Talk about a quick, improbable ascent to the Ontario Hockey League. That is, 2007 birth year defenseman Rylan Fellinger has signed with the Flint Firebirds after being a distant 13th round pick at the 2023 OHL priority selections draft from the Soo Jr. Greyhounds of the Great North Under 18 Hockey League.
Both Firebirds general manager Dave McParlan and head scout Mike Oliverio heaped praise on Fellinger for making Flint’s roster ahead of — and against the odds as a late round pick — the looming 2023-2024 OHL season.
“Rylan’s hard work this summer has paid off as he really impressed us in training camp. We all knew he had the potential for a bright future … we just didn’t expect the future to be now,” McParlan said of the 6-foot-3, 183 pound Fellinger, who was the 255th player to be chosen at this year’s OHL priority selections draft.
As for Oliverio, Flint’s Sault Ste. Marie based scouting boss also had plenty good to say about Fellinger and how he opened the eyes of the Firebirds hockey staff at the OHL team’s recent training camp.
“They say you earn your job in training camp and that is exactly what Rylan did,” Oliverio began. “He made it difficult for us not to sign him.”
Oliverio also noted the aptitude and strength of Fellinger’s game.
“Rylan thinks defense first and is a big body defender who competes hard and will support the offense. He simplifies the game by moving the puck north quickly. His strength is disrupting the opposing team’s offense by using his reach and his ability to take away time and space,” said Oliverio, in analysis of Fellinger who, regular season and playoffs for the U18 Jr. Greyhounds in ’22-23, totalled two goals, 17 assists, 19 points in 30 games.
From his end, Fellinger said he is “still in shock” at the way things have unfolded for him since being drafted by Flint in the 13th round just a few months back.
“It has been amazing. I always thought of the 13th round as just a number and I put in the work this summer and just came to camp ready,” said the big defender, who is originally from Wawa, Ontario. “This is a dream come true.”
Fellinger, who plans on wearing jersey number 65 for Flint this coming season, becomes the fifth player from the 2023 OHL priority selection draft class to commit to the Firebirds.