With the 2019-20 season in the rearview mirror, the focus in the OHL shifts to the offseason, starting with the OHL Priority Selection on Saturday. For the Windsor Spitfires, this draft will go a long way to shaping their future identity.
Every draft presents new challenges and new opportunities for both teams and players. For rookie general manager (GM) Bill Bowler, he enters his first draft with a chance to build his reputation and show his style. Despite a year on the job, very little is known about his type of hockey. The moves made here will finally answer some questions.
Let’s break down what the team needs as we head into this weekend.
First Round Focus?
In past drafts, former GM Warren Rychel had a definitive plan. From 2014-17, he built his defence by bringing in Logan Stanley, Connor Corcoran, and Nathan Staios with three of his first picks. In 2018 and 2019, Rychel urgently needed offence, so he switched gears and drafted crafty forwards Jean-Luc Foudy and Wyatt Johnston, respectively.
On Saturday morning, as the 2020 OHL Priority Selection gets underway at 9 a.m., we’ll see what path Bowler chooses for his first go-around. With an ageing defence, it’s an area that could use some youth. The Spitfires own the 14th-overall pick so who might the new GM target?
The first possibility is 6-foot-1, 175-pound defenceman Spencer Sova from Honeybaked U15. The Windsor-native had 57 points in 57 games and is rated anywhere from the late first round to early second round. He’s strong offensively and is happy to use his large frame in the defensive end.
Another option is 5-foot-11, 170-pound defenceman Alec Leonard out of the Mississauga Reps. His speed, passing, and ability to physically dominate could be enticing. He’s rated similar to Sova.
There are also three other defencemen to keep an eye on — Donovan McCoy (Quinte Red Devils), Matthew Jovanovic (Toronto Marlboros), and Isaiah George (Toronto Marlboros). They’re ranked mid-to-late first round but could fall into the Spitfires’ lap.
On top of the 14th overall selection, the Spitfires own
- 36th overall (originally Flint Firebirds)
- 39th overall (originally London Knights)
- 73rd overall (originally Oshawa Generals)
- 77th overall (originally Kitchener Rangers)
From there, they own single picks in rounds 7 through 15.
The North Bay Battalion own the first-overall pick and are expected to take either Kimball Union Academy’s forward Adam Fantilli or Toronto Jr. Canadiens’ defenceman Ty Nelson.
Spitfires’ Past Meets Future
While Sova is a significant local talent, a pair of players with Windsor ties are also hoping to hear their name called.
Colton Smith, son of former Spitfires’ associate coach and current Ottawa Senators’ head coach D.J. Smith, is expected to be chosen somewhere between the third and sixth rounds. Last season, the 6-foot-2, 195-pound forward had 47 points and 76 penalty minutes in 41 games with the Kanata Lasers Midget AAA. He has loads of offensive potential and, like his father, plays with a snarl.
D.J. was drafted by the Spitfires in the second round in 1994. Could it be like father, like son?
One of D.J.’s Spitfires’ teammates was 50-goal scorer Tim Findlay, the club’s 18th-round pick in 1993. Now, 27 years later, Tim’s son Owen Findlay could take the same steps as his father.
A defenceman with the Windsor Jr. Spitfires Minor Midget AAA, Owen had 18 points in 32 games in 2019-20 and is rated to be chosen between the seventh and tenth rounds. However, as his father proved, it doesn’t matter where you’re chosen but what you do with that opportunity.
The two families could join a unique list of father-son duos who played in the OHL, including Rychel and his sons Maddux and Kerby, Sudbury Wolves’ head coach Cory Stillman (former Spitfire) and his son Riley, and Hamilton Bulldogs’ GM Steve Staios with his son Nathan.
Whether or not Smith or Findlay end up wearing the Spitfires’ colours is unknown. Regardless of where they end up, they’ve got a chance to create their own legacy. It’s the circle of life.
You can follow the draft on the OHL website and Twitter.
I’m a resident of Windsor, ON and a graduate of St Clair College Journalism and New Media program as well as the University of Windsor Communication, Media, and Film program. I’ve been a junior hockey fan (specifically the Windsor Spitfires) for 30-years and have written about/photographed junior hockey since about 2005.