This past season, Ty Voit finished second in the entire OHL with 105 points in 67 games – which also led his whole team by 23 points. That is a 25 point improvement from the previous year.
So that must mean he took a big leap in his development to earn that huge increase in points, right?
Well... yes and no. Let's look back at Voit's full 2022/23 season and talk about how he has developed as a hockey player, and what that might mean for his future as a Maple Leafs prospect.
A recent history of Ty Voit going into this year
Let's establish where Voit began this season as a player. He was picked by Toronto in the fifth round of the 2021 draft. This was the season where the entire OHL was shut down the whole year because of the pandemic. Voit played a bit in a little tournament meant for OHL prospects, and he did well but not among the very best. The following year, he was the focal point of a rebuilding Sarnia team. He became their #1 center, he led their top powerplay, and he played a lot on the penalty kill too.
He also had a breakout season with 80 points in 64 games. That was good for 8th in the OHL, but he finished a bit better when it comes to even strength and primary points. He was primarily a playmaker, slinging passes and creating scoring chances for his team with his puck handling. At PPP, we bumped up his T25U25 ranking from 18th to 12th, and this is what I wrote in his profile:
The hope with Voit is that his skill with the puck is enough that he can provide value on, say, a third line in the NHL one day. In an ideal world, Voit could play on the wing with players like Matthew Knies and Fraser Minten who are bigger, able to take the physical brunt of forechecking, offensive zone cycling and in the defensive zone. On the other hand, Voit can handle more of the perimeter with intelligent reads, stick checks, speed and playmaking to get those two the puck.
The end result of his first full OHL season was a good amount of hype from Leafs fans. He was another hidden gem that Kyle Dubas had unearthed in the draft, a testament to his drafting genius. That's a slight exaggeration, but you get my point.
The thing is, as often happens with prospects, the hype got a bit ahead of itself.
Ty Voit's 2022/23 season is a lesson in context
Coming into this season, Voit had a lot going for him. He had a breakout season in the OHL after being drafted, and got invited to Team USA's World Junior camp – though he didn't make the final cut. Sarnia had their eyes on being competitive for the OHL championship. They brought in a pair of solid additions from the CHL import draft, and bumped Voit to the wing – his more natural position. Through the season, they also loaded up on top OHL stars like Christian Kyrou, Ethan Del Mastro, Luca Del Bel Belluz, and Sasha Pastujov. They had a breakout from Nolan Burke, who led the team in goals, finished 2nd in the league in goals (50), and earned an NHL contract from Washington.
But this all hints at some of the context it's important to keep in mind when talking about Voit's gaudy point totals. While he improved his point totals by 25, he was also playing with a much better supporting cast around him. He was still playing on the top line and top powerplay unit, but the linemates Voit could sling passes to were much better at finishing.
There are a couple of specific stats that it's worth pointing out. First, Voit actually had fewer goals (24) than the previous season (26), despite being a year older and "better", and despite firing 26 more shots on net in the same amount of games. Goal scoring will never be Voit's strength, so that's not the biggest problem, but a mostly offensive skilled player is not going to be given much of a chance in the NHL if he flat out cannot score goals. Even Mitch Marner and Johnny Gaudreau have been 30+ goal scorers in multiple NHL seasons, while they were also much better at scoring goals in junior/the NCAA than Voit has been in the OHL.
Then there's the powerplay, where the improvement in his team's offensive weapons helped the most. Where 22 of Voit's 80 points were
at even strength on the power play (27.5%) last season, he had 42 of his 105 points at even strength on the power play this year (40%). So that's 20 points out of his 25 "increased" points coming just on the powerplay. It is undeniable that, in junior, Voit's skill at handling the puck and finding passing lanes helps his team and linemates a lot. They would not have scored as many goals as they would have without him. But I think it's noteworthy that his extra year of aging, improving his skills, etc did not have a meaningful impact on his 5v5 production.
How has Ty Voit actually improved as a player?
So let's take points out of the picture, because they don't mean as much as you'd think once you try and dig into them beyond the surface level.
Did Ty Voit get better this year? Yes. That's not the right question, though.
How did he get better? In short: In all the ways he was already good.
Voit basically took all the puck carrying and playmaking ability he already had, and dialled it up to 11. He became the OHL's top playmaker. He had the most assists in the entire league. Powerplay or not, better linemates at finishing or not, you don't fluke into that. It's not like the other top players by assists didn't also get a lot of powerplay time with linemates good at scoring. Even without a shot that's as much of a threat to goalies, he still does the little things right to sell opponents with little fake shots. The slight freeze he can illicit from them helps his teammates out a lot when Voit ultimately passes to them.
How Voit improved on his playmaking is by mainly changing where he carries the puck to, and then where he passes to. He was already pretty good at getting the puck to more dangerous areas, and making passes to teammates also in dangerous areas. But this is where he got a lot better. Those who read my "Is Matthew Knies NHL Ready Right Now?" piece may remember how I talked about the importance of him being good at the "boards to middle" plays. Specifically, how Knies became an elite NCAA player at working the puck along the boards but then driving to the middle of the ice with it, to create dangerous scoring chances.
Well, Voit got very good at doing that this year. Not to the same level as Knies did, and not in a league as difficult as the NCAA, but Voit arguably became one of the best OHL players at getting the puck from the boards to the middle. How he achieved this is also quite different from Knies. Where Knies had the size and strength to do all the dirty work himself, and fight through checkers, Voit relied on quickness and cleverness. Poke the puck away from a scrum, dig it out with a little stick lift, and quickly dart to the middle with some open ice. Once there, give his teammates time to get into a good position, create a passing lane to them with some deceptive puck handling, and sling a pass onto the teammate's stick to finish off the play. This was as true at even strength as it was on the powerplay, it's just that on the powerplay with more space and the best scoring linemates on his team that ability became much more dangerous.
There is one other area where I have to give credit where it's due, Voit also improved his off-puck play. I still wouldn't rate him as an elite defensive forward, and he likely never will be at any level of hockey he plays in the future. But he is at least not a major liability. He has the skating and the awareness to at least be in the right areas to be a nuisance. As a side element of this, Voit got a bit better at avoiding physical contact. He's still a very small player at 5'9" and 150 lbs, but while he does play with a good level of fearlessness he didn't take nearly as many huge hits this year. He was much more aware of where he and defenders were on the ice, and used his quickness and anticipation to avoid hard contact. That will be very important for him as he turns pro, because he will never survive as a smaller, fearless forward if the defenders can square him up. Just ask Nick Robertson.
Where does Ty Voit go from here?
Let's revisit that quote I had about Voit during the off-season. Has my estimation of Voit changed? Do I think he is a better prospect and more likely to have an impact in the NHL now than I did back then?
Ehhhhhhhhh.... I guess I would say yes, but only by a bit.
I find he is still generally a perimeter player. He is not quick, physical, or skilled enough to get the puck into dangerous scoring areas and score goals on his own. He is always going to rely on his linemates to finish for him – hence why his points went up by a lot once Sarnia loaded up on good goal scorers, while he himself did not increase his goal scoring production.
That is why I also think that he won't be a top-six forward. He just isn't offensively skilled enough in enough ways. If Leafs fans think Marner can be too one dimensional as a playmaker, they'd tear their hair out watching Voit try and hack it with top-six minutes. Voit also doesn't offer a complete package as a player where I can see him being a supporting forward in the top six in the same way we've seen guys like Hyman, Bunting and now Knies. The jury's still out if his adequate OHL defense can still be adequate in the NHL.
I could see him potentially being a bottom-six playmaker who gets some PP2 time to get most of his points. He could become a poor man's Alex Kerfoot in that sense, with maybe better offensive skill but worse ability at driving play and playing defense. That kind of bottom-six forward is pretty rare though, because it's a very fine line to walk of having offense not good enough for the top six, but good enough to keep around while also not offering the ability to have an impact elsewhere.
Whether he makes it there or not is something we'll get a much better idea about when he joins the Marlies. We've already seen his archetype rack up the points in the AHL while not being able to crack the NHL – our old friend Jeremy Bracco's OHL numbers couldn't match Voit, but he was an offensive force and a point per game player in the AHL before moving to Europe. If Voit wants to get a better shot, he'll either have to be even better offensively in the AHL or a better all around player than Bracco was.
I'll tell you what though, I'm betting he'll become something of a fan favourite for the Marlies just for being fun to watch.