Final 2024 OHL Draft Rankings

Posted on Jordan Malette
Adam Valentini

We are finally at the finish line. My final 2024 OHL Draft Rankings have been released, expanding to a final top 100. It's been quite the journey from starting to get to know the players last spring at various events to the end of the season OHL Cup, and I've greatly enjoyed getting to know the class.

With last year being my first year undertaking this project of creating an OHL Draft rankings, there were a lot of lessons learned and areas to improve my process. The critical difference year over year was knowing how much time needs to be invested from day 1 of the season to get to a product you're confident in by the finish line. I set out this year to leave no rock unturned, watching as much as I possibly could. I've kept a log of every game I've watched this season, mainly to track which team may be due for a viewing and help prioritize my time. All I will say is there has been no shortage of watching this season now that I have the final tally of complete games and individual shift-by-shift viewings.

Reflecting further on last year, while you could maybe give it the edge at the top of the class, the depth of the 2008s certainly comes out ahead. Looking forward to draft day, there is so many players I'd be excited to select in round two or three and even beyond. While there were players I liked in that range in the 2023 draft class, there are way more players that I'd be enthusiastic to select in that range come draft day. A team with multiple 2nd to 4th-round picks could come out of this class, transforming their team if everything goes right.

This final article is meant to share some closing thoughts on the class, justify some of my opinions, provide the usual high risers & debuts that come with monthly updates, and highlight some honourable mentions that didn't make my list but are players I'd be pitching to select at some point of the draft.


Two Candidates for 1st Overall

Over the past few months, and especially reinforced by the OHL Cup, I've solidified my belief that there is a 1A & 1B in this year's draft. Around the midway mark of the season, I started to feel Adam Valentini was separating himself from the pack, causing me to bump him up to #1 in January. I've become quite firm that I wouldn't consider another forward ahead of him, but the exception here is I can totally build a case for Zachary Nyman as worthy of the first overall selection.

To me, these are the only two genuine "build your franchise around" types of players available in the class; whether you're looking for the dominant playmaking 1C or the do-it-all #1 defenceman, these are the two options. With both of these players, I have very few concerns about how their game will translate and are the closest thing to a "slam dunk" pick in the class. I've talked about these players enough this season, and there are so many reports on their pages, so I don't need to go into depth here, but if I have #1, these are the two names I am debating.


The Next Tier of Considerations

There are four players that I would be considering with a 3rd overall selection, with some having a stronger case than others, but I could talk myself into putting them in almost any order. While this group is above the next tier of players on my list, the gap is minuscule, and I would certainly entertain a conversation about a player further down my list over these four.

This tier is made up of Braidy Wassilyn, Caleb Malhotra, Nathan Amidovski, and Alex Mclean. This group has lots to like, with each player bringing something slightly different, and I see a case to be made to rank these players in many different orders. While there are many players I can see a case to be made for 3rd, 4th, or 5th overall; if I were at a draft table, these are the four I'd be pushing for my team to select.

Like the two at the top of my list, I've written and hyped up these players all year long, and there are so many evaluations of them on their pages to get a sense of what they offer. For one reason or another, they are the players I believe in the most and would be willing to put my name beside on draft day.


Facilitators vs. Finishers

As it's becoming increasingly evident which players will go high in the draft, I expect lots of eye-brow raising and head-scratching at some of the choices I've made on my list as things inevitably won't align. You may be curious or confused with my ranking of some of the players expected to be selected early on draft day, and the concept of facilitators vs. finishers can mainly explain those deviations. Each player has unique reasons for being ranked where they are, but this concept plays a crucial part in a few of the biggest names I'll deviate from on draft day.

One of the most prevalent philosophies in my assessment and rankings is to place a heavy emphasis on the playdrivers. Especially at the top of the draft, I am looking for the players who make everything happen when they're on the ice, are relied upon in transition, and contribute to the game in many different ways. The players I think can drive a line at the OHL level are the ones I place a premium on, as they can become the foundational pieces on a team to build around for years to come. Given this philosophy, it's pretty easy to see why I have a player like Adam Valentini ranked at #1, as he is the epitome of a facilitator, making everything happen whenever he's on the ice and is the perfect player to build a line or roster around.

At the other end of the spectrum are the finishers, whose main selling point is their ability to score goals. These players all bring something unique to the table, but their primary source of value is finding the back of the net once play has been advanced to the offensive zone. These finishers are players who I can easily see how, if you put them with the right linemates, will find success, but a lot of their success wouldn't be possible without that facilitator. It's a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario, but it brings me back to valuing the facilitators, as the goal was only made possible by the sequences of events leading up to it. Scoring goals is critical, so I am not trying to discount the value of finishers; just if I am re-building a franchise, the elite facilitators are who I am after as they make everything possible for the finishers.

The other angle to this all is not having a roster to consider further complicates things. I don't have the luxury of being able to envision who a player will be playing with on my team and how they will be deployed. I don't have a specific need I am after and am more or less evaluating the players for what they bring to the table, neglecting any concept of need or fit within a team. As such, this pushes me further toward the facilitators, as in isolation, they are the players I think every team could benefit from selecting regardless of team needs. Putting myself in a team's shoes, I can understand why choosing the finishing talent could make sense if a team has all their facilitators in place. If my 2007s are trending well and I should have a few play drivers and playmakers among them, I see a case to be made that a finisher could be what the team needs to complement what we already have. However, in the absence of that, it is difficult for me to prop up players who I think need to be put with the right linemates to find success, as I don't have those combinations to hypothesize over.

This isn't meant to be an exhaustive explanation of how I build out my list and go through the valuation process, but it's sufficient enough to give some insight into things I'm looking for and how that shapes my list, especially as it pertains to it being different from what will happen on April 12th. Everyone has different philosophies that form their rankings, and I'm certainly not the be-all-end-all to say what's right and wrong in roster construction and valuation, but knowing what will likely happen on draft day, I felt obliged to shed some light on why my list deviates from what teams are doing.


High Risers

I did my best not to overweigh OHL Cup viewings and totally let it derail my list, erasing months of work leading up to the event. So, for the most part, I was doing minor tweaks within acceptable ranges, but a few players earned significant bumps up my list for one reason or another.

I've outlined this before, but I've been playing catchup with Caleb Malhotra all season. He missed a long stretch of the season, which coincided with the part of the year where I started to gain more confidence in my assessment of players, leaving him by the wayside. My initial list was based on a preliminary evaluation and was by no means a concrete ranking, so when my sample size grew on every player ranked around him, he kept getting bumped and bumped just by the natural process of understanding their game more than my fuzzy assessment of Caleb. He was great at the GTHL Top Prospects game, and in every game since then, he has been the focal point of the talented Vaughan forward group, skyrocketing him to 4th on my final list. Regardless of this injury aspect, I was still taken aback by how good Caleb looked at the end of the season and perplexed as to what I missed in the early days. I went back and watched some of his games from earlier in the season, and there certainly was some "awkwardness" to his mechanics, impacting his skating and handling. Everything has just gotten more refined throughout the season, making him a more fluid skater and presumably enhancing his confidence to take over the game more and more now that he feels more comfortable in his frame. Caleb's rise on my list has been fascinating to reflect on, and if he hadn't missed a good chunk of the season, I think I may be able to build up a case to put him a smidge higher.

Pierce Mbuyi is the second skater who made a strong push in the last month of the season, launching him from my late first to within my top ten. He's been dominant with every viewing of the Marlies, controlling play and making things happen with his top-notch playmaking. His skating is another selling point and something that will only keep improving, as his mechanics should set him up for continued growth and development. While his play has been impressive down the stretch, another factor is that this previous group from 10-20 on my list was incredibly tight. So when push came to shove, and I had to make my final decisions, Mbuyi was just someone who came out ahead when I challenged myself on who I'd be pushing for if I was at a draft table.

Jaxon Cover has been excellent in my viewings of York-Simcoe in the second half of the season and receives a sizeable bump from 75th to 50th on my final list. His ability to handle the puck, craftily escape pressure, and dominate as a puck manager within the offensive zone has become so apparent down the stretch of the season, resulting in his rise up my rankings. I recently learned that he only started playing hockey ~3 years ago, making his season and trending up my list all that more impressive.

Early in the season, I had flagged four Peterborough Petes as potential top 40 selections, but I hit a mental block with placing all of them there, given they sat in the bottom half of the OMHA East standings. Not that team success is a part of my evaluation process, but I was cautious that I might be overrating these players given their lack of team success, resulting in me easing them into my rankings. Since the new year, the Petes have gone on an absolute tear, and I've been adjusting them every month higher and higher. This trend continued with a combined result from the OMHA Championship and OHL Cup, with four Peterborough Petes being among the most significant jumps up my list month over month. Ryland Cunningham, Caleb Mitchell, and Kale Mace all follow the above narrative perfectly; being players, I was cautious about my initial evaluation until the Steve Richey, when I started to skyrocket them all up. Colin Fitzgerald slightly deviates from this storyline, being a player hovering in my late 1st / early 2nd range, and after a sensational OHL Cup, earned himself a decent uptick.


New Faces

The final list added twenty new names, expanding to a final 100. There were 1-2 surprises from the OHL Cup that earned spots, but for the most part, these twenty are players who have consistently stood out in my viewings and have been long on my watch list for potential inclusion.

Aiden O'Donnell (37th) has been a difficult one to get to the bottom of for a few reasons. The first and foremost is that determining which draft he's eligible for has been, lightly put, a mess. For months, I've been hearing conflicting reports of what draft he's eligible for, but it seems it has finally been settled and is an OHL Draft eligible. The second is that cross-evaluating a player in an environment that I am not familiar with is no easy feat. I have no real perception of the Nova Scotian U18 league, so watching a few games can be tough to get a read on a player's abilities. Finally, deciding where to rank a player you've seen 5-6 times relative to players you've seen 30 is never a fair fight, and you'll always lean toward the players you're more familiar with. However, from these views, combined with the Youth Olympics, I've landed on Aiden having the tools to be a solid complimentary piece to a line, thriving on the cycle, and adding a scoring touch. There's lots to like about him, and my ranking of him is certainly flexible and is more of a placeholder to denote him as someone eligible for the draft rather than me feeling confident he should be ranked 37th.

Lincoln Baker (48th) is a player who has impressed with every viewing this year. At the end of every month, as I sorted out who to include in my list as I expanded things, he always sat in the small group of players to consider. It took focusing on him over the Alliance playoffs and the Hawks OHL Cup play-in game to earn him a spot, but inevitably, he was one the highest debuts, coming in as the highest debut among "true" Ontario skaters. He's incredibly mobile and controls play almost every time he's on the ice, displaying he's exactly what I am looking for in defenders.

A sub-theme of the new additions is HEO players earning spots, with 25% of the latest adds being from my local Ottawa circuit. I try not to let regional bias seep into my list, potentially verging on being too critical of the players in my backyard, but after seeing many of them thrive at the OHL Cup, they more than earned spots. Jordan Perrier (66th) leads the way among HEO additions with the highest debut. He's been a player on my radar since day 1 of the season, as the tools are sensational, and he would undoubtedly be on a list of "most skilled" in the class. I've long considered him as an addition to my list, but I've been skeptical about how he applies his tools to drive positive results, erring on the side of caution to not overvalue the "flash." Over the HEO playoffs and OHL Cup, I've seen him use his skills more practically, making me more optimistic about how his game could translate to junior, earning him a spot as one of the highest debuts.

Dax Kenney (88th) & Max Mews (99th) fit under a similar theme of players I really liked in the early days of the season but missed considerable time this year. They looked great early, and considering how much time they missed, they performed well in viewings at the end of the season. There are certainly players whose whole body of work this season is greater than these two. Still, given how strong they looked after missing tons of time, I'd be kicking myself if I left them off my list and they continue to develop into the quality players I think they can become. They are likely players who go later than I have them, but they're two players who could be solid gambles to outperform their draft slot.


Honourable Mentions

With watching so much hockey this season and needing to draw a line somewhere on how long the list will grow, inevitably, there are plenty of players left off that I've enjoyed watching this season. I've outlined this before, but after around pick 70, the margins between players start to be negligible, and as such, I could have included about half of these honourable mentions on my list. The other half are players I've enjoyed their game this season, and if still available, they would be on my shortlist for a late-round selection. Nonetheless, these are all players I'd be willing to select at some point on draft day.

Andrew Willis (D) - Elgin Middlesex Canucks
Brady Smith (D) - Oshawa Generals
Brandon Rockwell (F) - Eastern Ontario Wild
Brayden Boyle (F) - York-Simcoe Express
Cam Monk (F) - Oshawa Generals
Colton Bain (F) - Oshawa Generals
Colton Radford (F) - Huron Perth Lakers
Colton Woods (F) - Mississauga Rebels
Devran Brown (D) - Ottawa Myers Automotive
Dylan Orr (D) - Ottawa Jr. 67s
Greg Najda (F) - Oakville Rangers
Jack Foley (F) - Greater Kingston Gaels
Jake DiCapo (F) - Toronto Marlboros
James Elliott (F) - Barrie Colts
Jordan Mayo (F) - Greater Kingston Gaels
Justin Anselmo (F) - York-Simcoe Express
Mason Walker (F) - Sudbury Wolves
Matthew Airhart (F) - Quinte Red Devils
Matthew Miller (F) - Cambridge Hawks
Michael Alexiou (F) - Toronto Titans
Nicolas Rosati (F) - Windsor Jr. Spitfires
Oleg Neyevin (F) - Don Mills Flyers
Owen Barfoot (F) - North York Rangers
Owen Kelly (F) - Peterborough Petes
Rowan Sang (F) - Oakville Rangers
Santiago Jimenes (F) - Windsor Jr. Spitfires
Trace Whitlock (F) - Clarington Toros
Tyler Clark (F) - Vaughan Kings
Vincent Bondy (D) - Sun County Panthers
Xavier Tessier (F) - Ottawa Myers Automotive

Well, there you have it, my final 2024 OHL Draft rankings. It's been quite the project getting to know so many of these players, and I'm looking forward to what lies ahead for all of them, regardless of where I have them on my list, as there is so much potential for them to develop into quality players.

For more detailed scouting and game reports on each player in our top 100, visit the 2024 OHL Draft Rankings page.

Jordan Malette