The 2020 OHL Priority Selection has come and gone. When the dust settled, 300 prospects heard their name called during the draft process. What did we learn on Saturday? Here are five things that we took from the day. You can see the full draft results here.
No Real Surprises At The Top
Once it was announced that D Ty Nelson would be taken first overall by North Bay, it was widely expected that Pano Fimis would be taken by Niagara and Max Namestnikov would be taken by Sarnia. Those turned out to be correct. The biggest news out of this is that Namestnikov is reportedly coming to the Sting. That’s a big get for them. He was one of the best offensive players available in this draft.
The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds took Bryce McConnell-Barker with the fourth pick. Then the first round kept going and a certain someone kept being passed up by teams.
But Adam Fantilli Kept Falling
This was the big story coming into the day. The clear number-one prospect available signed a tender with USHL Chicago and reportedly wasn’t coming to the OHL this season.
It finally took to the 18th pick of the first round and finally the Saginaw Spirit rose up and took a chance. They selected Fantilli one spot in front of the London Knights, who were long rumored to take him had he fallen down that far. Given the recent track record of the Spirit, this is not surprising to see them roll the dice. Blade Jenkins, Bode Wilde and Cole Perfetti among others were risks the Spirit previous took and they all reported. Never say never. Apparently Fantilli is undecided as of now where he’s going to play. If it’s the OHL, it’ll be with Saginaw and they’ll have won the day by a mile. Who did win on Saturday?
Winners Of The Day
We won’t know for years who actually won the day. These are teams I thought did a nice job setting themselves up for future success.
I’ll start with North Bay. Not only did they get perhaps the best defenseman available in Nelson, they landed a high-end talent in Dalyn Wakely with the 30th pick. Many were surprised how far he fell as he was a projected first-round pick. The Battalion landed a number-one center here. That’s how you handle your first two picks of the draft. Outside of Saginaw getting Fantilli to report, North Bay was my biggest winner of the day.
Three other teams that did great work on Saturday were Peterborough, Mississauga and Sudbury. The Petes landed a pair of players of the year in Donovan McCoy and then Sam Alfano. Each provide great value based on where they were selected. The Steelheads landed the best pure sniper in the draft in Zakary Lavoie. There’s a lot of David Pastrnak in the way he plays. They also landed one of the best overall goal scorers as well in Carson Christy. And the Wolves landed two excellent centers for their life post Quinton Byfield. They took David Goyette and then Kocha Delic. That’s as good a young 1-2 punch down the middle as there was available in this draft.
Where Some Notable Americans Went
A big theme coming into the day was where some of the Americans would go. Flint landed Gavin Hayes with the 16th pick. Of those most likely to report, he could be the best of the bunch. The good times in Flint seem like they will continue.
Frank Nazar was a big name to watch. He landed with the London Knights. If he leaves the US Program, he could become an OHL superstar. Given the drawing power of the Knights, this is a scary thing to think about.
Rutger McGroarty was another big name to watch and he landed with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Seamus Casey was drafted by Sarnia in round five. Lane Hutson was taken in round seven by Kingston and Hunter Brzustewicz was taken by Barrie 69th overall.
Erie Otters Thrilled With Top-3
GM Dave Brown and the Otters enjoyed a good day on Saturday. They addressed needs with their first three picks by landing an elite puck moving defenseman in Spencer Sova, a goal scoring forward in Lucas Ross and one of the best goaltending prospects available in Nolan Lalonde.
Brown admitted that he was sent a list of three names on Friday by his scouting staff. The three names on the list are now members of the Otters’ family.
They prioritized landing a high-end defensemen. With both Jacob Golden and Drew Hunter graduated and Jamie Drysdale could be in the NHL soon, Sova provides a huge need and projects as a number-one defenseman.
Ross comes from the nationally ranked Pittsburgh Penguins elite program and potentially adds a dynamic scorer to the fold. And Lalonde continues the trend of Kingston-area players coming to the Otters. While there is still work to be done, there seems to be a confidence that all three will make an impact in Erie. The offseason attention with the Otters now turns to which OA’s stay and which ones go. This team could look quite a bit different come fall.
Congrats to all who heard their name called on Saturday. If not, just look at the career of Tampa Bay’s Anthony Cirelli. He went from undrafted to OHL and Memorial Cup champion to now building a nice NHL career. The door is certainly not closed after today.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.