Spitfires are setting it up

April 11, 2024

The flight plan of the Windsor Spitfires is in ascent. The Spitfires, who missed the Ontario Hockey League playoffs in 2023-2024 after finishing in first place in the Western Conference in back to back regular seasons, have taken a big step ahead to next season by choosing 6 foot 5, 235 pound left winger Ethan Belchetz with the first pick of the 2024 OHL priority selections draft.

Spitfires’ general manager Billy Bowler said Belchetz was Windsor’s clear cut choice as the no. 1 pick.

Windsor Spitfires general manager Bill Bowler, shakes hands with no. 1 draft pick Ethan Belchetz. (Photo by Dan Janisse/Windsor Star)

“As we kept watching hockey and identifying players, it was clear that Ethan stood above the rest as the No. 1 selection,” said Bowler. “The progression of Ethan has been something to watch. We can foresee the trajectory and development path.”

Belchetz, who skated for the Oakville Under 16 Rangers of the Greater Toronto Hockey League this past season, combines skill, size and character, noted Bowler.

“Ethan is a big body who can play a small game,” Bowler pointed out. “The potential is limitless. Ethan is a physical presence with a great combination of skill and hockey IQ. He is also a character kid with leadership qualities and will have an immediate impact in our league.

“This is a pick you make,” Bowler added. “You don’t care about the size of the player or where he’s from. It happens to work out that Ethan is huge presence who can skate and play. It is a bonus that he is a bigger body.

“To see what he can do at his size and the way he moves around on the ice with his skating,” Bowler continued. “The skill set, with the hands, it is something that is uncommon to see in a player of his stature. Like every player, he has to improve … but he can bring it in so many ways. And what a great kid from a great family, that is the icing on the cake.”

As for the big boy himself, he talked about the dedication and development that he plans to bring to Windsor and the Spitfires.

“This is awesome, what a day,” Belchetz began, shortly after the Spitfires officially announced him as the no. 1 pick of ’24 OHL draft. “I do not take this honour lightly. I will dedicate myself to growing and developing as a hockey player, teammate and a person.

Ethan Belchetz dons a Spitfires jersey.

“I feel giving back to the community is extremely important and I am excited for the opportunity to be part of the Windsor Spitfires family. I wish training camp started tomorrow. I can’t wait to meet my new teammates and get set to compete in a Windsor Spitfires jersey. Go Spits go,” added the obviously humble, well grounded Belchetz, who put up huge numbers for the U16 Rangers of Oakville in 2023-2024 with amazing totals of 46 goals, 38 assists, 84 points in just 34 regular season games before adding nine goals, seven assists, 16 points in eight playoff outings.

Notably, the 6-foot-5 Belchetz adds even more size to the Windsor forward lines for the 2024-2025 season, joining the high end likes of 6-foot-2 A.J. Spellacy, 6-foot-3 superstar Liam Greentree and 6-foot-4 Jack Nesbitt.

Meanwhile, Darrell Woodley, who is the OHL director of Central Scouting, gave a glowing report card on Belchetz.

“He is a big power forward, at times it seems like he is a man playing amongst boys,” began Woodley. “He is an intimidating force whenever he is on the ice.  He is very competitive, takes the body every chance he gets and likes the physical side of the game which is rare these days.  He is a good skater who has a powerful stride and is hard to contain when he gets moving.  He has a good skill set and does a good job of protecting the puck down low, which makes him almost impossible to handle.  He has a good shot that he has used to score many goals from within 15 feet of the net.  He is a player who understands his strengths and uses them to his full advantage.  Ethan’s game has improved immensely since the beginning of the season and he has a very high ceiling.”

Looking ahead to the remainder of this year’s OHL priority selections draft, Windsor also holds the first and third picks of the second round, along with a third rounder, and two in the fourth. All in all, the Spitfires have 16 picks in the 15 round draft.

The first three rounds of the draft are slated to begin on Friday at 7 p.m. with rounds four through 15 scheduled for Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m.

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