NORTH BAY, Ont. – Stan Butler, director of hockey operations and head coach of the Ontario Hockey League’s North Bay Battalion, didn’t tip his hand Friday about whom the club might take in the first round of the OHL Priority Selection on Saturday.
But with the Troops picking ninth overall, he really couldn’t.
“What I’m told from our scouts and what I saw at the OHL Cup, it seems like a pretty talented group of players,” said Butler. “It’s a draft and, when you’re picking where we are, you’ve got to be patient and wait for the people ahead of you. We’ll just try to do as much homework we can. It isn’t an exact science, but we’ll do the best we can given the information we have.”
The 20 OHL teams are expected to select 300 players, primarily of the 2002 birth year, in the 15-round process, to be conducted over the Internet starting at 9 a.m., with the Battalion headquartered at Memorial Gardens. The Troops have 15 picks, including two second-rounders.
Teams make their selections in inverse order of the overall standings, with the four non-playoff teams assured of the first four picks regardless of points.
“We want to build up depth, there’s no doubt about it, and I think we’re a very draft-orientated team,” noted Butler, whose Battalion posted a won-lost-extended record of 30-28-10 for 70 points this season, finishing third in the Central Division before bowing out to the Kingston Frontenacs in the first playoff round.
“For us to do well we need to draft well. I think our ’01 draft’s been, from what I can see, very strong, and we need to follow it up with a solid ’02 draft as well.”
Said Butler: “It’s important to grab the best players in every situation. I think the guys who are going to make a huge difference on your hockey team next year are guys who were on your hockey team last year. The younger players are going to grow into their roles. It’s really tough to expect players to come out of this draft and be ready right away and be a big part.”
That said, the OHL Priority Selection provides talent for the future.
“The biggest challenge is you’ve just got to wait and see what guys do ahead of you. You put your list together; you interview kids. We probably have four or five kids that we think are really good players that could be there at that time, and we’ll react to what teams do ahead of us, and then we’ll debrief and go from there.”
The Battalion historically has selected well through all available rounds, exemplified by right winger Justin Brazeau, the club’s scoring leader this season, who was a 13th-round pick in 2014 from the New Liskeard Cubs major midgets.
“You’ve got to stay focused. You’ve got to react to what other people do. You can’t control what they do, so you’ve got to stay focused. You’ve got to have players in mind where you’re looking at them and then just work through the draft. Sometimes players are there that you don’t expect to be there, and sometimes a bunch of the players that you’re hoping (for) are all gone, so you’ve got to react accordingly.
“The biggest thing to draft day is just being sharp and reacting to the currents that are played and how you’re going to deal with them.”
As had been reported, the Sudbury Wolves, with the No. 1 selection overall, announced Friday that they will take centre Quinton Byfield of the York Simcoe Express minor midgets with the pick.
The OHL Priority Selection can be followed live at www.ontariohockeyleague.com.