Flint Firebirds general manager Barclay Branch paid a recent visit to Sault Ste. Marie. Specifically, Branch was in town to watch — and talk to — plum defenseman Tyler Dunbar, who Flint took in the third round (44th overall) at the 2019 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft.
Dunbar, who is currently playing for the Soo Thunderbirds of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League after starring for the Soo in the Great North Midget Hockey League last season, has been offered a full OHL education package deal by Flint.
And Branch, who talked to both Dunbar and his father, Alan, while in the Michigan Sault for the NOJHL showcase tournament event, told Hockey News North that he and members of the Flint organization “had a good discussion with both Tyler and his dad. Things were really positive.”
Branch went on to say how “very impressed” he is with the 15-year old Dunbar — he does not turn 16 until December 18 — “both on and off the ice.
“When you talk to him, he gives you well thought out answers and refuses to give canned responses. He is very bright and professional,” Branch noted.
As for Dunbar as developing player, Branch said the 6-foot-1, 180-pound defender “has shown growth in his game. He is playing assertive and with confidence and I am really excited about him as a player.”
While Dunbar has had interest shown in him by Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association schools, Branch remains hopeful of getting the youngster signed to play in Flint.
“I emphasized to the father that we feel strongly that we provide the best opportunity for Tyler and that we believe in him. Our offer will remain on the table for as long as it takes — it will not be going anywhere.
“My sense, after speaking with Tyler, is that he wants to play in Flint and knows that it is best for him. Time will tell. I know one thing, we will keep trying hard. He’s a talent,” Branch said, in further praise of Dunbar.
The youngster, who has dual citizenship, also has deep athletic bloodlines through his parents.
His aforementioned Canadian-born dad, Alan Dunbar, played hockey at the Division 1, NCAA level with the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames.
And his American-born mom, Kris Bullock-Dunbar, was a standout basketball player (and later a high-end coach) with the Lake Superior State University Lakers of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. She is now the commissioner of the GLIAC.
The Dunbar family resides in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan.
PHOTO: Tyler Dunbar, after being chosen by the Flint Firebirds in the third round of this year’s OHL priority selections draft.