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Battalion picks third Saturday

NORTH BAY, Ont. — The Ontario Hockey League’s North Bay Battalion will take a forward with the third overall pick in the OHL Priority Selection on Saturday, Stan Butler said Thursday.

“I think there’s a lot of good players and there’s probably not a lot to choose after the first couple of kids,” said Butler, the Battalion’s director of hockey operations and head coach.

“There’s probably then a group of seven or eight (and) you could argue for any one of them. But I think they’re all pretty good players and will help the respective teams they go to.”

The Battalion, which finished the season with a won-lost-extended record of 24-38-6 for 54 points and was fourth in the Central Division, missing the playoffs for the third time in its 19-year history, has 16 picks in the 15-round process. It’s scheduled to start at 9 a.m. via the Internet, with clubs selecting in inverse order of the overall standings, given that non-playoff teams exercise the first four selections.

North Bay has one pick in each round, except for two in each of the sixth, eighth and 14th rounds and none in the fifth or 11th. In a trade Tuesday with the Guelph Storm, the Battalion acquired a second 14th-round pick which the OHL office has acknowledged originally belonged to the Windsor Spitfires. A clerical error by the league had seen it shown as that of the Peterborough Petes.

While the Troops haven’t selected as high as third since 2002, when centre and left winger Wojtek Wolski was the pick, Butler said that missing the playoffs has permitted him the opportunity to get a better-than-usual read on the young talent available.

“I’ve probably seen a lot more minor midget hockey this year than I have in the last four years combined,” noted Butler, who attended the OHL Cup tournament at Toronto during the season and watched the OHL Combine at Oshawa last weekend.

Butler said that talking to players’ families was helpful.

“Even though they know a little bit about you, they want to actually meet you and have a chance to talk with you. I went down to the Combine last weekend and, obviously, met with some families and spoke to them and did some evaluations. We’re comfortable come Saturday that the players we’re considering will be happy to come to North Bay.”

Families focus on off-ice concerns as much as hockey, Butler suggested.

“They want to know about schooling, about billeting. They want to know, to be honest, how much longer I’m going to be here, things like that.

“To me, they’re questions that parents ask. We’re talking about 15-year-old kids here and 16-year-old kids. These parents are concerned about their boys and they want to make sure that they’ve covered all the areas that they need to cover as a parent so if you send your child away from home you’re comfortable with it.”

Battalion scouts, under head scout Errol Hook, are to hold a final meeting Friday before the OHL Priority Selection, in which the Barrie Colts hold the No. 1 pick. It’s been speculated that Barrie will take centre Ryan Suzuki of the London Jr. Knights minor midgets.

The OHL Priority Selection can be followed live at www.ontariohockeyleague.com.

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