The 2021 OHL Priority Selection has come and gone once again, and for the Ottawa 67’s, it serves as another step towards getting back to their championship-contending level they spent the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons at. The 2020 OHL Priority Selection saw the 67’s take a fairly even amount of forwards and defencemen, but the focus changed to the offence this time around as they look to replace some of their high-end losses.
For the first time since 2005, the 67’s held the 12th overall selection as was determined by the first-ever OHL draft lottery in May. With that pick in 2005, the 67’s picked Logan Couture, who would eventually become a cornerstone in their franchise before being drafted by the San Jose Sharks in 2007. There was no one better to announce the 12th overall pick than Couture himself.
There were reports that the 67’s were interested in Christopher Barlas before the draft, and those came to fruition when they took him in the first round. Barlas spent the 2020-21 season with the Navan Grads U18 team, but you have to go back to 2019-20 to find any kind of stats for him. In 29 games with the Ottawa Jr. 67’s U15 ‘AAA’ team in that season, Barlas scored 25 goals and picked up 26 assists, bringing him near a point-per-game. The 5-foot-11 180 pound centreman should help the 67’s restock their talent down the middle and add some size as he continues to grow before he enters his best junior hockey years.
The second round saw the 67’s take a familiar name to OHL fans, drafting brother of Kitchener Rangers young star Francesco Pinelli. Luca Pinelli played with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens U15 ‘AAA’ in 2019-20, where he scored 10 goals and 11 assists in 31 games. Pinelli is a smaller player coming in at only 5-foot-9 and 161 pounds, but he is said to have a high skill set and hockey IQ, driven by an immense work ethic and competitiveness (from Ottawa 67’s draft four prospects on day one of the 2021 OHL Priority Selection Draft, ottawa67s.com, June 4, 2021).
What makes Pinelli appealing to fans, however, is what his brother has been able to accomplish. In 2019-20, Francesco Pinelli scored 18 goals and 23 assists in 29 games with the Rangers and is projected to be a mid-to-late first-round pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft on July 23. If Luca Pinelli can be anywhere close to as good as his brother has been so far, the 67’s could be walking away with a player they can rely on for years to come.
With their second pick of the second round, the 67’s took Cooper Foster out of the Soo Greyhounds Midget ‘AAA’, but like those already mentioned, you have to go back to the 2019-20 season to find any kind of stats. With the Soo Greyhounds U15 ‘AAA’, he scored 20 goals in 24 games while also adding 14 assists to bring him well over the point-per-game pace. Foster was the third-consecutive centreman taken by the 67’s and once again adds some size to the team’s attacking side, coming it at 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, rather big by 67’s standards as they always seem to have one of the smaller teams in the league.
The 67’s final pick of the first day was used to pick Bradley Gardiner 40th overall. Gardiner is yet another centreman but brings much more size to the table than those taken before him. He comes in at 6-foot-1 and 174 pounds and also brings plenty of scoring ability. Gardiner scored 22 goals and added 34 assists in 40 games with the York Simcoe Express in 2019-20. He was supposed to play with St. Andrews College, a boarding school in Aurora, Ontario, but their season never got off the ground thanks to COVID-19. If he does suit up for the 67’s, his size and scoring could be invaluable assets for the team.
Day two netted the 67’s 13 more players starting with Ethan Quick, who the 67’s used the 64th overall selection to nab. Quick is another forward with size, something the 67’s went into the draft targeting. For the first time in the draft, however, the 67’s drafted something other than a centreman after they picked four consecutive on the first day. Quick scored 25 goals and 30 assists, good for 55 points in 38 games with the Quinte Red Devils U15 ‘AAA’ program.
Just a couple of picks later in the fourth round, the 67’s took Jack Dever, a teammate of Quick with the Quinte Red Devils. Dever’s numbers on paper are simply astonishing. He scored 50 goals and has accumulated 37 assists in only 42 games played with the Red Devils U15 ‘AAA’ team. Dever comes in at 5-foot-10 and adds some much-needed skill to the forward group the 67’s have.
The 67’s would take a defenceman for the first time in the OHL Priority Selection in the fifth round, taking Barrie Jr. Colts product Gavin Ewles. Ewles stands at six feet tall and 174 pounds. He scored 17 points, including four goals with the Jr. Colts U15 team in 2019-20. The 67’s would go back to the offensive side of the rink for their sixth-round pick by taking Ryan Smith, the Pendleton, New York native. He played 11 games with the Buffalo Jr. Sabres U15, scoring four goals and adding six helpers. Smith is yet another small forward for the 67’s, standing at 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds.
The 67’s took their second and last defenceman of the draft in the seventh round taking Bradley Horner of the Hawkesbury Hawks U18. The Vankleek Hill, Ontario native scored nearly a point per game with the Eastern Ontario Wild U15 ‘AAA’ team in 2019-20 and now adds his name to the list of young defencemen on the club looking to build their new core. Ottawa would take another local kid in the eighth round taking Xavier Guillemette of the Navan Grads. He grew up in Ottawa and spent part of the 2019-20 season with the Jr. 67’s before being called up Ottawa Senators U18 ‘AAA,’ where he scored six points in five games, including three points in three playoff games.
In the ninth and tenth rounds of the draft, the 67’s took a pair of twins drafting both Ryan and Connor MacPherson out of the Sun County Panthers U16 ‘AAA’ program. Both stand around 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds and were close to being point-per-game players in their most recent seasons, with Connor coming closer between of the two. It was likely a very good day in the MacPherson household.
Ottawa got back to what they wanted to do from the beginning in the next three rounds, adding three more forwards with size. Those players would include Nick Metelkin (New Jersey Rockets 15’s), Guillaume Labre (Rockland Nationals U18 ‘AAA’), and Kohl Millitz (Peterborough Petes U16). Potentially the most interesting of the group is Millitz considering both his size at 6-foot-4 and 192 pounds and his scoring touch as he scored 46 points in 38 games in 2019-20. The 67’s will really be hoping that he can play at the OHL level because that size he has is not something that can easily be found.
Their first and only goaltending choice was Mathis Mainville of the Navan Grads U18 ‘AAA’ team. He won 14 games with the Eastern Ontario Wild in 2019-20 and had a goals-against-average of 2.57. If you think it is impossible for him to crack the roster, Cedrick Andree was taken in the 12th round in 2016 and turned into a superstar. Goaltenders are unpredictable, and Mainville could end up being an important member of the team if he can continue developing.
Last but certainly not least, the 67’s picked Ivan Fabjan, another centreman with some size from the Mississauga Reps U16 ‘AAA’. He scored 18 goals and had a total of 41 points in 33 games in 2019-20. The depth chart down the middle looks crowded right now, but the draft choices will be given a chance to prove their worth when camps hopefully open this fall as we embark on what will hopefully be a normal season.
There will be some big shoes to fill with the players the 67’s have lost of the past couple of season and the ones who will be moving on this offseason, but with this draft class and the previous one combined, the 67’s look to have restocked the cabinets enough to remain somewhat competitive heading into the 2021-22 season. They will take a step back from the back-to-back 50+ win seasons, but they have the foundation built that will allow them to reach a championship-contending level again soon enough.
Currently a journalism student at Algonquin College in Ottawa, I have always had a passion for the OHL and the Ottawa 67’s in particular. I have been attending games since I was young, and being involved with sports has always been a dream of mine. Sports writing fits perfectly into that. You can also find me talking and writing other sports (primarily Canadian football) on my website 13thmansports.ca!