High on the 2019 OHL draft


Randy Russon
By
February 23, 2019

Flint Firebirds or Kingston Frontenacs will have the first overall pick at the upcoming 2019 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft. Either Flint or Kingston will finish in last place overall in the 20-member OHL and which ever team does will choose first at the April 6 priority selections draft.

Centre Shane Wright, he of exceptional status as a 2004 birth year skater in a 2019 draft that is geared towards players with 2003 birth dates, is poised to be the first overall pick at the Saturday, April 6 OHL lottery.

Which player will be selected with the no. 2 overall pick of the 2019 OHL draft will be cause for considerable debate in the weeks ahead of the April 6 d-day.

There is the matter of a number of potential high picks for the 2019 OHL draft having already made verbal, future commitments to play at the Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association level.

Then again, center Cole Perfetti had a commitment to play at an NCAA school ahead of last year’s OHL draft. Undaunted, Saginaw took Perfetti in the first round, fifth overall of the 2018 draft and the youngster ended up signing with the Spirit and is one of its leading scorers this season.

So, if Flint or Kingston — whichever team has the second pick at this year’s draft — wants to take a chance on a player who has already made a future NCAA commitment, the Firebirds or Frontenacs will have to decide if they want to roll the dice.

At any rate, once Flint or Kingston makes the Wright choice with the first overall pick of this year’s draft, it could be wide open as to who goes with the second selection.

There is a view that is shared by many that a defenseman could well be selected as the second overall pick behind Wright.

Referring to a player as a franchise defensemen is heady praise indeed.

But the term “franchise defenseman” has been used by more than one OHL general manager and scout to describe both Brandt Clarke and Roman Schmidt, who are teammates of the aforementioned Wright with the Don Mills Flyers of the Greater Toronto Hockey League.

And the “franchise defenseman” tag has also been used in worthy description of Isaac Enright of the Pembroke Lumber Kings of the Hockey Eastern Ontario Midget AAA League and Jack Matier of the Soo Minor Thunderbirds of the Great North Midget Hockey League.

To be sure, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Matier is one of the best prospects in years to stay home and be developed in Sault Ste. Marie.

Matier actually played the full season in the Great North a year ago as the lone 14-year old on the Minor Thunderbirds. Thus, including this year, Matier has two full seasons of minor midget hockey development on his plus side.

The right-handed shooting, point-per-game defender also has hockey bloodlines as the son of Mark Matier, who was a better-than-average defenseman with the 1993 Memorial Cup champion Soo Greyhounds.

There is a lot of intrigue ahead of the looming April 6 OHL draft. And while much of it has to do with whether it is Flint or Kingston that picks first and gets to select Wright, there is also so much speculation as to who will go second overall.

Will it be one of the previously-mentioned defensemen? Or will it be one of a number of high-end forwards, some of whom have already made an NCAA commitment — but who could just as easily be talked into going the OHL route.

A HINT IN FLINT

Whether it picks first or second overall at the April 6 OHL draft, Flint has a chance to come away with five plum prospects early on.

The Firebirds have five picks within the first three rounds — one in each of the first and second and three more in the third.

Breaking it down in simple math, Flint is 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 Firebirds general manager Barclay Branch and head scout Dave McParlan.

This will mark the second straight year that Flint will miss the OHL playoffs and finish last in the Western Conference. But with an abundance of 2000, 2001 and 2002 birth year talent — not to mention potential 1999 birth date overagers — set to return in 2019-2020, the Firebirds should be able to ascend the OHL ladder next season.

And 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 extended success in Flint with a bountiful yield from the first three rounds of this year’s draft.



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