What a difference a year can make.
After being looked over and bypassed through the entire 15 round, 2020 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft, two blossoming players from the Soo Jr. Greyhounds evolved to become top six picks at the three round, 2021 OHL under-18 draft.
And not only does their coach from the Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Under 18 Hockey League have glowing words for Soo boys Calem Mangone and Adam Barone but so too do the general managers who made them OHL draft picks in 2021 after they were disregarded in 2020.
A right winger, Mangone went in the first round, second overall, of the recent OHL under 18 draft to the Saginaw Spirit. Mangone is a 5-foot-9, 160 pound pepper pot with heart, relentless energy, skill, and a nice scoring touch.
Shortly after, defenseman Adam Barone went in the first round, sixth overall, to the Sudbury Wolves. The 5-foot-11, 190 pound Barone is a passionate, highly skilled defender.
Notably, both players have had significant growth spurts from last year to this year.
Both of the 2004 birth year skaters have developed the past two seasons with the aforementioned Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Under 18 Hockey League and their head coach, Jamie Henderson. And Henderson is beyond thrilled for the two players.
“We are so excited for both Calem and Adam and for their families,” Henderson told Hockey News North. “In a year with (COVID-19) challenges they stayed focused on the task of getting better each and every day.
“Their commitment to being great young men and great teammates was evident since they joined our program. These are two young men who are so driven and this is another step in their journey. It is a very special time for this program but most importantly for these two young men and their families who have been tremendous supporters for them,” summed up Henderson.
Meanwhile, Saginaw general manager Dave Drinkill, who has a deserved reputation for his thoroughness in evaluating all aspects of a player, noted what attracted him and the Spirit to Mangone.
“We are thrilled to be able to add a player with the skills, work ethic, and character that Calem possesses in the U-18 Draft. I look forward to seeing him on the ice very soon,” Drinkill relayed to Hockey News North.
Drinkill, to be sure, is one of the best GM’s in the 20-team OHL and recently signed a three year extension to remain in Saginaw.
In his five seasons in Saginaw, Drinkill has overseen 166 regular season victories, making him the winning-est general manager in Spirit history. More impressively, with Drinkill as GM and Chris Lazary as head coach, Saginaw has finished in first place in the OHL’s West Division in each of the previous two seasons.
Meanwhile, Sudbury general manager Rob Papineau said the Wolves could not pass up the opportunity to take Barone.
Papineau told Postmedia that when he saw Barone play in cohort competition during the pandemic affected 2020-2021 season, the youngster “jumped off the ice, the way he skated and the way he handled the puck.
“We felt he was the best defenceman available out there,” Papineau added. “We were really excited when he was still available to us at six. He’s a really good puck moving guy, he has great instincts, and now he has had that growth spurt … and he just has a really good brain for the game.”
HOUNDS TO HOUNDS
Prior to the under 18 draft, Wawa, Ontario native Austin Fellinger became the OHL property of the Soo Greyhounds.
The 6-foot, 170 pound, right hand shooting defenseman was nabbed by the Hounds from the Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Under 18 Hockey League in the 11th round of the 2021 OHL priority selections draft.
Jr. Greyhounds head coach Jamie Henderson noted the character of Fellinger, who has a 2005 birth date.
“Austin is a great young man and has been a pleasure to coach,” relayed Henderson. “It is really good for our program when our kids get drafted to the O.”
FOSTER FOLLOWS UP
Meanwhile, for the third year in succession a player from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. was picked within the first three rounds of the OHL priority selections draft.
This year, it was 2005 birth year center Cooper Foster who was taken in the second round, 32nd overall, by the Ottawa 67’s from the Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Under 18 Hockey League.
In 2020, the hometown Soo Greyhounds went for 2004 birth year defenseman Connor Toms in the third round, 44th overall.
And in 2019, Ottawa picked Soo boy Jack Matier, a 2003 birth year defender, in the first round, 21st overall.