CJHLers in contention for NHL Draft

Courtesy NHL.com

CALGARY, Alta. – The National Hockey League Draft goes Friday and Saturday and a number of Canadian Junior Hockey League players are among those hoping to hear their names called.

NHL Central Scouting’s final draft rankings saw 10 CJHLers tabbed in the listings, topped by Brooks Bandits (AJHL) defenceman Corson Ceulemans, who was slotted 14th overall, among North American skaters.

Here’s a rundown on each of the CJHL prospects who cracked the final NHLCS rankings:

Brooks Bandits (AJHL)
Position: Defence
Ranking: 14th

Brooks head coach and general manager Ryan Papaioannou had this to say about Ceulemans: “Corson has the size and strength to be a professional already. His game is offensively focused with an ability to play on the power play at the next level. He is competitive, willing to play physical and block shots so his game should translate nicely to college and pro hockey. He has shown in the National Junior A Championship, World Junior A Challenge and World Under-18 Championship that he can play in key situations and gets better as the games become more meaningful.”

The Bandits skipper also had this to say about Ceulemans, who won gold with Canada at the World under-18 championship held in Texas, is a University of Wisconsin commit and who will attend the National Junior Team development camp later this month, when discussing his qualities that made him such a solid player: “We were initially drawn to Corson while watching him play at the Alberta Cup. He was such a powerful skater and commanded respect as a threat to create offence. We felt our style of play would suit him well and give him opportunities to continue his development.”

Rayside-Balfour Canadians (NOJHL)
Position: Centre
Ranking: 85th

The NOJHL Rookie of the Year in 2019-20 and silver medalist with Canada East at the 2019 World Junior A Challenge is the top-rated CJHL forward prospect.

In terms of what scouts have seen in DeGrazia to escalate their interest in him, Rayside-Balfour head coach Vagelli Sakellaris said: “In my opinion what makes Nick DeGrazia the type of player NHL scouts are interested in is his elite speed and his work ethic. Nick has the ability to skate at top speed while maintaining control of the puck. There are players with similar quickness, but who do not possess the ability to make plays while maintaining that level of speed.”

Sakellaris also chimed in with: “Nick is also a tireless worker who is always trying to improve the different aspects of his game that will make him successful as he climbs the hockey ladder.”

The Canadians bench boss went on to add: “Nick possesses several key qualities that make a solid player. Last season we expanded Nick’s role from being relied upon offensively to using him in key defensive situations, such as the penalty kill, where he found success. He was able to create many key scoring chances for our team while being shorthanded.”

Lindsay Muskies (OJHL)
Position: Defence
Ranking: 99th

As head coach and GM of the OJHL side in Lindsay, Brendan O’Grady, offered these thoughts on the blueliner: “Artem plays the game with a calming, physical presence and has an absolute pro shot from the blueline. Guys in our league were definitely timid of him when he was on the ice. His skating ability allows him to make plays and create offensive opportunities from the back end and is another threat when joining the rush.”

O’Grady went on to supply: “Artem is a typical pro’s pro. The way he handles himself off ice showed our group what it takes to get to the next level. His on-ice and off-ice habits showed our guys in Lindsay what it meant to be a true athlete and an elite level hockey player. Here’s a 16-year-old young man who came into our league and learned the junior lifestyle and will quite possibly be selected in the NHL Draft. We were happy to have had him playing in Lindsay for a year. He was an instrumental piece in turning the culture around with the Lindsay Muskies.”

Brockville Braves (CCHL)
Position: Right Wing
Ranking: 124th

Collecting 41 points, including 22 goals, in 2019-20 with Brockville helped Gillespie earn a NCAA Division I scholarship to Clarkson.

His coach in the CCHL, Randy Jones, had plenty of quality comments on the forward heading into the draft.

“Ryan has been an ideal role model for what our organization represents. He carries himself like a pro which influences teammates to hold themselves accountable.”

Jones, a former NHL defenceman and CJHL alumnus, also said: “He takes pride on the defensive side of the game and would be willing to stop a goal more than scoring one. He has all the intangibles to develop into a solid two-way centerman and can play in all situations of the game.”

Pickering Panthers (OJHL)
Position: Right Wing
Ranking: 143rd

The 18-year-old from Whitby, Ont., produced at well over a point-per game pace in his first season in the OJHL, racking up 57 in 41 outings on 17 tallies and 40 helpers.

“His ability to adapt to all situations, on and off the ice, was remarkable for such a young player in our league,” offered Pickering head coach Rob Pearson.

“Brenden has such a great release that teams would take his space away quickly in the offensive zone which then allowed him to be a great set-up man for his line mates. His vision and hockey sense is well above average.”

“He was given advice from James Boyd of the Ottawa 67’s, who drafted him in the OHL, to use his time wisely in the OJHL and learn a 200-foot game. He came with an open mind to Pickering and fined tuned his game to get to the next level. Not only was his offense exceptional, but his mind set to play great defense really showed. One word – Coachable.”

Summerside Western Capitals (MHL)
Position: Left Wing
Ranking: 150th

Making his mark in Summerside, P.E.I., the 18-year-old Ertel went on to collect 28 points in 18 games in 2020-21 for Billy McGuigan’s Western Capitals.

Committed to attend Cornell on NCAA D-I scholarship, Summerside coach McGuigan says there is plenty to like about him.

“Justin plays a heavy game. He uses his big frame to take pucks to the hard areas. I believe he has the making of true pro power forward. He also has a great release that’s very effective and uses his size to win battles and take pucks into traffic. He is good in small spaces.”

The 2019-20 CJHL Coach of the Year went on to provide: “First and foremost, Justin is a very mature kid. He has great character and is an exceptional person off the ice. His drive and determination and his work ethic set him apart. His skill level is very high and with combined with his size and his high IQ separates him.”

Off note, former Summerside winger, Bennett MacArthur, and defenceman Zach Biggar, who both played for the Capitals in 2019-2020 are also ranked in the draft. They were tabbed 132nd and 164th respectively among skaters from North America.

Kanata Lasers/Renfrew Wolves (CCHL)
Position: Defence
Ranking: 163rd

Skating in 57 games in the CCHL, most recently with the Kanata Lasers, who have since relocated to Renfrew, Ont., Gill-Shane posted 27 points from the back-end while scoring eight times and doling out 19 assists.

His GM in Kanata at the time was Ian Henderson, who stated: “Ranvir was a great kid and well liked in the room. On the ice he was a natural skater with good size and good vision.”

Henderson, a long-time GM in the CCHL and who currently holds that role with the Nepean Raiders, also added on the NHL prospect: “He showed great poise for a 16-year-old D-man when he played in Kanata. Ranvir also had offensive upside as well. You could see right away he had all the natural attributes to be a pro player one day.”

Oakville Blades (OJHL)
Position: Defence
Ranking: 201st

The towering six-foot-six blueliner, 205-pound blueliner has already shown his mettle in the OJHL.

The stay-at-home-type defenceman helped bolster the Oakville D-core as a rookie in 2019-20 while picking up six assists and 52 penalty minutes in his initial campaign of Jr. A hockey.

His talents have also earned him a NCAA Division-I scholarship to Miami (Ohio) for the 2022-23 season.

Georgetown Raiders (OJHL)
Position: Right Wing
Ranking: 212th

Dann spent the 2019-20 season with Georgetown of the OJHL and contributed mightily for the Raiders.

In 52 contests, he scored 26 times and dished out assists on 22 more for 48 points.

He went on to skate with the CCHL’s Rockland Nationals in a pair of developmental scrimmages this past March where he tallies twice and set-up two more.

Burlington Cougars (OJHL)
Position: Defence
Ranking: 222nd

The final CJHL player listed in NHL Central Scouting’s final draft rankings is six-foot-two blueliner Robinson.

Skating for his hometown Cougars in 2019-20, Robinson appeared in 42 games and chipped in with a pair of markers and 13 helpers.

He’s been described as a big, intelligent right-shot defenceman, who plays a strong two-way game and has been a player that NHL teams asking about.