Jim Benning happened to find himself in Ontario on a Sunday in November, so it should come as no surprise that he would want to maximize his time in hockey rinks, catching an earlier game between Sudbury and Mississauga before settling in for the evening tilt between the Erie Otters and Kitchener Rangers. This is actually Benning’s third game scouting the Otters, having watched them take on the Mississauga Steelheads and Windsor Spitfires earlier in his trip.
It’s comforting to see that Benning has put in the time to develop an informed opinion around Alex Debrincat (PCS pace 40%) and Taylor Raddysh (PCS pace 41%), who are early season PCS darlings. For their part, the pair have not disappointed, combining for 9 points in Benning’s two previous viewings.
The Rangers entered this game as the top team in the OHL with a 16-1-3. They boast a number of highly regarded prospects, including the Jeremy Bracco (2015 Toronto 2nd round pick), Ryan MacInnis (2014 Arizona 2nd round pick, and 2016 draft eligible Adam Mascherin (PCS pace 22%). If Benning was looking for a high quality of competition game to test the Otters top draft prospects, this was going to be it.
We’ve been treated to a number of pretty plays between Dylan Strome and Alex Debrincat during the course of this series, and this game was no exception. Here is a power play tally, where Strome and Kyle Maksimovich (2016 eligible, PCS pace 7.7%) play a little give and go before Strome hits Debrincat with a perfect cross-crease feed:
Another prospect that caught my eye yet again is 2017 draft eligible forward Vanya Lodnia, who has looked very good in third line minutes. Here he is, finding his way to the slot in time to receive another beautiful Dylan Strome feed:
The icing on the cake for Benning was this late third-period short-handed marker from Dylan Strome, which pulled the Otters ahead 5-2 to win the game handily. In this play, Strome pokes the puck away from Ranger’s defensemen, Frank Hora. Then Alex Debrincat explodes through the neutral zone, blowing by Arizona Coyotes second round pick, Ryan MacInnis to retrieve the puck and force a 2 on 0 against Rangers goalie Luke Opilka (St. Louis 2015 5th round pick):
KEY TAKEAWAYS FROM BENNING’S EYES
Alex Debrincat’s play was otherworldly yet again in Benning’s third view of him. The early scouting rankings have clearly discounted him because of his size, and his elite linemate, but if he continues to shred the OHL that will change in due course. As I mentioned in a previous BEFTSG column, Debrincat has a very small PCS cohort, 5 players. Two of which went on to play 200 NHL games, giving him a 40% PCS, which is usually a number we see for top 10 picks. Interestingly, one of those two NHLers was Patrick Kane.