February 5, 2018

Aleong Notebook: January 2018

Every season, scouts from Future Considerations spend countless hours in rinks across the world in an effort to gather information on the next wave of NHL talent coming down the pipe. Future Considerations’ Ontario-based scout Joseph Aleong is no different.

Here is Aleong’s notebook from the month of January.

Serron Noel, RW, Oshawa Generals (OHL), 6-5, 200, DOB 8.8.2000
Ottawa 67’s 3 at Oshawa Generals 4 (OHL) – January 28, 2018

Noel is a huge presence on the ice, and is able to dominate shifts in the offensive zone when he’s locked in thanks to his advanced strength and ability to use his frame well to protect the puck along the wall. Noel has an upright stride and long, deliberate strides, but still generates decent speed and is still effective in tight spaces thanks to his big strides and long reach. He isn’t afraid of the physical side of the game and is consistently throwing his body around on the forecheck. He also uses his frame effectively in the offensive zone, planting himself in the low slot area to create screen opportunities and using his frame to box out defenders and battle for second chances and tips. He showed his strength on the first goal of the game when he drove to the net and buried a rebound while absorbing hits from two 67s defenders in the slot area. He is aggressive on the forecheck and is able to use his reach to disrupt breakout plays and force defenders into hurried decisions. He helped create the overtime winner as well when he won a board battle with a physical hit and made a pass to a teammate in the slot. He hustles back to his own defensive zone and is a decent penalty killer as well, staying conservative in his position and blanketing the point man well. Noel also made a nice play on his goal to set up the odd-man chance when he made a quick pass through the stick of the defender, but didn’t show consistently impressive puck-handling ability on every shift in this game.

Akil Thomas, C/RW, Niagara IceDogs (OHL), 5-11, 169, DOB 1.2.2000
Guelph Storm 3 at Niagara Ice Dogs 6 (OHL) – January 4, 2018

Thomas has long, powerful strides and generates great speed when given open ice to skate. His foot speed has improved throughout the season and he is a threat to win any loose puck race due to his top-flight acceleration. Thomas didn’t stand out as much as he has in certain viewings this season, but his outstanding puck skills still shone through when he was given time and space. He excels when carrying the puck with speed and has the confidence to try tough moves when bearing down on a defender one-on-one. Thomas shows good offensive awareness and was buzzing around the net all night, tallying the first goal of the game when he found a rebound in the slot and roofed a shot from in tight. Thomas also played center in this game, showing decent defensive awareness and a little bit of physicality along the boards. He failed to come deep into his own zone on the breakout at times, giving his defensemen a long outlet pass and risking a long turnover from the defensive zone. However, his speed was an asset on the backcheck and he did a good job applying pressure deep in his own zone, as well as supporting his defenders when they were under pressure in the defensive zone. His physical strength limits him in board battles, as he gets pushed off the puck by bigger players too often and needs to bring a consistent effort on the forecheck to become a threat to create turnovers.

Ryan Merkley, D, Guelph Storm (OHL), 5-11, 170, DOB 8.14.2000
Guelph Storm 3 at Niagara Ice Dogs 6 (OHL) – January 4, 2018

Merkley is a very impressive skater, with a low center of gravity and quick feet that you’d expect from an offensive defender of his caliber. He has great spatial awareness and was able to jump into the rush several times as the game went on, creating odd-man chances and open space in the offensive zone. He shows unusual confidence with the puck for a younger player, displaying the confidence to break the puck out of his own zone using his speed or to take a pass in full flight and then use his agility to cut wide across the offensive blue line to establish offensive possessions. He has great vision in the offensive zone and shows good patience with the puck, using his feet to create space and a variety of fakes to open clean passing lanes. He earned an assist early in the third when he made an aerial pass to set up a two-on-one chance and the tying goal. Merkley earned an assist early in the third period. He is a work in progress in his own zone and is able to use his exceptional skating ability to contain forwards one-on-one well, but his positioning can leave much to be desired and was often caught being too puck-focused, leaving open players in the low slot or chasing his man with the puck out of position. Merkley is a spectacular offensive defenseman with noticeable offensive awareness but a lot of room to improve in his own end, and could be a controversial first-round prospect in the months leading up to the draft.

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