It was longer than it normally is, but the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection is in the books.
Spread out over two days for the first time in league history, the second day of the event wrapped up Saturday afternoon.
For Soo Greyhound general manager Kyle Raftis, the focus was specific heading into the two-day event.
“The big focus for us was identifying that skillset that we like,” Raftis said. “The skating, the speed; players that think the game at a good level and, on top of that, getting enough of that background information to find guys that are that rink rat.”
“With this year off, for a lot of players, you get a sense of who is really into it and who is obsessed and wants to be a player,” Raftis added. “That’s what we were trying to find on top of those other skills.”
The Greyhounds opened the draft by selecting three wingers on Friday night in the opening three rounds, including top pick Justin Cloutier, a winger from the Ottawa Senators U18 team.
Day one on Friday also saw the Greyhounds select wingers Marco Mignosa of the Toronto Young Nationals U16 team in the second round and Ethan Montroy of the Cornwall Colts U18 team in the third round.
To open up the day on Saturday, the Greyhounds selected a pair of defencemen with picks in rounds four and five.
With their first pick of the day, the locals selected Windsor Jr. Spitfires defenceman Andrew Gibson 67th overall.
“Gibson is a really mobile defenceman and has good puck skills,” Raftis said. “He’s got good range. He comes from a long line of athletes and he’s someone that we were really excited to get. When you can add that kind of mobility and size and the way he plays the game on top of being a right-hand shot, it was a good fit for us after taking a run of forwards last night.”
The team then added another defenceman with the 98th overall pick in left-shooting right defenceman Blair Scott of the Kitchener Jr. Rangers U16 team.
“He’s very mobile and really tough to play against,” Raftis said of Scott. “He has great gaps defending one-on-one. When you talk to a lot of players in that area in interviews, they brought his name up constantly in the Alliance that’s really tough to play against. When he shoots the puck that well, moves the puck on top of mobility, it was a nice complement to add to the group that we’ve already put together.”
After not having a pick in the sixth round, the Greyhounds used back-to-back picks on centres.
In the seventh round, the Greyhounds selected Detroit Compuware 15’s forward Charlie Lewisnki.
“He’s a really good skating, big centre,” Raftis said of the 6’2”, 191-pound Lewisnki. “He can play the wing. He’s physical and got a good shot. He’s somebody that, probably if he’s an Ontario kid, goes a little bit earlier.”
Raftis said the Greyhounds were comfortable using the pick on Lewinski.
“We were very comfortable after adding the two D, that he was a guy who we had good conversations with prior to the draft,” Raftis said. “There was no commitment or guarantee on anything, but he sounded really interested in the program.”
The Greyhounds then selected Toronto Marlboros U16 centre Stephen Campbell in the eighth round.
“He was somebody that made a move to join (the Marlies) this year and is someone that’s a big centre that skates really well,” Raftis said, adding that he felt that Campbell could “complement some of the other guys we were taking early on.”
“His skillset was a little underrated in how his year went,” Raftis added. “When you’re in that spot, with the size, the skating, and the head for the game, it was a good pick for that situation.”
In the ninth round, the Greyhounds selected defenceman Anthony Ciaramitaro, who was a teammate of Gibson in Windsor.
“He was a really steady D and someone who could come in and really calm things down for the group,” Raftis said. “When you got the chance to watch that team the last little bit, his coaching really raved about him off the ice and what type of kid he was.”
The Greyhounds used their first of three picks in the 10th round to select Smiths Falls Bears defenceman Ty Campbell.
“He’s somebody that has some raw ability there and when you’re in that range, he’s somebody that, if he reaches that ceiling we think he can get to, he can be a real special player,” Raftis said.
The locals then used their second pick in the round to draft Oakland Jr. Grizzlies 15’s defenceman Noah Ziskie.
“He’s similar to Lewinski where he probably slid in the draft because there’s potential for him playing a year in the USHL next year and then seeing what’s what,” Raftis said. “We had some good conversations with him prior to the draft and even today when we talked to him after we selected him, he was really honoured that we decided to pick him and is somebody that, if we’re able to add him in whether it’s next year or a year down the road, it could be a really good pick for us.”
After taking a pair of defencemen, the Greyhounds ended the round by taking winger Connor Clattenburg of the Renfrew Wolves U18 team with the 199th pick.
“He’s got a great release and can really find soft areas offensively and he can shoot a puck,” Raftis said. “He’s somebody that’s probably a year away, but at the same time, he has some really raw abilities there that made him stick out.”
In round 11, the Greyhounds went local by talking Soo Jr. Greyhounds defenceman Austin Fellinger.
“He skates well; he defends well,” Raftis said. “He makes a good first pass. We had a couple guys in that conversation and Austin just stood out for us as someone that could potentially come in and keep camp competitive on top of being a stay-at-home (defenceman) and good defensive specialist. He’s like a lot of guys in that range if he can take that next step. He’s a motivated kid.
In the 13th round, the Greyhounds selected Ajax-Pickering Raiders U16 forward Zack Corte.
“He’s got good speed. He’s got some good skill there,” Raftis said. “We had taken a couple of D in 10 and then Fellinger. Zack’s definitely got some skill and can skate and that’s what stood out.”
The Greyhounds then selected winger Owen Shore of the Huron-Perth Lakers U16 team in the 14th round.
“Owen’s similar to some of those other guys,” Raftis said. “He’s got some skill and carried that Huron-Perth team over the past couple of years that was not always the strongest team. He was someone that showed flashes of skill and somebody that we’re hoping that we can get him with some more skilled players and that he can raise that bar for himself.”
The team wrapped up the draft by selecting Thunder Bay Kings U16 winger E.J. Paddington in the 15th round.
“Thunder Bay was in a tough situation this year, they didn’t play a ton of hockey,” Raftis said. “E.J., coming up, was one of the top players in Thunder Bay. Everybody you talked to said ‘You have to look more into E.J.’”
“At a young age, he was one of their top players,” Raftis added. “At that point in the draft, he’s got some of those intangible things that you’re hoping he can continue to take those steps.”
Raftis also addressed the Greyhounds not selecting a goaltender in the draft and what led up to it.
“Just the way the board shaped up going into the weekend, there wasn’t an opportunity to take a goalie early just with the way our board shook out,” Raftis said. “As we got into the middle of the draft, there are a couple guys that we probably would have taken, but they went just as they entered our conversation.”
“It would have been nice to add a couple of those guys, but you want to make sure they’re the goaltenders you’re targeting, and it didn’t work out that way,” Raftis added.
The draft focus now shits to the annual Under-18 draft, which is scheduled for Wednesday.
Draft notes: The Sarnia Sting made history in the 14th round by selecting Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs goaltender Taya Currie.
Currie becomes the first woman selected in OHL draft history.
The draft hit a bit of a delay in the 13th round when a player selected by the Owen Sound Attack were forced to make a second selection after the player they selected was deemed ineligible.
The player, Zayne Parekh, is a 2006-born defenceman and not eligible until next year and was listed by the league as eligible this year.
The Attack were granted an opportunity to select another player and drafted goaltender Leland Gill instead.