With the expected departure of three of their top four scorers next season, the Barrie Colts did a little forward thinking in the 2018 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Priority Selection draft on April 7. General manager and head scout Jason Ford used six of his first seven selections and 11 of his 18 overall picks to address needs up front.
Coming off a strong season where they won their third Central Division title in the last four years and advanced to the second round of the OHL playoffs, the Colts are expected to ice a solid returning group next season. Still, restocking the prospect shelves with offence was front and centre for a Barrie club expected to lose a combined 140 goals and 283 points in scoring.
Aaron Luchuk, who lead the league in scoring with 115 points and was named the OHL Overager of the Year, will begin his pro career in the Ottawa Senators system, while high-scoring winger Dmitry Sokolov, who had 30 goals in 29 games with Barrie, after being acquired from Sudbury, is not expected back after signing a pro contract with the Minnesota Wild.
It’s also expected that star Russian import Andrei Svechnikov, the OHL Rookie of the Year, won’t return. As the top-ranked prospect among North America skaters for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft in Dallas, Texas on June 22-23, it’s expected the standout winger, who had 40 goals and 72 points in just 44 games, is ready to make the jump to the NHL next season.
A big part of the future for Barrie up front begins with right winger Riley Piercey. Ford believes the 16th pick overall helps address both scoring and size up front and says Piercey, who had 26 goals and 56 points in 59 games last season, was the best forward on a very good Toronto Marlboro triple-A minor midget team. The Colts targeted the six-foot-two, 186-pounder after following his progress throughout last season.
“We interviewed him and he’s a tremendous, big character kid,” Ford said. “He really wanted to take on the challenge of playing in Barrie and has great leadership qualities. He’s a big body that can score goals. He skates really well and gets going in open ice. He plays hard and plays a heavy game, yet he skates well.”
With no second-round pick, Barrie stayed close to home for its first of two third-round selections when they grabbed Barrie Colts triple-A minor midget centre Tyson Foerster. The Alliston native had 61 points in 34 games and Ford was thrilled to get a player they believed wouldn’t be there at pick number 55, after Foerster had a strong OHL Cup. The Colts GM also believes Foerster, who had a growth spurt in the last year, isn’t done growing yet.
“He’s a solid character kid,” Ford said. “He really works at his game and really loves the game. He’s a right shot and sees the ice really well. He distributes the puck really well and he’s got a really good release. He can score goals and he competes hard and plays both ends.”
The addition of size and scoring up front continued for Barrie when they used pick number 56 on Vaughan Kings triple-A minor midget forward Eric Russell. The six-foot-one, 176-pound left winger had 34 goals and 62 points in 63 games to help Vaughan reach the OHL Cup championship game.
“He’s a big, strong kid,” Ford said of Russell. “He already has OHL size and close to an OHL shot, if not an OHL shot already. He’s an opportunistic player that can bury goals and can add offence.”
With no fourth-round selection, the Colts used their first of two fifth-round picks to add to a deep blue line when they took Russell’s Vaughan teammate Austin D’Orazio. The five-foot-10, 191-pounder recently converted from forward to the point.
“He’s a robust, physical kid that has some talent and we feel can be a defenceman in the OHL,” Ford said of D’Orazio, who helped Team GTHL Blue win the 2018 OHL Gold Cup in Kitchener in early May.
Barrie used its next three picks in the draft on forwards, taking Rockland National triple-A minor midget centre Rocco Testa-Bassi with the club’s second pick in the fifth round.
“He’s kind of like a Jason Willms where you’re always going to get a good, honest effort out of him,” Ford said of the five-foot-10, 165-pound centre, who had 43 points in 41 games.
Here’s a look at some of Barrie’s other selections in this year’s draft with what round they were selected, position, team as well as a comment from Ford:
– R0und 6 (116) Ryan Beck C, Oakland Jr. Grizzlies: “A really good two-way centre that is really strong on his skates and has skill.”
– Round 8 (156) Aidan Hughes C, Mississauga Reps: “He hates to lose. He’s a physical, sturdy winger that skates well and seems to have a little bit of a knack for the net.”
– Round 9 (161) Ian Devlin, LD, Toronto Titans: “He’s son of Toronto Raptors play-by-play guy Matt Devlin. He’s only scratching the surface in becoming a really good defenceman.”
– Round 14 (277) Sami Molu, G, Toronto Jr. Canadiens: “He was their goalie for those big wins. He’s a highly intelligent kid that works hard at his craft.”
Photo: With the expected departure of their top line, the Barrie Colts did some forward thinking in this year’s OHL draft, led by 16 overall pick Riley Piercey of the Toronto Marlboros. Aaron Bell/OHL Images photo