With the passing of another month comes a new OHL Draft rankings. My OHL Draft rankings have been updated and expanded to a top 40 and can be accessed via the 2024 OHL Draft Center.
This month was another hefty schedule on the scouting calendar. I watched nearly every game between two Ontario teams at the Whitby Silver Stick, which, as expected, heavily influenced this iteration of the rankings. The HEO and Alliance Showcases further helped supplement the Silver Stick viewings with detailed looks at each of those leagues. Finally, I did my best to catch a league play game of teams not in attendance at these events to ensure I had an updated evaluation of every player in the class before updating and expanding to a top 40.
I mentioned last time that it was challenging to decide on the last few names, and of course, the same applied to this version. Especially as we enter the late 2nd / early 3rd round tier, the margins are starting to be thin, and decisions are challenging. I considered almost 20 players for the final five spots and could have gone many ways. This group from the 30-60 range will be my next puzzle to untangle and gain more confidence in my ordering as I increase my sample sizes to help split the hairs of these marginal differences.
The #1 Overall Debate
Entering the year, I fully expected to come out of the Titans Tournament with a 1A/1B situation at the top of the draft between Braidy Wassilyn and Adam Valentini, potentially with Adam in my #1 spot. Throughout the tournament, Braidy was sensational, and while Adam performed well, it wasn't quite the level I hoped for.
Flash forward to the Silver Stick, and Valentini was on a mission to take that top spot. He created so much offence and was the heart and soul of the Toronto Marlboros, the runner-up to the uberly talented Vaughan Kings. After such a performance, I could easily move Adam into the top spot, but I'll refrain until I am more confident he will remain there. The last thing I want to do is to keep flip-flopping these two every month based on who performed better in my latest viewing. At this point, all that matters is that they are both incredibly talented players who deserve to be in the conversation for the #1 overall spot.
New Entrants in the Top 10
This month, my time was mostly spent narrowing down the list of 40 names I had tagged as potential inclusions to a final 20 new faces. However, with plenty of views at the Silver Stick and other events came many changes within the existing top 20. It was a lot of nitpicking, watching shift-by-shift tape of every player and moving players a spot or two accordingly, but there were some notable changes.
Alexander Hage is the biggest mover, climbing from 13th to 5th. I spoke to this in my initial list, in that the range from 5th to 10th was very tight, and players had many opportunities to earn higher spots, and Alex did just that. Behind Valentini, Hage was the skater I was most impressed with over the Whitby Silver Stick. His passing game was phenomenal, constantly creating scoring chances through identifying holes in the opponent's defence. He showcased his on-puck skills and eagerness to attack the middle, making for some highlight-reel sequences.
The duo of Pittsburgh Penguins Luca Blonda (9th) and Nik Rossetto (10th) jump into the top 10. I watched them each a handful of times with the Pens in September & October, but seeing them on the same ice as the rest of my top 20 confirmed they should be higher than they were. Cross-evaluating players who play in circuits that I am not familiar with is always challenging, but these large tournaments offer a perfect chance to see them in an environment I am familiar with and ensure they are accurately ranked.
With the rankings expanding from 20 to 40, many players are making their debut on the list, and some are in notably high positions. As deciding on final names the last go-round was so challenging, this meant there were plenty of players I felt could have been deserving, and as such, room to break into the two twenty, which three did.
Carter Hicks (13th) makes the highest debut in this month's update. Carter is a player who I watched plenty over the summer months and was super excited about, but when I checked in on him with the Knights in October, I was slightly underwhelmed and left him just off my list. The more and more I watched over the Alliance Face-off & Silver Stick, the more his tools and potential became apparent. He is one of the most mobile defenders in the class, and with top-tier defenders appearing to be scarce in this class, he belongs in the first-round conversation.
Parker Vaughan (15th) follows a different script than Hicks in that finding Elgin-Middlesex tape over the first month of the season was not an easy task. I knew from past viewings of Parker that he likely belonged in the initial top 20, but I wanted to ensure I had seen him in club play before including him. Over my viewings of the Canucks, Vaughan proved what I expected in that he belonged. Parker is an incredibly powerful skater and tactical puck carrier who controls the play whenever he's on the ice. Every time I've watched EMC this season, Parker is the focal point of their offence and has clearly shown he is among the top forwards in the province.
Cole Zurawski (20th) is the new addition that came out of "nowhere." I thought he was solid at the Titans Tournament and added him to my watchlist for potential inclusion on my list as I look to expand into the 60-80 range. But when I checked in on a Rebels GTHL game and a few games across the Silver Stick, it became apparent just how good he is. His talent becomes quickly apparent when he's handling the puck, as he is very deceptive and can easily advance play due to his ability to gain separation from defenders via his puck skills. We'll see how things go over the following months of the season, but I'll be watching Cole closely as he's one to watch out for to continue to play his way up my list.
Emergence of the Vaughan Kings
A final underlying theme of this rankings update is the inclusion of a slew of Vaughan Kings skaters. I mentioned in the initial list that it was difficult for me to decipher who made the most significant impact on this squad; as there are so many good players, it's tough to make out who the cream of the crop is.
Of the four, Gage Brandon (23rd) lands the highest. Brandon was always on my radar for inclusion in the early to mid-twenties range, and he solidified that spot over the Silver Stick. He is one the better pure goal scorers in the class, which we saw over the Silver Stick as he went on a scoring run. But what I like about Gage is that he isn't just a one-dimensional scoring threat who needs a supporting cast to create chances for him to finish. He can create opportunities and space with his ability to navigate through pressure and attack the middle of the ice.
A pair of Kings defenders, Michael D'Alessio (30th) and Cole Emerton (37th) find their way onto the OHL Draft Rankings, joining fellow Vaughan Kings defence teammate Zach Nyman, making for three of the six Vaughan defenders ranked. Forward Ben Bowen (36th) unfortunately suffered what looked like a severe concussion in the Kings' second game of the Silver Stick, so my chances to evaluate him were impacted. Nonetheless, he previously proved he belonged in this crop, and I wish him the best in his recovery process.
And there you have it, my top 40 OHL Draft Rankings. Over the past month, I gained more confidence in how the list is beginning to take shape. Over December, many key events, notably the Marlies Holiday Classic & OMHA Crossover Weekend, will help me continually evaluate these 40 and untangle the next crop as I expand to 60.
For detailed scouting and game reports of players in the top 40, visit each of their profiles from the OHL Draft Rankings page.