The Toronto Titans Tournament took place in September of 2016. Jack Hughes is currently projected to be a top OHL Draft pick.
Courtesy of HockeyNow
As the flocks gathered to Scotiabank Pond in Toronto for the ninth annual Toronto Titans Minor Midget Prospect Tournament, choosing from the variety of games was like contemplating a sushi menu.
Everyone always has their favourite item on the list and in this case, pre-season scouting reports have OHL-team reps satisfying their appetite over the likes of Toronto Marlboros forward Jack Hughes.
Five-foot-eight forward Hughes is about to embark on his second go-around in minor midget after he spent last year with the GTHL Playoff champions ’00 Mississauga Rebels as an underager.
“Jack Hughes played on a well-coached team last year with the Mississauga Rebels and they were a good team. Jack showed some explosive speed, he showed creativity and great vision on the ice,” said Windsor Spitfires head scout Brian Teakle. “This year, hopefully he will continue to demonstrate that with the Toronto Marlies… but Jack is a very explosive player and I don’t see him sitting on his back heels.”
Hughes makes up for his smaller frame with a combination of skill and solid hockey sense. Other scouts have said that his elite skill makes it seem as if he’s toying with his opponents, while his responsibility as a centreman to kill penalties illustrates his understanding of where he needs to be on the ice.
“Each time he steps on the ice, five-on-five or on the penalty kill, he’s a scoring threat every time,” said Teakle. “On the penalty kill, his quickness and his read-and-react are next to none and he does that extremely well.”
In six games, including a 6-2 quarterfinal loss to the London Jr. Knights, Hughes managed four goals and nine points – good enough for second in team scoring behind Graeme Clarke’s seven goals and 12 points.
Hughes is surely reaping the benefits of the changing times. A few years ago, it was harder for smaller players to get noticed, but now if they possess the skill and the strength to defend themselves while also protecting the puck against bigger guys, they’re going to turn some heads.
“We’re not always looking for the best player. We’re looking for a player that competes, has a great second effort and of course has some skill,” Teakle said, explaining that size isn’t really a contributing factor for his organization. “A prime example of that is our sixth-round pick last year, Tyler Angle. We signed him to a standard OHL contract out of training camp because he showed up to camp in great shape, showed great tenacity and played a solid 200-foot game.”
In the Spitfires’ case, it’s more about earmarking teams instead of strictly focusing on players. The team’s regional scouts will see each team in their area play at minimum 15 times and Teakle, who’s responsible for the GTHL, will see each team 15 to 20 times.
Teakle couldn’t get into details regarding other players of interest, but the significant repertoire Hughes left behind with the Rebels last season has Teakle struggling to find an area in which he would like to see Hughes improve.
“He’s a pretty complete player right now,” Teakle confessed. “It’s hard to pinpoint a negative thing about his game, but last year he didn’t distribute the puck as much as he should have and hung onto it a lot. But in the Toronto Titans tournament I saw him being very creative with his playmaking and he distributed the puck very well.”
While there is a lot of excitement surrounding the next crop of OHL prospects, there is also the added pressure of finding that diamond in the rough to help the club reach this year’s Memorial Cup congregation in Southern Ontario.
As the head scout, Teakle is sometimes required to expand his borders like he did this past July when he travelled to Buffalo to catch a glimpse of some of the players at the U15 tournament. This gives a team like the Spitfires a chance to get a sense of the playing field since they don’t necessarily see all the American players throughout the year.
Belle Tire and HoneyBaked Hockey Clubs are just a couple of the organizations that made their way north of the border for the Titans tournament. After 52 teams competed in this year’s rendition of the tournament, there is a lot of anticipation heading into this minor midget season thanks in large part to the abundance of skill Teakle says is sure to be on display.