Wagman: Around the OHL – Blandisi, Harpur, Labanc and more

Ryan Wagman chimes in with seven scouting reports expected to play deep into the OHL playoffs. This installation focuses primarily on prospects with the Oshawa Generals and the Barrie Colts, the top two seeds of the OHL’s Eastern Conference. Included here are two 2015 draft prospects, plus players affiliated with the New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators, San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames and Los Angeles Kings.

Scouting Report – Joseph Blandisi

Bio
Team: Barrie Colts                                                           Draft Status: Signed as UFA with the New Jersey Devils (Jan. 14, 2015), after going unsigned as a 2012 6th round pick of the Colorado Avalanche
Position: C
Full season stats: 67 GP, 51 G, 60 A, 111 pts, 126 PIM
Shoots: L
Height/Weight: 6-0”, 192

Date Seen: Mar. 13, 2015 @Mississauga, OHL regular season, Mar. 30, 2015 vs Belleville, OHL playoffs

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

Blandisi is not a blazer, but has enough juice in his legs to gain separation from the defense when he embarks on a rush. His maneuverability is more impressive is his pure speed.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc)

Blandisi came within two goals of equalizing the franchise OHL mark for goals in a season. He utilizes a very quick release on a low, hard snapshot to good effect.

Puck Skills

The Barrie pivot has good reach for loose pucks. This trait also helps him protect pucks as well, as he can push the puck away from his defender, outmuscling the opponent on the latter’s thrusts and parries and often draw a penalty in the exchange. In the second viewing listed above, Blandisi received the puck in the corner, walked in to the slot area, side stepped a sprawled defender and then backhanded the puck past the netminder, who was forced out of position by his foray.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

Barrie uses the Devils’ prospect on the PK, where he led the OHL with an incredible 10(!!!) shorthanded markers. His vision, particularly in the offensive zone, is a selling feature in Blandisi’s game. He can see a few seconds ahead of what he is doing at any given moment, providing his team with extra incisiveness. In one example, he started and finished an offensive zone given and go with linemate Andrew Mangiapane – both passes split the ‘royal road’ – making the eventual goal a natural conclusion.

Physicality

Blandisi goes hard to the net. He also gets involved in tight forechecking coverage in the neutral zone. Not overly tall, he is nevertheless a broad body and can withstand the abuse of defenders and maintain possession. He does need to cut back on his physical style, though as his 126 penalty minutes ranked tenth in the OHL. It should be noted that not a single minute of the aforementioned total came fro dropping the gloves.

General Assessment

In spite of his excellent point totals, Blandisi is no sure-fire prospect. He is good enough that the Colorado Avalanche should feel sheepish about not taking advantage of their rights over his career, but on the other hand, the Devils did not luck themselves into a top six center. Between his smarts and shot, the Barrie alternate captain should find himself in the NHL within the next three seasons, and a ceiling as a third line center is achievable if he improves in the area of discipline.

Scouting Report – Ben Harpur

Bio
Team: Barrie Colts                                                           Draft Status: Ottawa Senators, 108th overall, 2013
Position: D
Full season stats: 57 GP, 5 G, 26 A, 31 pts, 62 PIM
Shoots: L
Height/Weight: 6-6”, 217

Date Seen: Mar. 13, 2015 @Mississauga, OHL regular season, Mar. 30, 2015 vs Belleville, OHL playoffs, pre-season Rookie tournament

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

Ben Harpur is very quick for a man of his size. Thankfully, his mobility extends beyond the qualifier “of his size.” Simply put, he moves quite well ad it is difficult for most opponents to gain separation if attacking his side of the rink. He has a fluid stride and solid edges. Can be deceptive, because he generally plays with a seemingly low energy motor.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc)

He own a solid wrist shot. In the playoff game against Belleville, Harpur scored on one from the point through a screen. The shot is low and on target. That said, despite his respectable point totals this season, he will never be a team’s primary point shooter.

Puck Skills

When on his game, he can be very effective as a puck mover and distributor. More a first pass out of zone guy than a play making blueliner. He will also occasionally surprise with play-starting passes from the point to one of his teammates down low.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

Harpur used to be somewhat prone to poor decision making, particularly with the puck, leading to untimely turnovers. That trait seems to have been somewhat corrected over the course of the season as he demonstrates plus ability to read the play. Due to his mobility, Harpur is also strong with gap control on zone entries on his side.

Physicality

Although huge, the Senator prospect is not an overly physical player. He is strong, but doesn’t always let that side of his game show. Would like to see more jam from him. For the most part, his physical game is limited to blanketing his man during coverage, neutralizing the opposition. It works for now, but more speed at the next level will require Harpur to adapt.

General Assessment

Still a relative newcomer to the blueline, Ben Harpur has the look of a diamond in the rough. A key member of the defensive unit that led Guelph to an OHL championship last season, he has a good chance at a personal repeat on a very strong Barrie club this year after moving over during a mid-season trade. His rough edges will likely confine him to the AHL for the next two-three seasons, but the raw tools suggest an upside of a second pairing, supporting defender is possible. His size will always ensure that teams will give him opportunities even if he never reaches his full potential.

Scouting Report – Kevin Labanc

Bio
Team: Barrie Colts                                                           Draft Status: San Jose Sharks, 171st overall, 2014
Position: LW
Full season stats: 67 GP, 31 G, 76 A, 107 pts, 53 PIM
Shoots: R
Height/Weight: 5-11”, 179

Date Seen: Mar. 13, 2015 @Mississauga, OHL regular season, Mar. 30, 2015 vs Belleville, OHL playoffs

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

Labanc’s game features strong edge work, allowing him to create offense. Although he has plus maneuverability, his straight-ahead speed is not special. He is more slippery than fast.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc)

Labanc’s shot is below average as a tool. As such, he wisely employs a pass-before-shoot mentality. When he gets a lane, he will try to capitalize on it, but he is definitely the third option on his line.

Puck Skills

The Sharks’ prospect has very quick hands which are seen best when he is rushing up the ice with the puck. He will often feint in one direction and then shift the puck in the opposite direction, after the defender has bitten on his initial move. His weaving through the slot will allow him to create offensive chances for his teammates.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

Labanc is not afraid to cut through the middle when carrying the puck in the offensive zone. On Barrie power play opportunities, he is often seen manning the point. The former USNTDP skater is also a very good defensive forwards, used in all penalty killing situations, including instances wherein his team is down by two men.

Physicality

In spite of his size deficiency, Labanc will go to the net and the other danger zones of the ice. He lacks bulk, which will make this practice more risky as he advances up the hockey ladder.

General Assessment

With seven forwards from this season’s US WJC team aging out before next season, Labanc’s offensive explosion on a strong Barrie Colts team has put him in a good position to be heavily considered for the next tournament. He is a good possession player who brings excitement with him to the ice. It can sometimes be a challenge to discern who is responsible when a line or a team succeeds, but in Barrie’s case, it is clear that each of Blandisi, Labanc and Mangiapane bring something different to the table. For Kevin Labanc, that is getting the ball rolling on the attack, as he is the player who is chiefly responsible for entering the zone and finding that first opening for the attack to thrust deeply, whether it be weaving through traffic or by passing to an open man behind the first line of defence. Due to his size and lack of apparent strength, he will have to keep proving his worth all the way up the chain, but the aging San Jose organization means he is in a good position to do so. If he proves that he can play against adults, he has second line upside. His defensive utility gives him a floor of fourth line energy player at the NHL level. At present, the latter scenario is more likely.

Scouting Report – Andrew Mangiapane

Bio
Team: Barrie Colts                                                           Draft Status: 2015 draft eligible
Position: LW/C
Full season stats: 67 GP, 43 G, 60 A, 103 pts, 54 PIM
Shoots: L
Height/Weight: 5-10”, 170

Date Seen: Mar. 13, 2015 @Mississauga, OHL regular season, Mar. 30, 2015 vs Belleville, OHL playoffs

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

Not a burner, but he has solid wheels. Mangiapane is a very slippery player, but I have not seen him reach back for a second gear in two seasons of watching him work.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc)

Mangiapane’s wrist shot is a selling point of his game. When he finds himself in space and with a target – it doesn’t need to be a large target – he can snipe.

Puck Skills

The draft eligible forward is a fantastic stickhandler. He will regularly fool his opponents with the quality of his dangles. Mangiapane is also able to withstand intense defensive pressure and even double teams without losing possession of the puck. He will drive possession time for his team due to his soft hands in conjunction with his elusiveness.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

Barrie uses Mangiapane on the penalty kill and he led the circuit with shorthanded assists with five. He is a good and eager forechecker who will force the opposition into rash plays. He knows where he needs to be on the ice and will generally put himself into the best position to make a positive impact for his team.

Physicality

This area is obviously the biggest concern in his game, and is likely the most telling reason why he went undrafted after a rookie season in which only two first year skaters in the OHL produced more. While small, Mangiapane doesn’t play small. He is not afraid to get dirty, although he is generally not the initiator. He needs to pack more muscle on what is currently a very lean frame.

General Assessment

Whereas a team could have drafted Mangiapane in the 7th round last year in his first year of eligibility, the dynamic puck mover will now require a third or fourth round selection to secure his services. With the league moving steadily away from brawn and into a more purely skilled game, this is the type of player who would benefit most. In some ways, Mangiapane is a poor man’s Mitchell Marner. He is actually slightly bigger than his more heralded draft class mate and has trailed him by a touch in both of their years in the league (Mangiapane – 155 points in 136 games, Marner – 185 points in 127 games), although Mangiapane is the more pure goalscorer. The main difference between the two is in age. Had Mangiapane performed as he did this year, but at age 17, he would be looked at in the top 20 picks. As is, he stands to be penalized by 30-60 picks. It would be a collective failure on the part of the league if he makes it out of the third round, making him a tier IV prospect.

Scouting Report – Mackenzie Blackwood

Bio
Team: Barrie Colts                                                           Draft Status: 2015 draft eligible
Position: G
Final regular season stats: 51 GP – 33 W – 14 L – 3.09 GAA – 0.906 SV %
Glove hand: L
Height/Weight: 6’4”/215 lbs

Date Seen: Mar. 13, 2015 @Mississauga, OHL regular season, Mar. 30, 2015 vs Belleville, OHL playoffs

Characteristics

Athleticism (Includes size and agility)

Blackwood is a massive man-child with exceptional agility. This is most often displayed with kick saves from seemingly impossible situations.

Quickness/Speed (includes reflexes and glove hand)

He owns a steady glove hand and can pick shots out of the air much like a first baseman reaching for a throw across the diamond. On occasion, he will drop his glove a touch early, leading to shots getting behind him when he should have done more with them. May be more an issue of focus than anything, as he came to the position relatively late.

Vision/Play reading (anticipation)

Blackwood sees the play developing well in front of him. He gets himself square to the puck and generally finds himself well positioned to make the play.

Compete/Temperament (how he fights through a screen)

He can be ornery as he is known to jab at opponents who skate too close to his crease. If anything, Blackwood can stand to tone down his territorial instincts as he has taken more than his share of unnecessary penalties because of it.

Technique/style (Butterfly/dropdown/how to tries to position himself)

Blackwood utilizes a butterfly style, which occasionally leaves him susceptible to gaps in the five-hole area when opponents enter his zone on a rush. Once he gets down, his long legs do the rest and allow him to cover the bottom portion of the net very well.

Rebound Control

He needs some improvement in this area. Some rebounds will be kicked to the corner, but once in a while, he will kick one out to the faceoff dot instead placing too much pressure on his defence.

Puck Handling

The weakest part of Blackwood’s game. He will thus usually allow his teammates to handle most pucks behind the net. He looks uncomfortable and awkward doing anything more than stopping the puck’s momentum.

General Assessment (up to 100 words)

Mackenzie Blackwood served notice that he would be one of the premium goaltenders available in the 2015 draft as early as last season when he took over the starting job early in his rookie season and impressed through the end of the Colts’ playoff run. One of the league’s most prolific workhorses this season, Blackwood is more consistent than he was as a rookie. Although there is still plenty of room for growth, he has the two traits deemed most important for netminders by many talent evaluators – size and athleticism. As with any young goalie, the floor is that he completely flames out. Considering that he was not stuck in the blue paint until he was 12 or 13, the suggestion is that the gap between ceiling and floor is higher than with most of his peers. Taking the next step for Blackwood would mean emerging as the top netminder in the OHL and staking a claim for a spot on Canada’s next WJC entry. A candidate to be the first goalie selected this June, he rates as a high tier IV draft prospect.

Scouting Report – Hunter Smith

Bio
Team: Oshawa Generals                                                               Draft Status: Calgary Flames, 54th overall, 2014
Position: RW
Stats to date: 56 GP, 22 G, 26 A, 48 pts, 115 PIM
Shoots: R
Height/Weight: 6-6”, 210

Date Seen: Mar. 1, 2015, vs Peterborough, Mar. 15, 2015 vs Kingston, both OHL regular season

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

Smith is relatively slow on his feet and his stride often looks labored.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc)

He will score his fair share of goals, but many of them at the OHL level will be due to positioning afforded to him by his size. In the latter viewing, he scored a Johnny-on-the-spot goal against Kingston, when he was first to a rebound in the slot. He lifted the puck over a sprawled netminder from in tight, at least demonstrating the ability to get the puck vertical. Have seen him score other goals on deflections and tips.

Puck Skills

Smith can stickhandle, but not with any real speed. In other words, he can control the puck as needed, but will not fool anyone with his puck play.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

All too often, Smith sticks out by going for a big hit instead of a smart play. This has been observed in all three zones.

Physicality

Clearly, the young man is huge. And he makes it very clear that he wants to impose his game on others by hitting them whenever he can reach them. For a guy with his size, I want to see him win more board battles. He doesn’t as all too often his focus on contact is single-minded to the exclusion of the puck. He can be very reckless with his checks, as well, and have seen him target the head on more than one occasion.

General Assessment

Hunter Smith is a reckless player. He will take blind runs at players, and often hit them long after they have released the puck. Not only is the play safe, but it is outside the bounds of the rulebook as he gets himself into unnecessary penalty trouble with regularity. In the latter game from this sample, he ran an opponent into the boards with a high hit even though his Generals were leading 7-1 in the third period. He is a loud forechecker but not a very good hockey player. I don’t see him as gaining a regular role in the NHL.

Scouting Report – Matt Mistele

Bio
Team: Oshawa Generals                                                               Draft Status: Los Angeles Kings, 180th overall, 2014
Position: LW
Stats to date: 57 GP, 35 G, 26 A, 61 pts, 32 PIM
Shoots: L
Height/Weight: 6-1”, 190

Date Seen: Mar. 1, 2015, vs Peterborough, Mar. 15, 2015 vs Kingston, both OHL regular season

Characteristics

Skating (Speed/edges/technique/etc)

Mistele skates at a decent pace. Speed is unlikely to be a big factor at the next level for him. He displays good edge work and is comfortable skating the puck through the neutral zone. Looks good skating both north-south and east-west.

Shooting (Slap/wrist/backhand, General strength, proclivities, etc)

His shot is solid, but more of his goals come from being in the right place at the right time.

Puck Skills

Mistele is a plus passer. As mentioned above, he is a strong puck carrier, a trait which extends to behind the opposition net. He is persistent with the puck and will not give it up easily. He owns quick hands. Has strong hand-eye coordination.

Smarts (vision, defensive play, ability to stick in system, etc.)

Plays with strong awareness of the game around him. Mistele does not rush his shots or his passes. Anticipates the play well in all three zones.

Physicality

The Kings’ prospect has no problem going to the net front area. In the latter viewing, he tipped two point shots into the net as a result of this proclivity. Not a heavy hitter, will use stick checks instead of taking the body.

General Assessment

An under the radar player on a strong Oshawa roster, Matt Mistele has no standout tools, but also no glaring holes to his game. The LA Kings, who scout the OHL heavily, got a solid prospect with tangible third line upside at the tail end of the sixth round last season. After a strong first full season in the OHL with Plymouth, Mistele struggled in is follow-up, which led to him falling down draft boards. He responded nicely this season, setting new career highs in both goals and assists and, assuming he is still a General next season, will be forced to take on a heavier role with the expected graduations of fellow wingers Michael Dal Colle, Cole Cassels and Hunter Smith. Expect new career highs next year and an eventual role as a bottom six contributor at the NHL level by 2018

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