When the Windsor Spitfires won their three Mastercard Memorial Cup titles (2009, 2010, and 2017), then-general manager Warren Rychel built a strong, offensive team that could wear you down and score at will. This weekend, current GM Bill Bowler took a page out of his mentor’s playbook, bringing in some big talent at the 2021 OHL Priority Selection.
From a canceled 2020-21 season to a draft moved back two months, nothing about the 15-months has been normal in the OHL. However, the 2021 draft brings light at the end of the tunnel and gives hope for a season this Fall. It’s a chance for Bowler to continue creating the roster he wants while showing his style. Last year, in his first draft, the club went for the smaller, creative players. Now, they’ve gone a slightly different route, and it could bring back that blue-collar style that Spitfires’ fans have always loved.
How did it all shape up? Let’s take a look!
Two Giants in Top 20
Early in last year’s draft, Bowler went for speed and creativity with 5-foot-7 forward Ryan Abraham and 5-foot-11 defenceman Nicholas De Angelis. This year, he went a different route.
The Spitfires saw several graduations this summer and, while they lose a lot of talent, they also lost a lot of size. Bowler addressed that right away.
Last month, during the first-ever OHL Draft Lottery, the Spitfires won the fourth overall pick. On Friday night, the team used that pick to select 6-foot-4, 185-pound winger Ethan Miedema out of the Quinte Red Devils AAA. He had 44 goals and 95 points in 42 games during 2019-20. From scoring to size and leadership, this is a kid that scouts feel has “star potential written all over him.”
Here’s Miedema after being selected:
Bowler told the Windsor Star that Miedema was exactly what they wanted.
“Tons of upside and immediately he’s an elite player,” he said.
“… fans are going to like what he brings to the Spitfires.” (from ‘Spitfires general manager Bowler reviews all 16 of team’s picks in the OHL Draft’, Windsor Star – 6/5/21)
The club didn’t have to wait long for their next pick. With the first pick in the second round (20th overall – originally Barrie Colts), a pick they got in the Nathan Staios trade in 2019, Bowler selected 6-foot-6, 200-pound defenceman Bronson Ride out of the Oakville Rangers.
A large crease-clearer is something the Spitfires sorely needed. However, while he’s generally a shutdown defenceman, his offense has real upside as he had seven goals and 31 points in 28 games in 2019-20.
“Extremely honoured to be selected by the Windsor Spitfires, a truly first class organization…,” Ride said in a statement.
Miedema and Ride are both expected to be in the lineup for 2021-22.
Picks, Picks, and More Picks
While the Spitfires didn’t have a third-round pick thanks to the Will Cuylle trade in 2018, they had a pair in the fourth to start Saturday morning.
With their own selection, 73rd overall, they took left wing Christopher O’Flaherty from the Chicago Young Americans 15’s. At 6-foot, 190-pounds, he’s a highly touted scoring prospect. However, he was also selected in the USHL Draft, so the Spitfires have their work to do. With the 76th pick, acquired from the Flint Firebirds, Bowler selected 6-foot-4, 190-pound center Ethan Martin out of Huron-Perth Lakers U16. The son of former Spitfires’ captain Mike Martin had 27 points in 31 games in 2019-20.
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A year after drafting smaller, skilled players, taking three players early who are at least 6-foot-3 was a statement from Bowler. He wants to make life tough again in the WFCU Center! Altogether, the Spitfires made 16 picks through the 15-round draft, including six defencemen, four left wingers, four centers, and two goaltenders.
Locally, 10 players were chosen from the Sun County Panthers U16 and Windsor Zone Jr. Spitfires AAA U16, including Panthers’ left winger Max Frattaroli, who went to the Spitfires with the last pick (299th overall). Lighthouse Cove’s Declan Waddick was also selected 39th overall by the Niagara IceDogs. He played for the Waterloo Wolves in 2019-20.
Now, Bowler and his staff get ready for the 2021 OHL Under-18 Draft on Wednesday at 12 p.m. The Spitfires have the 17th pick in the first round. That will be followed by the 2021 CHL Import Import Draft on June 30. You can follow both drafts on the OHL’s website and social media channels.
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.