This coming year, the top 2003 born talent will be up for the 2019 OHL and QMJHL drafts. And while the WHL ’03 class has already been drafted, some of the best talent is yet to be seen. High skill, high IQ and high potential players from around the continent are all hitting the spotlight of junior hockey. We’ll highlight the likely top picks in each draft, the contenders for the top spots and the WHLers already drafted.
The three major junior leagues in North America all hold an entry draft to select the best prospects coming into their leagues. The OHL and QMJHL select players born 16 years prior to the draft, so in 2019 they select players born in 2003. The WHL runs their draft system a little differently as they hold a Bantam draft.
This means they take players one year prior to their eligibility to play in the WHL. The 2003 class was selected in 2018 prior to the 2018-19 season, but cannot play in the WHL until the 2019-20 season (with some exceptions).
The top picks of each major junior league’s drafts often carry over into the NHL. The 2002 class featured Hendrix Lapierre, Quinton Byfield and Kaiden Guhle. All of which look like first rounders for the 2020 NHL Draft. 2001 1st picks included Alexis Lafreniére, Ryan Suzuki and Peyton Krebs who are all contending for the top 10 of their draft. The 1st picks of the major junior drafts have a history of success going into their NHL draft years. So who are the stars of the next class of players entering the major junior scene?
Brandt Clarke | OHL
Don Mills Flyers | Right Handed Defensemen
Brandt Clarke would be viewed as the top prospect for the OHL draft if it wasn’t for his teammate Shane Wright. Wright is a 2004 born player, so not eligible for this list. He wouldn’t be eligible for the 2019 OHL Draft either if it wasn’t for the high likelihood of him receiving Hockey Canada Exceptional Status to compete in the OHL a year early. Either way, Brandt Clarke is an extremely good player.
Clarke is the blue line anchor on the top 2003 youth team in the world. The Don Mills Flyers went 8-0-0 in two separate high level tournaments early this year. Clarke has been an integral part in the success of his team every time he steps on the ice.
The Don Mills defender is an acutely skilled player and shows poise beyond his years. Clarke has the ability to walk the blue line and shake off attacking players. He often uses silky dangles while remaining completely calm to avoid contact and open up space to create opportunities for his teammates.
His use of skill is almost always effective due to his great hockey sense. Clarke is another player with the game-breaking ability to control play with hockey IQ and vision. This ability has been seen in other top prospects like Quinn Hughes in the past. He sees what every other player on the ice doesn’t. A combination of this skill and hockey sense allows him to dominate in the offensive zone.
Watch #55 Brandt Clarke give us his rendition of the Michigan Move ?? Can’t let his brother Graeme of the @Ottawa67sHockey take all the spotlight! ( https://t.co/0P3kzfQfSX ) @HeyBarber #lacrosse #IPlayInTheG pic.twitter.com/xzYGI3ZYMm
— Don Mills Flyers '03 (@03DMF) February 26, 2018
The same skill and shiftiness that makes him deadly in the offensive zone also allows him to thrive in transition play. He is on top of that an exceptional skater. Clarke uses extraordinary speed and lateral movement to slide around defending players on the rush.
When he can’t get around a man with only his skating, he can pull out an expansive arsenal of dekes. Clarke is a zone exit and entry machine. When he gets going on the rush, not much can stop him.
Defensively, Clarke is a solid player. He shows no defensive defects or overly concerning qualities, but he isn’t a remarkable defender. His hockey sense allows him to be defensively capable, but he lacks the size and strength to be a real force in the defensive zone. It is to be noted that he is only 15, but still only stands at 5’9″ (175cm) and 141lbs (64kg). Clarke’s major defensive attribute is his capability to break up plays with his positional play. Other than that, there isn’t much to note about his defensive game.
Brandt Clarke is another player to add to the list of new aged fast, skilled and smart defenders. He resembles players like the aforementioned Quinn Hughes. Clarke plays with a lot of swagger to his game and isn’t afraid to show off. He will certainly be a name to watch out for in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
Joshua Roy | QMJHL
Lévis Chevaliers | Center
The buzz in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is all about Joshua Roy. Roy likely isn’t a familiar name to many as the language barrier has prevented a lot of media exposure for him. Either way, Roy is showing shades of the better known Alexis Lafreniére.
Roy leads his youth league, the QMAAA, in goals, assists and points. He sits atop the league with 2.35 points per game and 1.15 goals per game. This is a league that features players drafted into the QMJHL back in 2017.
Alexis Lafreniére in his QMJHL Draft year registered a 2.31 points per game and 0.917 goals per game. While the consensus is that Roy isn’t as good as Lafreniére, it certainly goes to show just how highly touted Roy really is.
Joshua Roy competes for the Lévis Chevaliers who, like the Don Mills Flyers, are dominant in their age group. The team was at one point 18-0 and hold five of the six league leading players in points per game. Roy is credited with much of his team’s success throughout their amazing run.
Roy has been half of an amazing duo in him and fellow 2019 QMJHL Draft eligible Olivier Nadeau as well. Roy does benefit greatly from his line mate, yet in the time where Nadeau was injured, Roy didn’t skip a beat.
The best way to describe Joshua Roy is as a finisher. Despite being 15, Roy isn’t a kid. He is a phenomenal athlete with developed strength and build. He is also a very fast player. His speed and strength combine to make him a force on the ice, even if he is only 5’11 (180cm), 165lbs (75kg).
The left shot center can really shoot the puck thanks to his strength. Roy has a quick release that can catch a goaltender off guard. The power and quickness of his shot is just too hot to handle for goalies in the QMAAA.
He also easily shows the best hockey sense and playmaking vision in the QMJHL class, even with his status as a finisher rather than a playmaker. Roy has considerable playmaking ability that often flies under the radar due to his staggering scoring ability. Roy’s final head turning skill is in his silky hands. Roy has no problem undressing any defender in his way. Lastly, Roy has shown capabilities of playing a smart two-way game.
— Eric Veilleux (@SportMax1035) September 17, 2018
Joshua Roy has cemented his status as a top prospect for the 2021 NHL Draft. Information on Roy is scarce simply due to his development in French speaking Quebec. Although as Roy hits the QMJHL ranks there will be no denying his talent.
As an August birthday, he is one of the younger 2021 eligibles. Joshua Roy looks to cement an early spot in the 2021 top 10 with the likely 1st overall pick in goaltender Jesper Wallstedt. Roy battles for one of these spots along with Brandt Clarke and others including Dylan Guenther.
Dylan Guenther | WHL
Norther Alberta X-Treme Prep | Edmonton Oil Kings | Left Wing
The 1st overall pick in the WHL Bantam Draft is a highly accomplished scoring winger out of Edmonton, Alberta. Guenther became the first player in his WHL draft year to score over 100 points in the top youth hockey circuit in Western Canada, the CSSHL. Guenther led North Alberta, or NAX, to the John Reid Memorial championship.
NAX, like Don Mills and Lévis Chevaliers, are a dominant force in their league thanks to the contributions of Guenther. Other notable talents include the guaranteed #1 pick in the 2019 WHL Draft in the sensational Matthew Savoie.
Dylan Guenther is one of the most exciting players to watch in this age group. Guenther is a pure shooter. He has a blistering wrist and snap shot that could already pick apart WHL goaltenders. Few players Guenther’s age have the scoring abilities like him.
He’s exceptionally good at getting shots off whether he is at top speed on the rush or set up on the powerplay. Guenther’s shooting abilities give him the chance to score on any shot he takes. I’d compare his scoring less to players like Ovechkin and Laine and more to a guy like Elias Pettersson. Overall, Guenther is simply a miraculous goal scorer. He plays an exciting brand of hockey that you can’t look away from.
This past season, Dylan Guenther of @NAXHockey was the first student athlete to break the 100-point plateau in CSSHL Bantam Prep history en route to winning the scoring title with 103 points in 30 games. #WHLBantamDraft pic.twitter.com/UMbBzSbm8W
— CSSHL (@CSSHL) May 3, 2018
Outside of his shooting skills, Guenther still impresses. He shows a lot of good skating qualities in his game. His east-west movement on his feet is some of the best in the ’03 class. He lacks some of the top speed elite skaters have, but his edges and agility are on point.
Guenther is also a high IQ player. His goal scoring instincts are unheard of in many players his age. He shows shiftiness and deceptive play in the offensive zone. Guenther’s puck skills also leave little to be desired.
He shows his soft hands off in tough situations and is good at protecting the puck. Guenther, while a shoot first player, does have a playmaking game or he wouldn’t have gotten over 100 points. His game, generally, leaves few holes and facilitates an exiting brand of hockey.
Guenther is a player everyone should keep their eyes on. Like the two before, Guenther is eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft and in contention for a top spot.
Lambos was selected 2nd overall behind Dylan Guenther in the WHL Bantam Draft. Although at the time of the draft many believed Lambos should have been selected 1st. Lambos is a dominant two-way defender that is a driving offensive force in the offensive zone, rock solid in the defensive zone and a physical enforcer in all zones. He can move the puck very well in addition to all his other attributes. Lambos is the most complete player of those mentioned with no notable flaws in his game.
Everybody knows about the three Hughes brothers. Quinn was taken 7th by the Vancouver Canucks in 2018 while Jack is the likely 1st overall pick in this year’s draft. There isn’t much to say about Luke at this point.
He is a left-handed defensemen that plays a lot like Quinn. He shows a very high skill set and calling his skating elite is a vast understatement. Hughes isn’t in contention to be taken 1st overall in the OHL Draft because he is committed to play for the Univ. of Michigan.
Although Hughes is, in my mind, the 2nd best player in the OHL class behind Clarke, Luke Hughes will get more of the spotlight when he joins the US National Team next season.
McTavish is a high calibre offensive center. He thrives in his ability to drive offense, but also holds finishing capabilities with a hard shot. McTavish has all the strength to compete at any level. His shot power is OHL calibre and he is hard on the puck as well.
He is rarely out battled by his opponents. Some of his offensive capabilities can be seen in his advanced statistics. Finlay Sherratt tracked McTavish’s play over 4 games and found his total zone entries at 27 and an 85.2% controlled entry percentage. He also registered a 76.7 Corsi for percentage over the span. McTavish, overall, projects out as one of the top offensive players in the 2019 OHL Draft.
Othmann was a breakout player at the Wendy Dufton Memorial Tournament. Over 8 games, he potted 16 goals and 25 points while competing against some of the top 2003 teams in the country. Othmann is another integral part in the dominant Don Mills Flyers team, the same one as Brandt Clarke. Othmann is a goal-scorer with a great shot and breakaway speed. Of the 2019 OHL class, he has shown some of the best offensive acumen.
2OT Winner by @BrennanOthmann pic.twitter.com/33vZqMTXvl
— PRO SPORTS HOCKEY (@Prosportshd) February 6, 2018