Plausible OHL draft plums

April 3, 2024

D-Day is looming. As in Ontario Hockey League draft day. Make that days. And two players from Sault Ste. Marie who headed to Pittsburgh to play in the Jr. Penguins AAA elite program this season are being projected as feasible first –or at least second — round picks at the April 12-13 OHL priority selections draft.

Nik Rossetto

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 the Sault for Pittsburgh ahead of the 2023-2024 season and are now considered blue chip OHL prospects.

With a late birth date, Blonda will not turn 16 until November 25 of this year. As for Rossetto, he 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, potted 15 goals, 30 assists, 45 points in 55 games for the Jr. Penguins this season. He led all Penguins defensemen in scoring and had the seventh most points on the team. Rossetto, meanwhile, sparked all Jr. Penguins in scoring with 47 goals, 27 assists, 74 points in 53 games. They were the only Canadian born players on the Pittsburgh roster.

Luca Blonda


Windsor Spitfires will select first overall at the upcoming OHL priority selections draft. The four teams that missed the OHL playoffs this season all participated in a recent draft lottery. 20th place Niagara IceDogs (40 per cent chance), 19th place Windsor (30 per cent chance), 18th place Peterborough Petes (20 per cent chance) and 17th place Sarnia Sting (10 per cent chance) had adjusted proportionate odds of drawing the first overall selection. And it was Windsor which got the winning roll of the dice.

Spitfires general manager Billy Bowler has not yet confirmed who Windsor will take with the first pick of the April 12 proceedings. However, three forwards have stood out among the 2008 birth year draft eligible prospects. Alphabetically, they are 6 foot 5, 220 pound Ethan Belchetz of the Oakville Rangers, 5 foot 9, 170 pound Adam Valentini from the Toronto Marlboros and 6 foot 2, 195 pound Braidy Wassilyn from the Markham Majors.

“Obviously, this is exciting for our franchise and our city,” Bowler told Postmedia. “It is going to be, we think, an immediate impact player who is going to excite our fans and help our team win games. We are going to get an elite talent.”

Besides the first overall pick, the Spitfires also have two selections early in the second round.

The Spitfires had a record of 18-42-8 this season following back to back Western Conference regular season titles. They were crowned Western Conference champions in 2022, coming within one win of the OHL championship that was won by the Hamilton Bulldogs.

This year’s OHL priority selections draft will be held over the course of two days, with Rounds 1-3 taking place beginning at 7:00 p.m. on Friday, April 12. Rounds 4-15 will take place on Saturday, April 13 beginning at 9 a.m. 

“It is a real deep draft,” relayed OHL director of central scouting Darrell Woodley. “There are a lot of kids that are going to transition really well into our league next year.

“It is a really good draft class and there are going to be a lot impacting players come out of it this year,” Woodley continued. “You are going to get a franchise altering type player. You are going to get a player that comes in and makes a big impact right away next year and that is always an exciting thing.”

Following is the first round order of selection.

  1. Windsor Spitfires
  2. Sarnia Sting
  3. Peterborough Petes
  4. Niagara IceDogs
  5. Barrie Colts
  6. Flint Firebirds
  7. Owen Sound Attack
  8. Kingston Frontenacs
  9. Guelph Storm
  10. Erie Otters
  11. Ottawa 67’s
  12. Sudbury Wolves
  13. Mississauga Steelheads
  14. Brantford Bulldogs
  15. Kitchener Rangers
  16. North Bay Battalion
  17. Oshawa Generals
  18. Soo Greyhounds
  19. Saginaw Spirit
  20. London Knights
  21. Ottawa 67’s* (compensatory pick)


Between a bad start and a bad finish the Spitfires were not a bad team in the middle of the 2023-2024 season. But after finishing atop the Western Conference standings the previous two seasons, the Spitfires failed to qualify for the OHL playoffs this time around.

Under first year head coach Jerrod Smith, the Spitfires sputtered to a 4-16-1 start to begin the ’23-24 season. Thus, after just 21 games, Smith was fired and Casey Torres was elevated from assistant coach to interim head coach.

Windsor Spitfires GM Billy Bowler (Photo by Windsor Star)

With Torres at the helm, the Spitfires actually played .500 hockey over the next 34 games — the equivalent of half a season — with a record of 14-14-6. Thus, it seemed that the Spitfires actually were the .500 team that many thought they were capable of being this season.

However, with Torres still in command as interim bench boss, the Spitfires proceeded to go into a sharp nosedive and over the final 13 games of the season, they went win-less with a record of 0-12-1.

Add it all up and the final tally for the ’23-24 season was the Spitfires finishing with a record of 18-42-8 — they were 14-26-7 under Torres — and in last place among the 10 teams of the OHL’s Western Conference.

To be sure — and as an example — as the Soo Greyhounds returned to OHL stature this season after missing the playoffs last season, it is somewhat anticipated and envisioned that the Spitfires will rev their engine up the ranks in the Western Conference next season. 

Not only did the Spitfires on the ball general manager Billy Bowler add no less than seven future draft picks just prior to this year’s trade deadline, Windsor has a solid foundation of young players to boost and build on for next season and beyond. As well, look for Bowler to be active on the trade market ahead of the 2024-2025 season.

There is also a bracket of potential overage players who could return to help pilot the Spitfires’ flight plan for next season that includes the likes of forwards Ryan Abraham, Noah Morneau and Colton Smith and defenseman Connor Toms. Notably, Abraham netted 31 goals for the Spitfires during the 2023-2024 regular season. 

Liam Greentree

Especially, though, it is the younger generation that hold the keys to the airborne Spitfire cylinder.

Windsor has its franchise player in 2006 birth year forward Liam Greentree. One of the youngest captains in Spitfires history, the 6 foot 2, 200 pound Greentree led the team in scoring by a wide margin this season with 36 goals, 54 assists, 90 points. Only 10 OHL players had more points this season than Greentree, who is poised to become a first round pick at this year’s National Hockey League draft. In fact, Greentree could be among the top 10 picks.

The 2006 age group of Spitfires also features a pretty good class of forwards Cole Davis and A.J. Spellacy and defensemen Anthony Cristoforo, Carson Woodall and Conor Walton. Walton developed well with the Espanola Paper Kings of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League before joining the Spitfires this season, Davis became a 20 goal scorer as an OHL rookie and Spellacy also hit that mark as a second year skater in Windsor.

Conor Walton

Then there is 2007 birth year forward Jack Nesbitt, who was Windsor’s first round pick at the 2023 OHL priority selections draft. Nesbitt has size at 6-foot-4 to go with skill and is projected to become a future Spitfire standout after a rookie season that included nine goals, nine assists, 18 points in 58 games.

There are also players with 2005 birth dates who could be somewhere in the mix as 19-year olds next season — defensemen Josef Eichler and Tanner Winegard and goalie Joey Costanzo. Winegard, of note, led all Spitfire defensemen who played in at least 50 games this season on the plus-minus chart.

Bowler, as the GM, seems to have the Spitfires on course to at the very least return to the playoffs next season. But the flight plan still needs some tweaking — through the upcoming draft and by way of potential off season trade additions.

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