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Youngblood: 2015 OHL Priority Selection Reflection

David Levin (middle), Gabe Vilardi (right) and Owen Tippett (left) were three of the top four picks in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection presented by State Farm on Saturday April 11, 2015. (Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images)
David Levin (middle), Gabe Vilardi (right) and Owen Tippett (left) were three of the top four picks in the 2015 OHL Priority Selection presented by State Farm on Saturday April 11, 2015. (Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images)

The 2015 OHL Priority Selection has been completed with 302 players being selected and after having time to digest the picks, we can reflect with some thoughts on each team’s draft. Of course, it’s impossible to conclude one team had a better draft than another because these players will all need to time to develop their skills. However, comparing team-by-team picks to my own opinions coming into the draft can provide some context to, at least, my own personal analysis down the road. It’ll be much more important and valuable to revisit the 2015 draft class in two or three years time to truly analyze how each organization did in identifying talent at different spots throughout the draft with more development time under these player’s belts. And that will certainly happen but until then, let’s take a look at how each team did last Saturday.

While there were several teams who had very good drafts in my opinion, I don’t think any team had a poor draft at all. Teams did very well in identifying talent and value at different points throughout the draft and added important building blocks for their future. It’s always interesting the importance different teams place on player’s skills and attributes when making their picks.. Sault Ste. Marie fancies skilled players with strong possession games. Hamilton (formerly Belleville) and Peterborough tend to lean towards a balance of skill and physical/powerful forwards. Kitchener, Erie and Sarnia appear to target skilled players early. The London Knights do a good job at grabbing competitive skilled players and then aren’t shy in taking chances with some high-end American players with their success at getting them to report. North Bay and Oshawa Generals are attracted to rangy players and tend to build their teams around big players who think the game well. Whatever the recipe is for success, I think every OHL front office should be proud of the future pieces they added on April 11th.

The following is a team-by-team breakdown of noteworthy picks and talents. It’s important to note that I have not seen every player drafted and only comment on those that I have. There’s a good chance that some teams hit the jackpot with some of their picks that I am not familiar with. I have listed the teams in order from those I thought had an excellent draft to those that had good drafts. Again, on first initial observations, it was a good year across the league for drafting and not one team falls into the “poor draft” category.

To conclude, following the team-by-team analysis, I listed three selections from each round that I really liked.

Revisit my OHL Draft Rankings here.



sooSault Ste. Marie Greyhounds – Text book drafting continues in Sault Ste. Marie as the ‘Hounds scouting staff had a fantastic draft. With almost every pick that came due, the Greyhounds took my top ranked player remaining on my draft board – including Liam Hawel (selected 22nd, ranked 13th), Anthony DeMeo (selected 61st, ranked 20th), Morgan Frost (selected 81st, ranked 50th), Corson Green (selected 101st, ranked 26th), Calvin Martin (selected 121st, ranked 54th), Taylor Carlson (selected 141st, ranked 39th), Ryan Horvath (selected 161st, ranked 72nd) and Isaiah Payne (selected 221st, ranked 70th). It really was astonishing watching them pick off such great talent at every point in the draft. To no surprise, many of the players selected excel in possession hockey. Calvin Martin was a favourite all season long with his smart puck decisions. Liam Hawel owns some of the best pro potential in the draft. Morgan Frost is a hard to play against pivot out of Barrie. Demeo is a dynamic defender who instantly revitalizes the Greyhounds blueline if he commits considering Nurse and DeAngelo will graduate. The ‘Hounds stellar draft didn’t end there as they added highly regarded American Randy Hernandez, Theo Calvas and Perry Winfree late. Defenseman Zach Taylor and centreman Alex Daigle are two underrated possession players who have great supporting qualities and an ability to play a number of roles as well. Best drafting team in 2015.

owenOwen Sound Attack – Blessed with two very valuable first round selections due to the Victor Mete compensation pick, Owen Sound stuck gold getting two work horse players in Markus Phillips on defense and Nick Suzuki in the centre position. They had to wait until the third round to select again and added Matthew Struthers and athletic netminder Riley Daniels. It was through the middle rounds that Dale DeGray’s team did the most damage scooping up two energy skilled players from the Toronto Titans in Regan Kimens and Zach Sheedy, both high in my rankings. Furthermore, Mackenzie Warren, another top rated defender in my opinion, and Nick Pryce were two high value picks. Pryce was often the straw that stirred the Marlboros drink a lot of times this season. Kenneth Chisholm and defenseman Nicholas King were two smart picks out of the Alliance with both owning OHL potential. Joey Berkopec has some puck moving skills and his mobility showed very well in a quiet yet effective way. The Attack grabbed NOHA Player of the Year, Cayse Ton, in the 11th and then finished by selecting GM Dale DeGray’s son, Michael with their final pick in the 14th round. Solid draft!

londonLondon Knights – The Knights had 15 selections in the draft and I personally liked everyone of them. Oakville’s defenseman Evan Bouchard started things off in the opening round when everyone was thinking they’d go to Don Mills. Robert Thomas was next on the Knights list and that should come as no surprise since he plays a “Knights’ style” of hockey – excelling in possession and competitiveness. Finn Evans was selected in the third which was one of my favourite selections of the draft. London added Brady Tkachuk, brother of Matt who the Knights also own rights to. One of the draft’s top defenders Ian Blacker, committed to Western Michigan, was a gamble that might just pay off in the 4th. Cole Tymkin will add some grit to the system while Vinagradov, Turko, Di Cicco and Clarke are all local London kids with good OHL upside. Two of my sleepers of the draft were scooped up by London with Formenton and Dennison landing in the “Forest City”. Sean Dhoogie is a 5-foot-2 dynamo that is a gamble due to his commitments and Jacob Golden is rumoured to have options south of the border but is a great puck moving Top 75 defender.

peterboroughPeterborough Petes – Loaded with a league-high 18 picks, Peterborough had a lot of flexibility in their draft plan and did well to lock up some good building blocks for the franchise. A bit surprising, Peterborough opted for Zach Gallant, a two-way forward with a lot of intangibles, with their 5th overall selection. Gallant will certainly become a key fixture for the Petes moving forward and should have an immediate impact in the lineup. Next up was Nicholas Grima, a defender I was higher on than most and one that fits the Petes’ hard-working game approach well. Gritty skilled winger CJ Clarke and hard hitting defender Cole Fraser offer a tough-to-play-against style that’s common at the Memorial Arena in Peterborough. Simon Boyko is a sniper who will surely help Jonathan Ang (2014 1st round selection) put up goals. Perth Swick is a big defender with some shutdown upside while Nick Isaacson is a forward I was particularly high on because of his rangy skilled style. Peterborough added Bryce Misley, Luke Wyatt, Cameron Crotty, and Colton Kalezic through the middle rounds which will improve their organizational depth and give them options. Josh Barraclough is a Petes’ style of burly forward and was snatched up in the 9th round. Logan Buchanan and Peterborough native Will Hickey were two energy forwards with skill added later. Mix in the gambles on Americans Logan Hutsko and Logan Cockerill and the Petes had a very good day at the draft table.

kitchenerKitchener Rangers – The blue shirts likely walked away from the draft very happy after landing Greg Meireles, a top 10 talent, with their 12th pick. The smooth skating Elijah Roberts was their 2nd round target and then Kitchener turned to the undersized skilled dynamo Joseph Garreffa in the 3rd followed by calm poised goaltender Luke Richardson in the 4th. Meireles’ teammate Nick McHugh was added in the 7th and Kitchener selected a few local skaters in Nick Duralijla (Hamilton) and Andrew McIntyre (Kitchener) later. Ryan Kula, Dylan Seitz, Alex Peterson, and Scott Del Zotto were shrewd selections as well. If Adam Scheel decides to come to the OHL over the NCAA then the Rangers could have another John Gibson on their hands.

saginawSaginaw Spirit – The Spirit had one of the better drafts in 2015 and it started with high character, versatile pivot Brady Gilmour being selected 6th overall. Gilmour’s leadership and competitive hunger are the type of qualities team build championships around. Saginaw improved their blueline with the additions of Robert Proner (30th), Carson Pearce (9th round), Jaxon Camp (11th), Brady Enman (12th) and reentry Fedor Radukov (14th). With two 2nd round picks, Saginaw made the smart move by rolling the dice on Kirill Maksimov, a high potential yet inconsistent forward who owns game-changing qualities. Brendan Bonello was surprisingly available in the 4th round and the Spirit may have hit the jackpot here. Nick Campoli is a high energy skilled forward that was great value in the 6th round while adding Matteo DiGiulio was a worhwhile investment as he’s flashed some noteworthy skill. Gianluca Fuoco and Jacob Sutton are buzz saw forwards that’ll add some agitating presence to the system. Saginaw took some calculated risks on Americans they’ll attempt to recruit including Cole Coskey, Brock Hill and Michael Pastujov a top 3 talent who just happens to be the younger brother to highly touted Saginaw 2014 pick Nick Pastujov. If the Spirit can get the Pastujov brothers to report, watch out!

guelphGuelph Storm – The Storm excelled in the top half of the draft with their selections of Ratcliffe, Stevens, Deakin-Poot, Schnarr, Hanna, Popovich and Ralph – all players with different personas that should fill out different roles well. In addition, Guelph took a flier on the top ranked defensive prospect in David Farrance giving them a potential star if they can convince him to report. More smart selections were made to end the draft with Jakob Lee, Noah Benjamin and Michael Mannara as a few other names that came aboard.

oshawaOshawa Generals – The Gens got off on a good foot in my books after selecting my 8th ranked skater in Jack Studnicka in the 21st spot. Studnicka, in my opinion, owns some of the best upside in this draft and it was nice to see him land inside the opening round after I applauded his talents all season long. Without a pick until the 4th round, Oshawa turned back to the US-based teams and took Kyle MacLean from the New Jersey rockets giving them a two-way competitive forward who has top-nine potential. Waterloo’s Sullivan Sparkes, London’s Jaimen Allison, Quinte’s Keegan Ferguson and Soo Thunderbirds’ forward Gage Stephney all received good reviews this season in my notes. I especially feel that Ferguson and Stephney were two players who own some untapped upside. Oshawa rounded out the second half of their draft getting great value with their picks – Mathieu Franche (9th), Barrett Mundell (11th), Matt Stoia (12th), Tyler Dam (13th) and Shelby Rienstra (15th).

niagaraNiagara IceDogs– Similar to the Knights’ draft, Niagara nailed down almost every one of their picks. Ben Jones is one of the most OHL-ready prospects in the draft and Hayden Davis was the top ranked player at one point so the ‘Dogs did very well in the opening round. Cal Davis is a smart rangy winger with a lot of upside, Cameron Bisson is a sizeable winger who also has a lot of room to develop while Colton Incze was among my top ranked goaltenders. Max Khull might have been the most underrated Northern player and Mitchell Crevatin had a quiet yet excellent year with Sun County. Matthew Philip isn’t flashy but he’s got a smart mind for the game and knows how to play a good support possession game. Special stick tap to the Niagara IceDogs for selecting Benjamin Fox with the final pick of the draft, making the young lads’ dream come true after he suffered a stroke that has left him partially paralyzed. Classy move by Niagara and the OHL!

erieErie Otters – Knocked their first six picks out of the park by adding Lodnia, Neumann, Wainman, Celotti and Ryan Martin. The Otters appeared to nab their guys in their expected projected rounds which resulted in them adding a lot of quality depth. Middle round pick Derek McVey is a rangy forward with some promising tools and a player to watch moving forward. The Otters went with some unknown American prospects with some of their later picks but due to the unfamiliarity, I cannot comment on their upside/skills. Dylan Latty and Adam Pys were two solid gets later in the draft.

mississaugaMississauga Steelheads – Owen Tippett wasn’t the McLeod brother that they may have expected to draft but Tippett is an excellent and equally as dangerous talent to build around. With an OHL-calibre shot, Tippett should help Mississauga in the goal scoring department very soon. The ‘Trout had a quietly good draft and seemed to like the Ottawa and Quinte areas picking up forwards Aiden McFarland, Matthew Titus, Darcy Walsh, Scoley Dow and defenseman Ryan O’Connell. Jack Lyons, Ryan Radisa, Chris Garbe, Harrison Toms and Maxime Fortin were good value picks. One of my top ranked defenseman in the draft was Ryan Wells, who was taken in the final round so I certainly approve.

bramptonNorth Bay Battalion – The troops in North Bay did a splendid job locking up talented northern kids while mixing in smart value picks throughout the draft. North Bay native Brady Lyle was their first round selection after the offensive rearguard tore it up with Shattuck St. Mary’s scoring at a near point-per-game pace. Jacob Ball is a rangy shoot-first winger with some promising skills that was nabbed in the 3rd round. Sudbury’s Brady Chenier owns some of the most tantalizing talent of any northern kid and will surely develop into a solid player. North Bay scooped up Don Mills minute-eating goaltender Matthew Woroniuk in the 6th (great value), projected Top 30 defenseman Josh Maniscalco in the 7th (a worthy gamble) and Joseph Franzin, Max Wright, Daniel Walker, Stefan Palatsidis and Kameron Shearer were good value picks after the mid-rounds. Eric Allair was an under-the-radar defender from North Bay and grabbing Curtis Abbott in the 15th was a smart move as he represented one of my favourites from the Alliance this season.

kingston2Kingston Frontenacs – Robbie Burt was the Fronts first round pick which was surprising to a lot of draft watchers but he certainly flashed high-end talent with the Rebels from time to time. Kingston grabbed Jacob Paquette in the second round (a favourite of mine) and then continued a nice string of selections in Jakob Brahaney, Jason Robertson, Tyler Burnie, Nick Kiriakos, Mario Peccia, Colin VanDenHurk, Sean Michaud and Brad Cocca. Kingston did very well grabbing value in every round and it should pay long-term dividends.

Hamilton Bulldogs – Impressive draft for the Hamilton Bulldogs as they targeted tough to play against competitors. Matt Strome is a nice piece to build around and they flanked him with some good talent in two-way defender Reilly Webb, intriguing puck moving defender Fedor Gordeev and hard hitting blueliner Noah Lugli. Add in Zachary Jackson, Jesse Burger, Maddux Rychel and Skyler Brind’Amour – all players who have loads of potential and room to develop – and the ‘BDogs have stocked their cupboards. Mackenzie Entwistle is a player teams will win with and Brett Willits, Jake Durham and local defender Brandon Scanlin were some of the more underrated prospects.

windsorWindsor Spitfires – Warren Rychel went with the best player available and snatched up Gabe Vilardi with the 2nd pick of the draft. Vilardi is a high-end playmaker who can dominate possession time. He will fit in nicely with the other big bodies in Windsor and likely elevate the play of his linemates with his distribution skills. To no surprise, Windsor addressed their lack of goaltending depth by grabbing local netminder Michael DiPietro, who played all season with Rychel’s son Maddux. With their second pick of the 2nd round, the Spitfires scooped up smooth skating defender Kyle Auger out of the Thunder Bay Kings program. Windsor was the first to draft a re-entry player in EOJHL standout Cole Carter in the 4th round. The GTHL was targeted by Windsor with their 8th and 9th round picks taking versatile defender Declan Graham from the Marlies and industrious winger Cole Purboo from the Mississauga Rebels, respectively. Thomas Stevenson is a projectable defenseman with promising raw tools and a nice get in the 10th. William Sirman isn’t the biggest or most dynamic skater but his hockey sense and effectiveness in possession will make him a nice OHL prospect. Devlin Shanahan was an OHL Cup standout in my books as a player who knows how to make an impact, showing advanced understanding of the game and the resolve to just get things done.

sudburySudbury Wolves – David Levin was my top ranked player and rightfully went 1st overall to the Wolves giving them an exciting dynamic player to build around. With Andrew Shaw in charge, it Sudbury performed very well drafting well out of the Alliance including smart possession winger Shane Bulitka (2nd round), opportunistic scorer Owen Lane (3rd), two-way workhorse defender Donovan Cowan (6th) and sparkplug forward Kier Cumming (15th). Barrie’s Macauley Carson was taken with the last pick in the 2nd and will provide a big physical presence who shows good skill in traffic. Conor Ali was an underrated puck mover and a good pick up while Ben Garagan, Adam Panacci and Declan Hilton all provide some long-term potential up front. Adrian Bilic was a quietly good selection as he logged a ton of valuable minutes with the Jr. Canadiens. Jake McGrath and Evan Fear (if he’d report) were two solid goaltender picks for Sudbury.

sarniaSarnia Sting – To no surprise, Sarnia went Stateside and adding a skilled forward with Euro ties in Sasha Chmelevski from the always dangerous Detroit Honeybaked team. After trading away one of their three second round picks, Sarnia opted for Southern Tier’s Ryan McGregor and towering London goaltender Aidan Hughes in the second round. McGregor was taken slightly higher than many expected but he offers skill in a similar fashion as rookie standout Jordan Kyrou did last season. He has the creativity, soft handling ability, and strong skating package to develop into a special player. Aidan Hughes was Mr. Steady Eddie all season long posting impressive crease numbers and the given fact that he’s both huge and extremely athletic, he has some outstanding potential. With their 3rd round selection, Sarnia drafted another Hughes in Toronto Marlboros’ defenseman Quinton Hughes who was ranked 4th overall in my rankings. Hughes has a University of Michigan commitment and is expected to play with the US NTDP program. Kelton Hatcher apparently plays a similar game as his father Derien Hatcher and could offer Sarnia a big minute shutdown defender in a year or two. Matthew Kellemberger is a smooth skating puck moving defenseman that was a smart selection in the 7th round. American Colton McKenna displays a good north-south attack game and a noteworthy shot. Holden Hrysko is a gritty hard working two-way forward who isn’t afraid to get physical but also owns some solid puck skills. Anthony Bertucca was a very good selection in the 11th for Sarnia as he showed very well for the Quinte Red Devils, winning them an OMHA championship. Heading back to Southern Tier, Sarnia grabbed Curtis Egert in the 13th who is a good framed kid who loves to hit and packs a good shooting arsenal.

ottawaOttawa 67’s – Austen Keating has been a ’99 to watch for several years and the 67’s selected the skilled pivot with the 16th overall. Ottawa looked to improve their blueline with their next two picks drafting Noah Hoefenmayer and Hudson Wilson from Don Mills and Vaughan, respectively. Wilson was a very underrated defender who plays a complete game while “The Hoef” has shown to offer some promising offensive tools. Corey Andonovski was a shrewd selection in the 4th round as this talented winger really had a strong second half and could develop into one of the better ‘99s. Marcel Berube (5th) is a hard to play against physical winger, Kody Clark (son of Wendel Clark) was a good support player on the Marlboros and Ben Evans was my 43rd ranked skater so he was a solid get in the 8th round. Ottawa added some good local talent in North Central’s Matthew Prucha, Jr. 67’s defender Erik Ross and Titans puckstopper Jacob Smith in the 9th, 10th and 11th round. Highly touted Americans Thomas Miller and Charlie Dovorany were grabbed with two of their final three selections.

FLINTFlint Firebirds – Made the first controversial pick by nabbing Ryan McLeod third overall after talks that he was headed to Mississauga to join his brother Michael. Credit to their staff for drafting McLeod and grabbing the best available player at that position. Flint took some calculated risks on Americans with commitments. Firebirds did well to add some tough players to play against through the middle rounds in Jack Phibbs and Drayton Duckett.

barrieBarrie Colts – Strong first seven picks including Tortora, Willms, Aidan Brown, Christian Propp, Jaden Peca and Kade Landry. It will be interesting to see what Jake Tortora opts to do as much of the Colts draft success depends on this first round selection. If he reports and opts out of his collegiate commitment, he’s a game changer. Goaltender Carter Pearen had a strong season with Elgin and was a great pick in the 12th round. Likewise, Kyle Heitzner flashed some natural scoring skills and could develop into an impact forward as a 11th round selection.



There were three players noted in every round that I consider above-average picks based on their skill and value moving forward. There are several rounds with an additional player listed (in italics) because a team took a calculated gamble on a player with NCAA commitment in a draft spot that could prove extremely valuable.

Round 1
Ryan McLeod (3rd to Flint)
Jack Studnicka (21st to Oshawa)
Liam Hawel (22nd to Sault Ste. Marie)

Round 2
Nicholas Grima (25th to Peterborough)
Jacob Paquette (31st to Kingston)
Mackenzie Entwistle (40th to Hamilton)

Round 3
Quinton Hughes (49th to Sarnia)
Brett Neumann (53rd to Erie)
Finn Evans (60th to London)
Anthony DeMeo (61st to Sault Ste. Marie)

Round 4
Simon Boyko (66th to Peterborough)
Ian Blacker (70th to London)
Corey Andonovski (75th to Ottawa)
Luke Richardson (79th to Kitchener)

Round 5
Nicholas Celotti (63rd to Erie)
Quinn Hanna (94th to Guelph)
Corson Green (101st to Sault Ste. Marie)

Round 6
Jaden Peca (102nd to Barrie)
Donovan Cowan (105th to Sudbury)
Matthew Woroniuk (108th to North Bay)
David Farrance (114th to Guelph)

Round 7
Jack Phibbs (133rd to Saginaw)
Cedric Ralph (140th to Guelph)
Taylor Carlson (141st to Sault Ste. Marie)

Round 8
Nick Pryce (143rd to Owen Sound)
Ben Evans (155th to Ottawa)
Ryan Horvath (161st to Sault Ste. Marie)

Round 9
Cole Purboo (163rd to Windsor)
Kyle Waters (164th to Flint)
Matthew Philip (172nd to Niagara)

Round 10
Jordan Di Cicco (196th to London)
Tyler Gratton (199th to Erie)
Brad Cocca (200th to Kingston)

Round 11
Alex Formenton (216th to London)
Barrett Mundell (220th to Oshawa)
Isaiah Payne (221st to Sault Ste. Marie)

Round 12
Skyler Brind’Amour (228th to Hamilton)
Scott Del Zotto (231st to Kitchener)
Matt Stoia (240th to Oshawa)

Round 13
Devlin Shanahan (243rd to Windsor)
Curtis Egert (249th to Sarnia)
Sean Dhoogie (256th to London)
Eric Allair (257th to North Bay)

Round 14
Adrian Bilic (262nd to Sudbury)
William Sirman (263rd to Windsor)
Liam Dennison (276th to London)

Round 15
Ryan Wells (285th to Mississauga)
Jacob Golden (295th to London)
Curtis Abbott (297th to North Bay)
Benjamin Fox (302nd to Niagara) – Classy Move!



The following players were ranked in my personal Top 250 (not including Americans without viewings) who did not get draft this time around.

G - Kristian Hufsky  

G - Michael Leach

G - Garrett Boyonoski


D - Eric Sutherland  

D - Zach Hart

D - Jordan Russell

D - Adrien Bisson

D - Justin Freeman 

D - Daniel Marchese 

D - Bryan Brant 

D - Ben Derrough 

D - Blake Kryska

D - Elliott MacDermott

D - Ben Schoch  

D - Jackson Oswald

D - Brendon Clavelle

D - Jackson Brown

D - John MIllar

D-  Robert Haak           

D - Kyle Lefebvre 


F - Tanner Hertel          

F - Brenden Stanko 

F - Jonathan Lakhani 

F - Ryan Shaw   

F - Steven Agriogianis 

F - Kole Scott

F - Karter Renouf

F - Mark Tassone

F - Mackenzie Lowry 

F - Adam Johnston 

F - Zach Bramwell

F - Oliver Castleman 

F - Lucas Stefano 

F - Felix Cote 

F - Nick Hoey

F - Jon Sanderson 

F - Jacob Brown 

F - Vincent Bonailuto 

F - Robert Welsher 

F - Sean Josling

F - Travis Yawger

F - Michael Cabral 

F - Joshua Battistella 

F - Eric Eschweiler

F - Harrison Craffey