Respect for the Great North

February 1, 2023

There are about 200 scouts who work under the 20 general managers of teams in the Ontario Hockey League. And it is rather discernible to someone who pays close attention that players from the Great North Under 18 Hockey League do not receive the same overall monitoring as those from programs of the Greater Toronto, Southwestern Ontario and Ottawa areas of the province.

Defenseman Alexandre Valade and goalie Nick Marson of the Sudbury U16 Nickel Capitals. (photo by Bob Davies)

In fairness, there are a handful of OHL general managers who are quite aware — and respectful — of the talent level in the Great North. But for the most part, the GNU18HL is generally overlooked by the average GM even if their team does employ a northern Ontario regional scout.

Hudson Chitaroni of the Soo Jr. Greyhounds (photo by Bob Davies)

Meanwhile, in Sault Ste. Marie for example, there are scouts for various OHL teams who seemingly have no agenda of their own. So, let us just say that if Jimmy Mancuso of the Guelph Storm or Denny Lambert of the Sudbury Wolves or Mike Oliverio of the Flint Firebirds or Nick Della Penta of the Soo Greyhounds says a certain player from the GNU18HL should be an OHL draft pick, then they most likely should be.

Then there is OHL Central Scouting, which does have an honest presence in northern Ontario with the reputable Blaine Smith at the helm. But Smith can only recommend players from northern Ontario and as he noted, it is then up to the individual OHL teams to make their own decisions.

At any rate, through contacts and connections as well as scrutiny and perception, Hockey News North is maintaining close tabs on a number of 2007 birth year players from the GNU18HL who are deemed worthy of being either probable or possible picks at the 2023 OHL priority selections draft.

PROBABLE: Defenseman Alexandre Valade and forwards Cole Dubowsky and Max Campbell of the Sudbury U16 Nickel Capitals along with forwards Hudson Chitaroni and Brendan Cooke and defensemen Candon O’Neill and Declan Gallivan of the league leading Soo Jr. Greyhounds should all be mid to late round picks at the April priority selections draft. At this stage of the 2022-2023 season, Valade appears to be the top prospect from the Great North with Dubowsky and Chitaroni next up.

POTENTIAL: Any OHL scout who does his homework in thorough fashion just might see the sleeper potential in several other players from the Great North. A list of forwards would include Brant Romaniuk of the North Bay U16 Trappers, Coulson Bell and Anthony Bertrand of the Sudbury U16 Nickel Capitals and Deven Jones McDonald of the Soo Jr. Greyhounds. Defensemen worth inspection and scrutiny include Carter Carriere of the Sudbury U16 Nickel Capitals, Cole Ellis of the Timmins Majors and Rylan Fellinger of the Soo Jr. Greyhounds. And OHL teams willing to break from the norm and bypass the size factor might want to use a 14th or 15th round pick on goalies Nick Marson of the Sudbury U16 Nickel Capitals and Alex Hall of the Timmins Majors.

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