Now that the Ontario Hockey League’s regular season has ended, it’s time for "In the O Radio's" ranking of the top draft eligible players for the upcoming NHL draft. Dominic Tiano handles these rankings all season for ITO and will also release an other list at the conclusion of the OHL playoffs. The 1st list released was that of draft eligible goal tenders. These picks are Mr. Tiano's personal opinion based on expectations, accomplishments throughout the regular season, potential, development curve and consistency, among other things.
ITO's top ranked NHL draft eligible goaltender is Charlie Graham of the Belleville Bulls. Charlie was nothing short of spectacular this season for Belleville posting a 2.59 GAA and a .922 SV% for the Bulls going 15-5-1-3 with 3 SO in 25 games played. Before Graham was drafted in the 7th round by the Bulls in 2011, he helped to lead the Don Mills Flyers to the OHL Cup Final. In 2011-2012 Charlie started with the Bulls OJHL Affiliate the Wellington Dukes. The Toronto native appeared in 14 games for the Dukes and had a record of 9-4-1 with a GAA of 2.35 and a .923 SV%. The plan was for Graham to spend a year with the Dukes before joining the Bulls full-time. But when Belleville was faced with some injury trouble Graham was recalled for good, and for a far as 16 year old goalies go in the OHL adjusting to the speed and to the quality of play, he played well. This season for the Bulls Charlie's biggest improvement over last season is his rebound control. Bulls goaltending guru Sebastien Farrese told the Intelligencer "Charlie has made huge progression from last season. His focus and rebound control is much better, I also like his level of competition." It didn't take long for Graham to make his mark, he recorded a 33 save shut out victory over Brampton in his 1st start of the season and was named the games first star. Over the course of the season as Charlie gained experience in the OHL he began to climb the draft rankings on all most every list available. One thing that needs to be said to was his ability to accept his role this season, Graham was well aware that he would be the back up and came to camp with a great attitude ready to learn and be the best goalie that Charlie Graham could be, he was ready when his opportunity arose and he took advantage of it. Not only did he help keep his club in the hunt for the Conference title that they ending up winning, he showed he's an everyday goalie, and has gave himself a real shot to be drafted to an NHL Team. The feeling in The Friendly City is that Malcolm Subban will move forward next season and that Charlie Graham will be the starter, and if this season is any indication, the crease is in good hands.
Early last week we briefly spoke with Charlie Graham informing him that ITO has chosen him as the top ranked draft eligible goalie, this is that conversation.
ITO : I wanted to congratulate you on your teams success and on your personal success that lead to you being recognized on almost every draft ranking list there is out there and on being named the "In The O Radio's" Top Ranked Goalie for the 2012-13 OHL season.
Graham : Thanks a lot .
ITO : Do you follow the rankings and think much about the draft ?
Graham : You notice them and the draft is always in the back of your mind, but you can't focus on the ranking or the draft you just have to work hard and play your best. My goal is to be a number one goalie every year
ITO : Coming in to this season it wasn't a secret that Malcolm Subban would start the majority of games, before the season started did Head Coach George Burnett give you any idea of how many games you would play ?
Graham : He said that I would have to work for my starts and if Malcolm was selected to play for Team Canada at the World Jr's, that I would get to play. He said to work hard in practice, be prepared and push Malcolm .
ITO : Right out of the gate you seemed very prepared posting a shut out in your first start of the season. (2-0 Win Vs Brampton 10/12/12) What do you do to get ready when your number is called ?
Graham : When your not playing, its important that you work hard in practice and battle, taking care of the little things and making sure that your ready, some might say it hard to do, but if you work and keep your self game ready its not.
ITO : You did get to play in December and January when Subban was with Team Canada and it was very impressive did Malcolm give you any advice before he left ?
Graham : Not really before he left, he helps me all the time, he said good luck and I wished him good luck.
ITO : What the difference between playing everyday as opposed to being the back up , what do you do to prepare differently ?
Graham : It is different playing everyday, making sure your getting proper rest is key, and just getting in the groove of the routine.
ITO : How is your relationship with Malcolm ?
Graham : Its great, he's a great guy on and off the ice, not only are we goalie partners we are friends off the ice, not only during the season but in the summer too, be at home or in Belleville.
ITO : What kind of impact has Bulls goaltending Coach Sebastien Farrese had on your career ?
Graham : He's been great and a really big help. Sebastien's record in Belleville speaks for its self. I think he knows that each goalie is different and has different styles, he helps us work on the little things and help us to keep it simple.
ITO : What's it like to play on the big ice at the Yardman, What kind of adjustments do you have to make playing at home or on the road ?
Graham : Its a little different in the pre game you look for bounces and stuff, some people say its a home ice advantage, and some people say its a an advantage for others we we come to their rink, it might be a difference in places like Peterborough with the square corners or on the Pond in Niagara.
ITO : What your favourite road rink ?
Graham : The Kitchener Memorial Auditorium
ITO : Your from the GTA, what's it like to play in Belleville ?
Graham : Its great, it starts with the fans, Belleville is known for having real loyal fans. Its a nice city.
ITO : Growing up what was your favourite NHL Club ? and are their any goalies at the pro level that you look at as a favourite or maybe wanted to be like ?
Graham : My Dad is a big Montreal fan so I would say them, I don't really look to be be like anyone else or play their style, watching all the top goalies can help me get better.
ITO : Its has to be fun playing on a team that has been as successful as the Bulls have this season, the expectations where high right out of the gate and you guys meet them, what's that been like ?
Graham : Yeah its been fun, we have a good group and adding Tyler Graovac and Alan Quine at the deadline and Jake Cardwell earlier, made us even stronger and we hope to keep in going in the playoffs.
ITO : Congrats again on your club and personal success this season and thanks for doing this.
Graham : Thank you and thanks for having me.