just players who have consistently impressed over the season and are now finally being added to my rankings.

The one player I want to highlight more in-depth is Caleb Mitchell, who debuted at 45th. He follows a unique storyline, as I adored Caleb's play in the early days of the season, mainly from the Toronto Titans Tournament. At the last minute of finalizing my initial top 20, I seriously considered including him, but he inevitably just missed the cut. After those heightened expectations, I thought he was only okay over subsequent views at the Silver Stick, so he fell a bit down my priority list. Fast forward to recent viewings, and he reminded me exactly why I was so high on him at the outset of the year, resulting in him being the highest debut by a wide margin.

March is the final month of the scouting season, with the marquee OHL Cup taking place at the end of the month, showcasing the best teams across the province against one another. Until then, I'll watch as many playoff games as possible to get my list in as much order as possible before the OHL Cup. It's been a fun and exciting season covering the Ontario 2008s, so I'm looking forward to what these last few weeks have in store and seeing how the draft plays out.

For more detailed scouting and game reports on each player in our top 80, visit the 2024 OHL Draft Rankings page.

Jordan Malette