NORTH BAY, Ont. – There was a distinctly hometown flavour to the North Bay Battalion’s picks in the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection on Saturday.
Five of the club’s 15 picks came from the North Bay Trappers minor midgets, led by defenceman Pacey Schlueting, who was selected ninth overall. He was followed by left winger David Campbell in the fourth round, right winger Jesse Kirkby in the ninth, goaltender Reece Proulx in the 11th and centre Jack Stockfish, who was one of two 15th-round picks.
“It’s important to support the local kids in the community,” said Stan Butler, Battalion director of hockey operations and head coach.
“In the time I’ve been here, I’ve been impressed with the minor hockey system. There have been some good players come through the system. We looked for kids from here. That’s something Bert Templeton did when he coached here; he always had a lot of local kids. We know there’s a lot of pressure on them playing at home. If you’re the right type of kid and can handle it, there’s no better place to play than home.”
Schlueting was one of five defencemen chosen by the Troops in the 15-round process.
“He can skate in the OHL right now,” said Errol Hook, Battalion director of scouting. “We loved his feet. He has the size and passes the puck like an OHLer. He plays with an edge. He can play any kind of game. When you looked in Toronto and some other areas, there were some quality defencemen, but we felt with his package, with his size, skating and skill, he will be a really good player in the OHL. We really liked his development.”
Said Butler: “He moves the puck, then gets up the ice looking for the offensive opportunity.”
Schleuting said it was a “great honour” to be chosen by the Battalion.
“This association is so amazing. They told me they liked my feet and my size, and I can’t wait to show what I can do. It’s great to stay at home and play in front of a hometown crowd.”
Hook said Campbell “does what a lot of guys love to do: score.”
“He scores from all over the place. We’ve watched him and always liked him. He has to work on his feet. The pace in the OHL is faster than he’s used to. He has to work on his skating, and he’s another big body.”
Kirkby “goes hard to the net and makes things happen,” said Hook. “If everyone picked up on his work ethic, you would have a heck of a team.”
Proulx was the second of two goaltenders tabbed by the Troops.
“We like his demeanour,” said Hook. “He’s so calm and poised. He played great every time he came down south.
“(Stockfish) is a hard-working kid who plays centre and wing. We like his tenacity. He’s a local guy who deserves a chance to come to our camp and see what he can do.”
With two second-round picks, the Battalion took centre Cameron Peters of the Toronto Marlboros minor midgets and goaltender Joe Vrbetic of the Don Mills Flyers minor midgets.
“Peters is going to be a really solid player,” said Hook. “He plays a 200-foot game. If you have a problem in your end, he’s the first guy back. He’s a ‘first minute, last minute’ kind of guy. Stan will throw him out there to protect a lead.”
Hook said the Battalion considered Vrbetic to be a “steal” at the 31st pick.
“He’s big, poised and calm. He wasn’t on a great team and literally won games on his own. I like that in a goalie.”
Kyle Jackson, a centre with the Toronto Red Wings minor midgets, was pegged in the third round.
“He’s a really skilled kid and he has a long stick,” said Hook. “He has some good skill and would have looked better if he had better players to play with.”
Ottawa-area defenceman James Mayotte, a fifth-round choice, and left winger Cameron Bantle, a 14th-round pick who hails from Onalaska, Wis., were chosen from the under-16 program at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, a private school in Faribault, Minn.
“We saw (Mayotte) play in Windsor and really liked his game,” said Hook. “He has a two-year commitment to Shattuck, and we’re fine with that. Hopefully in a year and a half’s time he’s back here.
“(Bantle) is friends with Mayotte. He wouldn’t confirm that he’s going to play, but he would like to get drafted and have the opportunity to come to camp. He has a second-year commitment to Shattuck and he’ll finish that. After that we’ll see what he will do.”
The Battalion’s complement of eight forwards was rounded out by Joshua Currie, a sixth-round choice from Don Mills, and left winger Liam Dey of the Burlington Eagles minor midgets, who was chosen in the 13th round.
“Currie is a big winger,” said Hook. “We like his work ethic. He goes hard to the dirty areas and is going to score his goals within five to 10 feet of the net.
“Dey can really play. He has good speed and competes hard. He’s going to play for us in a couple of years.”
The Troops added blue line depth in Thomas Gangl of the Huron Perth Lakers minor midgets in the eighth round, Ryan Hall of the Vaughan Kings minor midgets in the 10th and Jackson Hay of the Kingston Frontenacs minor midgets with their second pick in the 15th.
“Gangl is a big kid with really good feet,” said Hook. “He needs to learn the game a little better, and we project him as a guy in a couple of years who can step in because his feet are so good.”
Hook described Hall as a “stay-at-home, move-the-puck kind of guy.”
“He has a way to go, but he has a lot of upside because of his size and he competes hard as well.
“Hay is smooth, moves the puck and makes good decisions. He has a stocky build and, when he hits, he hurts people. We liked his game and we’re hopeful that he develops his game.”
Said Butler: “We’re happy with the draft. We were able to obtain good players through the draft. We have a lot of good players coming back, so it should make for a very competitive camp.”
The Battalion will hold its orientation camp May 26-27.