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Outwater leads newest crop

NORTH BAY, Ont. – The North Bay Battalion has participated in three Ontario Hockey League Priority Selections since last playing a game.

The Troops last saw action March 8, 2020, before the coronavirus pandemic halted play. They added 15 prospects in the 2020 Priority Selection, three in the Under-18 Priority Selection four days later and another 16 in the 2021 OHL Priority Selection held Friday and Saturday.

All those recruits, with three more due Wednesday in yet another under-18 process, guarantee competition for roster spots when the Battalion gathers for training camp in September.

“We’ll let the players sort it out,” said general manager Adam Dennis.

“It’s a great problem to have, and you want to be in that situation where you have a few guys to pick from rather than having one option available. The competition will be great. The players have to take that into their summer training and come back as better players and better people, and hopefully they can show that on the ice. There’s a lot of excitement here.”

North Bay chose nine forwards, five defencemen and two goaltenders, all born in 2005, in the 15-round online event, with a lottery-determined selection order reversing for each round.

“We think we found what we were looking for,” said Dennis. “There are going to be some big losses due to aging out and graduation next season, so getting some stability up front was important, and we definitely addressed the defence depth next season.”

The club chose centre Owen Outwater of the Oakville Rangers with the 11th overall pick before selecting right winger Nic Sima and centre Anthony Romani of the Toronto Jr. Canadiens in the second and third rounds respectively as the first three rounds went Friday night.

“We thought Owen would have been gone a little sooner,” noted Dennis. “We hoped he would be there. He was an awesome interview with us. He’s really excited to come to North Bay, which is awesome for us.

“Nic is everything you want in a player. He’s big, he skates well and he’s not afraid to go to the dirty areas. Anthony has got a lot of high-end skill. He has to mature physically, and what he can do with the puck is something not many can.”

On Saturday, the Battalion used its second of two fourth-round choices on left winger Chase MacQueen-Spence of the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs and added left winger Zach Losier of Oakville and centre Brett Bouchard of the Markham Majors in the eighth and ninth rounds respectively.

“Chase is a highly skilled, smooth-skating, smart player,” said Dennis. “He has a wicked shot and led his team in scoring. Zach is a big kid who does a lot of things well, and he can affect the game in a lot of ways. We were shocked he was there in the eighth round. We saw a lot of him early on and really liked what he brought.

“Brett has a great engine. He can play in any situation. He can play any forward position, but it’s his work ethic that sets him apart. He skates well, has good foot skills, and he’s going to out-compete you.”

The Troops added three more forwards, tabbing right winger Luc Malkhassian of the Jr. Canadiens in the 11th round and two North Bay-area products, Astorville centre Kaedyn Long of the Vaughan Kings in the 13th round and Callander centre Chase Thompson of the Toronto Nationals in the 14th.

“Luc has great hands and a great IQ,” said Dennis. “He was a key contributor on one of the better teams in his league, and there was a lot of value in that pick in the 11th. Kaedyn is a big, strong kid. He skated with some of our coaches last summer, and they raved about his work ethic and character. Chase plays with his heart. He puts it out there every game, and he’s the kind of player and person we want.”

The Battalion first looked for defensive help with its second pick in the third round, naming Wyatt Kennedy of the Rockland Nationals U18.

“He’s got a lot of raw ability,” noted Dennis. “He’s a big boy, and his mobility is so impressive for a kid his size.”

North Bay spent its first fourth-round choice on Liam MacKenzie of Vaughan and added Tayte Landry of the Jr. Canadiens in the sixth round, Alex Stephen from the Rangers in the 10th and Ethan Girard of Markham in the 12th.

“Liam is another big defenceman, a mobile guy who keeps it simple,” said Dennis. “He’s a very efficient puck-mover and he does a lot of things really well. He’s a guy we coveted, and we didn’t think he would make it to that point. Tayte is another big defenceman who has a really good physical element to his game. He has good puck skills and skates well. Alex is a very fluid skater and has good skills. He can learn a bit on the defensive side, but the raw ability and skill is there. We like Ethan as a defenceman, but he’s also played forward. What really drew us to him was his work ethic. He works hard, he has a very powerful stride, and there’s a lot he can do for the team.”

Goaltending depth was added in Charlie Robertson from the London Jr. Knights in the seventh round and Kolton Bourret of the Thunder Bay Kings in the 15th.

“I thought coming in he was a top-three goalie in the draft, and to get him where we did was lucky,” Dennis said of Robertson. “He’s a big kid who moves well. He’s trained by my former goalie coach, Dave Rook, whom I think very highly of. Kolton is a big goalie. He came highly recommended by his goalie coach, a guy I really respect.”

The Sudbury Wolves, who won the lottery for the No. 1 pick, used it to take right winger Quentin Musty of the North Jersey Avalanche.

OHL clubs selected a total of 299 players from 83 teams across Ontario and parts of the United States. The players numbered 177 forwards, 94 defencemen and 28 goaltenders. While 296 of those chosen were born in 2005, three from U.S.-based programs were born in 2004.

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