Best of the Minor Birds

Randy Russon
January 15, 2019

Soo Minor Thunderbirds of the Great North Midget Hockey League figure to have two players chosen within the higher rounds of the 2019 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft.

In fact, there is at least one OHL scout who is of the notion that Soo defensemen Jack Matier and Tyler Dunbar could both be among the top 40 picks, as in the first two rounds of the upcoming, annual draft that will be held in April.

“Matier and Dunbar are both top two round guys on my list,” a scout for an Eastern Conference OHL team told me. “For sure, they could both be among the top 40 picks.”

As defensemen, Matier and Dunbar are among the scoring leaders for the Minor Thunderbirds, who have a record of 9-10-4 within the Great North with but a single game to play against league competition this season.

Matier is tied for second on the Soo scoring chart with 9 goals, 11 assists, 20 points while Dunbar is right behind with 4-12-16 totals.

Both the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Matier and the 6-foot, 175-pound Dunbar have athletic bloodlines in addition to their high skill levels.

The right-handed shooting Matier is the son of 1993 Soo Greyhounds Memorial Cup championship defenseman Mark Matier. The elder Matier went on to play professional hockey, including a number of years in the United Kingdom.

As for the left-handed shooting Dunbar, his Canadian-born dad, Alan Dunbar, played at the Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association hockey level with the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames. And his mom, Kris Bullock-Dunbar, is a former Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference basketball standout with the Lake Superior State University Lakers — and is now the commissioner of the GLIAC.

Dunbar’s draft projection could be affected by the fact that as an American-born youngster (he hails from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan) he might be more inclined to take the Division 1, NCCA route.

But a source close to Dunbar — who has dual citizenship and just turned 15 years of age on December 18, thus making him one of the youngest players eligible for the 2019 OHL draft — said the plum defender is intrigued at the possibility of playing major junior hockey in Canada.

Meanwhile, the head coach of the Minor Thunderbirds, Jamie Henderson, can’t say enough about the skill set, compete level, smarts, work ethic and offensive upside of the dandy defenders.

As a team, the Minor Thunderbirds are in Peterborough this weekend for the Steve Richey Tournament of Champions. The Sault Major Thunderbirds are also entered in the tournament.

PHOTO: Soo Minor Thunderbirds coach Jamie Henderson is flanked by highly-touted defensemen Jack Matier (left) and Tyler Dunbar (right.) Photo by Allana Plaunt.

What you think about “Best of the Minor Birds”

  1. Yeah, Pszeniczny should be in top 10 rounds for sure.

    Forsyth though…. I’m hearing he could go between the 6th and 9th??

  2. Hi Randy. Great article. Congrats to Matier and Dunbar. Can’t forget about Jake Kovacs #81 who currently is the points leader on the Soo Thunderbird Minor Midget team. More impressive is he got an honourable mention in January’s OHL Central Scouting top 160 players list. Just thought I’d add this because I think he needs some recognition for his hard work.

    1. Thanks Robert and if you check back on previous stories that I have written about the Minor Birds, Kovacs’ name has been mentioned on more than one occasion.

  3. Congrats to Matier and Dunbar. A much deserved shoutout to #81 Jake Kovacs who is currently the points leader (24) on the Soo Thunderbird Minor Midgets. More impressive is he received an honourable mention in the January 2019 OHL Central Scouting top 160 top prospects list.

  4. what about Caleb Boylan , Hes really made the best of it without any spotlight or the playtime as others. He has 10 points and is a great playmaker , hardworker and fast

  5. Heard rumours of Forsyth potentially going late 5th to the Flint Firebirds. Kovacs going in the 25th round in this years OHL priority selection from the Soo Minors. In addition to Stuart going in the overage draft mid second round. Many OHL scouts have spoke claiming “he is a weapon”.

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