Cornerstone defenseman Tyler Dunbar has become the highest-selected player from the Michigan side of the International Bridge at Sault Ste. Marie to ever be drafted into the Ontario Hockey League.
In what seemingly shows as a shrewd pick by Flint general manager Barclay Branch, Dunbar — who is a smart, skilled, athletic defender — was taken by the Firebirds in the third round, 44th overall, of today’s OHL priority selections draft.
More than one uneducated, draft-related blog had Dunbar going anywhere from the 10th round on at this 2019 priority selections draft.
But Branch had confided to Hockey News North well in advance of the draft that Flint had plans to take Dunbar with one of the three third-round picks that the Firebirds had in their possession.
And Branch made good on his word in taking the Michigan Soo product — Dunbar has played hockey in Soo, Ontario over the past few years — with Flint’s first of three third-round selections.
“We love his compete level and his athleticism,” Branch said of Dunbar. “He plays a smart game and his skill level is right up there. We have a really good feeling of the ability and potential that he has to be a very good defenseman in our league.”
Dunbar, a 6-foot, 175-pounder, was fourth among Soo Minor Thunderbird scorers during the 2018-2019 Great North Midget Hockey League regular season with four goals, 12 assists, 16 points in 23 games.
What is intriguing about Dunbar is his December 18 birth date, which made him one of the youngest players eligible for this year’s draft.
The youngster, who has dual citizenship, also has deep athletic bloodlines through his parents.
His Canadian-born dad, Alan Dunbar, played hockey at the Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association level with the University of Illinois-Chicago Flames.
And his American-born mom, Kris Bullock-Dunbar, was a standout basketball player (and later a high-end coach) with the Lake Superior State Lakers of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. She is now the commissioner of the GLIAC.
As for Dunbar himself, he told Hockey News North that being drafted into the OHL is a privilege.
“I am very honoured and humbled to be drafted into the OHL by the Flint Firebirds,” Dunbar began. “This is just the beginning though as I need to go and prove myself.
“I want to thank my current and former teammates and coaches who have helped me so much,” the personable, polite youngster added.
Dunbar heads to a Flint team that has missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons but seems primed for OHL progress.
Despite finishing in last place in the OHL’s Western Conference in 2018-2019, Flint completed the season by showing future flash with a 5-3-2 record over its final 10 games.
And it wasn’t just those last 10 games in which Flint showed signs of turning its season around after a disastrous start.
At the halfway point of the regular season — the 34-game mark — Flint was deep in last place overall in the OHL standings with just eight points from a record of 3-29-2.
But the Firebirds ran up a much-improved record of 13-17-4 over their next 34 games to finish with a 16-46-6 mark.
Thus, in being drafted by the Firebirds, Dunbar has an opportunity to be in like Flint on an up and coming OHL team.