2020 OHL Draft Preview: Chaos at the Top

Breaking news: We have a hockey event to cover!

The 2020 OHL Priority Selection is taking place despite the shutdown in a majority of the sports world. The all online draft will take place on Saturday Apr 4 starting at 9 A.M. eastern on ontariohockeyleague.com. The reason this event is happening as scheduled is because it is done online without the need of having 20 teams together in the same building.

Each of the OHL member teams will convene in a war-room like setting (usually somewhere in their home rink.) When it’s their turn, they will announce their pick for everyone to hear on conference call and the live stream. Shane Wright went first last season in this fashion.

Shane Wright Kingston Frontenacs
Shane Wright was the first pick of the 2019 OHL Priority Selection. (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

The entire draft lasts for 15 rounds and not all of it is streamed. But the entire first round and then a little past will be streamed. The rest of the picks will be announced by the team via social media. Have your Twitter ready to go folks.

For this draft, all eyes are on the North Bay Battalion. They are on the clock with the first overall pick. This will be the big story heading into the Priority Selection. It is widely believed that they will take Adam Fantilli with the top pick. But the $64,000 question is will Fantilli report if chosen?

Fantilli is the top prospect available for this draft. He is one of the top if not the top prospect available for the NHL Draft in 2023. But he chose to leave his team in Ontario and went south of the border to New Hampshire and prep school.

Fantilli went eight hours from home to Kimball Union Academy in Meriden, NH, which is a little more than an hour northwest of Manchester. This decision was about family as Adam got to join his older brother Luca at Kimball Union. The two are very close. So is Adam willing to leave his brother if made the top pick? We’ll see what the new staff in North Bay led by Adam Dennis and Ryan Ohlahen decide. Clearly however this goes will have a domino effect on the rest of the first round.

What else are we watching for?

Heavy American Presence

We could be in for some crazy stuff at the start of this draft. Many of the top prospects available for this draft are American. There’s a good chance many of them go the NCAA route. How will that affect teams drafting in the top-10? Are they able to convince them to come to major junior? Or will these players slip to later rounds?

At the top of this list is Oakland Jr’s Rutger McGroarty. He is thought of in most circles as not only one of the best 2004’s available, he could go in the top-five of the 2022 draft. There’s just one major catch. McGroarty has a commitment to Notre Dame. Someone is going to gamble on him. He’s too talented. But who will roll the dice here?

Next up is one of the best defensemen available in the group in Seamus Casey. Like McGroarty, Casey could go in the top-10 of the 2022 draft. To call him an offensive defenseman is a giant understatement.

Casey scores goals in bunches. He finished his season with Florida Alliance with 11 goals in 15 games from the blue line. He also added 18 assists so his playmaking is just as effective as his goal scoring. But he too has an NCAA commitment. His is with the University of Michigan. He may never play a major junior game but someone will call his name eventually.

A few other names you should watch for are Devin Kaplan (New Jersey), Frank Nazar (Honeybaked), Lane Hutson (New Jersey), Hunter Brzustewicz (Michigan), Tyler Duke (Compuware) and Isaac Howard (Minnesota). These are among the best prospects available. America is extremely well represented at the top and could cause chaos in this draft.

Some Others to Watch

The Toronto Jr. Canadiens have a pair of prospects that could each go in the top-10 in defenseman Ty Nelson and center Pano Fimis. Nelson is one of the best skaters available in this draft. If the Battalion decide to pass on both Fantilli and McGroarty, Nelson just might be the top pick. He’s that good and that dominant.

Nelson does everything. He can quarterback your power play on one end. He can also dominate in his own zone too. Nelson for my money is the best defenseman available at the top of the draft. He also doesn’t have an NCAA commitment so he could be one of the safest picks too.

Fimis enters this draft as the best available forward without a commitment. He’s just 5-foot-9 but has an element of dynamic in his game that is hard to ignore. Fimis actually became the captain of the Jr. Canadiens when Fantilli left for the United States. He leads by example and is someone who works tirelessly.

Two things stand out about Fimis. He is an excellent skater. He also has a lethal shot. It doesn’t take him long to get the puck off his stick in shooting position. He should easily hear his name in the top-10 if not the top-five. He was named the GTHL Player of the Year.

Some other names that you should know are Dylan Wakely (Quinte), Bryce McConnell-Barker (Alliance Player of the Year), Paul Ludwinski (Toronto), Cedric Guindon (HEO Player of the Year), David Goyette (South Kent), Donovan McCoy (ETA Player of the Year) and Kocha Delic (Toronto). I would expect all of these names to go sometime in the first round.

Final Thoughts

What will be interesting to watch is what impact not having the OHL Cup will have on teams on draft day. This is usually the premier event where teams and scouts get a final chance to view players they might be interested in. Without those games being played, teams will have to depend on the scouting they did earlier in the season. This tournament usually brings some prospects up in the rankings. This could lead to some potential steals later in the draft.

The selection order in the first round is set based on regular season record at the 61-game mark. The four non-playoff teams go first then everyone else follows behind. So despite getting the last playoff spot in the West, the Otters pick eighth at the draft due to overall points.

What kind of fireworks do we have in store for this draft? We’ll know soon. But for now, North Bay, you are on the clock.