Published April 14, 2024

Fifth overall pick Vaughan 'fits the bill' for Colts in OHL draft

Barrie Colts draft picks
Barrie Colts' head coach Marty Williamson poses with draft picks (from left) Cole Emerton, Parker Vaughan, Ben Bowen and Noah Barton / via the Barrie Colts

Parker Vaughan has one Memorial Cup title in the family.

Adding one of his own with the Barrie Colts would be a dream come true.

It was only a couple of years ago Barrie’s fifth overall pick in the 2024 OHL Priority Selection this weekend made the trek out with his family to New Brunswick to go watch relative Josh Lawrence and his Saint John Sea Dogs defeat the Hamilton Bulldogs 6-3 in the Memorial Cup championship final.

Lawrence, who had 31 goals and 101 points that year, scored in the final.

As Parker was introduced to the Barrie media Saturday morning in the Colts dressing room, the talented offensive winger praised those who have helped him get here and Lawrence, who played pro in Switzerland this year, was near the top of that list.

“I’ve asked him a few questions here and there,” said the St. Thomas native who is coming off an impressive year with the Elgin-Middlesex Canucks U16 AAA minor midgets where he led them with 23 goals and 26 assists for 49 points in 30 games to earn the Alliance player of the year. “(Josh’s) been a great influence to me and I’m super lucky to have him.”

The experience of watching their cousin win a Memorial Cup was special and Parker’s father, Marc, himself a pretty good player in his day, would love that experience for his own son.  

“We would love to repeat,” said Marc. “Parker, myself, and my family we were actually out there for Josh. When he won a Memorial Cup, we were there. It was awesome and it’s an incredible feeling. To experience it, for your kid, I would be over the moon.

“He’s got all the respect for Josh. He’s been a great mentor for Parker and we’re looking forward to what’s in store. This opportunity is phenomenal. We’re extremely excited for him.”

The excitement is mutual with the Colts. While other highly rated draft prospects like Toronto Marlboros forward Adam Valentini, Peterborough Petes forward Colin Fitzgerald and Vaughan Kings centre Caleb Malhotra wouldn’t make a commitment to play in the OHL, Barrie says it gladly grabbed Vaughan with their highest pick since selecting Brant Clarke fourth overall in 2019 draft.

“We really wanted the right winger,” said Colts general manager and head coach Marty Williamson. “He was the guy we kept watching. You know, he just fit the bill. He’s a big body and the leadership qualities he showed on the Elgin Middlesex team and when he went up and played for St. Thomas Jr. B I talked to their coach and they just raved about him.

“They talked about his hockey IQ and how he fit in so quickly and then he was an impact player whenever he went up and played with them. I don’t think he’s going to have any problem adjusting to the game in the OHL. We’re pretty proud and we feel pretty lucky that we got him.”

Vaughan is anxious to repay the Colts for their believe in him.

“It’s a huge honour that Barrie took a chance on me and I’m excited to just bring everything I got to this organization,” said the 16-year-old.

“I bring a smart, physical offensive game with an ability to make plays and shoot the puck as well,” added the six-foot-one, 173-pound power forward.

Motivation is no problem for the skilled forward. He has no problem putting in the work and time needed to constantly improve his game.

“He’s definitely put in the time,” said Marc. “He’s got that work ethic. I’m sure the Colts are going to be happy with him, that’s probably why they picked him. His work ethic is awesome. He’s so happy to be here. He’s so happy to be picked.”

Vaughan is already looking ahead to the summer and the work needed to get ready for training camp and the OHL game.

“I just need to work on my foot speed and my strength to play with older players,” he said. “The game is so much faster now and I just got to get faster and stronger.”

Up a goal late, down a goal late or on the power play or penalty kill, Vaughan was on the ice at all the important times of a game and he carried the Elgin-Middlesex team.

“I really think Parker has a real nice combo of being hard to play against, yet he’s got the skill that he can beat you in different ways,” said Williamson.

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Barrie held back-to-back picks in the second round and used pick No. 27 to grab Vaughan Kings forward Ben Bowen and pick No. 28 to take rugged defenceman Noah Barton from the Oshawa Generals U16 AAA minor midgets.

“It’s surreal,” Bowen said of being drafted by Barrie. “It’s something I’ve been working for a long time now and just hearing my name. . . I was just super pumped.”

The six-foot-one, 175-pound scorer was ranked in the top of many rankings earlier this year, but an injury forced him to miss a great deal of time.

“I think he’s one of these guys that went through injuries in the second half and that’s where he fell off the map a little bit,” said Williamson. “He didn’t have a great OHL Cup, he was playing with a real bad shoulder and probably shouldn’t have even been playing, but if you got back and look at the 35 goals he scored in the first half and what he did, we’re really happy to have him.

“He’s a left winger and is going to be a nice compliment. He’s a pure scorer and has good hockey IQ. He protects pucks and he’s got enough grit.”

Williamson said the honestly thought he wouldn’t be there when their first of two picks came up.

“He was one of those guys that we didn’t talk a lot about because we (expected him to go),” said Williamson. “As we’re in the draft and we’re seeing the names go, all of a sudden, we started looking at each other that Bowen can be there and then you start holding your breath that he makes it to your pick.”

Barton, says Williamson, is a throw back type defenceman. The six-foot-one 180-pound 15-year-old Peterborough native plays with an edge and draws some comparisons with his physicality to Connor Punnett.

“When we talked to players in his league, they all talked about how difficult he is to play against,” he said of Barton. “He’s a late birthday and we consider him raw in some areas, but as far as his energy and the motor he plays with it’s over the top. It’s excellent.

“With some good coaching, he’s going to turn into a pretty special player.”

Barton likes the Punnett comparison.

“We’re both big and strong and physical,” he said. “And we can see the ice real good.”

After adding offensive blueliner Cole Emerton in the third round, the Colts had back-to-back picks in the fourth round and selected Kingston Jr. Gaels winger Jonah McCormick and Oakville Rangers winger Christian Armstrong.

In all, Barrie would make 15 picks and one of its biggest payoffs should he report could come from the 13th round selection of New Jersey native John Mustard from the Waterloo Black Hawks.

The six-foot, 180-pound winger 17-year-old winger had 28 goals and 27 assists for 55 points in 58 games and is a prospect for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.

“He’s probably going to go high in the NHL draft,” said Williamson. “We’ll meet him at the NHL draft and talk to him about his options. These are one of those calculated risks. We took him late, but if by chance he gets drafted to the right team and they feel a couple of years of development in the OHL is a quicker path for him, then we feel we can have some success with that pick at No. 13.”

The Colts, who drafted 10 forwards and four defencemen, selected one goaltender. Barrie took Whitby Wildcats U16 AAA netminder Arvin Jaswal in the sixth round.

The six-foot-one, 146-pound Pickering native had 2.05 goals against average in 25 games.

“We’re pretty excited about the goalie we took,” said Williamson. “I know (goaltending coach Dave Belitski) really wanted him. I got comments from GMs around the league right away about what a good pick it was.”

A total of 302 players from 78 different hockey programs were selected in the 15-round process held over two days. The Windsor Spitfires held the first pick overall and last Thursday announced they were taking Oakville Rangers U16 AAA forward Ethan Belchetz.

Barrie’s scouting staff includes Mark Seidel (Director of Scouting), Collin Jennings (Hockey Operations Coordinator), Ethan Abrams (HEO), Kent Hutton (GTHL), Dan Webster (GTHL/U18), Wade Conrad (ETA), Tyler Brown (Alliance), Matt Milne (SCTA), and Shane McCarthy (Tier II).

2024 Barrie Colts Ontario Hockey League Priority Selections

1#5Parker VaughanElgin-Middlesex Canucks U16RW6.01173
2#27Ben BowenVaughan Kings U16LW6.01.5175
2#28Noah Gaudet-BartonOshawa Minor Generals U16RD6.01.5180
3#50Cole EmertonVaughan Kings U16RD5.10170
4#66Jonah McCormickKingston Jr. Gaels U16LW6.01181
4#67Christian ArmstrongOakville Rangers U16RW5.10157
5#92Kale MacePeterborough Petes U16C5.11167
6#114Arvin JaswalWhitby Wildcats U16G6.01146
8#147Jackson KimelmanNorth York Rangers U16C5.10164
9#167Stephen KingDetroit HoneyBaked 15’sC6.02152
10#187Teddy LowOakville Rangers U16 AAALD5.10160
11#207Kane StyresHamilton Steel U16RD5.10151
13#247John MustardWaterloo Black HawksLW6.01180
14#267Ashton PitawanakwatSudbury Wolves U16LW5.09161
15#286Gavin WangHalton Hurricanes U16 AAALW6.00141
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