2018 GTHL Top Prospects Game: 10 Players to Watch

December 11th, 2018 will mark the 10th edition of the annual Greater Toronto Hockey League Top Prospects Game, and what a contest it is shaping up to be.

Slated to be held at Scotiabank Pond in Downsview Park, this year’s Top Prospects Game will feature a wealth of wildly talented young players eager to leave a lasting impression upon scouts and prospective OHL franchises alike. However, doing so will surely prove to be extremely difficult for this year’s crop of players, as this Top Prospects Game will boast not only jaw-dropping skill but remarkable depth to boot.

Related: 2019 OHL Draft Rankings

In fact, it is depth which has come to define this year’s class of OHL Priority Selection-eligible players. In years passed the annual OHL Draft has been relatively top heavy, while this year’s event could see players of first round skill selected in the third-to-fourth rounds — of not later.

Related: 2019 OHL Draft Prospect Profiles

So, considering the overwhelming amount of talent present within the GTHL this season, let’s take a moment to highlight 10 players competing in this year’s Top Prospects Game who are well worth keeping an eye on.

To allow for equal representation, we’ll preview five players from each of the game’s two teams.

5 Prospects to Watch:

– Team Clark-Weaver-Corson –

Come this year’s GTHL Top Prospects Game, it is Team Clark-Weaver-Corson who could hold the distinct advantage at both ends of the ice.

Team Clark-Weaver-Corson: Full Roster

Featuring a bounty of endlessly talented forwards as well as defencemen who love to rush the puck, Team Clark-Weaver-Corson could present an overwhelming challenge for their opponent. Led by the ever-talented Shane Wright, defended by Brandt Clarke, and backstopped by a brick wall in Joshua Rosenzweig, there’s no telling how devastating this team could be if able to gel relatively quickly.

A consistent two-way defenceman for the Don Mills Flyers this season, Clarke is as poised and confident as they come on the blue line. Of impressive size and strength, Clarke dominates his opponents defensively owing to tactile body positioning and an active and accurate stick.

Once in possession of the puck, Clarke can outlet passes to his forwards with little issue and is no stranger to rushing the puck up ice himself. Extremely shifty yet smooth in his skating, Clarke can traverse the ice with ease and stands as a calm yet deadly offensive option on the Flyers’ blue line. In short, there’s a reason why Clarke could very well be made a top-3 choice in the upcoming 2019 OHL Priority Selection — he’s arguably the GTHL’s top defenceman.

There’s a reason why Adam Fantilli is one of only three 2004-born prospects set to play in the GTHL Top Prospects Game this season — well, a few reasons to be exact. Despite his young age — born in December of 2004 — Fantilli has quickly become one of the most electric and well-rounded players competing within the GTHL.

Not intimidated by his older and more physically mature competition, Fantilli owns lightning-quick feet and eye-watering speed. Capable of darting up the ice with the puck, Fantilli can overtake his defenders to the outside of the ice before driving hard to the net. Once in range of the goaltender, Fantilli becomes a multi-faceted threat owing to his creative playmaking abilities and unbelievably strong shot.

Ultimately, we could be looking at the eventual first-overall selection in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection.

Although the Mississauga Senators have endured a fairly mediocre start to their 2018-19 GTHL campaign, the team is fortunate to boast a star in the making in Braeden Kressler. Although slightly under-sized given his 5-foot-9 frame, Kressler is a shifty and purposeful skater with speed and skill to burn.

Capable of generating offence from a standstill and a player who makes those around him better, Kressler’s vision and surprisingly strong shot allow him to generate a great deal of the Senators’ offensive opportunities. While his overall defensive game remains a work in progress, Kressler’s two-way abilities and work-ethic are undeniable.

The Toronto Red Wings have been a pleasant surprise this season, ascending towards the top of the GTHL standings owing to balanced team play and superb goaltending. One particular player who has stood above the rest, however, is Francesco Pinelli — a dynamite two-way centre whose game has improved dramatically this campaign.

Of excellent speed and impressive strength, Pinelli can command possession of the puck and is well aware of how to use his size to his advantage. Eerily similar to former Vaughan Kings star Cole Perfetti, Pinelli features a lethal shot alongside ample playmaking abilities. As creative and consistent as they come, Pinelli’s strong play alongside his natural leadership abilities will combine to make him a highly sought after prospect come the 2019 OHL Priority Selection.

Elite young goaltenders are an extremely difficult commodity to come by, which is why the Red Wings should feel extremely fortunate to feature Joshua Rosenzweig in their crease. Calm, cool, and collected in goal, Rosenzweig is a poised netminder who allows the game to come to him — utilizing his exceptional reflexes and positioning to defy his attackers on a nightly basis.

In addition to his all-around play in goal, Rosenzweig is also a phenomenal puck-handler who can rifle the puck up the ice to his teammates — a reality which often generates a number of offensive opportunities for his lethal forwards to capitalize upon. At the end of the day, Rosenzweig is one of — if not the — best goaltenders eligible for the 2019 OHL Priority Selection. Although his rebound control could use some work, Rosenzweig’s all-around game is simply too strong to let pass.

5 Prospects to Watch:

– Team Graves-Primeau-Tucker –

What Team Graves-Primeau-Tucker lacks in speed and skill it more than compensates for with size and determination, as the team’s roster features many of the GTHL’s most competitive players.

Team Graves-Primeau-Tucker: Full Roster

Now, this is not to say that Team Graves-Primeau-Tucker lacks speed and skill by any means, but rather that their opponent may hold a distinct advantage in these aspects of the game. If hoping to negate the creativity and lethality of their opponent, Team Graves-Primeau-Tucker will need to rely heavily on its physically punishing yet two-way capable blue line.

Were he eligible for the annual OHL Priority Selection, Zachary Dean would have undoubtedly been made a top-five selection in this year’s Draft. However, given the fact that he was born in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland, Dean will instead be eligible for the upcoming 2019 QMJHL Entry Draft.

A quick and effortless skater who owns terrific speed and agility, Dean can traverse the ice with ease while driving puck possession for his team. Capable of stealing the puck from his opponents with startling regularity, Dean can protect the puck well once in possession and is a dynamic threat in the offensive zone. In fact, alongside a blistering and accurate shot, Dean is also a creative playmaker who makes his line-mates better with each passing shift.

Speed is the name of the game for Jesse Fishman of the Mississauga Rebels — an endlessly determined forward who loves to push the pace offensively. Of incredible high-end speed and lightning-quick acceleration, Fishman can navigate the ice with little issue and is as persistent as they come once in possession of the puck.

A lethal two-way threat who plays a responsible game at both ends of the ice, Fishman can dismantle plays devised by his opposition within his own zone before transitioning the puck up ice. Once established in his attacking zone, Fishman utilizes crisp edge-work and mobility to create time and space from his opponents. Having separated himself from his defenders, Fishman can fire his accurate shot on net or pass the puck to an open teammate owing to his growing on-ice vision.

In addition to Fantilli and Wright, Lane Hinkley of the Vaughan Kings is the third and final 2004-born player poised to skate in the GTHL Top Prospects Game. An impressive blueliner for the Kings given his age, Hinkley plays an intelligent and calculated game which revolves around his primary strengths on the ice.

Standing as the foundation of Hinkley’s game are his skating skills and ability to process the game at an elite pace. Rarely pressured into committing turnovers and poised while in possession of the puck, Hinkley routinely makes educated yet challenging plays with apparent ease and is consistent in his ability to do so. Further, Hinkley’s quick-feet allow him to evade his attackers at both ends of the ice — a reality which helps to drive Vaughan’s offensive play while securing their defensive zone in the process.

An intelligent two-way centre, Wyatt Johnston’s consistency throughout this season has launched him into conversation with the top tier of offensive prospects for this year’s OHL Draft. Displaying an admirable compete level at both ends of the ice, Johnston is regularly relied upon to play in key defensive situations.

On the other side of the puck, Johnston is confident in gaining the offensive zone by either skating the puck through the neutral zone or by chipping the puck past defenders while using his speed. He shows off his vision and sense of the ice further by slipping behind defencemen in order to make himself a viable passing option, as shown by his notable goal totals. What makes Johnston so intriguing is his combination of essential skills; skating, intelligence, and natural scoring prowess.

One of the more unique goaltenders among the 2003 age group, Samuel Moncada plays a style that is eerily similar to that Jonathan Quick. Standing a modest 5-foot-9, Moncada showcases impressive confidence between the pipes, utilizing incredible agility and flexibility to make numerous eye-popping saves. With quick lateral movement and excellent rebound control, Moncada displays cat-like reflexes which often keeps his team in the game.

Related: 5 GTHL Goaltenders to Watch in 2018-19

Understanding his size, Moncada more than makes up for this perceived deficiency by playing an aggressive style which effectively takes away the bottom-half of the net. Almost like a back-catcher in baseball, he will often opt to drop his stick in order to pounce on loose pucks or use his blocker hand to cover up the puck and force a whistle. A highly talented backstop, Moncada exhibits a very promising basis to his game.

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