Two players from Sault Ste. Marie who headed to Pittsburgh this season to play in the Jr. Penguins AAA elite program are being projected as possible first or second round picks at the April 12-13 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft.
The 2008 birth year skaters are long-time teammates from the Sault Ste. Marie minor hockey ranks — defenseman Luca Blonda and forward Nik Rossetto. Both left home ahead of the current 2023-2024 season and are considered blue chip prospects. Besides being projected as top two rounds picks at the April OHL draft, both Blonda and Rossetto are on the radar of Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic association programs.
With a late birth date, Blonda will not turn 16 until November 25 of this year. And Rossetto will turn 16 on August 2. Various OHL general managers and scouts have referred to both Blonda and Rossetto as elite, top level prospects who combine skill, speed and hockey smarts.
Blonda, who has offensive skills from his defense position, has 12 goals, 25 assists, 37 points in 45 games for the Jr. Penguins thus far this season. Rossetto, meanwhile, leads all Jr. Penguins in scoring with 39 goals, 24 assists, 63 points in 43 games.
Blonda and Rossetto are not the only players with 2008 birth dates who have left Sault Ste. Marie to play elsewhere — and who loom as potential OHL draft picks in April. Three others of note are forwards James Elliott of the Barrie U16 Colts, Evan Headrick of the Oakville U16 Rangers and Aiden Atkinson of the Halton U16 Hurricanes. All are averaging well over a point per game with their respective teams.
Meanwhile, other 2008 birth year prospects from the north for the upcoming OHL draft who left home to play down south this season are defenseman Dylan Rousselle from Blind River and goalie Mateo Beites from Sudbury. Rousselle is an offensive minded defender with the Grey-Bruce U16 Highlanders while Beites tends goal for the Barrie U16 Colts.