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Bulldogs 2017 NHL Draft Update

Bulldogs 2017 NHL Draft Update

As we approach the midway mark of the Ontario Hockey League season, we’re beginning to get initial scouting reports on players eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft in Buffalo next June. The Hamilton Bulldogs have several players who have been cited by NHL Central Scouting’s Players to Watch list, which gives initial letter grades to players who could be drafted to NHL teams. The Bulldogs have five players on the list, along with a few players who should be mentioned.

Matt Strome leads the Hamilton Bulldogs in points, and is projected as a first round pick. (Photo: Aaron Bell / OHL Images)

Matt Strome

  • Craig Button – TSN: I saw Hamilton play in London on Sunday.  Matthew Strome took over the game in the third period, he took it over. There’s one thing that has to translate to the National Hockey League, and that’s mind speed. That’s the quickness to be able to recognize plays and be able to make them. That’s one thing that Matthew Strome doesn’t have to work on is the mind quickness. When I seem him skate, I see a player that is capable. Is he a player that can improve his skating, no doubt…I do not see inherent flaws in his skating…I think Matthew Strome has a lot of NHL attributes and qualities and I like him a lot”. (Source)
  • Brock Otten – OHL Prospects: Really utilizes his size well in the offensive end, protecting the puck in traffic and is aggressive in driving the net. Flashes a physical game too, that could most certainly grow with added strength and confidence. Like his brothers though, the hockey sense and vision with the puck is top notch. I will say that IMO, his skating has already come a long way since his last year and may even be better than Dylan’s and Ryan’s in their draft seasons“. (Source)
  • Mike Morreal – NHL.com:He’s the biggest in terms of size and strength of the three Strome siblings. The common bond among them is the fact they’re e players who persevere and play with determination and grit. Matt is strong down low and at protecting the puck. He’s very hard to check, and has excellent IQ. He’s a proven finisher“. (Source)
  • Brendan Ross – The Scout: Describing Matt Strome as a poor skater would have been a compliment in his OHL draft season but his advancement in his skating has been damn impressive. While he’s not yet a strong skater, Strome has erased a lot of concerns as he finds success at the junior level. Kudos for his efforts. His skilled hands, smart awareness and ability to play and execute in tight spaces are his calling cards. His touch on the puck and playmaking acumen certainly allow him to exploit opponents’ weaknesses“. (Source)
  • NHL Central Scouting Rank: A (1st round potential pick)

Matthew Strome possesses a hockey toolkit that few players are able to develop. Physically, he can be a beast when he has the puck. He makes it very difficult for the opposition to neutralize him on the play thanks to a combination of his size, his reach and his fine-tuned puck handling skills. He anticipates the play with a high degree of efficiency, allowing him to sneak into the dangerous scoring zones.

Strome made a concerted effort during the off-season to work on his lower body, to increase his agility and speed. There has a been a very marked increase in not only his ability keep pace with his peers, but also in how his stride looks less awkward. Registering a point-per game pace 30 games into the season, he’ll be able to convince most scouts that he’s more than capable of overcoming the deficiencies in his game.

Hamilton Bulldogs centre MacKenzie Entwistle is projecting to be first round selection. (Photo: Barry Gray / The Hamilton Spectator)

MacKenzie Entwistle

  • Jeff Marak – Sportsnet: A responsible 200-foot player who goes hard every single night. Not the most creative, but makes up for it with a high compete level and by being in the right position at all times. Elite level penalty killer. Will be dangerous when he grows into his lanky frame. Plays the right wing but some wonder if he’s better suited to centre because he distributes the puck so well”. (Source)
  • Dominic Tiano – OHL WritersHe uses his size effectively to play physical and separate players from the puck. Combined with his skating and strong hockey sense, he is a force in his own zone. Offensively, Entwistle uses his skating and size to attack the net with or without the puck and can cause havoc and scoring opportunities for his teammate…he’s underrated offensively in some circles. He possesses soft hands with very good vision and is a very good playmaker. He’s strong on the puck and difficult to separate from it”.  (Source)
  • Dan Stewart – Future Considerations: “A blue-collar, hard-working, body banging power winger. Uses his size well to protect the puck, win battles or just to lay out a devastating hit. Hard to check off the puck. Plays a heavy game that will only grow as he adds more strength. Possesses a good shot release with high velocity; accuracy is a little iffy. Skating is just average. Makes good decisions. Shows flashes of high end puck skills where he dangles around an opponent but can also play the chip and chase game. Not a high end skill guy but can complement one in a secondary or supporting role”. (Source)
  • Branden Ross – The Scout: Toolsy forward who has really improved a lot over his OHL career thus far. In particular, Entwistle’s size (6’3) and skating combination is incredibly alluring as it makes him a major factor in all three zones. He’s already a committed defensive player who is not afraid to engage physically, as such he’s become one of Hamilton’s go to penalty killers. Offensively, he’s aggressive in attacking the net and plays that “grunt” style of game. But I think he possesses underrated hands”. (Source)
  • NHL Central Scouting Rank: A (1st or 2nd round pick)

MacKenzie Entwistle is the type of player who should be able to carve himself out a sustained career in professional hockey because he is incredibly coachable, and can be trusted to out-preform his competition in any situation. Many players never make the highest levels of hockey because they can’t play defensive hockey. Entwistle is adept at disrupting the flow of play for the opposition in all three zones. Entwistle identifies his man to cover each shift, and neutralizes them due to an effective physical game.

As a centre, he’s quite agile despite his size. He still needs to fill out his frame, but that should come with time. He is strong on the dot, but will become more effective once he bulks up. He has enough skill to distribute the puck where ever he needs it to be to enhance the play. He is a player who can easily fit into a team’s structure, and is willing to accept any role that will put his team into a position to win.

Hamilton Bulldogs Slovakian import player Marian Studenic could see his draft stock rise after the World Juniors. (Photo: Barry Gray / The Hamilton Spectator)

Marian Studenič

  • Branden Ross – The Scout: “Slick offensive winger who has displayed good speed and puckhandling ability thus far. Needs to become more engaged without the puck in order to have a more consistent impact”. (Source)
  • Brett Slawson – The Hockey Writers: “In his first year in North America, Studenic has become an immediate impact player for Hamilton, and projects to become an elite level scoring winger, given adequate time to develop and hone his game. Known for his blazing speed and ability to create offensive opportunities, Studenic possesses a solid shot and above average playmaking abilities. Further, the creative winger is a driven force and one that is motivated to be a consistent force on a nightly basis“. (Source)
  • NHL Central Scouting Rank: C (4th/5th/6th potential pick)

Marian Studenič is a speedy, crafty offensive thrill ride on the ice. He possesses the ability to completely shift momentum for his team thanks to some very creative stickwork and quick feet. He is very difficult to get off the puck despite his slight frame. Likely thanks to his experience playing in Slovakia’s highest men’s league, Studenič will recklessly drive to high possession zones of the ice. Studenič doesn’t fit Don Cherry’s stereotypical skilled European mold; he plays without fear.

Kaden Fulcher proved to the Hamilton Bulldogs’ management team that he had what it takes to backstop the team as a starter this season. (Photo: Claus Andersen / Getty Images North America)

Kaden Fulcher

  • Brock Otten – OHL Prospects:Fulcher is 6’3 and is easily one of the quickest goalies post to post in the OHL. He oozes athleticism. Working on the technical aspects of his game will be a must, but the basic framework is there for him to become an excellent NHL goaltending prospect and that’s why, barring a disastrous second half, I would expect him to be a top 100 selection.” (Source)
  • Branden Ross – The Scout:He’s 6’3 and is exceptionally athletic. His quickness in the crease is extremely evident. But there are definitely going to be some ups and downs for him as he continues to work on his fundamentals (rebound control, angles). It certainly helps to explain his inconsistencies thus far. But he’s Hamilton’s starter and they’re a great team, so he’s going to get his chance to really shine as the year goes on“. (Source)
  • Todd Warriner – Sportsnet: “Late round pick, vastly improved this year since coming to Hamilton from Sarnia. Tall, stable, prototypical pro goalie. Strong work ethic with lots of upside. Comparable John Gibson”. (Source)
  • NHL Central Scouting Rank: B (2nd/3rd round potential pick)

Kaden Fulcher was able to convince team management that he was ready for the starting role during training camp, resulting in Staios shipping off starter Connor Hicks to Flint in the blockbuster move that brought in Will Bitten. This trade couldn’t have happened if Fulcher spend many nights last winter standing on his head for the Bulldogs. His GAA has never really reflected his outstanding play for the Bulldogs. He’s been hung out to dry by the play of his teammates far more often than I think anyone in the organization would like to admit.

Fulcher is the type of goalie who gets locked in and has a high level of intensity. It is very obvious that confidence is going to be a driving factor in his development, and he’s going to need to steal a few games pretty soon in order for him to fuel that confidence again. If he can find his stride again and pull this Bulldogs team to a top four position come playoff time, then we could see Fulcher getting picked as high as the second round. The think to remember is that goalies often take years to develop, and no one should expect him to be an all-star overnight.

Ben Gleason had a productive off-season to prepare for a feature role with the Hamilton Bulldogs in 2016 (Photo by: Barry Gray / The Hamilton Spectator)

Benjamin Gleason

  • Al Jensen, NHL Central Scouting: “So much confidence! He’s a phenomenal skater, he’s got great wheels. He’s not afraid to make a play because if he does make a mistake he’s got the ability to get back and cover for himself. He’s got great agility and he’s got great hands. He’s one of those guys who just took off, he’s got huge upside. He’s a good two-way defender, great offensive instincts and potential, and he’s good on the back end. He’s not the most physical guy, but he can use his body to defend well for the one-on-ones. You can see it when he’s got the puck on his stick, he’s thinking ahead, and can join the rush. He’s smart in those areas [transition through the neutral zone]. His style suits that of a lot of defensemen in the NHL right now.” (Interview on Bulldogs Banter Podcast)
  • David Burstyn, McKeen’s Hockey: “A swift and agile skater, he is able to rush the puck up ice with ease – exploiting good athleticism and a strong acceleration gear. One attractive trait about his puck rushing is that he does not slow down with the puck in possession. However, he is not blessed with an overly imposing frame at 6-0, 170 which tends to hamper his defensive game. Too often he gets danced around in his own zone and, as he offers very little in terms of physical ‘push back’, he can be rather easy to play against. Steadily gaining confidence in utilizing his shot more assertively – has scored an impressive seven goals, albeit none in his last 18 games. Projecting his NHL chances, he ranks as a long-shot given his size, physical play, and offensive sizzle.” (Source – Subscription)
  • Future Considerations Draft Guide: “has good footwork to escape trouble with the puck, taking quick steps to generate some speed and get away from the check. He is not afraid to throw his weight around and can lay a big check when warranted. He gets his stick in the way of passes in order to break up plays. Gleason puts in the effort to catch the puckcarrier after the puck gets transitioned by the opposition, quickly gaining good position on the attacker. He sees the ice very well in transition and anticipates lanes developing, seaming excellent neutral-zone passes on the tape of his target. His pinches are typically timed correctly and are effective, showing his offensive mindset as he picks his spots to jump into the play and make an offensive impact”. (Snippet from their scouting report, there are more details in their PDF product)
  • NHL Central Scouting Rank: C (4th/5th/6th potential pick)

There are a few reasons that Gleason could have been past over in the 2016 draft. The team bled a bit defensively down the stretch last season, the result of injuries forcing George Burnett to feature Gleason in a first pairing role when he likely should have been receiving second pairing minutes. Gleason made a concerted effort to shore up his defensive game in the second half of the year, and his offense dried up as a result. It’s his abilities as an offensive two-way defender that he’ll need to capitalize on in order to be a professional hockey player when he graduates from the OHL.

Gleason’s a candidate to hear his name called in June 2017 for two reasons.

  • A) NHL teams have seen an increase in percentage of second/third year draft eligibles being selected.
  • B) The Vegas Golden Knights will not be able to steal youth from NHL teams in the expansion draft. There is a high likelihood that they could draft multiple re-entry prospects with their later round picks in June.

Hamilton’s hometown forward has played an aggressive game throughout his rookie season in the OHL. (Photo by: Barry Gray / The Hamilton Spectator)

Other notables

Hamilton has a few other draft eligible players on their roster this season. Issac Nurse has been a steady presence on the Bulldogs fourth line. He’s applied a penchant for playing the body hard, finishing his checks and getting under the skin of the opponent. He plays a simple chip and chase game that works for his line thanks to his relentless fore-checking. He’s not the largest forward, but there is able evidence in the family to indicate that he may still be growing.

Reilly Webb was a highly touted 2nd round pick in the 2015 OHL draft that has seen his development harshly limited thanks to last season’s separated shoulder, a infected cut on his leg from a skate blade, and this year’s shoulder injury. It’s going to be an uphill battle for him to work his way back into the lineup once he is healthy (possibly this month). His name has come up as a possible trade chip for Hamilton to improve this season.

The Bulldog’s captain Justin Lemcke will hopefully have a full season under his belt this year, and has been the team’s leading offensive tool from the blueline. He’s had consistent attention from NHL teams since being past on in the draft. Lemcke’s attended Vancouver’s 2015 development camp, Detroit’s 2015 Traverse City team and training camp and Chicago’s 2016 Traverse City team and training camp. Just like Gleason, Lemcke would make a strong addition to Vegas’ prospect pool.

About The Author

Krist Hayes

Krist is fan of the game of hockey that has been moonlighting as a blogger recently writing about the OHL's Hamilton Bulldogs. Reckless since his days as a crease-crasher. Tweet him @kristhayes

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Reckless Restraint

A blog for fans of the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League. Updates, reports & musings on the team, players, and prospects.

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