The calendar says July but another OHL draft season is right around the corner as we're less than six weeks away from the Toronto Titans Tournament. Unlike the draft class from a year ago, the 2015 crop of Ontario-born players lacks some of the high-end talent and depth, but that's not to say there aren't players to watch from the get-go.
Leading the way in the GTHL are a pair of soon-to-be teammates in Ryan McLeod and CJ Clarke, who will both suit up for the perennial powerhouse Toronto Marlboros in 2014-15. And if you're wondering if he's related to 'those' MacLeod's, Ryan is indeed the younger brother of Matthew (Oakville, OJHL) and Michael (Mississauga, OHL).
We'll start with the youngest brother in the McLeod family. Like his brother Michael, Ryan has been a long-time member of the Marlboros and has established himself not only as one of the top forwards in the GTHL, but one of the best in the province. The Mississauga, Ont. native has an enticing combination of skating ability and a powerful north-south game that allows him to create quality offensive chances off the rush.
Similar to Michael, the youngest McLeod does struggle at times to settle himself in sustained offensive zone pressure so it will be interesting to monitor if he's made any strides to that area of his game during the transition from Bantam to Minor Midget. Ryan does have an impressive edge to his game and might have the best compete level of all three brothers at this point. He shows no signs of intimidation in physical games and is not shy about initiating contact either.
Assuming McLeod continues to grow (he was listed at 5-foot-10, 150 lbs. in Bantam) he should emerge as one of the top forwards available in the 2015 Priority Selection next April.
C.J. Clarke will be joining McLeod in the blue and white this year after playing for the Marlboros' former arch rivals, the Toronto Nationals, a year ago. After an extremely underwhelming start to the 2013-14 season, the Nats rebounded exceptionally well and went on to eventually defeat the Marlboros for the GTHL Championship; a victory that would later propel them to an All Ontario Championship in Stratford. Clarke was instrumental in the Nats' success and is one of the top scoring wingers you'll find in the province.
Clarke has quality size at around 6-foot-1 and has a frame that will fill in over the next year that will only provide him with added strength. His skating, puck control, and shot release are all elite skills he possesses which makes him one of the most dangerous snipers available in the draft. Clarke's move to the Marlboros should be a smooth one as he should see no shortage of top-line minutes at both even strength and special teams with the squad.
While Clarke's game is sure to attract attention from OHL scouts right away, his game is not without holes. His two-way play can be highly inconsistent and Clarke will need to show more commitment to the defensive end of the ice next season. His compete level is also prone to wavering and you can't help but feel that there's so much untapped potential that we may never see from his game. Assuming he can patch any holes in his game next year you can expect Clarke to be one of the first forwards from the GTHL - and Ontario - to hear their name called in 2015.
Tags: CJ Clarke | 2015 ohl draft | Ryan McLeod | OHL | 2015 ohl draft prospects |
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|2. D Aaron Ekblad||Barrie Colts|
|3. C Michael Dal Colle||Oshawa Generals|
|4. C Leon Draisaitl||Prince Albert Raiders|
|5. C William Nylander||Rogle|
|6. LW Nick Ritchie||Peterborough Petes|
|7. D Haydn Fleury||Red Deer Rebels|
|8. D Roland McKeown||Kingston Frontenacs|
|9. LW Sam Bennett||Kingston Frontenacs|
|10. C Jared McCann||Soo Greyhounds|