Who are the best 16-year olds?

November 9, 2016

The recent World Under-17 Hockey Challenge offered a glimpse at the best 2000 birth-year players on the planet including 24 who are rookies in the Ontario Hockey League.

When the best 16-year olds from the OHL are not only up against the best from the rest of Canada but the best from the rest of the hockey world, it makes for keen viewing and intense focus — and input from those whose job it is to judge talent.

Among the OHL skaters who were a part of the three Team Canada squads at the WU17, those who were most-mentioned in very-flattering terms by a cross-section of National Hockey League and OHL scouts and analysts who were in attendance included defensemen Owen Lalonde of the Sudbury Wolves and Giovanni Vallati of the Kitchener Rangers and forwards Ty Dellandrea of the Flint Firebirds, Aidan Dudas of the Owen Sound Attack and Akil Thomas of the Niagara IceDogs.

All five were first-round picks at a 2016 OHL draft from which the Guelph Storm took offensive-minded defenseman Ryan Merkley with the first overall selection.

All possess considerable skill and what coaches, scouts and analysts commonly refer to as having a “high hockey IQ.”

Following Merkley in the first round of this year’s OHL draft, the aforementioned Lalonde went second, Vallati lasted until the 16th pick, Dellandrea was the fifth overall selection, Dudas went 10th and Thomas was chosen 12th.

Dellandrea, who many thought would be a late first-round pick at the 2016 draft, has certainly shown that he is worthy of having gone to Flint with the no. 5 selection.

In the department of intrigue, Dudas, who hails from Parry Sound — which is the birthplace of legendary defenseman Bobby Orr — stood tall at the WU17 despite being slight in stature at 5-foot-8, 155 pounds.

Meanwhile, no less than three blue-chip blue-liners from the Ottawa 67’s — Peter Stratis, Carter Robertson and Kevin Bahl — all earned honourable mention for their play at the WU17 that was held in Sault Ste. Marie.

Stratis went in the first round, 11th overall, of the 2016 OHL draft while Robertson were both second-round selections, 30th and 31st overall.

Looking ahead at when the above-mentioned are eligible for selection at the NHL draft, there are those who make a living from the business who are already drooling as they plan two years down the road for the 2018 lottery.

PHOTO: Kitchener Rangers were able to snag slender defender Giovanni Vallati with the 16th overall pick of the 2016 OHL draft.

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