For the first time since the 2012-13, the Erie Otters missed out on the OHL playoffs. As a result, they got to pick fourth in the Priority Selection. Sudbury, Flint and Peterborough owned the top-three spots.
To the surprise of no one, the Sudbury Wolves took Quinton Byfield with the first overall pick. Although Flint hosted him and there was some talk he might not report, Byfield will report and should help a team and a fan base starving for some success.
Although they didn’t land Byfield, the Flint Firebirds still got an excellent player second overall in Byfield’s teammate Evan Vierling. Vierling is a high upside center that will join a core of Ty Dellandrea and Connor Roberts giving them a nice immediate future.
The Peterborough Petes selected winger Will Cuylle third overall. However the dynamic winger has reportedly told management he will not report to the team. Should he not report, the Petes will get a compensatory pick in next season’s Priority Selection.
Then came the Erie Otters. GM Dave Brown told the media before the draft they will draft the best available player regardless of position. Because of how the first three picks fell, they got a huge gift. The Otters selected defenseman Jamie Drysdale with their pick. In Brown’s media availability after the fifth round, his first words to us were “we are over the moon.”
Recapping the Day
Drysdale was widely considered the best defenseman available in this draft. The Otters got an offensively-minded defenseman who is effective as a defender. He’s one of the fastest in this class and can make plays as a result. Brown said Drysdale’s edges are some of the best he’s ever seen. It’s likely that Drysdale will immediately enter the Otters’ lineup. He joins a core of Ryan Martin, Jack Duff and Kurtis Henry.
The Otters still wanted to address their center depth. With a pair of picks at the end of the third round, they did just that. With the 58th pick, they selected Arizona State commit Ryan Alexander. Two picks later, they took center Frankie Carogioiello. The story we will watch in the coming months is Alexander and if he’ll commit to Erie or eventually end up with Arizona State.
Brown told us they have had extensive talks with Alexander about that possibility. According to the GM, there’s still work to do. But if there is an ace in the hole here, it’s Drysdale. They were teammates on the Toronto Marlboros. They’ve also been best friends since they were kids. Drysdale told us during a conference call that priority number one will be to get Alexander to come to Erie.
If that happens, that’s a huge get as Alexander was considered by some as one of the 25 best players available. His college commitment allowed the Otters to take him at the end of the third round. Now we’ll see if he’ll eventually report.
That’s a wrap! 14 new faces to the Erie Otters family. Congratulations to all selected at the 2018 OHL Priority Selection presented by @RealCdnSS. Now let’s get to work!
— Erie 🦦🦦🦦 (@ErieOtters) April 7, 2018
The Otters overall took 14 players during the priority selection including five centers, six defensemen, two wingers and a goalie. In the 12th round, the Otters took goaltender Aiden Campbell. So it appears the duo of Daniel Murphy and Anand Oberoi are still in open competition.
Next up for the Otters is their development camp. The dates are still being worked out, but it should happen in May at Mercyhurst University. We’ll get our first look at many of these prospects at that time.
Landing one of the best available defensemen made Saturday a successful day for the Otters. If they eventually get Alexander too, then it’s a turning point. The Otters are working their way back and Saturday did nothing to stop that momentum.
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.