I was able to get my first live look at the Spirit this season on Sunday when they finished off their weekend with an afternoon matinee in the Bunker against the hometown Brampton Battalion. Entering atop the Western Conference with 30 points, I came away very impressed with the Spirit, and can say this is probably the most complete team I’ve seen in the OHL so far this season. Aside from being a great OHL team, the team is laced with NHL calibre prospects and was a very interesting one to watch.
#9 LC Justin Kea | 6.04 | 201lbs | 02/07/94 | 2012 Eligible
21GP 1G 1A 2P +4 25PIM
Selected in the first round in this past OHL Priority Selection with the 13th pick, Kea was the only 16 year old in the Saginaw lineup on Sunday. His size is imposing, but his role is a limited one this season. He saw mostly limited fourth line duty and didn’t have much of an impact on the game. Next year he’ll have a much bigger opportunity but I’m not sure about how much of an NHL prospect he’ll be. He reminds me a lot of Peterborough’s Justin Larson as they have similar skill-sets and comparable size as centers.
#10 RW Jordan Szwarz | 6.00 | 192lbs | 05/14/91 | PHX 09′ (4/97)
21GP 7G 13A 20P +14 35PIM
I’ve always had a lot of time for Szwarz and he’s developed into a great second line OHL player on a competitive team, like Saginaw. Now donning the captaincy in his fourth year with the club, Szwarz is a versatile player who can play on any line as well as on the special teams. He’s not an overly dynamic player, but he is very responsible positionally and he’s got good hockey sense. He can be a threat in the offensive zone and is good down low where he’s a pretty shifty player. I would have to think he’ll be signed by Phoenix and in the AHL next season but I’m not sure he has much NHL potential at this point.
#15 LW Anthony Camara | 6.01 | 194lbs | 09/04/93 | 2011 Eligible
19GP 4G 1A 5P -5 37PIM
His numbers are far from gaudy, but Camara is quietly a player that you love to have on your team. While he isn’t a real potent offensive threat, he can play with your big guns and generate some time and space for them. A fine example of this was how Head Coach Todd Watson was comfortable giving him a lot of ice time with Brandon Saad and Vincent Trocheck. Camara is a good skater and has decent size, but he’s more than willing to sacrifice his body and is very effective on the forecheck. As I said, his offensive tools and awareness aren’t anything to rave about, but he knows his role and because of that, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see an NHL team take a look at him towards the end of the draft.
#19 RW Michael Kantor | 6.00 | 198lbs | 02/02/92 | 2011 Eligible
19GP 7G 1A 8P +1 51PIM
I thought Kantor might have an outside chance of being drafted last season after making the jump to the OHL from the NAHL, however his name went uncalled in June. Fast forward a season and I’m still on the fence on this one. Kantor is another guy that really can bring a physical element and can certainly impact a game using his fists as he is no stranger to dropping the gloves. Supplement that with the fact that he is capable of making an impact on the score-sheet and he does have some value. He wasn’t great on Sunday and I know he can be inconsistent, but if he can show his grit on a more consistent basis and continue to find the back of the net, he could be a player that draws some interest on his second time around in the draft.
#21 RD Ryan O’Connor | 5.10 | 189lbs | 01/02/92 | 2011 Eligible
15GP 1G 8A 9P +8 10PIM
A lot of people were probably hoping the undersized defenseman would be drafted last June, but he was also bypassed. Frankly, his game has taken positive steps forward in his third year and he’s a lot more comfortable playing 5 on 5, moving the puck, and playing better defensively. However, with that being said, he just doesn’t really have the tools to play at the NHL level. His skating is still pretty average and his skillset isn’t enough to make up for it. He’ll continue to develop into a very solid OHL defenseman, but don’t expect him to be drafted next June, either.
#22 LW Brandon Saad | 6.02 | 211lbs | 10/27/92 | 2011 Eligible
20GP 12G 11A 23P +10 16PIM
I was really excited to get a look at Saad for the first time in the OHL, and I have to say it was a pretty impressive showing for the Pennsylvania native. Riding shot-gun to Vincent Trocheck most of the game, Saad was very effective, utilizing his size and speed to draw a couple of penalties as he gave the Brampton defense a lot of trouble with their gap control. Saad had some good chances offensively and finished off a nice cross ice pass as well. He’s definitely got Top 10 written all over him as there’s a lot to like about him. However, I think I can comfortably say that he’s not quite at the level that Gabriel Landeskog is right now. I would have liked Saad to compete a little harder and I didn’t think he played with as much grit as I would of liked from a player his size. Those are the two components that separate Landeskog from Saad at this point.
#24 LW Ivan Telegin | 6.04 | 188lbs | 02/28/92 | Atl 10′ (04/101)
21GP 5G 13A 18P +14 10PIM
I was pretty impressed with Telegin on Sunday as he showed some positive progression over last season. Last year I thought Telegin competed hard and went to the dirty areas, but beyond standing in front of the net, his effectiveness was pretty limited. Sunday he was a lot more engaged in the corners and won a lot of puck battles to maintain some offensive zone pressure. He probably lacks the high-end skill to be a top six player in the NHL, but he seems to be committed to taking the North American route and as he fills out, he could be a guy that carves his way into a third line role as a big body forward.
#25 LW Josh Shalla | 6.02 | 183lbs | 09/25/91 | 2011 Eligible
21GP 16G 3A 19P +3 14PIM
There isn’t much doubting Josh Shalla’s ability to score at the OHL level, as he’s clearly developed into one of the premier snipers in the league. He found the back of the net twice on Sunday, including one very nice shot where his release was simply too much for Riley to handle in goal. While goal scoring certainly isn’t an issue for him at this level, he isn’t a great skater and he doesn’t compete overly hard, which both pose a lot of questions towards his effectiveness as a professional. That’s why he went undrafted last season and he will likely be back for an overage season in the OHL as well.
#89 RC Vincent Trocheck | 5.11 | 180lbs | 07/11/93 | 2011 Eligible
21GP 10G 12A 22P +7 30PIM
Like Saad, I was also really looking forward to seeing Trocheck live as he’s been putting together a pretty good season thus far. I was a little impartial to him on Sunday, however. He’s an opportunistic player who has good creativity and offensive instincts, but he was a little too easy to neutralize and knock off the puck as well. Some shifts he was very effective, like one where he created a turnover in his own zone and skated to the other end and shelfed a quick snap shot from the faceoff dot to the left of Riley, but others he was lazy and was not skating nearly as hard as he should have been. At this point I would got out on a limb and say he’s probably a third or fourth round type of prospect. I think some teams might be willing to step on him a little earlier, but there are some question marks in his game that will effect his ability to be an NHL player.
#93 LC Michael Sgarbossa | 5.11 | 175lbs | 07/25/92 | Signed San Jose 2010
21GP 5G 11A 16P -2 20PIM
After going undrafted in June, Sgarbossa was part of a trio of undrafted players that were signed by the San Jose Sharks during the rookie free agent signing window. I’ve always liked the things that Sgarbossa brings to the table as he’s a quality offensive player with good hands and the ability to create things in the offensive zone. He also has the ability to impact the game with some well timed physical play as well as those pest attributes that have become synonymous with many NHL players. He struggles a lot with consistency however. On Sunday he was rendered largely ineffective, while other games he can be a force if he’s on his game. If he can add some strength to his frame and bring those components to the table on a more consistent basis, he could make an NHL career out of it.