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The Other Top Rookies You Should Know

SPECIAL THANKS TO BRYAN THIEL (@BryanThiel_88)

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By now you’ve heard all about Max Domi leading the rookie-scoring race, or about how Daniel Altshuller’s first season between OHL pipes is going, and that Aaron Ekblad has the poise of a young Alex Pietrangelo, despite being just 15.

Michael Clarke has shot up draft boards in his first season with the Windsor Spitfires, Olli Maatta is gaining valuable experience on a North American blueline, and Jordan Subban joined brother Malcolm in Belleville for his first year in the league.

These are some of the rookies in the Ontario Hockey League that have been making waves, and in the process the performance of other rookies and their talents have flown under the radar. So a month and a half into the season who else should you know from the OHL’s first-year class? Here are five names to keep tabs on:

  1. Nick Ritchie, Left Wing, Peterborough Petes

If it weren’t for Aaron Ekblad’s Exceptional Player Status, Ritchie would have been considered amongst the candidates to be the first overall pick in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection. When you take that into consideration, it makes him a bit of a surprise to make this list.. Coming off of a final season in Midget that saw him net 50 goals and 96 points, Ritchie brought his size and speed (6’2”, 207lbs) to the Peterborough Petes. Ritchie has shown all of the promise that would have made him a first overall pick, and his quick release is a pleasant addition to such a big, talented package. With all of the attention paid to Matt Puempel when teams play the Petes, expect the totals for Ritchie to steadily increase as he grows accustomed to the OHL.

GP: 13 G: 4 A: 3 PTS: 7 PPG: 2

  1. Darnell Nurse, Defense, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

His former teammate with Don Mills (Max Domi) is getting all of the headlines this season, but that’s just fine with Darnell Nurse. The big defenseman who’s earned comparisons to Chris Pronger may not be in a media hot bed, he’s settled in perfectly with the Greyhounds, making a lot of comparisons to Sault Ste. Marie and his hometown of Hamilton. A kid of few words, Nurse lets his physical play do the talking, and doesn’t lack confidence in his game or in himself. He’s got the athletic background in both his immediate family and extended family to vault over any obstacle in his way, and when the media does come calling, Nurse already handles it like a pro. He feels right at home with the Greyhounds in the Soo, and with a big defense to learn the ropes from, he’ll be a rock in this league.

GP: 13 G: 0 A: 1 PTS 1 +/-: -8

  1. Josh Anderson/Bo Horvat, Forwards, London Knights

We’ve established that Domi and Mattaa generate a lot of interest in London, but it’s two players that took very different paths to the OHL that will hopefully provide London with the secondary scoring they’ll need for multiple Western Conference Championships. Who knows? Maybe even a league Championship some year. Horvat was London’s first round pick this year, selected one spot after Kingston took Domi. He’s a quick skater who racked up the points (118 of them) in his draft year. Anderson was overlooked in his draft season, but thanks to a growth spurt of more than a few inches and 30lbs, mixed in with a strong season in Major-Midget in Burlington, Anderson turned heads as a power forward with the size needed to succeed in the OHL. One’s a high-profile first-round pick, and the other is the age-old story of a player who stuck with it and caught a few breaks in the face of adversity. Both however, could become well-known names on a strong Knights team.

Horvat: GP: 14 G: 5 A: 6 PTS: 11 +/-: +13
Anderson: GP 13 G: 3 A: 4 PTS: 7 GWG: 1

  1. Artur Gavrus, Centre, Owen Sound Attack

The Owen Sound Attack are the reigning OHL Champions, and like most champions of the past, more than a handful of their key pieces graduated to the professional ranks. So, it was with the 55th pick in the CHL Import Draft that Owen Sound selected the highly skilled but diminutive Belarussian forward. He’s viewed more as a well-rounded player, but his production in second-tier European leagues and at the U-18 tournament (where he was one of the top players) shows a high-end ability to finish off plays. The typical ups-and-downs of a first North American/draft eligible season are expected, but Gavrus has the talent to help Owen Sound’s offense maintain a truly competitive level.

GP: 13 G: 5 A: 6 PTS 11 PPG: 2

  1. Patrik Machac, Centre, Brampton Battalion

Brampton has been starved for offense the last two seasons, and the thinking is that Import Patrik Machac can change that. Machac is a pure scorer with speed and great hockey sense, and excels in all the right areas of the game. His skills caught the eye of Stan Butler and the Battalion, who believe that he’s a player who can improve their offense. He’s got the track record to prove that he can too, after dominating the Czech U-18 league last year with 53 points in 36 games and playing at a point-per-game average at the U-17s. With just two 40-point players last year (and only Ian Watters returning), Machac could easily lead the Battalion in scoring, while bringing the numbers of a few others along for the ride.

GP: 12 G: 4 A: 7 PTS: 11 PPG/SHG: 2/2

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