Building through the draft and buoyed with a surplus of early-round picks, general manager Dave Drinkill is carefully constructing the Saginaw Spirit into a looming Ontario Hockey League contender.
And while the draft has produced its share of plums in the two years that Drinkill has been on the job, a free-agent find has also provided a boost.
Drinkill unearthed homegrown Michigan product D.J. Busdeker midway through the 2016-2017 season and the skilled, smart, forward with the late 1999 birth date was able to adjust to the fast pace of the OHL.
Overcoming an injury sustained while playing for the Topeka Roadrunners of the tier two junior North American Hockey League, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Busdeker settled into Saginaw and scored 7 goals, 7 assists, 14 points in just 39 games as an un-drafted OHL rookie.
Hailing from the small, Detroit area town of Dexter, Busdeker is a product of the high-end Compuware midget program.
Drinkill, as Saginaw’s young, highly-intelligent GM, says Busdeker represents the type of player that he looks for while on the scouting trail.
“His hockey IQ is through the roof,” Drinkill said of Busdeker. “He’s the type of player and kid we want in this organization. He’s a character person who cares and wants to get better.”
Busdeker is one of three Michigan products who represents the present and the future of the Spirit in Saginaw.
The others are a pair of recent, highly-touted, 2000 birth date signings from the 2016 draft — centre Blade Jenkins and defenseman Caleb Everett.
PHOTO: D.J. Busdeker, in action with the Saginaw Spirit during the 2016-2017 OHL season. (Photo by Josie Norris/MLive.com.)