With the OHL, WHL and QMJHL dominating the Canadian junior ranks, finding potential gems from the Junior A system can be a tough task. For many of Canada’s top players, making it to major junior tends to be the best path in terms of catching the eyes of NHL scouts prior to the NHL draft. Some of the top players from the Canadian Hockey League tend to have roots implanted in Junior A, such as Mike Cammalleri, Curtis Joseph and John Tavares.
But that isn’t to say that you won’t find natural talents hanging around in leagues such as the Ontario Junior Hockey League, Central Canada Hockey League and others of similar level. One player hoping to prove that is recent Dallas Stars draft pick Michael Prapavessis, who is coming off of one of the best seasons you could imagine for a young stud blue-liner.
All the Oakville, Ontario native did this year was win. Prapavessis, who will suit up for Rensselaer Poly Institute in the NCAA next season, won the OJHL Top Defenseman award this year after averaging over 20 minutes of ice time a game and leading the league in defensive scoring. While posting 5 goals and 54 points in 47 games, the talented defenseman also went on to win the OJHL Championship with the Toronto Patriots, the Ontario National Jr. A Championship and OHA Top Prospect honors at the young age of 18. In terms of play making skill, Prapavessis comes in as one of the biggest potential steals in the draft, as some experts saw him going within the top three rounds before eventually landing to the Stars in the fourth round.
Not known for using the body on a play, Prapavessis has very solid stick work and can skate around opposing players similar to PK Subban with great ease. The young blue liner has always been very solid defensively and makes very limited mistakes in his own zone. His poise, the mental aspect of his game and his ability to read plays makes him one of the smartest players on the ice in each and every game. He took his game to an all new level when it counted most with the Patriots this year, becoming one of the most dominant players on the ice during the OJHL playoffs, Dudley Hewitt Cup and RBC Cup this past spring. While not as strong as some other NHL draft prospects when it comes to playing with the extra man, Prapavessis was the backbone of the league’s second best power play unit (25.76%) and would end up finishing second among all skaters with 25 power play assists. In addition to his offensive ability, Prapavessis has a great ability to stay out of the box, having taken just 4 PIM in over 70 OJHL contests over two years. Those don’t tend to be the numbers you see from a defenseman logging the numbers he does, but it makes sense for the OJHL’s Most Gentlemanly Player.
Prapavessis stands at just 6’1” and 180 lbs, so he’ll need to grow out his frame and work on his physical play to raise his stock. While he is a fast skater, he tends to look awkward when going for a stride and could be knocked down quite easily. For an offensive defenseman, his shot could still use some work as it appears to be the weakest trait about his game at this point, but his hockey IQ likely eliminates that as a major threat.
Following 72 career regular season games that saw a lot of success, Prapavessis will follow in the footsteps of his brother, Bemidji State Univ. captain Matthew Prapavessis, in the college ranks. After announcing his commitment to RPI back in 2013, before his first full year of Junior A action, Prapavessis has developed into a very talented defensive prospect to keep an eye on in the near future. RPI has a strong connection to Prapavessis’ hometown of Oakville, boasting a roster that features defenseman Phil Hampton and forwards Travis Fulton and Mark McGowan, so Prapavessis should feel at home right away. Currently ranked 30th in the most recent NCAA rankings following a 15-16-6 record, RPI is hoping that Prapavessis can translate his OJHL success from last season into college success, while the defenseman himself is looking forward to representing green NHL jerseys in the near future.
Steven is a junior hockey reporter for the Oakville Blades of the Ontario Junior Hockey League, and also focuses on international hockey for his website, TheHockeyHouse.net. You can follow Steven on twitter,@StevenEllisNHL.
Photo credit: Shawn Muir, OJHL Images.