After some time off, the hot-stove is back this week examining who the most underrated forward in the Ontario Hockey League is. The way myself and the participating writers are tackling this is by looking at players who produce on the score sheet, do things right to help their team win games and don’t get as much credit for it as they deserve.
Joining me in this week’s edition is Brandon Sudeyko, Phil Phillips, Dominic Tiano and Peter Kneulman.
My pick for most underrated forward in the league is Erik Bradford of the Barrie Colts. He doesn’t get much credit or time in the spotlight with the likes of Mark Scheifele, Zach Hall, Anthony Camara, etc. on the team, but he deserves it.
Bradford isn’t a guy who is one-dimensional, which is something I really like in his game. He can do a lot of things to help the team win, and he’s a big reason as to why Barrie has one of the best records in the league right now. He kills penalties and takes pride in taking care of play in his own zone, but he also chips in offensively and can score goals - which is a very underrated aspect of his game. Bradford does all the little things right, and while they may not seem like much at the time, they add up and can really impact the outcome of a hockey game.
This topic calls for something completely off the rails. Someone that only a crazed person can justify. So how about this? Brampton Battalion’s Nick Foglia. Yep, go get out the roster sheet and his stat lines.
Here is a player that fits the ‘underrated’ mold to a perfect fit. Playing the last few seasons in Ottawa he was completely overshadowed by Prince, Toffoli, Smith, Martindale, Monahan, Graovac and others, but he was such a valuable piece to their team. Now that he is in Brampton, you begin to see it more. If you are looking at his stat line, you are looking at a player with less than 30 points in the last two seasons, and who has the ability to hit 25 or so just this year. But that is not where his value lies in. It is faceoffs, it is defensive zone coverage, it is the ability to do those little things that if you do not watch him, you will never know. I will admit, not getting to see a lot of Ottawa 67’s games, live and on television (let’s face it there is only so much you can put on a PVR before it is automatically deleted), I didn’t understand the value of Foglia. Getting a chance to see him more often in the Central division, I see how good of a pickup it was by Stan Butler for the Battalion. He may not play on the top line, but if he wins that defensive zone faceoff, or blocks that shot, and is able to move the puck down the ice and gets a whistle, it allows your top line to be in an offensive position and capitalize on the opportunity created the shift prior. He is definitely an underrated player.
The most underrated forward in the OHL is Belleville Bulls Left Winger Scott Simmonds. To look at Scott's stat sheet over his first two seasons in Belleville and this year, you wouldn't think he's underrated at all with only 21 career points, if any thing you might wonder what he even does? Well he does a lot, to fully appreciate what Simmonds brings to the Bulls, you can't just watch one game, and you have to see his full body of work.
This season has been a great one for the 1993 born Simmonds. He kills penalties and has helped the Bulls PK unit be one of, if not the top unit in the OHL. Scott is a big hard worker and he fits in to Coach Burnett's game plan perfectly, He's not huge but he is a solid 6'1" 190lbs and he uses it. He's a physical presence on the ice. Scott is one of Belleville's most consistent fore checkers and looks to throw the open ice hit too. He's a great player on the road particularly in the smaller rinks where he can go up and down the wall and win the battles, put pucks into safe places and kill penalties. Scott has become a real disciplined player, he plays in the last minute of games regardless of the score, he knows the system and can fit in on lines with veterans or rookie's, top or bottom six and helping ether way. He has only 9 minutes in penalties this season with one fighting major. He doesn't fight a bunch but you know he's tough he's a 5 time Rugby LOSSA Gold winner. One thing that might be lacking is his scoring touch. But if he continues to work as hard as he does, maybe the Coaching staff will reward him with power play time.
Scott gets lots of slack from fans in hockey forums and at the rink for not putting up big numbers or numbers at all. Many feel he's taking a roster spot only because his father owns the Belleville Bulls. Those of us who follow the Bulls know that, that's not the case. He's a Belleville Bull because he deserves to be.
Vincent Trocheck to me is the most underrated forward in the Ontario Hockey League. Trocheck is exactly the type of player every coach wants on his team. He does all the little things necessary to win. He's great on faceoffs, is a battler who never shies away from battling along the boards, has extremely good and underrated vision, is an excellent playmaker, his defensive game has really improved, the list goes on and on.
He leads the Saginaw Spirit in scoring by a good margin and is second on the team in plus/minus. His 15 goals and 20 assists are well on their way to being career highs and on pace for a 100 point season.
Maybe it's playing in Saginaw that gives him a lack of exposure. But Trocheck deserves more credit than he is given.
For me the most underrated forward would have to be Guelph Storm Import Tanner Richard. He probably had the quietest point per game season out of anyone last year picking up 48 in 43 games. This season he may not be scoring goals but he has 28 assists in 22 games. Having been up to Guelph multiple times this year to see the Storm you can tell he is the straw that stirs their proverbial drink. Aside from his offensive game he has no problem stepping in and defending his teammates having taken 2 instigator penalties in games I have seen after a teammate was on the receiving end of a questionable hit.