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ITO Hot-Stove: Who is the best NHL prospect in the Ontario Hockey League?

We're only a few months away from the 2012 NHL draft, and most of the talk these days is about who the best draft eligible players are. The hot-stove like to change things up once in a while so what we will look at is who the best NHL prospect currently playing in the OHL is.

Joining me in today's hot-stove is Alex O'Brien, Anthony Nicholson, Brandon Sudeyko and Phil Phillips.

Todd Cordell

There are a lot great players in the OHL but, in my opinion, Brandon Saad of the Chicago Blackhawks is the best NHL owned player in the Ontario Hockey League. He plays on an average offensive team in Saginaw, and a team that is arguably the worst defensive team in the league. Despite Saginaw’s goal differential being -13 on the season, Saad is +28. That’s quite remarkable. Saad isn’t just getting it done in that category, though; he’s posting arguably the best offensive numbers in the league. In 39 games this season he has 30 goals, and 38 assists (68 points). When you watch him and look at the numbers he has put up despite the team he plays for, it’s hard to argue that he’s not the best player in the OHL.

Alex O'Brien

Though he isn't technically drafted, the Sudbury Wolves/Colorado Avalanche centre Michael Sgarbossa tops my list for the best player in the OHL. He was signed right after the draft, so he was basically drafted in my eyes. One could argue Dougie Hamilton, Ryan Strome, Tyler Toffoli, etc., but Sgarbossa is leading the OHL in points working basically with nothing around him. Hamilton and Strome have one of the best teams to compliment them. Sgarbossa is the Wolves' offence - he breaks the puck out from his own zone, plays well in all three zones, has a high level of compete and hands of pure silk. His shot has some sweet zip on it, and when he wants to dominate a game, nobody can really shut him down. Though he's a tad undersized, his shifty skating and hockey IQ allow him to be in the right place at the right time to make a play happen. If Sgarbossa had elite wingers, there isn't a doubt in my mind that he would be more recognized as a top OHLer. No offence to Kuchin or Leivo, but in my eyes both are a product of Sgarbossa's talent. If one watches the Wolves #1 PP unit at work, you'll notice Sgarbossa at the right dot most times, looking to crank a one timer with his LH shot. That's the Wolves' go to move on the PP. Sgarbossa really is the Wolves' entire offence.

Anthony Nicholson

There are so many good OHL players who have been drafted to the National Hockey League; selecting one to call the best is next to impossible. The first player that came to mind, however, is Ottawa Senators draft pick Shane Prince. The Ottawa 67's forward is fresh off a league best 21 game point streak that lasted nearly two months, Shane sits in 5th in league scoring with 82 points, 40 of them goals. His 1.58 Points per game is the highest in the Ontario Hockey League, and had he not missed 7 games this season, the argument could be made that he would be the league's leading scorer.

Brandon Sudeyko

Do I go for my typical Visentin love, as he is the best goaltender in the OHL at the moment, or do I go for a really hot player right now in Ivan Telegin? Tough decision...Do I surprise and shock the world? I don't think I can anymore.

My vote has to be Jarred Tinordi of the London Knights. What do you know? I did shock the world.

Last year, given the hype surrounding the Montreal Canadiens draft pick coming into the OHL, I wouldn't call it a flop... but his season was definitely just under average. This season, now with the C on his chest, a member of Team USA at the recent WJHC, and the current +/- leader in the OHL...Tinordi has transformed his game and excelled to the level in which we expected. He has learned to compensate for his shortcomings, use his size to his advantage, not only physically, but for excelling in the defensive zone. Jarred isn't the flashiest defenseman like Dougie Hamilton. His 2 goals and 16 points are evident that players will get rebounds off of his booming shot. He is overlooked because no one likes to talk about shutdown defenseman in the OHL.  But he deserves his props, and Montreal has a good one in Tinordi.

Phil Phillips
My vote goes to Kitchener Rangers defenseman Ryan Murphy. Mr. Murphy was drafted 12th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. Ryan signed a three-year, entry level contract with Carolina, and began the 2011-2012 season in the NHL. He is a very gifted offensive defenseman who has great vision. Few D-Man in the OHL are as dangerous on the PP as he is. Murphy is a wonderful skater; he's very elusive, is a great passer and has a great shot.

The Rangers selected Murphy 3rd overall in 2009. As a 16 year old he put up 39 points in 62 games and was named to the OHL First All-Rookie Team. He followed up his stellar rookie campaign by helping the Rangers proceed to the third round of the OHL Playoffs with 17 points in 20 games, leading the Rangers defense in scoring. Murphy broke out his sophomore season, leading the OHL in defensemen goal scoring with 26 goals. He added to that, 53 assists for 79 points in 63 games, good enough for second in defensemen scoring in the league. Murphy was named to the OHL First Team All-Star team for the 2010-11 season. He played for team Canada at the World Under 18 Championships in 2011. At the Under-18s, he was very impressive and was named defensemen of the tournament, scoring 13 points and leading the tournament in defensemen scoring, as well as leading Canada to a 4th place finish as their leading scorer.

Earlier this season Murphy suffered a severe concussion and as a consequence, he was placed in "complete shutdown mode" by the Rangers. Since then he was cut and missed a chance to play for Team Canada at the WJC he has returned to form, looks great and is producing at a better then a point per game clip. Enjoy him because he's a real treat to watch. I believe that Ryan Murphy will lead Team Canada back to Gold at next years World Jr Tournament. I could be wrong; he could be playing on a rebuilding Carolina team.

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