Five forwards and five defensemen make up the Hockey News North Top 10 list of 2007 birth year skaters from the Great North Under 18 Hockey League who are potential picks for the 2023 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft.
TOP 5 FORWARDS
• Cole Dubowsky, Sudbury U16 Nickel Capitals. At 6 feet, 160 pounds, Dubowsky is one of the top physical forwards in all of Ontario who are eligible for the 2023 OHL draft. Along with what one OHL scout calls “legitimate toughness” Dubowsky has a scoring touch with six goals, seven assists, 13 points for the U16 Nickel Capitals, who have a record of 8-5-1 in Great North play. Dubowsky is expected to go within the top five rounds of the draft as most likely the first player picked from the Great North.
• Hudson Chitaroni, Soo Jr. Greyhounds. With speed and skill and a flair for highlight reel plays, Chitaroni actually leads the entire Great North in scoring with 11 goals, 13 assists, 24 points while starring for the Jr. Greyhounds, who are in first place in the eight member Great North with a record of 12-1-0. Like many of the top 2007 birth year forwards from the Great North, the 5-foot-9, 160 pound Chitaroni is lacking in size. Projections at this point are for Chitaroni to be a fifth to seventh round draft pick.
• Max Campbell, Sudbury U16 NIckel Capitals. Third in league scoring with nine goals, 12 assists, 21 points, Campbell is known for a passion that he takes from every practice to every game. With plenty of skill and smarts, Campbell’s draw back is his diminutive, 5-foot-8, 140 pound size. One scout who likes Campbell’s makeup and ability is of the notion that the speedster needs to show that he will go into traffic and play in the “dirty areas.” Right now, Campbell’s projection is as an eighth-to-thirteenth round draft pick.
• Brendan Cooke, Soo Jr. Greyhounds. Also seen as draft pick who could go anywhere from rounds eight to 13, Cooke is one of the youngest ’07 players eligible for the draft. With a December 22 birthdate, Cooke just turned 15 years old. Hailing from the Highway 17 town of Thessalon, which is about 52 miles east of Sault Ste. Marie, the 5-foot-9, 165 pound Cooke is eighth in league scoring with nine goals, seven assists, 16 points.
• Brant Romaniuk, North Bay U16 Trappers. Playing on a last place team that has a 2-9-2 record, the 5-foot-7, 155 pound Romaniuk has more than stood out with 10 goals, five assists, 15 points — totals that have him in the top 10 in the entire league in scoring.
TOP 5 DEFENSEMEN
• Candon O’Neill, Soo Jr. Greyhounds. Not only is the 5-foot-10, 165 pound defender a point per game performer with 12 assists in 13 games of Great North activity but his compete level is at the top of the chart. While he may not have A-1 skills, O’Neill is a “gamer” who checks all the boxes in terms of being a dependable, all around performer with no apparent weaknesses. Should go in the first half of the 15 round OHL draft and be a bargain at that.
• Alexandre Valade, Sudbury U16 Nickel Capitals. Valade may have more raw talent than O’Neill and is a great skater with a strong, sturdy 5-foot-11, 170 pound build. But there are scouts who say that he seemingly only passes the puck when he has to and tries to skate his way past every opponent. Still, Valade has the tools to play in the OHL at some point and could be a steal for a team as a middle round pick.
• Declan Gallivan, Soo Jr. Greyhounds. A smart defender with good size at 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, he has pitched in offensively with two goals, eight assists, 10 points in 13 games. But Gallivan’s lack of foot speed is seen by some as an issue. Projection is for Gallivan to be one of those middle round draft picks.
• Cole Ellis, Timmins Majors. A 6-foot-2, 165 pound defenceman who hails from the remote northern Ontario town of Chapleau, Ellis is being tabbed by some as an intriguing prospect for the 2023 draft. He has four goals, three assists, seven points from his blue line post in 16 league games for the Majors. Majors head coach Steve Polyblank told Hockey News North that a number of OHL scouts have asked about Ellis, who was playing at a house league level of hockey in his hometown of Chapleau before making the move to Timmins this season. Ellis looms as a late round find for an OHL scout who will pound the table and go to bat for the kid who hails from off the beaten path near the junction of rugged Highways 129 and 101.
• Carter Carriere, Sudbury U16 NIckel Capitals. A small defender at 5-foot-9, 160 pounds, Carriere has four goals, three assists, seven points in 14 league games. He skates very well and has made some eye-catching plays. It might be worth rolling the dice on Carriere with a 14th or 15th round pick.
• Keynan Kydd, Sudbury U16 Nickel Capitals. Kydd can score as evidenced by his seven goals, four assists, 11 points in 13 league games. A 5-foot-10 forward, Kydd competes hard but his short stride skating is seen as a significant drawback. A long shot to get drafted but his work ethic is noticeable to the scouts who have watched him play more than a few times.
• Coulson Bell, Sudbury U16 Nickel Capitals. A 5-foot-11, 160 pound forward with grit and grind, Bell is an off the radar player who moved to Sudbury and made the U16 Nickel Capitals after being cut by his hometown Soo Jr. Greyhounds. He has three goals, three assists, six points in 10 league games and stepped it up at the recent Waterloo Gold Puck Tournament with four assists in five outings. Getting cut by the Jr. Greyhounds most likely affected Bell’s confidence but his resolve in overcoming that adversity by leaving home for Sudbury and playing very well for coach Jordan Cheechoo and the U16 Nickel Capitals speaks volumes about the youngster’s character and potential.
• Anthony Bertrand, Sudbury U16 Nickel Capitals. He is just 5-foot-6 and weighs in at 155 pounds. And while Bertrand does have seven goals, three assists, 10 points, his lack of size and that scouts are saying that he doesn’t pass the puck enough to his fellow forwards are part of his downside. He does have skill and speed, however, and is not a player to overlook without doing due diligence.
DOING THEIR HOMEWORK
While about half of the 20 teams in the OHL pay little attention to players from northern Ontario there are general managers and scouts who do their homework on prospects from the Great North loop. The list of OHL teams that do not ignore the northern kids is led by the Saginaw Spirit, Sudbury Wolves and North Bay Battalion and also includes the Barrie Colts, Flint Firebirds, Kitchener Rangers, London Knights, Ottawa 67’s, Kingston Frontenacs and Soo Greyhounds. Two general managers in particular, Dave Drinkill of Saginaw, and Sudbury’s Rob Papineau, have shown sharp eyes in recognizing talent from northern Ontario.