Chris St-Pierre

For The Community Press

KAPUSKASING It is a time of great anticipation in the Ontario Hockey League as scouts and their teams prepare for a tenuous draft process which begins at 9 a.m. this Saturday.

The 2019 OHL Priority Selection will be an interesting one for many reasons. Everyone wants to know where exceptional status player Shane Wright and his teammates of the dominant Don Mills Flyers will end up. 2003 birth year skaters are up for grabs this weekend and many in northern Ontario hope to see budding stars like Sudbury Minor Wolves forward Chase Stillman and North Bay Major Midget Trappers goalie Ben Gaudreau get their name called.

For the Kapuskasing Flyers, it has been a while, heck, a long while since a player was selected in the draft. The last one to be selected straight out of Kapuskasing was tall winger Raphaël Lecours in 2014, who was picked 162nd in the 9th round by the Kitchener Rangers.

The recent addition of a U18 selection has given an extra opportunity for late bloomers to grab the brass ring, including some Great North Midget League products. Two OHL scouts have kindly answered our request for comment on this year’s class of Flyers prospects. One asked to remain anonymous.

Over the course of the 2018/2019 campaign, a few players have blossomed into quality players that caught some eyes down in the bigger cities of the GNML. One scout explained that second-year midget player and highly regarded center Kobe Barrette was the most likely of the lot to get picked this year, but the elimination of two rounds after the inaugural Under-18 selection was going to make things a little harder. He explains that despite having good hockey sense, Barrette lacks the explosiveness that would benefit him at a higher level.

He also mentions that in an ideal world, someone chosen in the U18 draft could likely play immediately in the OHL if needed.

Once a player gets passed up one too many times, they essentially become free agents and some will receive invites during training camp season in the Canadian Hockey League. There are benefits to this as players then have the freedom to go wherever they please instead of committing to a team. This was the case for a few northern kids, such as ex-Flyers goalie Sebastien Plamondon, current Sudbury Wolves blueliner Ryan O’Bonsawin and most notably, NHL superstar Claude Giroux.

Some interesting names were also uttered as foreseeable invites next autumn. This same scout stated the now former Flyers captain Alex Lapointe, who’s hard nosed and honest style of hockey kept him on the board. Lanky winger Dawson Linklater was another name mentioned. However, when asked about who had the highest potential to play in any CHL league, it was a no-brainer to declare Cochrane native Ryan Maynard the most promising candidate.

The six-foot two d-man has already grown into a leadership role with the Flyers and earned his spot as quarterback on the blueline. Even with another season to go at the Major Midget level, he already possesses tools that could be useful to many teams. To some, he has improved immensely over the last calendar year. He carries the puck well, improved his skating and is serviceable at both ends of the ice. He might not get what he’s looking for in the OHL, but it was suggested that he could follow the path of former Kapuskasing Flyer and current Charlottetown Islanders defenseman Brendon Clavelle, who left for the QMJHL.

At the end of the day, long time scout for the OHL’s Central Scouting Bureau Doug Bonhomme explains that the ’03 draft is going to be strong and it would be highly unlikely that any young Kap Flyer gets by. He states that Justin Carrière and Kyle Trottier were standouts on the blueline, while Justin Alary showed flashes of promise, however their size doesn’t play to their strengths.

He expects top GNML prospects like the aforementioned Gaudreau and Stillman to go in the first couple of rounds. After that, it’s anybody’s game to nab other promising talent such as Sudbury Minor Wolves skaters Devon Savignac, Mitchell Martin, Cameron Walker, Max McCue, Josh Kavanagh and Zacharie Giroux or Sault St. Marie’s Jack Matier and Tyler Dunbar.

One thing is for sure, any draft can be unpredictable and we can only truly know what value a player brings to a team once he is selected. The OHL Priority Selection draft starts at 9 a.m. this Saturday, beginning with the Kingston Frontenacs’ first overall pick.