After a busy month of scouting, my initial top twenty for the 2024 OHL Draft is here. I've gotten to know the 2008 Ontario crop well over the last six-ish months, and it is a very exciting group of players. There are so many players I left just off this list that I am super excited about watching more of this season. Leaving them off my first list was hard, but there could only be so many names.
With last season being my first time through this, I didn't know what to expect. Having coached in this area, I was familiar with the OHL Draft process from an Ottawa area perspective, but my province-wide knowledge was nearly non-existent. In retrospect, it feels naive given the province's enormous player pool of 50+ teams, but entering the year, I severely underestimated how much work was required to be confident in your evaluations and release an OHL Draft list. This oversight set me back quite a bit, and I was constantly playing catch-up all year after a slow start to the season. I only state this as it significantly shaped how I planned to tackle the 2008s for the 2024 OHL Draft season. From just the Titans Tournament alone, I watched just shy of 40 games to ensure I set myself up for success with a solid foundation of the players available in the draft.
Given these lessons learned and changes to my approach, I feel more confident in these rankings relative to my initial list last year. The time I put in over the spring and summer events to start to untangle this class made a significant difference in understanding the landscape better. While those summer views aren't weighed heavily in the rankings, they were a critical part of deriving a list of players to focus on in the early days of the season. While I feel more confident, that doesn't mean this list is perfect. There are so many players I debated including in the final spots, and over time, there will undoubtedly be changes in my top 20, but as of now, these are the players I feel most comfortable with.
The purpose of this write-up is to voice my thoughts and rationale for the rankings rather than dissect the player's game. The intent is to provide background and context with how the list was created to help be transparent with the process. These players all have many game reports on their player pages that can be accessed via the links on their name. Some have upwards of seven evaluations already, so if you want to know more about what the player offers, their player page is the go-to resource.
1. Braidy Wassilyn (F) - Markham Majors: Surprise, surprise, Braidy Wassilyn starts the year in the #1 spot. At the start of the year, I thought someone could challenge him for the top spot, but I don't see that happening anymore. His technical abilities and offensive talents are just so far ahead of the class, and I couldn't reasonably entertain anyone ahead of him. Every time he touches the puck, there is a near guarantee that he will make something happen and, more often than not, in highlight-reel fashion.
2. Adam Valentini (F) - Toronto Marlboros: Valentini opens the year in a tier of his own at second on my rankings. At this moment, I see him comfortably behind Wassilyn but also comfortably ahead of the rest of the pack. In my viewings of the Marlboros, Valentini was the consistent force driving so much of the play. He's a speedy and shifty centerman who can create loads of offence through his own individual skills but is also the premier playmaker available in the draft.
3. Zachary Nyman (D) - Vaughan Kings: I didn't expect Nyman to land quite this high, but as views went on of the forwards behind him, I grew more and more skeptical of any of them separating themselves from the pack—my confidence in Nyman as the top defender kept leapfrogging forwards, landing him in the three spot. Nyman's suburb skating, combined with constant involvement and aggressive playstyle, is everything I am looking for in a defender.
4. Alex Mclean (F) - Barrie Colts: As I mentioned above, the next few forwards were challenging to separate, and I played with the order of this group from four to eight so much before settling on this order. In this group, there is an apparent divide between elite playmakers and players who combine high-end skill and physical tools. I will generally lean toward the top-end playmakers over the phyiscal tools, which impacted how this group unfolded. Behind Valentini, Mclean is one of the best distributors in the class who can pick apart opposing defences with clever passing.
5. Maximus Crete (F) - Upper Canada Cyclones: Crete is among what I think are a few potentially "bold" takes in my rankings. Similar to what I described about Nyman, the combination of uncertainty around skaters in this range and my excitement about Max skyrocketed him up my initial rankings. He's one of the most unselfish players in the draft, an elite playmaker, and makes everything tick on the Upper Canada Cyclones. Last season, I made the "mistake" of being too harsh on my local Ottawa area players and kept Quinn Beauchesne too low on my rankings for too long. After how he performed at the Toronto Titans Tournament, I was sure not to do the same as he proved he belonged in this upper tier.
6. Tyler Challenger (F) - North York Rangers: Challenger is a second take that may come across as bold. In my viewings of the North York Rangers, I found Tyler to be, by far and away, their best player. He's an incredibly explosive and powerful skater who is dominant off the rush, protects the puck from defenders to the exterior and uses his size advantage to cut in toward the net shift after shift. Adding to the skating and physical tools, Challenger's play in small areas, made possible by his high-end puck skills, is fantastic. He thrives along the boards, can navigate out of any pressure, and can create so many chances off the cycle. I came away thinking Tyler combined some of the best elements from Ryan Roobroeck and Shamar Moses' game, which is a fascinating player worthy of this rank. Now, the caveat here is the penalty trouble. For this ranking, I have mainly ignored the slew of nasty penalties Challenger took over the Toronto Titans Tournament and focused on assessing his tools. Penalty trouble led me to sour on a few players last season, and if that trend continues with Tyler, he certainly won't finish the year this high.
7. Nathan Amidovski (F) - Barrie Colts: As the players ranked right before and after him, Nathan has an intriguing combination of physical tools and offensive skills. His placement between them is fitting, as he combines a bit of Challenger's power and Cali's finesse into his own unique style. In some games, I've come away thinking Amidovski was Barrie's top forward, rightfully earning his place in this upper echelon of talent. He's a strong skater, but the selling point is in the puck skills, as Nathan has all of the nifty moves to navigate around any check, solve any problem, and create dangerous chances by the boatload.
8. Ryder Cali (F) - Markham Majors: Entering the season, Cali wasn't someone on my radar for potential inclusion this high, but with every view, his play kept earning him a spot higher and higher on my list. I was blown away at the Titans Tournament by his combination of fine skating mechanics and puck skills, all while in his big frame. It's rare to find a player so agile and deceptive at his size, making him a premium asset in the draft. As this group of forwards is so congested, I could easily see Ryder playing his way up well into my top five by season's end.
9. Callum Croskery (D) - Oakville Rangers: At this moment, I am much more excited about this defence crop than I was this time last year, and Callum is a significant component of that belief. I adore defencemen who want to involve themselves in every play and are never passive, and that's precisely what Croskery is. Anytime Callum is on the ice, he is looking for ways to impact the play, whether it's activating to join the rush or suppressing opponents' transitions, he's always there making an impact. His involvement is made possible by his top-end skating abilities, mainly his lateral and four-way mobility.
10. Logan Hawery (F) - Barrie Colts: Logan is an excellent puck manager, always prioritizing possession and frequently finding ways to chain plays together to advance play into the dangerous areas of the ice. It's never anything flashy or fancy, but Logan's game is efficient and generates piles of scoring chances for the Colts. This placement of Logan Hawery may be a surprise as he was one of the top names to watch entering the season. I watched Logan play plenty last season and was always very impressed with the maturity in his game and how he fit in with the 2007 age group. Fast forward to this season, and I've just felt others have outperformed him in the early stages of the season, but there's still so much hockey to be played, and Logan is more than capable of earning a higher spot in my rankings as the months go on.
11. Beckham Edwards (F) - Detroit Little Caesars: An underlying theme of any OHL draft season is a slew of top talent playing south of the border, and this year is no different. Beckham is one of three on this list that fit into that bucket, suiting up with the Little Caesars program. Cross-evaluation of these players can be difficult, but he's impressed whenever I've watched. Beckham is a smart puck manager with a practical approach to his game. He doesn't rely on flashy moves to create value but deliberate and methodical puck touches to advance play up ice and into the dangerous parts of the ice.
12. Luca Blonda (D) - Pittsburgh Penguins Elite: Luca is one of two Ontario-born skaters playing south of the border with the Pens Elite Program. There are a lot of similarities between Croskery and Blonda, both incredibly aggressive defenders who love to involve themselves in absolutely everything. After a handful of views of dissecting each of their games back to back, I came away thinking Callum's overall mobility was slightly ahead of Luca's, giving him the edge on my rankings. Nonetheless, Luca is undeniably one of the top defenders in this class and someone I am always excited to watch.
13. Alexander Hage (F) - Vaughan Kings: Hage starts a duo of forwards who stylistically are players I will always lean towards. The high-end puck skills combined with elite playmaking and creativity Hage offers are a perfect blend of tools that excites me about a player. Anytime I tune in for a Vaughan game, Hage is the one I am most impressed with as the leader of their offence, creating so many chances for those around him.
14. Christian Armstrong (F) - Oakville Rangers: This is where deciding on names became difficult. In the days leading up to finalizing my list, I went through tape of the roughly 30 players I had tagged as a late first/early second-round pick to decide on these final seven slots. Christian as the second and final Oakville Ranger may come as another surprise, but every time I watch that team play, Armstrong stands out as the offensive mastermind. In the early days of the season, Christian is one of the most deceptive and crafty puck handlers, opening up many passing lanes for him to excel as a playmaker. The on-puck creativity and manipulation remind me a lot of Saginaw Spirit's 1st round pick, Aiden Young, which is a promising comparison.
15. Kent Greer (D) - Barrie Colts: Greer is the fourth and final defender to crack my initial 2024 OHL Draft rankings. He's the smallest of the other defenders on my initial rankings, but he more than makes up for it in other areas. He's an aggressive defender who contributes all over the ice and is a big part of Barrie's offence. Of the defenders available in the class, Kent is one of the better disruptors in the neutral zone, and his constant suppression of opponents' transitions is crucial to getting his Barrie Colts back on the attack. I mentioned above that Amidovski was one of Barrie's top forwards in some games I've watched, and that wording was deliberate as in a few games, I've come away thinking Kent was their most impactful skater.
16. Dima Zhilkin (F) - Toronto Jr Canadiens: Entering the year, I figured Dima would be one of my personal favourites in the class despite not being ranked super high, similar to how I championed Evan Malkhassian all last year. So, I was pleasantly surprised when every game I watched of JRC, Zhilkin was consistently their top performer and, in some cases, their only source of offence. The creativity and playmaking in Dima's game are fantastic and more than earned him a spot on my initial list.
17: Caleb Malhotra (F) - Vaughan Kings: After Nyman and Hage, determining who on the mighty Vaughan Kings was making the most impact was quite tricky. There are so many talented players on that roster who all made compelling cases to be included on this initial list. Philosophically, I will typically lean toward the play drivers in favour of the goal-scoring wingers, which shaped who from the Vaughan Kings I included. Whenever I watched Vaughan, I thought that Caleb was one of the few driving the play and making everyone around him's job easier. He's one of the Kings' most influential playmakers, frequently setting up their many talented scoring threats for glorious chances.
18. Alessandro Di Iorio (F) - Vaughan Kings: As I alluded to above, Di Iorio was one of the main play drivers on the Vaughan Kings. Alessandro is the only player on this list I hadn't seen entering the year, making his performance at the Toronto Titans Tournament a proper first impression. I was impressed with Alessandro's combination of speed, lateral agility, and puck skills and how he applied those tools to attack open space and create scoring chances. Di Iorio has a mighty shot and is a threat to score from anywhere on the ice. Given the low sample size, he's someone that I have starred as having the potential to climb up my rankings as I watch him more and gain confidence in my assessment.
19. Jackson Halloran (F) - York-Simcoe Express: These last two spots were some of the hardest decisions on the list. There are so many players I went through to narrow down the choices, but at the end of the day, I went with two players who have consistently performed every time I've seen them. Jackson is an explosive skating, play-driving centerman who can push the pace and make his mark in the transition game. There is no shortage of offensive ability, as Halloran uses his speed to attack open gaps in the defence, penetrating for scoring chances.
20. Nikolas Rossetto (F) - Pittsburgh Penguins Elite: Rossetto is the final Ontario-born skater playing in the USA circuit that cracked my initial top 20. As mentioned above, Rossetto is someone I have watched plenty of times, and every time has always made a positive impression. Nik is an impressive combination of an explosive and laterally agile skater with all the puck skills required to dodge oncoming pressure and dominate the transition game. He's an impactful playmaker, creating so many chances for those around him, and simply checks all the boxes for what I am looking for in a player.
There it is, the first OHL draft rankings of the 2024 scouting season. It's been a fun month grinding away to get this result, but the season is only beginning, and there is so much hockey to watch. From now on, I will be updating my rankings at the start of every month and expanding by 20 until we get to the final top 100 by season's end.
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