Welcome to the penultimate prospect profile that we will do for 2017 NHL Entry Draft. This profile is about a player that has went through some early ups and later downs throughout this past season, after a very successful tenure in the junior “A” Central Canada Hockey League. This profile is about a player that presents the question: Who is he really? The player is Kitchener Rangers forward, Greg Meireles.
Who is Greg Meireles?
According to Elite Prospects, Greg Meireles is a center for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League. He was born on January 1, 1999, so he turned 18 during this past season. He’s officially listed at 5’10” and 174 pounds. Since he only made 7 appearances with the Rangers in 2015-16, his 66-game season with Kitchener in 2016-17 is his rookie season in the OHL. Internationally, Meireles participated in the World Hockey Challenge, an Under-17 tournament, in 2015-16 with a goal and an assist in six games. He did play in four games at the under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial tourney with Canada, where he was pointless.
On the surface, his stat line looks pretty good: 66 games, 17 goals, 25 assists, and 105 shots on net. Among OHL rookies, Meireles finished sixth in points. Among his teammates, Meireles finished tied for fifth on the team in goals, fifth on the team in points, and seventh on the team in shots on net. Meireles did not register any points in the playoffs, which was limited to three out of a five-game elimination for a not-so-hot Kitchener squad against Owen Sound. However, the bigger concern lies with when Meireles put up his points.
Going through his game-by-game log at the OHL’s website, Meireles started off the season hot. Assuming I didn’t miscount, Meireles put up seven goals, sixteen assists, and 47 shots on net in his first 25 games. Those games took place in September through November. Then Meireles had an awful December where he posted no goals, no assists, and eleven shots on net in seven games. Meireles appeared to bounce back in January with five goals, three assists, and twenty-eight shots on net in fourteen games. Unfortunately, the slumping returned with four goals, no assists, and eleven shots on net in twelve games in February; and one goal, four assists, and nine shots on net in an eight-game March. All together, Meireles put up a little over half of his season’s points in a timeframe that was just past the first third of the OHL regular season. While his stats in January should be seen as a return of form of sorts, it was a local peak amid some valleys. Production isn’t everything, but a lack of consistency is a red flag of sorts.
Prospect-Stats can and does provide some additional context for Meireles’ stat line. There’s some good news, such as that thirty of his fourty-two points were goals and primary assists. His stat line was not boosted by a large number of secondary assists, which may or may not be legitimate assists. His 5-on-5 stat line is twelve goals, ten primary assists, six secondary assists, and seventy five shots on net. While Meireles certainly received power play time with the Rangers, it’s clear that most of production has come in the most common on-ice situation. That’s a plus. His shooting percentage of 16.19% seems a bit high at first, but it’s not outrageous at the major junior level. Lastly, per the player page at Prospect-Stats, Meireles has fired most of his shots and goals at close range. It’s evidence that he’s not It’s not all good, though. For example, his 1.59 shots per game rate overall. I like my offensive forwards to be firing away more as it means they’re often getting into good positions to make plays happen. Those lesser months of production appeared to coincide with lower shot totals, too.
Where is Meireles Ranked?
Put together, Meireles is a center who started off very well but faded overall over time in 2016-17. That’s not good for a draft eligible season and it surely affected how some saw him.
- NHL Central Scouting Services (Final): North America - 93
- The Draft Analyst (May): 123
- Future Considerations (Final): 92
I only found these three sites that ranked Meireles at all and each of them rated him higher in earlier rankings. At the Draft Analyst, Meireles was 115th in his February Top 500 and 93rd in his October Top 600. Future Considerations placed Meireles 63rd in their Spring rankings, 49th in their Winter rankings, and 34th in their Fall rankings. Central Scouting Services ranked Meireles 39th among North American skaters in their mid-term ranks. Given that Meireles’ production faded from a strong start, so did opinions of him.
What Others Say About Greg Meireles
For this section, I’m going to provide two views of the player back when his hotter start was fresher in the minds of the authors and one after the season.
Future Considerations does have a player profile page for Meireles with a scouting report from November. As one may expect, it’s a positive scouting report with plenty of praise for his skating and his bravery. These bits stuck out to me:
...an explosive skater with quick two step acceleration…has a quick shot that is on target…has the ability to read the play and adapt to be in the right spots…
...will take the bumps needed to create an opportunity…lack of size does not limit his feisty play as he shows no fear in mixing it up in front of the net and in the gritty areas every chance he gets… uses speed on the forecheck to force the puck carrier into making quick decisions…
We know from Prospect-Stats that the note about getting to the “tough” areas is likely true. Most of Meireles’ shots and goals came close to the crease, which isn’t an easy place for anyone to get to, nevermind a 5’10” skater who weighed less than 180 pounds. It’s also encouraging to see that much was made of Meireles’ speed both on and off the puck in both offensive and defensive situations. While he isn’t small, being able to move quickly is always a positive. While this was written after two-plus strong months of production, I’m hopeful that the speed and other tendencies didn’t go away when the points did.
On January 15, 2017, Marshall Mackinder of Hockey Now had a short profile on Meireles along with Mason Shaw and Cale Makar. While this was after a poor December, this was written during a bounce-back month for the center. Like the Future Considerations profile, it’s a positive take:
His speed is one of his many above average skill sets along with his soft hands and his offensive zone pressure. Keeps the tempo high for a full 60 minutes and doesn't let up. A pass first winger who has played the majority of the season in the middle where he has excelled in the face off circle. He is sharp on his edges and has good mobility in all directions. Good gap control and a fierce competitor along the boards and in all three zones. What he lacks in size he makes up for with work ethic. An unselfish player but needs to gain some upper body strength to keep his balance with the puck on his stick.
That Mackinder identified Meireles as “a pass-first winger” makes me feel a little better about his not-so-hot shots per game rate. I could see him being a winger in the long run, but I don’t think he really was with Kitchener. He led the team with 925 faceoff attempts; that tells me that he was primarily a center with the Rangers. Regardless, I do appreciate reading that he’s a hard worker who skates well.
Now for an opinion after Meireles’ season has ended. For that, I go to the man who knows loads about OHL Prospects: Brock Otten of OHL Prospects. He ranked Meireles 27th on his list of Top 50 OHL Prospects for this season and had the following to say:
Tale of two seasons for Meireles. First half of the year, he was an aggressive, in your face winger who played at a high tempo and showed great skill. As such, he was garnering praise and attention for the draft, despite being undersized at 5'10. Second half of the year, his game really seemed to lose focus. The aggressiveness and truculence in his game slowly dissipated and it seemed like he was trying too hard to be an impact offensive player, losing sight of what made him such an effective contributor in the first half. There's no question that Meireles is a talented offensive player. He's a great skater and can be an impact playmaker. But the key to his development moving forward is the rediscovery of the power and intensity in his game. Being that shift disturbing, tenacious wall presence that can be a forechecking demon.
This is an interesting opinion of what could have went awry for Meireles in 2016-17. There is such a thing of trying to do too much. Changing one’s style is not always a positive change. The question is, how did that happen? Did Meireles think he needed to do more to impress scouts? Did the Kitchener coaches ask him to do different things? Pretty much all prospective players have to undergo some kind of development; perhaps what led to this drop off could be coached away? I’m not sure. But the skating, the speed, and the hands still appear to be there. Otten thinks he could bounce back next season; I don’t think he’s wrong.
A Little Video
There’s some video clips of Meireles producing for Kitchener. First, from NHL Prospects, here’s the video of #88 putting together a two-goal, two-assist game against Saginaw from October 2016.
I like this clip because it shows a number of different aspects of Meireles’ game. The first part has him lead a 3-on-2 rush and make a very smart pass to the far-man, Connor Bunnaman. The goal itself was an error by the Spirit, but the pass by Meireles was legit. The second assist is more routine pass back to the point. Both goals are within close range of the net and show off some quick hands. In each of these four points, Meireles is dealing with some kind of pressure from a Saginaw player. Whether it’s an outstreched stick or with a body right on him, Meireles made each play and successfully. That’s impressive.
NHL Prospects also had a clip of Meireles putting up a goal and an assist againt Guelph in November 2016.
The assist comes from leading a 2-on-1. He uses his speed to break away from three surprised Storm players and obtain focus from the one defender back and the goalie. Meireles made a great pass back to Adam Mascherin for the goal. Speaking of the goal, Meireles read the situation after Jeremy Bracco forced a defensive zone turnover from Guelph. He went right to the side of the net and slammed in a one-timer. While the shot itself doesn’t tell us much, how he moved off the puck did.
In February, Meireles scored four goals in twelve games. NHL Prospects has the video of the February 12 game where he scored two against Sarnia:
Meireles just embarrassed defenseman Connor Schlichting with that move between his skates. That’s an ankle-breaker. And his shot after getting past the defender was good; he fired it with the right amount of pace to the right part of the net (literally and otherwise). The second goal came after a sequence of passes that caught Sarnia all out of sorts. After receiving a cross-ice pass, Meireles elected to pass it to the slot to Cole Carter. Carter slides it towards Meireles with two defenders converging on him. The puck isn’t in the best spots, but Meireles quickly steps up, stretches out his stick to recover it on his backhand, swiftly puts the puck on his forehand, and lifts it past the goalie in one sweet move. Both goals were oases amid a desert of scoring for Meireles in the season, but they are examples of how skilled he can be.
An Opinion of Sorts
The hope for most late round draft picks is that they are diamonds in the rough. Finding players with skillsets that not only translate to the professional level, but make most other teams wonder how they missed that player. I can’t help but think that Greg Meireles might be one of those prospects. While the videos show him at his best, that combined with the opinions out there on the player speak to a player who’s strengths include skating, work ethic, and possessing an offensive game. What Otten wrote about how his second half of the season faltered after trying to do more than he was in his more successful first half makes me think that could be corrected. And that would be big since Meireles was much more regarded as a prospective player then compared to how he is now.
Of course, this requires a belief in the prospect; a belief that the player will develop into a professional that can contribute at the NHL level. All draft picks require this kind of belief in some way. In this case, it will involve whether Meireles can go back to being an up-tempo, forechecking force to lead plays and. It will also involve whether his style can lead Meireles to be more productive in terms of shots and points, more consistent in his production, and more of a feature player. Most of all, it will involve belief in the people responsible for prospect development. I think any success for Meireles is going to come from whether he’ll get the right advice and support from the organization. A team that lets him on his own or forces him to be something he isn’t may ultimately stunt his growth as a player.
Even with all of that, it’s an open question as to where Meireles may go in the draft. The rankings suggest somewhere in the late third or fourth rounds, but it could be even lower when you consider overagers and other prospects to be taken. It seems harsh that a not-that-small forward with speed could fall, but how he ended the season absolutely doesn’t help his cause. Should he be around in the fifth or sixth round, he may be worth taking a flyer on. But only if the Devils have this belief in the player and trust their own organization to guide him on the right path. If so and Meireles does bounce back in 2017-18 like Otten think he will, then he very well could be that diamond in the rough teams hope to find in the NHL Draft.
Now that you know what I think and learned at least a little something about Greg Meireles, I want to know what you think. What do you think of Meireles’s game? Are you that put off by his production woes in the second half of last season? Do you believe there’s an upside with him and what is it? What do you think he should work on? Would you want the Devils to draft him and, if so, when? Please leave your answers and other information about Greg Meireles in the comments. Thank you for reading.