Flint in good draft shape

Randy Russon
January 17, 2019

The upcoming 2019 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft has plenty of plum potential for the Flint Firebirds.

For starters, Flint figures to have the first or second overall selection at this year’s draft, which will be held in April.

Not only that, Flint — which currently occupies last place in the 20-team OHL — will have five picks within the first three rounds.

In addition to its first and second round picks, Flint has no less than three third-round selections at the looming 2019 draft.

Which means Firebirds general manager Barclay Branch and his scouting staff is in good position to benefit from the early rounds of this year’s draft.

Meanwhile, barring a miracle on ice, Flint is going to miss the OHL playoffs for a second successive season. But the last-place team in the Western Conference has been showing steady signs of improvement of late with a record of 5-4-1 in its last 10 outings.

Which is pretty good considering that at the midway point of the 68-game, regular season schedule, Flint had a record of 3-29-2 through 34 contests.

Thus, with the recent modest surge, the Firebirds have a record of 8-33-3 through 44 games.

Injuries have affected the Firebirds in a big way this 2018-2019 season as ace defenseman Dennis Busby — a fifth-round pick of the Arizona Coyotes at the 2018 National Hockey League draft — and forward Connor Roberts, a former first-round pick of the Hamilton Bulldogs, are among those who have spent a lot of time on the sidelines.

In particular, Busby, who like Roberts has a 2000 birth date, has been hard hit by the injury bug.

A slick defender who plays with an edge, Busby played in only two games for Flint in 2017-2018 because of a broken collarbone. And more than 15 months later, he just recently returned to the Firebirds lineup after breaking his foot last fall at Arizona’s NHL training camp.

Looking ahead, Flint’s best players are slated to return in 2019-2020 and the Firebirds could well be a middle-of-the-pack team in the Western Conference.

Leading the list of eligible returnees are forwards Ty Dellandrea, Eric Uba and Ethan Keppen, along with the aforementioned Busby and Roberts.

Dellandrea, a first-round pick of the NHL’s Dallas Stars, has 15 goals thus far this season as does fellow 2000 birth year forward Uba.

Meanwhile, Keppen, a 2001 birth-year forward, has 14 goals and 2001 birth-year import defenseman Vladislav Kolyachonok has 23 points in only 32 games.

Then there is another 2001 skater in forward Cody Morgan, a first-round pick from the 2017 OHL draft who has a goal, three assists, four points and is a plus-four in six games since being acquired from the Windsor Spitfires.

And a potential overage forward for next season is undrafted NHLer Jake Durham. Durham is having a breakthrough OHL season in Flint with 30 goals thus far.

Toss in the possibility of adding five youngsters from the first three rounds of this year’s priority selections draft and sunnier days could well be ahead in Flint.

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