It has been a good year for the Brampton Battalion. After a frustrating, but promising inaugural season in 1998/1999, Brampton has improved significantly in their 2nd OHL campaign.
It hasn’t been easy … some would argue that the team’s success was not predictable by any means. In the off season, Brampton lost its leading scorer during the 1998/1999 season (rookie phenomenon Jason Spezza) to the Mississauga Ice Dogs in the OHL priority selection. Spezza was only 15 while playing for Brampton.
Lack of support at home games can have a negative impact on a team. This is also where Brampton has been suffering. Even though Brampton is a city with a population of well over 200,000 people, the Battalion are having trouble filling the stands, owning one of the worst attendance records in the league.
Still, the Battalion overcame the odds and have made the OHL playoffs for the first time in franchise history. The change in the team from its 1st to 2nd year is obvious. The players have matured, improving not only individually, but as a team as well. The rookies on the squad have also played a big part in the Battalions 2nd year success. Brampton’s turn around has not gone unnoticed. The Battalion have 8 players mid season ranked for the NHL entry draft in June, two of which are ranked in the top 10.
Here’s a look at Bramptons top 5 prospects for the 2000 NHL entry draft:
(mid season ranked 2nd / North America Defensemen and Forwards)
1999/2000: GP 67 G 16 A 29 P 45 PIM 174
Strengths: Offensive/Defensive Skills, Physical Game
Weaknesses: Occasional Carelessness
An excellent defenseman no matter how you look at it. Klesla can stay back and defend his end. At 6’2, 200, he adds size and strength to an already huge Battalion defense core. Klesla, an OHL rookie, knows how to throw his weight around and backs down from no one. He is also the player that you will find making the big defensive play when needed in the Battalion defensive zone. He is an excellent skater who carry’s the puck well. He can make the play and can score the goal.
Not often, but on occasion, because he carry’s the puck and makes break out passes so often, he may get a little careless and lose the puck to the opposing team. Recovery from these situations may be possible at times in the OHL, but in the NHL (especially if stripped by the likes of a Steve Yzerman or Joe Sakic), these kinds of mistakes will prove costly.
He’s mid season ranked 2nd in North America and ranked 5th overall by the Prospect Advisor in March. The rankings are very accurate. Klesla is what you would get if you crossed Scott Stevens with Paul Coffey.
(mid season ranked 7th / North America Defensemen and Forwards)
Position: Left Wing/ Center (on occasion)
1999/2000: GP 68 G 43 A 48 P 91 PIM 40
Strengths: Natural Goal Scorer/Playmaker
Weaknesses: Parts of Defensive Game
Torres has come into his own this year. He’s one of those forwards that do everything well offensively. He reads the ice extremely well and is more than capable of making the “did you see that?” pass. He always seems to be at the right place at the right time to score, and has made more than one defenseman look bad on 1 on 1 situations during the course of the season. Extremely soft hands. He plays a physical game at will it seems, and even though he’s only 5’11, he can hit as if he were 6’4.
The only complaint concerning Torres comes in the defensive zone. He has a tendency to float up around past his own blue line while the other team has possession inside the Battalion zone. Anticipation is a good thing, but if one of the opposing defensemen were to move in, a goal against is a likely result.
Mid season ranked 7th in North America and 10th Overall by the Prospect Advisor in March. Don’t be surprised if Torres goes higher than 10th. Torres is NHL material if I’ve ever seen it.
(mid season ranked 42nd / North America Defensemen and Forwards)
1999/2000: GP 58 G 0 A 8 P 8 PIM 81
Strengths: Defensive Game
Weaknesses: Offensive Involvement
Hanchuck is a steady, stay home defenseman. He plays the game with his head up and demonstrates smart hockey sense inside his own blueline. At 6’2 ½ , 210 pounds, Hanchuck is more than capable of clearing the front of his net and winning battles in the corners.
It would be nice if this great young defenseman could become more offensively involved. Hanchuck has 0 goals 10 assists in 115 games for the Battalion. An asset to any team looking to improve its blueline.
(mid season ranked 75 / North America Defensemen and Forwards)
Position: Right Wing
1999/2000: GP 55 G 21 A 29 P 50 PIM 26
Strengths: Offensive Ability
Havel is a crafty winger who possesses great puck control. He is a great skater who comes through for Brampton at the best of times. He led the Battalion with 5 game winning goals during the regular season. Although only 5’9, Havel is a gritty player with quick hands and a goal scorers instinct.
Size is the major draw back for Havel. As players get bigger, and play becomes tougher, battles in the offensive zone are becoming more important. Size wins out most of the time, and that’s what GM’s look for. Size is also one of the main reasons Brandon Reid is only mid season ranked 65th
(mid season ranked 112th / North America Defensemen and Forwards)
Position: Center / Wing
1999/2000: GP 57 G 17 A 20 P 37 PIM 24
Weaknesses: Puck Control
VanLeusen is the fastest player on the Battalion Team. His great acceleration has the ability to create odd man rushes. He is used on the penalty kill often, and is effective in that role. Aaron led the team with 2 shorthanded goals during the regular season.
VanLeusen needs to learn how to control the puck more effectively. If he were to improve on his stick handling skills, he could develop into a serious offensive weapon. Another year in the OHL might be just the thing.
Van Leusen’s the sleeper pick. There is a lot of potential in him.
*** Special thanks to Trent Allen ***