November 30, 2020

2021 NHL Draft: 5 under-the-radar OHL players to watch

As always, keep an eye on the OHL for talent ahead of the NHL Draft

Last year saw OHLers Jack Quinn, Luke Evangelista and Zayde Wisdom all skyrocket up draft boards after beginning the season as relatively unestablished prospects. Once again, expect some prospects in the OHL to do that again this season.

Related: FCHockey’s Top-10 Preliminary Rankings – OHL

Ahead of what will certainly be an unconventional season, FCHockey has highlighted five players that have been underrated thus far but are poised to break onto the scene this year.

Here are FCHockey’s five under-the-radar OHL prospects to watch this season:

Avery Hayes, RW, Hamilton Bulldogs

Avery Hayes began the 2019-20 season with high expectations after an impressive rookie campaign in which he recorded 18 points in 64 games. He managed to improve on his scoring totals this past season, with 29 points in 42 games. Hayes was on a hot streak in December before an upper-body injury derailed his campaign.

Related: 2021 NHL Draft: 5 OHL players to watch

Avery, whose brother Gavin was a first-round pick to the Firebirds this summer, represented the USA at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup last summer, recording two points in four games.

With the addition of Russian defender Artyom Grushnikov and the likely return of both Jan Mysak and Arthur Kaliyev, the Hamilton Bulldogs could be a contender in what should prove to be a tough Eastern Conference. The Michigan native will likely play a big role this year due to his versatility, high work ethic and capability on both special teams.

Stuart Rolofs, LW, London Knights

After tearing up the U18 Hockey Eastern Ontario AAA league, scoring 33 goals and 57 points in 39 games, Stuart Rolofs played very sheltered minutes in his first year with the London Knights. This is not uncommon for rookies playing under Dale Hunter. Rolofs’ teammates Connor McMichael and the aforementioned Evangelista were managed similarly in their first seasons in London.

The six-foot-two, 187-pound winger tallied three assists in 31 games before the season ended prematurely, playing short shifts as Hunter often ran three lines, two extra forwards and seven defensemen.

With the departures of Jonathan Gruden and captain Liam Foudy, Rolofs will definitely get more usage. Despite his sizable frame, he can really fly out there and is known for his wicked shot. Don’t be surprised if he becomes the next Knights’ player to fly up draft boards all year.

Francesco Arcuri, LW, Kingston Frontenacs

Francesco Arcuri was the linemate of Shane Wright and 2021-eligible Brennan Othmann on the dominant Don Mills Flyers team that won the GTHL 16 Championship and OHL Cup in 2019. He had 73 assists and 111 points in 79 games that year and was considered a steal at 27th overall when the Kingston Frontenacs picked him last year.

The nifty playmaker struggled to adjust to the speed and physicality of the OHL and spent the majority of the year separated from Wright. He wasn’t able to make the same plays he did and minor hockey and finished the year with 20 points in 60 games.

With an extended offseason, you would imagine Arcuri has been working on his physical skills. He already possesses tremendous puckhandling and hockey sense, from here it’s just a matter of him putting it all together.

Connor Lockhart, C/RW, Erie Otters

The third overall pick in the 2019 OHL Priority selection, Connor Lockhart experienced a similar fate to Arcuri in his rookie year. Just as skilled but more of a goalscorer, Lockhart also struggled to carry the puck and score consistently with the Otters, putting up a modest eight goals and 27 assists in 57 games in Erie.

However, he did fare well against his own age group. In the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, he had two goals and two assists in five games for Canada Red.

Playing on a line with Rolofs in Kanata, Lockhart finished tied with Mason McTavish in league scoring, with 30 goals and 49 points in 41 games. On an Erie Otters team that is trending upwards, he can produce those types of numbers should he iron out his game.

Logan Mailloux, D, London Knights

Standing at six-foot-three, 214-pounds, some thought Logan Mailloux would play in the OHL last season. With the arrivals of Hunter Skinner and Ryan Merkley, the Knights opted to send the defenceman to the London Nationals of the GOJHL. He tore it up, putting up an incredible 50 assists and 68 points in 48 games. That’s the fourth-best assist total by a defenseman in league history, and he played the whole year as a 16-year-old.

Mailloux recently joined SJ Lejon, who play in the third tier of Swedish hockey, on loan until the OHL season begins. When he returns, he is expected to step right into London’s top-four and will likely be tested on the powerplay.

People may scoff at his totals and say they were in a weak league, but let’s not forget that Mark Scheifele, Tanner Pearson and Brandon Montour all began their careers in the GOJHL. Mailloux has a season under his belt, in which he played top-pairing minutes and dominated. He should flourish on a strong Knights team.

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