OHL draft day on its way

Randy Russon
April 2, 2019

D-day is looming in the Ontario Hockey League. The annual OHL priority selections draft is slated for this Saturday.

The 15-round process begins at 9 a.m. and will be conducted via the Internet.

By virtue of finishing in last place overall in the 20-team OHL, the Kingston Frontenacs will have the first pick.

Flint Firebirds will have the second pick, Erie Otters will choose third and the Barrie Colts have the fourth selection.

Kingston, Flint, Erie and Barrie are the four teams that missed the playoffs during the 2018-2019 OHL regular season.

Don Mills Flyers center Shane Wright, who has a 2004 birth date and who has been granted exceptional player status, will go first overall to Kingston.

After Wright, this year’s draft is geared towards minor-midget aged players with 2003 birth dates.

Born on January 5, 2004, the 15-year-old Wright is a 6-foot, 180-pound pivot who has starred for the Don Mills Flyers minor midget entry of the Greater Toronto Hockey League. Wright tallied 66 goals, 84 assists, 150 points in 72 games over the course of the 2018-2019 season.

This year’s OHL draft is considered exceptionally deep in talent. And who follows Wright as first round draft picks not only depends on needs of various teams but whether some players have indicated a preference, through their agents, of where they prefer to play — or not to play.

Still, it is thought that Flint will use the no. 2 pick to select Wright’s teammate from Don Mills, left winger Brennan Othmann.

Picking third, Erie could, for example, opt to select forward Connor Lockhart from the Kanata Lasers of the Hockey Eastern Ontario AAA Major League.

That would leave Barrie, in the no. 4 position, in a spot to make Brandt Clarke the first defenseman taken in the draft. Clarke also played for Don Mills as a teammate of the aforementioned Wright and Othmann during this 2018-2019 season.

Among many, many others who are considered as potential first-round picks in what, as previously mentioned, is being pegged as a draft deep in talent, are Toronto Red Wings center Francesco Pinelli, Don Mills defensemen Roman Schmidt, Sudbury Minor Wolves forward Chase Stillman and Soo Minor Thunderbirds defenseman Jack Matier.

Of note, no less than six players from the Great North Midget Hockey League — who are all members of Team NOHA (Northern Ontario Hockey Association) — are poised to be selected within the top four or five rounds.

Besides Stillman and Matier, the others are Sudbury forwards Max McCue and Devon Savignac, Soo defenseman Tyler Dunbar and North Bay Major Trappers goalie Ben Gaudreau.

In all, more than a dozen players from the Great North who were born in 2003 are being projected as possible draft picks ahead of Saturday’s upcoming, priority selections process.

Besides the aforementioned six of Stillman, Matier, McCue, Savignac, Dunbar and Gaudreau, there are several others from the Great North who project as mid to late round picks ahead of Saturday’s looming lottery.

They are forwards Chris Innes (who can also play defense), Mitchell Martin and Zacharie Giroux and defensemen Joshua Kavanagh, Brandon Hass and Teegan Dumont of the Sudbury Minor Wolves, defenseman Jimmy Blanchard of the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves and forward Stephen Pszeniczny of the Soo Minor Thunderbirds.

As a sidebar, a handful of independent scouts have determined that a multitude of players who were not picked for Team NOHA are seen as being worthy candidates as possible later round picks.

They are defenseman Thomas Irwin and forwards Jake Kovacs and Dylan Szabo of the Soo Minor Thunderbirds as well as forward Landon Deforge and defenseman Mason Berthiaume of the Timmins Majors.

Meanwhile, aside from the powerful Sudbury minor midget class, the oft-maligned Sault Ste. Marie program could have its best showing in years at the upcoming OHL draft.

To be sure, there are Hockey News North sources who have the aforementioned Matier rated as a first or second round pick, Dunbar as a third-round pick and Pszeniczny as a later-round pick.

Matier, a 6-foot-2, 185-pounder, finished tied for second on the Great North regular season scoring chart for the Minor Thunderbirds with 10 goals, 12 assists, 22 points in 21 games. He is the son of Mark Matier, who was a defenseman on the 1993 Memorial Cup champion Soo Greyhounds.

Dunbar, a 6-foot, 175-pounder, was fourth among Minor Thunderbird scorers during the regular season with four goals, 12 assists, 16 points in 23 games. What is intriguing about Dunbar is his December 18 birth date, which makes him one of the youngest players eligible for this year’s draft.

And the 6-foot-2, 180-pound Pszeniczny finished tied with Matier with the same totals of 10 goals, 12 assists, 22 points in 24 games.

Of note, Flint, which has the second overall pick, has five selections in total through the first three rounds. The Firebirds have a first rounder, a second rounder and three third-rounders.

Breaking it down in simple math, the Firebirds — who have missed the playoffs in three of the four years since the franchise moved from Plymouth to Flint — are in position to draft five players among the top 60 picks of this year’s draft.

Without a doubt, this is a pivotal draft for Flint general manager Barclay Branch and Firebirds head scout Dave McParlan.

Branch and McParlan, along with Firebird scouts Kyle Branch, Freddie Coccimiglio, Derek Langlois, Joe McCann, Mike Oliverio and Tom Watson, can all help to set the table for future success in Flint with a bountiful yield from the first three rounds of this year’s draft.

Of note, Coccimiglio, who scouts the Niagara region, and Oliverio, who is responsible for northern Ontario, are both Sault Ste. Marie products.

Speaking of the Soo, the Greyhounds will again be without a second-round pick at Saturday’s draft because of a previous trade. Led by general manager Kyle Raftis, the Hounds do have picks in all other 14 rounds.

PHOTO: Shane Wright, Brennan Othmann and Brandt Clarke celebrate a goal for the Don Mills Flyers. (Photo by Steven Ellis/The Hockey News.)

What you think about “OHL draft day on its way”

  1. I’d like to see the Greyhounds add more local and regional flavour for a change. If they’re truly a team that prides itself on development and are always looking for undiscovered gems in the draft, surely the next Claude Giroux must be lurking out there along Highway 11.

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