Part 2 - A Closer Look at the 2015 OHL Draft ...
Part 2 – A Closer Look at the 2015 OHL Draft
Every time I look at the draft lists, it seems that another interesting story jumps out. It could be a first round pick who because of injuries, never reached his expected potential, or it might be a player who was drafted very late who went on to have an impressive OHL career. I used to think that if a player was drafted in the first round of the OHL Draft, they were a shoo-in to be drafted and signed to an NHL contract, but as we will see that is not always the case. We will look at the 2015 OHL Priority Selection starting with the first round, and look for some trends and interesting stories.
In the first round there were a few interesting observations. From picks 1 through 10, nine players were drafted by NHL teams, and 8 players went on to sign NHL entry level contracts. For picks 11 through 22**, 6 players were drafted, and 5 players signed entry level contacts. (** there were 22 players selected in the first round because Owen Sound and Niagara were granted compensatory picks because their 2014 first round pick refused to report.) Twenty out of 22 players drafted in the first round played 4 or more years in the OHL, and 13 out of 22 players drafted in the first round went on to sign NHL entry level contracts (59%).
First round picks cannot be traded in the OHL, so second round picks are the currency of the trade deadline, and as such are highly valued. Six out of 20 second round picks in 2015 were drafted and signed by NHL teams, and 16 players played for 3 or more years in the OHL. So while you may not always be able to draft an NHL caliber player in the second round, chances are you will be able to draft a solid OHL player to build a team around.
In the third round only Nate Schnarr (Guelph Storm) and Fedor Gordeev (Flint Firebirds and Guelph Storm) were drafted, and both went on to sign NHL contracts. Twelve out of 20 went on to play 3 or more years in the OHL. Although it varies from year to year, a smaller number of players from the third round are being drafted, and fewer are having successful OHL careers.
There were two very interesting players drafted in the fourth round. Jason Robertson was picked 62nd overall by Kingston (first player selected in the 4th round), and Morgan Frost was picked 80th overall by the Soo Greyhounds (last pick of the fourth round). Robertson went on to score 149 goals and add 168 assists in 4 years with Kingston and Niagara. Frost scored 106 goals and contributed 204 assists in 4 years with the Greyhounds. In 2018-19 Robertson lead the league in scoring, and Frost was 4th. In 2017-18 Frost was 2nd with 112 points and Robertson was 7th with 87 points. Perhaps the fact that Robertson is American born may have lead to some uncertainty as to whether he would actually play in the OHL. The Kingston Frontenacs certainly got great value for this 4th round pick. Frost was a second round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers, and Robertson was a second round pick of the Dallas Stars. Nine out of 20 players picked in the 4th round of the 2015 draft played 3 or more years in the OHL.
Anthony Popovich and Cedric Ralph were both key players with Guelph in their OHL Championship season in 2019. Ralph played in 241 games, and accumulated 137 regular season points. He was always one of the hardest working players on the ice, and became a true fan favourite in Guelph. He will also be attending St. Mary’s University in the fall. Popovich won 30 games in 2018-19, and twice won 29 games. He is 12th on the all-time OHL goaltender wins list, and is the only goaltender to win 7 elimination games in a playoff season. He will be attending Queens University in September.
After the fourth round, fewer players are moving on to the professional ranks, and less are earning spots on OHL clubs. At this point we will look at a few of the interesting stories from the later rounds. The 7th round of this draft had a few solid players who went on to have very successful OHL careers. Here is a list:
Calvin Martin Soo Greyhounds 121st (Peterborough Minor Petes)
Jake Durham Hamilton Bulldogs 128th (Central Wolves)
Jack Phibbs Flint Firebirds 133rd (Southern Tier Admirals)
Anthony Popovich Guelph Storm 134th (Quinte Red Devils)
Cedric Ralph Guelph Storm 140th (Peterborough Minor Petes)
Calvin Martin played 4 years with the Soo, Sarnia, and Mississauga and scored 86 points during his OHL career. He is destined for Queens University in the fall. Jack Phibbs played for 4 years in Flint and was leader in the dressing room, and a great penalty killer. He will be attending The University of Waterloo next season and will be a big part of their hockey program. Jake Durham may have felt like his OHL opportunity had passed him by when he was let go by Hamilton. However, a phone call from George Burnett in Flint changed all of that, and Jake went on to be a leader with the team, setting franchise records for most games played (264), and most consecutive games played (254). He recorded 159 career points in 4 seasons with the Firebirds. He will be attending St. Mary’s University in Halifax in the fall.
Perhaps the best story from the 2015 draft comes from the 11th round. Alex Formenton was listed as 5’ 7.5” and 120 lbs in the draft guide. He was a very small but fast forward for the Mississauga Rebels minor midgets. He was drafted by the London Knights in the 11th round 216th overall. He played his 16 year old year for the Aurora Tigers in the OJHL, and grew into a 6’ 2” 190 lbs, second round pick of the Ottawa Senators. He is currently playing for the Belleville Sens, and is expected to play in the NHL very soon. Along the way he represented Team Canada at the 2018-19 World Junior Championships in Vancouver.
There are a few other late round picks who enjoyed successful OHL careers. Nicholas King was a 10th round pick of Owen Sound who played in North Bay and Kingston as well. Isaac Nurse was a 11th round pick who played for the Hamilton Bulldogs, and Brady Johnson was a 13th round pick of the Niagara Ice Dogs, who played his OA year in Hamilton.
It might appear to some that the stories get more “interesting” as we go deeper into the draft list. That was part of the purpose of this article; to show that there are a lot of successful OHL careers that come from the late rounds of the OHL Draft. Not everyone can be a first round pick, but hard work, perseverance, and a bit of good luck can help improve your chances for success in the OHL.
Good luck to all QRD players on Saturday!