Well the day has finally come. Although the world has been thrown into a whirlwind with Covid-19 changing how everyone goes about their day, it is nice to know that today can be a small escape from the news as we go through 15 rounds of the OHL Priority Selection.
As we get things started, we will have full coverage of all the Alliance players selected in the draft. For some players, today will be a high point through all the hard work and sacrifice they’ve put in over the years. For others, there will be disappointment and feelings of uncertainty. As I’ve always stated, just because you don’t hear your name or you hear your name late in the day, does not mean that the opportunity at the next level is gone.
Here is a look at just a few instances where a number was just that, a number.
2016 – Brantford 99ers goaltender Dan Murphy selected 301st overall, the final pick of the draft. Murphy has now appeared in 116 games for the Erie Otters.
2016 – Huron-Perth Lakers forward Kaleb Pearson goes undrafted in his Minor Midget year. Drafted in the 2nd round in the first U18 draft. Scored 28 goals in his second season with the Owen Sound Attack this year.
2017 – London Jr. Knights defenceman Mason Millman was a 7th round pick of the Saginaw Spirit. Millman played six games for the Spirit as a 16 year old and was a 4th round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2019.
2018 – Cambridge Hawks forward Keegan McMullen is taken 300th overall, the final pick in the draft. After a year in the NOJHL, McMullen signed with the Petes and suited up for 44 games.
Now with all of that out of the way, let’s get ready for an exciting day of selections. We will have a full round up of every pick.
Round 1 – Pick 4 – Soo Greyhounds select Bryce McConnell-Barker (London Jr. Knights) – Size and skill are the name of McConnell-Barker’s game. Has fantastic puck control while at top speed and his physical game really evolved as the year progressed. Should have an opportunity to make an impact on a strong, older Greyhounds team next season.
Round 1 – Pick 9 – Barrie Colts select Hunter Haight (Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs) – Haight was probably the smoothest and quite possibly the smartest player in the Alliance this season. His ability to handle the puck in tight spaces allows him to fool defenders and he always finds his way to open areas in the offensive zone. Fantastic shot when he hits his mark.
Round 2 – Pick 26 – Ottawa 67’s select Brady Stonehouse (Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs) – Absolute workhorse of a player. Effective in both zones and plays a physical style, especially in front of the net. Loves to play the antagonist and is sure to become a fan favourite in Ottawa. Another one of those players you hate to play against, but love to have on your team.
Round 2 – Pick 35 – Peterborough Petes select Justin Dezoete (Hamilton Huskies) – Dezoete was the engine for the Huskies this season and a big reason they were able to compete in the Alliance championship final this year. Not only is Dezoete a finisher in the offensive zone, but his neutral zone pressure and smart defensive play makes him a difference maker in all three zones.
Round 2 – Pick 37 – Owen Sound Attack select Gavin Bryant (Brantford 99ers) – Bryant has an uncanny ability to slow the game down and really make sound choices. While Bryant was the 99ers best forward this season, his playmaking ability really gave boosts to his teammates. Outside of his offensive production, Bryant was always a factor helping out the defense as well.
Round 3 – Pick 43 – Mississauga Steelheads select Zander Veccia (Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs) – Veccia was a big time producer for the champion Chiefs this season. Veccia had lots of success using his speed down the wing and cutting in front of the net. Veccia also displayed lots of patience with the puck, allowing for plays to develop and executing best possible scenarios.
Round 3 – Pick 45 – Niagara Icedogs select Dylan Roobroeck (London Jr. Knights) – Roobroeck was part of the three headed monster down the middle for the Jr. Knights this year. There was high expectations coming into this year and while Roobroeck didn’t put up the numbers some expected, he still showed plenty of potential. Standing at 6’3″, Roobroeck has the size to play center at the next level. More consistency should be expected and if he can fill out his frame, he could transition to a power forward type player.
Round 3 – Pick 55 – Barrie Colts select Beau Jelsma (Brantford 99ers) – While Jelsma only appeared in a limited amount of games for the 99ers after coming over from the Buffalo Jr. Sabres, he may an impact in that short time. Adding Jelsma’s scoring prowess and putting him on the wing alongside Gavin Bryant alleviated the pressure on Bryant as defenders could not leave Jelsma open with his shot. Jelsma has great positioning in the offensive zone and only takes a few strides to get to top speed.
Round 3 – Pick 57 – Hamilton Bulldogs select Patrick Thomas (Hamilton Huskies) – Thomas is a skilled centre who has lots of offensive capabilities. Smaller than teammate Justin Dezoete, Thomas is still able to grind his way in the corners and create offense. There were many times when Thomas was relied upon to pace the Huskies offense.
Round 4 – Pick 63 – North Bay Battalion select Owen Van Steensel (Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs) – The Alliance scoring leader this season, Van Steensel was arguably the best playmakers in the league this year. His creativity with the puck allowed him to make passes that seemed impossible look ordinary. Van Steensel has a deceptive shot and his quick release garners plenty of scoring opportunities.
Round 4 – Pick 74 – Ottawa 67’s select Matthew Mayich (Hamilton Huskies) – Mayich was one of the more responsible defenders for the Huskies this season. A physical presence with good puck moving ability, Mayich was also able to quarterback the powerplay from the point. While he will need to improve on his show power, a late birthday makes him a promising prospect.
Round 4 – Pick 75 – Saginaw Spirit select Evan Klein (Waterloo Wolves) – Klein will be known for his absolute laser of a shot. It doesn’t take much space and he doesn’t need a big release before it is shooting top corner. While his primary strength is scoring goals, his work on the boards and his physicality has grown throughout the year.
Round 4 – Pick 76 – Owen Sound Attack select Cedricson Okitundu (Waterloo Wolves) – Playing in his first year in the Alliance, Okitudu became one of the more feared defenders in the loop. A great skater who has obvious offensive abilities, I can count on one hand the amount of times he was knocked off the puck or knocked down this season. Great shot from the point and has the speed to return to the defensive end after a rush or cutting to the net.
Round 5 – Pick 81 – Ottawa 67’s select Jacob Couchie (London Jr. Knights) – The 67’s go back to the Alliance for the 3rd time and select Jacob Couchie. Couchie was the 3rd line centre for the Jr. Knights this season, but only because he was behind McConnel-Barker and Roobroeck. On any other team, Couchie would be playing a top six role. A big centre who has great speed for his size, Couchie has the tools to be an offensive player at the next level. Some work on his hands in tight will help increase those numbers.
Round 5 – Pick 95 – Peterborough Petes select Steve Leskovar (Cambridge Hawks) – The Petes take the first player not our the Alliance Scout final player rankings in Steve Leskovar. The Hawks captain is a tall defender who enjoys joining the rush. A physical defender who isn’t afraid to challenge any player on the ice, Leskovar will need to shore up play in his own end, at the sacrifice of some offensive chances, should he take that next step.
Round 6 – Pick 103 – Sarnia Sting select Liam Eveleigh (Waterloo Wolves) – A pick that I feel will pay dividends for the Sting, Eveleigh is a player I thought would go in the opening three rounds of the draft. Eveleigh is very sound in his own end and very strong on the puck. It is his offensive game that could catapult him. It’s apparent that the skills are there, it is just the consistency that will need to come. As a late birthday, he will have plenty of opportunity to reach that next level and be an impact player.
Round 6 – Pick 115 – Peterborough Petes select Ryan Gagner (Chatham-Kent Cyclones) – The Petes head back to the Alliance and nab Ryan Gagner out of Chatham-Kent. Gagner may not be the biggest skater out there, but he will compete for the fastest. Gagner is able to create plenty of chances while at top speed and possesses a great shot as well. Players a physical style which keeps him a target of the opposing team.
Round 7 – Pick 130 – Barrie Colts select Nolan Chartrand (Cambridge Hawks) – The first goaltender from the Alliance off the board is Nolan Chartrand from the Cambridge Hawks. Standing at over six feet tall, Chartrand is a big force in goal. Even with his size, Chartrand showed great lateral movement and awareness in his crease.
Round 7 – Pick 132 – Guelph Storm select Koen Taves (Sun County Panthers) – A big, physical force in his own end, Taves has the tools that can translate to the next level. He led the Panthers in scoring and did so with a great point shot and ability to move the puck effectively. Taves physicality is led by his height with him standing over six feet tall already at 15 years old.
Round 7 – Pick 136 – Flint Firebirds select Carter Coombs (Huron-Perth Lakers) – Coombs is the rare right shot centre that so many teams would love to have down the middle. While he may not translate to a centre at the junior level, Coombs brings offensive flare and a never ending motor to the ice. A heads up player, Coombs had the Lakers offense run through him and he was a big factor that led to the Lakers potentially making the OHL Cup this year.
Round 7 – Pick 138 – Guelph Storm select Ethan Coups (Huron-Perth Lakers) – Coups is a massive force on defense, standing over six feet tall and weighing in close to 200 pounds. Despite his size, Coups showed slick movements carrying the puck and his ability to get back in the play improved greatly during the season. Still with room for improvement, improved skating should elevate Coups game ever further.
Round 8 – Pick 143 – Sarnia Sting select Dylan Grover (Kitchener Jr. Rangers) – The second goalie to go from the Alliance this year is once again standing over six feet tall. Grover came to the Jr. Rangers this year as their number one option and he delivered in big games this year. Facing a tonne of pucks, Grover stood tall in many big games. Whenever a weaker goal would find its way into the net, Grover never dwelled and got back into the zone. Will be interesting to see Grover progress with a more successful team in front of him.
Round 8 – Pick 146 – Hamilton Bulldogs select Riley George (Hamilton Huskies) – George was a two year Minor Midget player for the Huskies and I think his first year with a struggling 03 team helped in his development. His biggest strength is his poise in goal as nothing seems to rattle him. Add in his great lateral movement and the quickness in his pads and it is no wonder the Huskies relied on him heavily in their postseason run.
Round 8 – Pick 158 – Saginaw Spirit select Tyson Wassink (Hamilton Huskies) – Back-to-back Huskies players go and this time it’s mobile D Tyson Wassink . Wassink has always been very smart in his own zone and showed the capability to stretch the ice with his passing. While on the powerplay, Wassink quarterbacked the unit and was a fine decision maker, leading to powerplay success.
Roung 8 – Pick 160 – Ottawa 67’s select Collin MacKenzie (Waterloo Wolves) – For the fourth time in this draft, the 67’s go to the Alliance and this time it’s Wolves netminder MacKenzie. MacKenzie was instrumental in the Wolves reaching the OHL Cup this season. Not only did he perform exceptionally in a close series with London, he then kept the Wolves in every game against Hamilton in the semi-finals. MacKenzie does a great job at eliminating second chances and directing traffic in front.
Round 9 – Pick 164 – Soo Greyhounds select Landen Hookey (Lambton Jr. Sting) – The first member of the Jr. Sting goes in the draft and Hookey is a big winger with a lot of offensive potential. Standing very tall, Hookey’s puck control is very good and his vision for other players on the ice is high. Under rated shot allows him to keep defenders guessing as to his next move.
Round 9 – Pick 166 – Hamilton Bulldogs select Owen Kindree (London Jr. Knights) – Kindree was the captain of the Jr. Knights this season and saw his game progress nicely as the calendar moved into 2020. Always one to chip in offensively, Kindree’s degree of calmness in his own end is what really impressed in January and February. Kindree comes with lots of potential and a year of U18 or Junior B play could be up for 2020/21.
Round 9 – Pick 172 – Guelph Storm select Gavin Grundner (Windsor Jr. Spitfires) – Not the flashy scorer you sometimes see in the Alliance, Grundner was very effective and in my mind under rated when it came to scoring. A big winger, Grundner has great finishing ability and makes all his offensive movements look effortless. One a team chalked full of skilled forwards, Grundner was the cream of the crop.
Round 9 – Pick 175 – Peterborough Petes select Konnor Smith (Windsor Jr. Spitfires) – Back-to-back Jr. Spitfires going and towering defenceman Konnor Smith is the latest to get his name called. Smith was one of, if not the most improved player in the Alliance from beginning to end this season. Obviously a physical force because of his size, Smith really grew as a facilitator and as a reliable option from the point. As a late birthday, Smith has the time to develop all aspects of his game for his next step.
Round 9 – Pick 177 – Kitchener Rangers select Marcus Vandenberg (Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs) – Vandenberg was the man that head coach Jason Williams went to in the big games for the Chiefs this season. While some may point to the team in front of him, Vandenberg would keep the Chiefs in every game and had the ability to overcome any obstacles that he may face. He will have lots of opportunity as the Rangers look for their goaltender of the future.
Round 9 – Pick 178 – Saginaw Spirit select Ryan Cooper (Huron-Perth Lakers) – Cooper’s play really shined bright in the postseason as he became a go to option for the Lakers against both the Jr. Spitfires and the Chiefs. Not only did Cooper score some big time goals, but he was entrusted with playing every aspect of the game. Offensive zone, powerplay, penalty kill, you name it and you saw Cooper on the ice. Coaches at the next level will love to have a player with Cooper’s versatility.
Round 9 – Pick 179 – London Knights select Andy Reist (Waterloo Wolves) – Captain of the Wolves this season, Reist always found himself in the right place at the right time and that wasn’t by mistake. His anticipation and smarts gets him ahead in the game and that showed when he scored big goals. A tireless worker, Reist will be the first guy in on the forecheck in the corner and the first guy back the other way on defense. A smart all around player.
Round 10 – Pick 183 – Sarnia Sting select Austin Harper (Lambton Jr. Sting) – In my mind, the best pick of the draft so far. Harper may be small but he was one of the most dynamic forces in the Alliance this season. Lethal shot with some of the best breakout speed as well. I picture him in the same boat as a Rylan Bowers or a Ryan Burke, both players taken much later than they should have been. Don’t be surprised to see Harper don a Sting jersey in the not so distant future.
Round 10 – Pick 191 – Sudbury Wolves select Josh Hoover (Lambton Jr. Sting) – Back-to-back for the Jr. Sting and again, I was surprised Hoover was still available. Hoover threw some of the biggest checks I saw in the Alliance this season and offensively he was extremely effective for Lambton this year. I believe Junior B will be the next step for Hoover, but he’s another player I’m intrigued to see his progression.
Round 10 – Pick 198 – Saginaw Spirit select Brandon Balazs (Brantford 99ers) – Balazs was the main recipient of some great feeds from Gavin Bryant which resulted in him leading the team in goals throughout the regular season. An absolutely ridiculous shot, he is a threat to score from any area of the offensive zone. Skating and becoming a two-way player will be key for Balazs as he embarks on the next chapter of his hockey career.
Round 10 – Pick 199 – Barrie Colts select Cristobal Tola (Hamilton Huskies) – Speed, anticipation and a willingness to shoot are what led Tola to become one of the more feared offensive weapons in the Huskies arsenal this season. Tola has a quick release and his unpredictability with the puck is what made him most effective. Still a strong player in is own end, Tola already has the size to remain down the middle going forward. A big riser from the beginning of the year.
Round 11 – Pick 214 – Windsor Spitfires select Luke Fritz (Huron-Perth Lakers)
Round 11 – Pick 215 – Peterborough Petes select Cory Jewitt (Huron-Perth Lakers)
Round 11 – Pick 216 – Flint Firebirds select Ryan Vannetten (Brantford 99ers)
Round 12 – Pick 225 – Kingston Frontenacs select Nolan McKibbin (Sun County Panthers)
Round 12 – Pick 227 – Mississauga Steelheads select Wyatt Adkins (Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs)
Round 12 – Pick 240 – Ottawa 67’s select Maddox Amaral (Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs)
Round 13 – Pick 244 – Soo Greyhounds select Caleb Van De Ven (Lambton Jr. Sting)
Round 13 – Pick 250 – Owen Sound Attack select Luke Bibby (Brantford 99ers)
Round 13 – Pick 252 – Guelph Storm select Lucas Carson (Waterloo Wolves)
Round 13 – Pick 259 – London Knights select Nate Dowling (Windsor Jr. Spitfires)
Round 14 – Pick 277 – Kitchener Rangers select Antonino Pugliese (Hamilton Huskies)
Round 14 – Pick 279 – London Knights select Owen Willmore (Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs)
Round 15 – Pick 292 – Guelph Storm select Brock Beer (Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs)
Round 15 – Pick 294 – Windsor Spitfires select Noah Morneau (Windsor Jr. Spitfires)