It might not be the ideal way to head into a draft, but the Barrie Colts say they are ready for this year’s OHL Priority Selection.
With the COVID-19 pandemic wiping out minor hockey seasons across the country as well as the 2020-21 OHL season, scouting staffs from Barrie and other OHL teams will certainly have their work cut out for them when the two-day draft kicks off with the first round at 7 p.m. on Friday night.
It’s been a year unlike any other.
“It certainly has been,” said Colt’s assistant general manager Rob Stewart, who is heading up the scouting staff. “I was able to get out to some of the rinks early in the season and then the small window we kind of had in February and March. I did get a chance to see in person a lot of the top guys on the ice that I feel are important.
“Our guys have done a good job of collecting information, whether it’s bantam video or talking to other coaches about kids they’ve had in the past when hockey was a little bit more in the normal setting and just get a feel for them that way.
“But, yeah, we’ve had to rely on video a bit more than we ever have before. We feel good about our list and how the day is going to play out.”
This year’s draft officially kicked off Thursday afternoon when the Sudbury Wolves, who won this year’s first-ever OHL Draft Lottery, named 15-year-old forward Quentin Musty of the U.S. Youth Tier-1 U16 National champion North Jersey Avalanche the first overall pick.
With Musty unsurprisingly off the board, Stewart says there’ll still be plenty of talent available when the Colts make their 19th and 24th overall selections.
“I would say there’s some great depth, especially at the top here,” he said. “The talent that we see is some of the best we’ve seen in the last few years.
“With the uncertainty of how this unfolds, there might be some opportunity to get really good talent outside the first round. Something you can’t say about every draft.”
As for whether the Colts will be filling needs early in the draft or grabbing the top player available, Stewart says talent should win out.
“When you’re a little lower in the first round, I think you really have to take the best player available,” Stewart said. “With those two picks, in a perfect world, you’d like to pick up a skilled forward and a skilled defenceman. But with both being top-24 picks, you just take the best player available.
“We’ll have lots of good options in those two spots. We should be able to get two guys that can step in and play right away.”
Here’s a look at some of the other prospects who will certainly draw big interest this weekend when it comes time for teams to make a selection.
Here’s an OHL scout’s take on some of the other top prospects local fans will soon see playing in the league.
The Colts minor midget AAA centre, who played up with the minor midgets last year, is likely to be the earliest Barrie player off the board this year.
“One that we’ll see go fairly early here,” the OHL scout said of Mercer who is a sure-fire first-rounder. “He’s a guy that is a little bit unique in that we got to see him play in minor midget last year. That’s a guy everybody will have a little better read on than some of the other 05s.”
“Certainly, a guy that is set up to have success in our league. He’s a high IQ player, can play both ends of the rink. He’s got some good skill and he really makes guys around him better.”
Like Mercer, the six-foot, 180-pound blueliner played up last year with the Colts AAA minor midgets. Cochrane plays with a passion and isn’t afraid to physical when needed.
“A skilled defenceman that can chip in offensively as well,” the scout said. “He’s another guy who should transition into the league pretty easily.”
This Orillia native and Toronto Marlboros minor midget AAA prospect is certain to be a high pick.
“A top-10 guy,” the OHL scout said of the 16-year-old winger. “He’s a pure goal scorer. He reminds me a little of Mason McTavish. A big-time shooter.
“That’s the guy who you want to have the puck in the slot, because nine out of 10 times it’s going in.”
The six-foot, 174-pound Barrie native manned the blueline for the Colts minor midget AAA team.
“He’s a real big kid,” the scout said. “A smart player who can move across the ice pretty well. He can chip in offensively, but I think he’s going to be a guy that’s tough to play against.”
The six-foot-one, 164-pound winger for the Barrie Colts minor midget AAA team is the younger brother of London Knights second-year winger Max McCue.
“A strong player around the net who always finds different ways to score,” the scout said.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP THREE PICKS
The Sudbury native and Toronto Nationals prospect is considered the top defender in the draft and should go in top three picks.
“He’s a big, strong kid and he can really move around the ice,” the OHL scout said. “He plays a pretty well-rounded game. I see a little bit of Aaron Ekblad in him, obviously a little different age and stuff.
“He has physicality, but he can play with highly-skilled players as well and contribute on the offensive-side as well. I think he’s clearly the top defenceman available in the draft.”
The Oakville Rangers minor midget AAA star centre draws comparisons to Winnipeg Jets star Mark Scheifele and is the younger brother of Kingston Frontenacs defenceman Ethan Ritchie.
“I think the Scheifele comparison is fair,” the scout said. “He has a big, lanky body on him, but is a highly intelligent player who is very methodical when he is out there on the ice. His offensive talents are among the best in the draft. You can see that when he’s out there.
“He’s a guy that can help you out in all three zones. Whoever gets him is going to be awfully happy.”
Many expect the Toronto Marlies minor midget AAA crease prospect to be the first goalie off the board.
“He’s got a pro body already and he can really see and track the play in front of him,” the scout said of the six-foot, 160-pound goalie. “He gets good reads and is a guy that is going to have some success in our league here for sure.”
The 16-year-old Vaughan Kings minor midget AAA prospect is not the biggest goaltender, but he’s really technically sound. “He’s been pretty highly regarded in this age group coming up,” the OHL scout said. His skill set is kind of polished and ready to go and he should be a guy that we’ll hear his name called on the first couple of days.”
The 16-year-old Elgin Middlesex Chiefs minor midget AAA goalie is looking to become the first female player drafted into the OHL.
“I think she’s been steady for Elgin the last few years,” the scout said of the five-foot-seven, 134-pound Parkhill native. “She’s solid in the net, decent size and she’s technically sound. We’ll see what happens here.
“Not sure what her plans are going forward, if she’ll jump into the PWHL for a year of development.”
The 16-year-old Mississauga native was a forward with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens minor midget AAA team. The six-foot, 185-pounder is a prototypical power forward who loves to run up and down the wing.
“He should be a top 25-30 guy,” the OHL scout said. “He’s a big, lanky winger. He plays in your face, but can put the puck in the net. He’s got a pretty good package.”
The 2021 OHL Priority Selection runs June 4-5. Rounds 1-3 will take place on Friday night, beginning at 7 p.m. Rounds 4-15 go Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m.
This year’s draft can be seen virtually on www.youtube.com/ontariohockeyleagueofficial
banner image: first overall pick Quentin Musty selected by the Sudbury Wolves on Thursday, via OHL