WINDSOR — It has been said — as it has been written — that any scout of ordinary repute can identify and rate a blue chip hockey player of plain to see, pronounced skill. Then there are the acute, astute scouts and talent judgers who can zero in on a player who is not on the radar or lighthouse. One such far fetched prospect is Tanner Winegard, a hulking defenseman with the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League.
This isn’t to say that Winegard will become a National Hockey League draft pick. But if not, he could gain an invite to an NHL rookie camp at some point. And to be sure, the potential of Winegard can be put into the perspective that he is a client of influential, powerhouse agent Pat Morris of Newport Sports Management.
At any rate, it certainly has been a long road to the OHL for Winegard, a 2005 birth year defender who was an 11th round draft pick by Windsor in 2021. It took him three training camps with the Spitfires and stops with three different Junior B teams before he finally arrived in Windsor last fall.
His size, at 6 foot 6, 220 pounds, has made Winegard, who is a right hand shooting defender, an intriguing prospect. As one of seven defensemen on the Spitfires roster, Winegard has had to bide his time for ice time as an OHL rookie. But still, there are NHL scouts out there who have jotted down encouraging notes on the upside of the big d-man.
Meanwhile, Billy Bowler, who is the general manager of the OHL Spitfires, has said that where a player is drafted doesn’t always amount to much in the long run. Which is how Winegard came to become a Spitfire.
“Kids develop at different stages and have a different path to get to where they want to go,” said Bowler. “For us, there were some openings on defence this year and Winegard’s maturity and strength gave him the opportunity to see what he can provide at this level.”