With the COVID-19 pandemic putting sports on hiatus, the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Priority Selection Draft provided a much-needed distraction.
Every year, the OHL draft gives youngsters a chance to join one of hockey’s most storied junior hockey leagues.
With the draft held completely online in compliance with public health officials, it still provided many young players another step in their hockey careers.
OHL 2020 Priority Selection
According to the OHL media release, 300 players were selected in the 15-round extravaganza from 87 different teams across Ontario and parts of the United States. Of the 300 players, 176 were forwards, 94 were defencemen, and 30 were goaltenders.
While it is too early to tell which players will become future stars, there are indications of how teams performed.
Here are my five teams that drafted well in the OHL 2020 Priority Selection Draft.
#5: Saginaw Spirit
The Saginaw Spirit had the most to gain from the 2020 Priority Selection. But also the biggest gamble, thanks to their first-round pick Adam Fantilli.
Fantilli has already committed to play for the Chicago Steel next season. The Spirit is banking that the young centre does not go down the NCAA hockey route, electing to play in Saginaw.
Many scouts projected Fantilli as one of the top players in the 2020 Priority Selection Draft. He is a physical centre, who has explosiveness in the neutral zone, with the size that is ahead of his age.
If Fantilli comes back to play for the Spirit, the team will be in solid shape to compete for an OHL Championship in the future.
#4: London Knights
The Hunter Brothers do it again. The London Knights are known to be one of the best OHL franchises in drafting prospects. This draft was no exception.
For starters, Jackson Edward from the York Simcoe Express AAA will strengthen the Knights blue line. Edward’s aggressiveness and skating will allow London’s defence corps to be offensively sound.
The biggest steal of the 2020 OHL Priority Selection came in the third round when the Knights selected defenseman Isaiah George. Many experts predicted that George was a first-round worthy selection.
Getting George later in the draft demonstrates that the Knights are set-up well defensively for the next few years. George is a gifted skater who can move the puck with ease from his zone up the ice into the offensive end.
#3: Mississauga Steelheads
The Steelheads had a great draft. Mississauga general manager and head coach James Richmond knows that one of his team’s biggest needs is the offence. This draft provided a blueprint for the Steelheads to become a more offensively-minded team.
It started with Zakary Lavoie from the Toronto Nationals in the first round. Lavoie had 24 goals and 16 assists last season with the Nationals. He is a very smart player, who can score goals because of his blazing fast shot.
Owen Beck of the Quinte Red Devils is another fast player the Steelheads selected. With 19 goals and 20 assists last season, Beck is a terrific puck handler, who brings energy and consistency to every shift.
Perhaps the most important pick for the Steelheads was Carson Christy. Like the Knights getting George, this was a steal for Mississauga. Christy brings a plethora of speed to his game, using his creativity to beat defenders off the rush and create scoring opportunities.
#2: Peterborough Petes
Before the OHL’s season got canceled, the Peterborough Petes were second in the Eastern Conference. They were fifth in the league in goals for and third in goals allowed.
This draft set the Petes up for future success.
Peterborough’s first-round pick was Donovan McCoy of the Quinte Red Devils. With six goals and 29 assists last season, McCoy strengthens the Petes’ blue-line, with an innate ability to move the puck out of his zone.
The Petes followed up their next two big with physical forwards in Sam Alfano and Justin DeZoete. Alfano had 36 goals and 27 assists with the Southern Tier Admirals. He is a big-bodied forward, who can create space and fire pucks to the net.
DeZoete played for the Hamilton Huskies, where he scored 25 goals and generated 30 assists. Like Alfano, he brings a physical presence to his game, with accuracy on his shots that make him a proficient goal scorer.
#1: North Bay Battalion
Sustained winning might be around the corner for the North Bay Battalion. With a solid draft, the Battalion is in great shape to be a competitive team in the years to come.
Having the first pick helps and the Battalion wasted no time announcing its selection of defenseman Ty Nelson a day before the draft. A critical member for the GTHL champions Toronto Jr. Canadiens, Nelson is a force with the puck. His aggressiveness allows him to be an offensive threat on the ice, while his defensive abilities include sound puck handling and finishing his checks.
The Battalion continued with acquiring a steal in Dalyn Wakely. The Port Hope, Ontario native recorded 30 goals as a member of the Quinte Red Devils. He is a threat in all three zones, who not only can score but can bring a physical presence.
Tnias Mathurin was selected in the third round, adding to the Battalion’s already strong blue line. Mathurin brings a ton of intelligence to the defence for his age. He has a powerful stride to his skating and his smarts with the puck allow him to create space for scoring opportunities.