NORTH BAY, Ont. — The North Bay Battalion has introduced defenceman Ty Nelson as the player to be named Saturday as the first overall pick in the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection.
Nelson, who turned 16 on Monday, played last season with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, leading Greater Toronto Hockey League rearguards in scoring with 11 goals and 21 assists for 32 points with 14 penalty minutes in 33 league games. He added one goal and 11 assists for 12 points in 11 playoff games as the team captured the GTHL title.
A right shot who stands five-foot-eight and weighs 174 pounds, Nelson was a member of Canada’s bronze medal-winning team at the Youth Olympic Winter Games in Lausanne, Switzerland, in January.
General manager Adam Dennis and Charles Abbott, director of scouting, appeared via teleconference Friday from the North Bay hotel that will serve as Battalion headquarters for the OHL Priority Selection, while Nelson spoke from home in Toronto. Restrictions flowing from the coronavirus pandemic prevented him from traveling to North Bay for the occasion, which would have been in keeping with recent practice.
“I like to describe myself as a two-way defenceman,” said Nelson.
“I love playing in the offensive zone and really strapping down the defensive zone when necessary. I love to control the pace of the game. I love making those good outlet first passes, and I love quarterbacking the power play and playing on the penalty kill.”
Nelson is the recipient of the award with which the OHL recognizes the first choice.
“It’s an honour to receive the Jack Ferguson Award as the first overall pick of the OHL Priority Selection,” said Nelson. “I want to thank my mother, father and sister for all of their dedication, love and hard work they’ve put into helping me get here. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my family.
“I also want to say thank you to all of the coaches, teachers and trainers that I’ve had over the years as they’ve shaped the player that I am today.”
Nelson, who played two years at the minor midget level, noted that he has played against centre Liam Arnsby, defenceman Paul Christopoulos and right winger Alex Christropoulos, North Bay’s top three picks in 2019 from the Don Mills Flyers.
Dennis said that Nelson fits what the Battalion is seeking, both on and off the ice.
“We know that we’re bringing in a top-class person into our dressing room.”
Abbott pointed to a variety of attributes Nelson possesses.
“Ty’s a dynamic defenceman,” said Abbott. “He’s got all the tools you want in a top pick — the way he skates, the way he shoots a puck, the way he processes the game in all situations.”
The Battalion holds the first selection by virtue of finishing last in the overall OHL standings in the curtailed 2019-20 regular season, which saw the final two weeks and then playoffs cancelled. Clubs pick in inverse order of the overall standings, with what would have been the four non-playoff teams exercising the first four selections in each round.
The 15-round process, in which 300 players are expected to be chosen by the 20 clubs, is to be conducted via the Internet starting at 9 a.m. Saturday.
In a trade Friday, North Bay sent its sixth-round pick this year to the Saginaw Spirit for two selections, the Barrie Colts’ fifth-rounder in 2023 and Saginaw’s ninth-rounder in 2024. The Battalion, which now has 15 picks this year, holds the Flint Firebirds’ sixth-round selection, acquired June 30, 2017, for Max Kislinger.
The Battalion, then based in Brampton, has chosen first overall only once previously, in 1998, before the expansion season of 1998-99. It took defenceman Jay Harrison.
The Troops selected second in 1999, tabbing centre Jay McClement, and twice have picked third, naming centre Wojtek Wolski in 2002 and right winger Brandon Coe in 2017 after relocating to North Bay in 2013.
The OHL Priority Selection can be followed on ontariohockeyleague.com.