Methinks that perhaps not even the Saginaw Spirit has an idea of how much of a steal it got when the Ontario Hockey League team pilfered fibrous forward Camaryn Baber in the third round of Saturday’s minor midget draft.
The compete level on this kid is at roof height. The heart and desire are there. So are the speed and skill levels. And if he sometimes crosses the line when on the ice, it can be categorized as aggressive energy that can be tempered.
To be clear, when I say that Saginaw got a steal in getting Baber with the 57th overall pick, it is not intended as a slight at the other 34 forwards who were selected ahead of the Sault Ste. Marie product at Saturday’s OHL lottery.
I get it that OHL teams were more inclined to go after players from the Greater Toronto Hockey League, the Minor Hockey Alliance of Ontario, the Ontario Minor Hockey Association and ones from Detroit and Chicago than those who skated within the Northern Ontario Hockey Association banner.
That preference showed in the fact that Baber, as a member of the Soo Greyhounds of the Great North Midget Hockey League, was the first player from under the NOHA umbrella to be selected when Saginaw snagged him in the third round, 57th overall.
As a matter of fact, with so many stock-piled draft picks, Saginaw itself selected four forwards — one in the first round, two in the second round and one more in the third — ahead of Baber.
Which brings me back to the fact that Saginaw got a steal in Baber, who was merely the NOHA’s minor midget player-of-the-year for the 2016-2017 season after netting 32 goals, 30 assists, 62 points in 32 regular-season games — while racking up 99 minutes in penalties. He then added 5 goals, 2 assists, 7 points in 6 playoff matches.
I suspect that Saginaw general manager Dave Drinkill knows he got a third-round steal in Baber. I also suspect that at some point down the road, Drinkill and Saginaw head coach Spencer Carbery are going to find just how much of a steal that the spirited Baber is going to turn out to be.
Skilled players who have an edge like the 5-foot-9, 163-pound Baber are not easy to find.
Not only does he play the game with grit and grind, he is also a relentless fore-checker who is fast and furious with hockey smarts to boot. And while he is quiet by nature, he is as friendly and polite off the ice as he is feisty and peppery on the ice.
All of that aside, Baber will face tough odds in trying to make the Saginaw roster as a 16-year old in 2017-2018.
An over-ager included, the Spirit can return as many as 10 forwards for next season. Add in the forwards that Saginaw picked ahead of Baber at this year’s draft and the competition for roster spots in Saginaw is going to be — in a word — frantic.
Drinkill, as the GM, is looking forward to seeing how Baber stacks up.
Drinkill began by saying that Baber “is an offensive player who plays a smart game and as an organization we’re extremely happy to have been able to draft him. Camaryn’s knack for scoring and finding the score sheet on a regular basis is very hard to ignore.
“He was player of the year in the north for a reason. It will be a fun time at development camp when we get to see Camaryn on the ice with our other picks from this year,” Drinkill added.
Indeed, it should be.