A central geographical location in the Ontario Hockey League teeming with talented NHL Draft prospects presents an ideal situation for scouts across the region.
Often driving long distances to see the OHL’s top young talent, NHL scouts can find some of the league’s best right in the middle of the map in Mississauga as the Steelheads continue to develop players brimming with pro upside.
Three of the club’s five 2016 NHL Draft selections in Michael McLeod (12th overall, New Jersey), Nathan Bastian (41st overall, New Jersey) and Austin Osmanski (189th overall, Buffalo) have played vital roles in Mississauga’s run to the 2017 Rogers OHL Championship Series as they return home for Game 3 at the Hershey Centre tonight.
The Trout also boast a pair of highly regarded NHL prospects on the blue line in Los Angeles Kings 2016 fourth round selection Jacob Moverare and Detroit Red Wings 2015 third rounder Vili Saarijarvi. Overage winger Spencer Watson is property of the Los Angeles Kings.
Along with those core performers, top 2017 NHL Draft targets in Owen Tippett and Nicolas Hague are gaining valuable playoff experience that has scouts paying attention.
“Those two guys are likely to go anywhere from inside the top 10 to the top 15 selections this summer,” said Director of NHL Central Scouting Dan Marr. “At this stage teams are looking for game-to-game consistency with the intensity being that much higher and the pressure to perform and produce elevating as the playoffs continue.”
Tippett was the seventh ranked North American skater on NHL Central Scouting’s Final Rankings released on April 11th while Hague, a 6-foot-5 defenceman trailed at 20th.
“For high-end guys like Tippett and Hague this stage of the playoffs presents an opportunity for them to confirm what the teams have seen from them all season, but showing that they’re able to do those things at a higher level,” Marr continued.
Tippett sits fourth in team scoring with 15 points (7-8–15) over 17 contests while Hague has 11 points (1-10–11) over 15 games with a plus/minus rating of plus-14.
Scrappy winger Shaw Boomhower was also listed on Central Scouting’s Final Rankings release coming in at 112th overall.
“Don’t discount a guy like Boomhower,” Marr noted. “He’s one of those complementary players that are valuable to any team when he’s tracking down pucks and creating turnovers. He’s got the skating and skill where he can play alongside talented players and make them more effective.”
Boomhower, who hails from Belleville, Ont. and committed to the Steelheads as a free agent last September, drew an interesting and fitting comparison from Marr.
“The playoffs and Memorial Cup play of Andrew Shaw with the Owen Sound Attack in 2011 had a lot to do with him getting drafted by Chicago, and I think there’s some similarities there which is funny considering they’re from the same spot and they share a name.”
Mississauga also features two players expected to draw considerable interest in the 2018 NHL Draft. Late 1999 birthday Ryan McLeod and 2000-born goaltender Jacob Ingham have performed well this season and offered NHL clubs a chance to get some advanced scouting in.
McLeod carries a six game point streak into Game 3 and sits third in team scoring with 18 points (4-14–18) in 17 playoff contests while Ingham returned from a strong showing at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in November to go 15-4-0-2 with a 2.33 goals-against average and a .920 save percentage the rest of the season.
The Eastern Conference champion Steelheads entered their series against Erie on an eight game winning streak, but after a pair of one-goal road losses on Thursday and Sunday find themselves down 2-0 in the series.
A shift to home ice will give Steelheads coach James Richmond last change and an opportunity to tilt the scales in his favour.
“Mississauga has gained a lot of confidence through the playoffs and has been going in the right direction for a long time,” said Marr, who has kept tabs on the series. “I think it’s going to get interesting with Mississauga at home.
“If they get a win under their belt this could wind up being a longer series than some people thought.”