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Minor League Hockey

OHL Roundup: NHL Central Scouting rankings full of surprises

By Mackenzie Liddell, Contributing Editor

Toronto, Canada (Sports Network) - A look at some of the storylines around the Ontario Hockey League:

WITH THE FIRST-OVERALL PICK...

There were a few surprises this week when NHL Central Scouting released its preliminary draft rankings.

For the first time since 2006, the first-overall pick isn't expected to come from the OHL, as Sean Courturier (Drummondville, QMJHL), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (Red Deer, WHL) and Adam Larsson (Sweden) currently lead the pack, by most accounts.

Topping the list of OHL skaters is Kitchener Rangers' captain Gabriel Landeskog. The feisty Swede is not as electrifying as several of his highly- ranked predecessors, but he brings it every shift and is often the best player in all zones of the ice.

Rounding out the top five is Brandon Saad (No. 2) and Vincent Trochek (No. 5) of the Saginaw Spirit, along with Dougie Hamilton (No. 3) and Ryan Strome (No. 4) of the Niagara IceDogs.

While it's nit-picky to argue with preliminary rankings, slotting explosive Rangers' defenseman Ryan Murphy in the eight-spot is a bit of a head scratcher.

Don Cherry's pick to go first overall has been a beast for Kitchener this year (11-26-37), and if he maintains his current pace while lighting it up in next month's World Junior Championship (WJC), expect to see his name closer to the top for the mid-term rankings.

OTTAWA'S TRIPLE THREAT

Ottawa's top line is downright dangerous.

And the extent of the 67's success this season depends on how far the trio of Ryan Martindale, Shane Prince and Tyler Toffoli can take them.

A combination of speed, size, grit and creativity, the threesome has not only paced Ottawa's early season success, they have put themselves in position to become the first line to lead the league in scoring since Jason Spezza anchored the Belleville Bulls' top unit in 2001-02.

Martindale, the Edmonton Oilers third-round pick in 2010, is up to 40 points on the season, only six behind leader Jason Akeson.

Prince, a blazing-fast winger currently ranked 18th by Central Scouting, is one point back of Martindale while Toffoli trails by two.

What's even more impressive is their ability to cash in at even strength.

On a team with only one other forward with a positive plus-minus rating, the "terrific three" (´┐Żbig three' is totally played out) are a combined plus-59 with only seven of their 48 goals coming with the man advantage.

LONDON FALLING

At times it seems more likely the Toronto Maple Leafs will win the Stanley Cup before the London Knights miss the playoffs again.

Although both are unlikely to happen this year, it's not out of the realm of possibility - for the latter, anyways.

London finished the week with a 4-3 shootout win over Kingston on Sunday, but were pummeled by Windsor 7-3 at home Friday night and came out lifeless in a 4-1 loss to Saginaw on Saturday.

Having won only twice in their last six, the Knights sit fifth in the competitive Western Conference, only four points ahead of ninth-place Erie.

While London will likely make its 11th consecutive playoff appearance, the time to rebuild might be now.

The last time General Manager Mark Hunter made a franchise-shaking move came in 2008 when he traded all-star goalie Steve Mason to the Kitchener Rangers in exchange for Phil Varone, Steve Tarasuk and a bevy of draft choices that were used to acquire Nazem Kadri in the off-season.

Although Hunter isn't holding an ace this year, if he decides to capitalize on a bullish trade market he would likely get plenty of phone calls.

As a potential sign of things to come, it was announced before Sunday's game that London dealt forward Michael MacDonald to Sudbury for a pair of second- round draft picks.

NOTES

The aforementioned Toffoli was named the OHL Player of the Week for the period ending Nov. 14, scoring six goals and totaling nine points in three games. He continued his surge this week with another four goals and six points in three contests.

There was no movement in the CHL Top-10 Rankings, as Mississauga, Saginaw and Owen Sound remained in first, fifth and seventh respectively.

11/22 12:13:09 ET