Good news, mostly, from wherever in the ether the OHL draft originates from. (It's a conference call.) Both Michigan recruits were picked in the third round, which is right on the border between "secret deal worked out" and "flier." The general impression I've gleaned is that both picks are strongly in the flier category.
Defense recruit Jon Merrill went to Plymouth. Plymouth's GM:
"We had Jonathon Merrill rated as a top defenseman on our list. He is committed to Michigan and the US program, but we'll wait and see. He's not going to be here this year, I don't think, but we'll talk to him and his family and kind of follow the same path we went with Beau Schmitz - just talk to the family as needed and not bother them too much."Obviously there's no pre-existing deal with Plymouth. They reference Beau Schmitz, a former NTDP defenseman Plymouth just signed, but Schmitz's situation was quite different: he was a Ferris State commit for a while but decommitted and the WOTS is that he was never going to qualify.
OTOH, Merrill's been at just about every Michigan home game since he committed a couple years ago. Bob Miller made reference to "hearing some things" about another Jenks, -- AJ Jenks was a commit supposed to come in with Czarnik and Wohlberg, but defected -- which gives me the willies, but if Plymouth doesn't expect him to show up this year then he's got a choice between one year with the NTDP and going to a Michigan team he obviously would like to play for and the Plymouth Whalers, average attendance: 2,600 fans in a rabidly half-full Compuware Sports Arena. Weird things happen, but they would be weird.
One last bit on Merrill: in the Hockey's Future thread on the OHL draft there is a guy who works for Red Line's junior division, and he shared RLR's scouting report:
Currently rated #1 overall by Red Line Junior in our rankings for the 2008 Ontario Hockey League Priority Draft. In a class by himself as far as Red Line Junior is concerned when it comes to available defencemen his year.Again, Jack Jack Jack. There will never be another JMFJ, but Merrill sounds as Jack-like as possible without the scouting report directly stating "Jackson Pollack embodied in a hockey player... is he insane or brilliant? From the chaos comes beauty, and in the edges of understanding is a serenity unknown to outsiders. Liable to kill Ryan Smyth someday."
Has all the tools to become a superstar-calibre pro: excellent size, effortless, fluid mobility and a good head for the game. Uses the body regularly. Makes his first pass with authority. Great point shot, and gets it low and on the net consistently. Technical skating is outstanding, with smooth pivots and excellent backward/lateral acceleration. Reads plays well defensively and deftly uses long reach and quickness to cut off available lanes. Knows when to be aggressive in his challenges.
Has already committed to next year¹s U.S. U-17 National Team.
Meanwhile, forward recruit Jared Knight also went in the third, and he went to one of the two teams you, as a fan of an NCAA hockey program, do not want to see your player drafted by: London. (Kitchener is the other.) Still, Knight was not regarded a flight risk before the draft and the Hockey's Future chatter* on his selection is universally pessimistic about his chances to report. CHL fans think everyone is going to report, so that's a good sign. Knight was apparently the #19 rated player by ISS, with Merrill coming in #6 -- obviously they're not as enamored as Red Line.
One target, Brandon Saad, is a goner:
"To go (in the) first round was an honor," Saad said. "I've had a couple of meetings with them already and I'm pretty excited about going there. I've been away a couple of times at camps, but never for very long.Tyler Toffoli also went in the first round. He is committed to his Junior A team for next year, but it's rare that a first round pick eschews the OHL. Miller regarded him a longshot to start, anyway.
"About this decision, we haven't decided whether I'm going this year or next year. My parents might hold me back to get my life in order. We've been talking to them (the Spirit) about that. I'm going to take a couple of visits up there, see how the mini-camp goes and make our decision based on that."
But, he added, he expects to eventually end up in the Saginaw playing in the OHL and not going the U.S. college-route his 17-year-old brother George Jr. will eventually take when he's finished with high school.
Two other targets Miller called out as guys to watch fell significantly. Kevin Clare, a "very high end defenseman" according to Miller, slipped into the fourth round and went to Erie. Erie is widely regarded to be the Detroit Lions of the OHL. Michigan's top goalie target, Jack Campbell, fell to Windsor in the sixth round. Both are likely headed to college. Bob Miller's OHL draft thread has information on all these kids and more.
*(Sorry to lean so heavily on anonymous message board posters by LOL CHL Canadian teenagers, but media coverage of the OHL draft, especially as it relates to NCAA commitments, hardly exists.)