2014 NHL Entry Draft Q&A with Brock Otten

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Photo: Terry Wilson/OHL Images

Thanks to Brock Otten of the excellent OHL Prospects site for taking the time to answer some of our questions. Follow him on Twitter @BrockOtten.

MLHS: Do you foresee anyone climbing the board late in the process to sneak into the top 10?

Brock Otten: Anyone who reads my blog knows how I feel about Robby Fabbri. He’s undersized, but because of the way he plays, I don’t have fear that his skill set won’t translate to the NHL level. He’s been great all season for Guelph, but really only started to rise after his OHL playoffs MVP performance. If he were 6’2, we’d be talking about someone rivaling Sam Bennett to be the first forward selected. Fabbri plays as hard as anyone on the ice, but he also has the skills to match his high energy output. He thinks the game well above his peers, has a bevy of skill with the puck and I think he projects at the type of player who can really put the puck in the net at the next level. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if a team drafted him inside the top 10. The other guy I’ll mention is Swiss forward Kevin Fiala who really caught my attention at the Under 18s. Similar size concerns to Fabbri, but he’s got a ton of speed and skill and certainly didn’t look that out of place at the World Championships as a 17 year old (he turns 18 in July).

MLHS: If we take Sam Bennett, Sam Reinhart and Leon Draisatl off the board, who is the next best center, in your opinion?

Otten: Well, I’ve already mentioned Fabbri, he’s in the next grouping for sure. Besides him, I think you have to mention William Nylander, Ivan Barbashev, and Dylan Larkin. Nylander seems to be the consensus number 4 center behind the big 3, but there seems to be some concern over how hard he plays consistently. Certainly has the skill level to make an impact, as he showed at the U18’s. Barbashev is a big, hard nosed Russian center who projects as a strong two-way player at the next level. I’ve been impressed with what I saw of him in the Q this year, and at the Top Prospect’s Game. Lastly, Larkin is a late riser who is throwing himself into consideration for a lottery selection after a strong U18’s. He’s extremely quick, but also plays a 200 foot game and has displayed more offensively than scouts has originally thought he was capable of.

MLHS: We’ve discussed at MLHS the possibility of recouping a 2nd rounder (didn’t have one last year, don’t have one this year or next year) and trading down in this draft… Does Jared McCann strike you as too safe for a team that just drafted Frederik Gauthier in the mold of a checking line center last June?

Otten: I like Jared McCann a lot as a draft prospect, but I think it depends where you draft him. I think there are a lot of forwards with a ton of upside that could be available inside the top 15. But once those guys are gone, I’d consider McCann. Just because he’s an already capable two-way player and PK’er, doesn’t mean that he’s an automatic 3rd liner and nothing more. McCann has a terrific release and has serious goal scoring potential. Once he gains some strength, gets quicker, and learns how to read defenses, he could really put up points. The LA Kings have proven that you win championships by drafting guys like Gauthier and McCann, infusing a gritty element into your lineup.

MLHS: Much has been made about how there isn’t a “gen talent” in this draft.. what do you think of the top 10 overall, though? How well positioned do you think the Leafs are if they stick at #8?

Otten: I have no problem with the talent level of this draft. The issue is that people are already looking ahead to next year with two generational talents (perhaps three if you include Hanifin). But you can’t look past the things many of the players eligible this year were able to accomplish. Aaron Ekblad was the OHL’s defenseman of the year and I think he’s a lot better player and prospect than people are giving him credit for. In general, the depth of the high end talent is excellent. I see guys slated in the 10-15 range and can’t help but believe that these guys could be high impact players. In particular, I think this has the potential to be the OHL’s best crop of talent since 2003.

MLHS: Who is the most NHL ready prospect(s) out of the OHL this draft?

Otten: Most NHL ready is easily Aaron Ekblad. He’s a man child. He’ll be in the NHL next year, 100%. He’s ready. He’s big enough, has made enough improvements to his mobility, and has really stepped up his offensive game (confidence wise) in the past 12 months. He might go through some growing pains as he learns that he needs to play a bit more aggressively in the NHL, but he’ll be fine and I think he’s even capable of playing top 4 minutes. I don’t see anyone else being ready from the OHL. Sam Bennett needs to get stronger. Nick Ritchie needs to improve his conditioning and continue to stay healthy and gain confidence, and Michael Dal Colle needs to improve his 200 foot game.

MLHS: Do you share any of the concerns some have espoused about Nick Ritchie re: his size and age (8 months older than Virtanen, for instance) indicating there might be less upside/room to grow than some of the other prospects who didn’t have such mature physical frames in junior? 6’3, 230-pounds coming into the draft is more than tantalizing but there’s always the flipside of “did he dominate junior because he’s big?” Or is this an invented red flag?

Otten: There’s no question that Ritchie’s size has contributed to his success. But in a good way, not in a negative way as you may be implying. He’s a great prospect and takes over games not only because he’s a behemoth man, but because he’s incredibly skilled. Ritchie is a terrific puckhandler for a big man and defenses have a VERY tough time stopping him once he enters the zone with the puck because he’s able to make highly skilled plays to create space for himself, on top of using his size. He definitely didn’t dominate junior because he’s too big.

MLHS: What do you think of Anthony DeAngelo, who put up 71 points in 50 games for Sarnia off the blueline, as a potential hidden gem later in the draft?

Otten: Personally, I don’t think I’d draft DeAngelo. Definitely not in the first round, and likely not in the second. For as talented as he is (and he’s INCREDIBLY talented), there are too many red flags. He’s undersized for the position in the NHL. He’s been in the OHL for three years and his defensive game has not yet improved to the point where you would consider him ‘solid’ in his own end. And those suspensions for teammate abuse are obviously concerning, too.

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  • TheCanucksnaphook

    Awesome review !! 
    Thanks guy from OHL.

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    Love the positive vibes about my boy N.Ritch !

  • Burntheboats

    I’m think and hoping they go with Fabbri. He could turn out to be a stud 1st line C.

  • The Toronto Maple Leaf

    Excellent interview, based on his comments I would be happy with either Ritchie or Fabbri. I wonder what his take on Ehlers is?

  • Anthony Petrielli

    The Toronto Maple Leaf Brock is an OHL guy and Ehlers plays in the QMJHL

  • Anthony Petrielli

    Burntheboats Really big dark horse in the draft… Is there a 1C in the league as small as him though?

  • TheCanucksnaphook

    Anthony Petrielli Burntheboats No.  And he can F right off ! 
    We arent drafting him.

  • Black_Hawk

    LIke the comment about gauthier and Mccan. i was thinking about LA when we picked him (Gauthier) as they had some gritty 1st rounders like Tever Lewis.

  • The Toronto Maple Leaf

    Anthony Petrielli The Toronto Maple Leaf Haha, thanks for clearing that up. Boy do I feel stupid!

  • Black_Hawk

    Fabbri would be a real dark horse for sure. I wouldnt mind going with him but kinda think we should take a safer pick.

  • Black_Hawk

    Like the comment about ritchie’s hands. Thats is a real exciting combo of size and skill then if its true.

  • Anthony Petrielli

    The Toronto Maple Leaf Anthony Petrielli This is his site if you want to check him out. Some really great stuff http://ohlprospects.blogspot.ca/

  • Bruffins

    Thanks for posting. The site that is linked at the start is awesome, I remember reading his comments from a couple years ago on all of our prospects.

  • BigTO

    Black_Hawk Why? Gambling a little on high upside at center seems like the sort of thing we should do.

  • Bruffins

    this also makes me want to go back and watch Ritchie highlights again

  • Black_Hawk

    @BigTO Black_Hawk well if the gamble pays off it is golden but if it doesnt then we wasted a pick (obviously lol). I just think given our center depth, we really need a sure thing right now instead of a maybe. Once we built some depth there then we could try for the gambles. But eh like i said i would not mind it.

  • rustynail

    Black_Hawk any 18 year old could be a wasted pick though

  • Anthony Petrielli

    rustynail Black_Hawk NHL draft is a crap-shoot outside of the top 5-10. Anyone thinking otherwise is kidding themselves.

  • rustynail

    Anthony Petrielli Burntheboats is he smaller than Dougie was?

  • rustynail

    Anthony Petrielli rustynail Black_Hawk and some years inside it

  • Black_Hawk

    rustynail Black_Hawk thats true but there are some riskier picks then others though. In the top 10 that is.

  • Anthony Petrielli

    rustynail Anthony Petrielli Burntheboats Depends who you ask how tall Dougie was! 

    But yeah good comparison height wise. Have never seen Fabbri live though so what I eyeball on TV means little. Have met Dougie though.

  • Cameron19

    Black_Hawk Still came with the caveat “…for a big man” though.

  • Uncle Otis

    Anthony Petrielli rustynail Burntheboats 
    I can’t speak to true height,but can say Dougie is taller than Wendel fyi

  • Black_Hawk

    Cameron19 Black_Hawk true, but i thought he was just a big kid. Nice to hear he has some skill with him as well.

  • Mind Bomb

    Anthony Petrielli rustynail Black_Hawk  Thats why I traded it for an age appropriate player to help our core now :)

  • Cameron19

    Anthony Petrielli Burntheboats Giroux was that small when drafted, I think.

  • Uncle Otis

    An Ekblad and Ritchie booster…I like this guy!!
    Confirms what I have been saying all along
    Plan A; Get Ek
    Plan B; Get Ritchie at 8
    I don’t think you can go wrong with either…so long as FLA wants to deal reasonably

  • 4evrblue

    Uncle Otis  If I were Florida I wouldn’t want to deal reasonably. I’d charge teams a fortune for that pick.

  • Anthony Petrielli

    Cameron19 Anthony Petrielli Burntheboats Good one.

    Read these scouting reports on him at the time. Crazy stuff. http://www.hockeywilderness.com/2012/8/11/3228546/what-if-the-wild-had-selected-claude-giroux-instead-of-james-sheppard 

    He had 51 points in 19 playoff games in his draft year! 51 in 19!

  • 4evrblue

    Really enjoyed the article. Still think we’ll draft Perlini

  • Black_Hawk

    4evrblue scouting report?

  • Uncle Otis

    4evrblue Uncle Otis 
    Just read in the other thread Lawton quoted that we’d need to trade Gardiner,Kadri and #1 to get Ekblad
    That’s insane..and I don’t believe it
    Hello Mr Ritchie

  • 4evrblue

    Black_Hawk 4evrblue  Plays on the same line with Verhaeghe and nobody here seems to want him. Thats why I think we get him. As for the report he sounds like a big winger that can score. Not overly aggressive but a solid scoring winger prospect.

  • 4evrblue

    Black_Hawk 4evrblue  Plays on the same line with Verhaeghe and nobody here seems to want him. Thats why I think we get him. As for the report he sounds like a big winger that can score. Not overly aggressive but a solid scoring winger prospect.

  • Black_Hawk

    4evrblue Black_Hawk thanks, doesnt sound like a bad pick but i would like a center preferably. Hopefully one of the higher guys falls to us.

  • Uncle Otis

    4evrblue 
    Only if Ritchie is already gone

  • 4evrblue

    Uncle Otis 4evrblue  It wouldn’t surprise me if that were accurate. Itts an overpayment but I think if I’m Tallon I would aim for the moon also. This happens every year. I have no expectations/illusions about moving up.

  • 4evrblue

    Black_Hawk 4evrblue  I agree 100%. I have to stress that the #1 reason I think we get him is because everybody on this site would lose their collective minds lol

  • Black_Hawk

    4evrblue Black_Hawk lol haha oh okay

  • Black_Hawk

    4evrblue Uncle Otis yeah i doubt we move up. FLA is right to ask for the moon as i would too. We will be picking at 8

  • Uncle Otis

    4evrblue Uncle Otis 
    But nobody will pay it…two top ten #1’s and another mid round for  #1
    Its a joke
    Bottom line…Tallon either wants to deal reasonably and make a trade for “now” vs later
    or he’s going for a homerun(knowing its very unlikely) and realizes he’ll be drafting Ekblad
    I thought he was more serious from the intial statements

  • daniel marois

    I was listening to Kevin McGran from the TO Star this morning on XM radio’s Hockey This Morning.  He seems to think the Leafs real target is Sam Bennett.  But, the only way I seem them having a shot is trading for the #3 pick as Buffalo and Florida will demand a king’s ransom for either pick 1 or 2.  Edm seems like a more realistic trading partner or perhaps the Isles at the #5 slot.

    If the top 4 centres are gone by the time the Leafs pick at #8, I seriously hope Ehlers is available.  I say that would be a homerun pick at 8.

  • 4evrblue

    Uncle Otis 4evrblue  IMO it should take #8, Gardiner, and a solid prospect like Gauthier, Percy or Leivo. Neither of those guys will light the league on fire but they will all likely play in the NHL at some point. In essence its the standard player (Gards), pick, prospect but just a really solid version of it. 
    I don’t think he ever really intended to trade the pick though. Just letting people know he would listen

  • Pent_House

    4evrblue He’s a rush player, no thanks we have enough of those

  • Cameron19

    Anthony Petrielli Cameron19 Burntheboats How did he fall so far?

  • 4evrblue

    Pent_House 4evrblue  Not even really saying I want him. He’s just the guy I think we get. It makes some sense with him being so familiar with one of our centre prospect and having potential high end skill while being ranked in our position.

  • Black_Hawk

    daniel marois i think we stay at 8 imo

  • Uncle Otis

    Pent_House 4evrblue 
    Rush player are in vogue with many ’round here
    Small and fast we have enough of