Since taking over as General Manager of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010, Steve Yzerman has shown a fondness for drafting players out of the Ontario Hockey League – especially with his early picks. In the seven drafts under Yzerman, the Bolts have selected 16 OHLers, including 11 in the first three rounds of the draft. Not only are they selecting OHLers early, but they’re being successful while doing so.
2010 - 3rd round - Brock Beukeboom - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
2011 – 1st round Vladislav Namestnikov - London Knights
2012 – 1st round Slater Koekkoek - Peterborough Petes
2012 – 2nd round Dylan Blujus - Brampton Battalion
2012 – 3rd round Tanner Richard - Guelph Storm
2014 – 1st round Anthony DeAngelo - Sarnia Sting
2015 - 2nd round - Mitchell Stephens - Saginaw Spirit
2015 – 2nd round - Matthew Spencer - Peterborough Petes
2015 – 3rd round - Anthony Cirelli - Oshawa Generals
2016 – 2nd round - Boris Katchouk - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
2016 – 2nd round - Taylor Raddysh - Erie Otters
As of now, the Bolts hold two second round picks – their own and one acquired from the Maple Leafs in the Brian Boyle trade. With that in mind, here are the names of a few OHLers to keep in the back of your head when those picks come around.
Morgan Frost - F - Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Rankings: 31st NHL Central Scouting, 49th Future Considerations
Playing with Lightning prospect Boris Katchouk, Morgan Frost was a key part in what was undoubtedly the deepest forward group in the OHL this season. Frost is a very talented offensive forward whose greatest strength is probably his hockey IQ. He is very gifted with the puck on his stick and has the vision and confidence to make difficult passes look easy. He is agile on his skates and possesses excellent edgework that enables him to cut through traffic and avoid contact. His slender frame makes it difficult for Frost to deal with physicality from bigger, stronger opponents — luckily, he is quick and smart enough to avoid most of it. He is never standing still and always seems to know where the play is going before it gets there. Frost definitely has the smarts and tenacity to overcome a lack of size and strength.
2016-17 stats: 20g, 62 points in 67 games
Markus Phillips - D - Owen Sound Attack
Rankings: 50th NHL Central Scouting, 76th Future Considerations
Phillips took a huge step in his development this season and is a big reason why Owen Sound is in the Western Conference Final. He is a player that is often described as a puck-moving defender because of his size and ability with the puck, but when you watch him play you see someone that is the true definition of an all-around player. There isn’t one aspect of his game that you could classify as ‘elite’ — though his skating is pretty darn good for a defender — but he does everything well above average. He has the physical tools to lead the breakout through either skating or a great first pass, and the smarts to know which to use when. He is very strong defensively thanks to solid positioning and the strength and physicality to play beyond his size. Phillips will both kill penalties and lead a powerplay. He’s the type of guy that projects to be a very solid bottom-4 defender at the NHL level - and you could do a lot worse than that in the second round.
2016-17 stats: 13g, 43 points in 66 games
Robert Thomas - C - London Knights
Rankings: 33rd Future Considerations, 26th ISS, 18th McKeen’s
As a rookie this season, it took Thomas a little while to get going, but once he did, the young two-way center began to show why some believe he might sneak into the end of the first round. He’s a solid puck handler, who shows creativity with the puck and uses a strong passing ability to create scoring chances for his linemates. As the season went on and his confidence grew, his decision making seemed to improve exponentially. His shot needs work and he will need to gain a lot of strength in order to play a true two-way game at the NHL level. Thomas reminds me a lot of Mitchell Stephens, so there’s a good chance the Bolts front office will have their eye on him.
2016-17 stats: 16g, 66 points in 66 games
Ivan Lodnia - RW - Erie Otters
Rankings: 35th Future Considerations, 36th NHL Central Scouting
Maybe my favorite player on this list, Lodnia is a player that has the raw talent to rival just about anyone in this year’s draft. Born at the end of August, Lodnia is one of the youngest players in the draft and is nearly a full year behind many others in terms of development and maturation. Playing on the second line in Erie, Lodnia has had a streaky season, but when he’s on, he’s one of the more dangerous offensive players in the league. He has great hands, quickness and vision. He’s dangerous off the rush and possesses the ability to create scoring chances by using a strong drive to the net. A true offensive threat that has the skill to be a home run for a team that has the patience to develop the other aspects of his game. The youngster from Los Angeles has top-6 potential and the bolts could do a lot worse at the top of the second round.
2016-17 stats: 24g, 57 points in 66 games
Sasha Chmelevski - F - Ottawa 67’s
Rankings: 45th Future Considerations, 43rd NHL Central Scouting
A native of Huntington Beach, California, Chmelevski was the key piece going to Ottawa in the blockbuster Travis Konecny trade last season. He has a high-end offensive skill set and if he’s able to put all the pieces together, Chmelevski has the potential to be a very dangerous player in the NHL. He has an incredible shot with elite accuracy., His skating looks a little awkward with a short stride, but he’s got very good acceleration and the ability to shift into another gear when necessary. He is a very streaky player that will be invisible for a week but then out of nowhere play like a superstar. There is the very distinct possibility that Chmelevski drops well beyond the second round on draft day - like Dmitri Sokolov last year - but it’s equally possible that a team with multiple picks in early rounds decides his talent is worth the risk. A bit of a boom or bust player, Chmelevski has a higher ceiling than many, but many will question if he can ever get there.
2016-17 stats: 21g, 43 points in 58 games
Jack Studnicka – F - Oshawa Generals
This one might be a bit of a stretch as Studnicka is universally ranked as a third round pick or worse. That said, the last time the Lightning reached to select a forward from Oshawa it was Anthony Cirelli, so…
Studnika’s draft stock is likely to climb after an incredible playoff run this season. With 15 points in only 11 games, he was Oshawa’s best forward and was able to show scouts how he can perform when given a top role. He is a big kid that got a lot stronger as the season went on. He can play wing but is very strong on the faceoff and is not afraid to help out down low in his own end. Offensively, he is effective off the rush, driving the middle lane and often ends up around the net causing trouble for opposing defenders. He’s got a good shot with a quick release and has a chance to put up big numbers next season if he can continue to thrive in a bigger role with the Generals
Ranked: 74 Future Considerations
2016-17 stats: 18g, 52 points in 64 games