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Biggs, McGinn, and more - five well-rounded OHL players with NHL futures
Here are five young prospects that are getting close to making an impact at the NHL level – either offensively or with other aspects of their game.
More and more fantasy hockey leagues are embracing hits and blocked shots as positive statistics. Why? Well, for starters, they are both recorded in every single NHL rink. The accuracy isn’t the same as a goal or an assist (the fluctuations in how these stats are recorded from rink to rink are quite pronounced, actually), but adding these statistics gives fantasy value to a wider net of players. It is widely known that the New York Rangers receive a significant home advantage when it comes to hit recording – the Madison Square Garden statistician is very trigger-happy.
If you learn which rinks tend to award hits more liberally, you can use that information to your advantage.
And it is a nice way to reward gritty forwards and defensemen who otherwise would get little to no attention in fantasy circles. Some leagues are also moving away from PIM (a subject that was debated here last year), as PIM are inherently a negative statistic. Debating aside, there is no arguing that including PIM, hits, and blocked shots in fantasy leagues makes it more challenging (and thus, more rewarding) to evaluate and rank players as draft day approaches.
Special thanks to Brock Otten of OHLProspects for helping me compile this list.
Tyler Biggs – Toronto Maple Leafs
Biggs is a well-rounded forward who contributes in many ways. He’s got “pretty good hands” according to Otten, and he’s also regarded as one of the best hitters in the OHL. Otten believes that Biggs will see his PIM numbers increase as he gains more confidence using his size.
Biggs skates well for a big guy and at the very least he projects as a good bottom-six forward at the NHL. He has the upside to be a second line guy, but everything needs to go right with his development for that to work out.
Expect him to spend at least one (and likely two) seasons in the AHL with the Marlies. Biggs will be worth the wait if you are in a league that records PIM, hits, and blocked shots. Leafs fans are going to love him once he does make the jump to the NHL.
Brock McGinn – Carolina Hurricanes
According to Otten, McGinn is an energy forward who can also score. He fights, hits, blocks shots – essentially whatever his team asks of him, McGinn delivers. The Hurricanes could use some grit and sandpaper in their forward group, especially if they let Chad LaRose walk as a free agent.
There is a lot of talent on that Carolina roster, and adding a gritty sparkplug like McGinn seems like a natural fit.
I guess I covered this above – McGinn brings a unique skill set to the table, and it is one that is currently lacking on Carolina’s roster.
He’s only 19 years old, and needs to do the typical prospect things before taking the next step (bigger, faster, and stronger). McGinn played a few pro games in the AHL after his season with Guelph ended – he could return to the OHL for a fourth year, as the Hurricanes may want to see him develop his offensive game a bit more (54 points in 68 games in 2011-12).
Former NHL coach Scott Walker is McGinn’s coach in Guelph, and believes he is NHL ready:
His opponents know when he is on the ice. If they don’t have their collective heads up he is liable to check them four rows deep into the seats. He hits like a Mack truck and because of that aggressive behaviour he walks that narrow line between good clean aggression and hits that are sometimes dangerous. But it is that belligerent style that may make him one of the most NHL ready players at the tender age of 18.
“I can tell you right now that he could play in the National Hockey League today” said Walker. “Now he wouldn’t be an offensive dynamo but he could play a fourth line role and play his few minutes because he plays the right way. He’d block shots and get the puck out at the blue line. He skates so well and plays hard that he would fit on a fourth line now but if (Carolina) continues to groom him (by leaving him in junior) he can be an even bigger impact player.”
Josh Anderson – Columbus Blue Jackets
Anderson is a budding power forward who is also very solid in all three zones according to Otten. He’s already very accomplished defensively, and he blocks a ton of shots, too. Anderson made some great strides from year one to year two in the OHL, improving his goal total by 11, his assist total by 16, and his points total by… 27. He also registered 43 more PIM.
Columbus will be patient with him, as they have a number of young forwards ready to make the jump to the NHL (including another OHL multi-category standout, Boone Jenner, who I will profile a bit more extensively in the coming weeks).
Anderson is already a very good two-way player, and that will be his meal ticket to ice time as his career progresses to the pro level. If he can continue to make huge strides with his offensive game, the Jackets may be wanting to see what he can do at the NHL level sooner rather than later.
Don’t expect to see Anderson in the NHL until at least 2015. Unless your league has very deep farm rosters, it probably isn’t worth using a pick or a spot on him. But he is a guy who you need to keep tabs on next season.
Tom Wilson – Washington Capitals
Washington’s 2012 1st round pick is big and mean. Otten believes that Wilson has the potential to become a “beast” in fantasy leagues if and when his offensive game comes around. He hits a ton of and he plays on the edge (which equates to a lot of PIM).
Milan Lucic comparisons get thrown around way too much, but Wilson does play a similar game. He’s already 6-4 and well over 200 pounds, and he doesn’t even turn 20 until next March. And, like Anderson, he took huge steps forward offensively this past season, scoring 23 goals and finishing with 58 PIM in only 48 games.
He got a few games in with the Capitals during their first round loss to the Rangers as well. His NHL debut was “limited, but encouraging.”
Wilson can’t play in the AHL next year (he’s too young) – does he go back to the OHL for one more year? I wouldn’t be surprised to see him earn a spot with the Caps out of camp. He may not be a productive forward offensively as a rookie, but he will be a contributor in many other aspects of the game.
Garret Ross – Chicago Blackhawks
The next Andrew Shaw? Otten believes that Ross could be another diamond-in-the-rough pick from the OHL. He is a versatile player who can score, fight, defend, agitate, hit, and block shots.
The comparison to Shaw goes beyond playing style, too. Ross was picked 139th overall (5th round) last summer. Shaw was picked… yep, you guessed it – 139th overall in 2011. Could Chicago go two-for-two at number 139?
Ross scored 44 goals this past season with Saginaw. He finished with 90 points and 114 PIM, too. He has decent size, good wheels, but most importantly, he has a high hockey IQ.
His production placed him fourth in league scoring (goals), seventh in overall points, and within the top 15 in assists, plus-minus, and PIM.
It may be asking too much for him to step right in to the NHL next fall – but don’t put it past him. The Hawks could employ the “all-OHL” grind line with Shaw, Dave Bolland, and Ross in a few years. That would not be a fun trio to match up against.
Otten believes that Bo Horvat and Zach Nastasiuk are the two OHL players to watch for at the upcoming draft if you are targeting the multi-category player.
Previous Columns from the Fantasy Preview Series:
- Clendening, Donovan, Corrado, Pysyk, and Krug – Five Defensive Prospects You Need to Know
- Beck, Armia, Jensen, Rattie, and Rajala – Five Forward Prospects You Need to Know
- Petrovic, Gaunce, Gudas, Cowen, and Borowiecki – Five Multi-Category Defensemen for 2013-14
- Maroon, Coyle, Latta, Abdelkader, and Panik – Five Multi-Category Forwards for 2013-14
- Cundari, Smith, Dillon, Stone, and Donovan – Five (More) Multi-Category Defensemen for 2013-14