It’s very likely that 20 general managers liked a lot of what they saw from their prospects at the OHL Gold Cup in Kitchener, Ont. last weekend, but few may have been as thrilled as the Sudbury Wolves’ Rob Papineau was with the performance of his latest crop of draft picks.
Not only did defenceman Andre Anania (fourth round, 71st overall) and forward Ryan Gillespie (seventh round, 137th) win gold with Team GTHL Blue, but centreman Landon McCallum (first round, 15th) and eighth-rounder Ryan Burke (eighth round, 155th) were standouts for the Alliance team that won bronze.
Forward Chase Stillman (second round, 25th overall) was a leader for Team NOHA which, despite injuries, pulled off an upset of Team GTHL Red, which included such stars as Shane Wright and Brandt Clarke.
“We were very happy with the way our guys performed at the Gold Cup,” Papineau said. “They all did very well for their teams, we had some of them lead their teams in scoring. Landon was outstanding for the Alliance, we had two guys who won a gold with the Blue team. Alex Pineau was, in our opinion, the best player for HNO and Josh Simpson played excellent for the Black team. All eight of our guys had very good showings.”
The OHL Gold Cup is a key step in Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence and an identification tool for the national under-17 program.
While solid outings were certainly expected from the likes of McCallum, who collected four points in four games with Team Alliance, or Ethan Larmand, who had five points in four contests with OMHA White, the event was an opportunity for later selections, such as Burke, to grab a share of the spotlight.
The London, Ont. native certainly did that, collecting seven points to finish behind only Clarke and Brennan Othmann in tournament scoring.
“You look at the last two games Ryan Burke played and he showed why held his team in scoring,” Papineau said of Burke, a product of the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs organization. “There’s a guy who played on a team that didn’t have the results, I’m sure, that they wanted, but he was in on something like 70 per cent of their goals. He showed how intelligent he is, how smart he is, and how, when he gets the time and space, he makes very good decisions.”
Though Stillman’s tourney ended with a broken wrist that will keep him off the ice at the Wolves’ orientation camp this Saturday and Sunday, the son of Sudbury head coach Cory Stillman played some of his best hockey all season.
The skilled second-rounder finished with a goal and four assists to lead Team NOHA in points.
“We have liked Chase all season, obviously, but that could be the best I have seen him,” Papineau said. “He was skating better than he was, even during the playoffs with Rayside. Every time he was on the ice, he was a presence, you noticed him, he was making outstanding decisions. I got a text from one of his coaches last night, letting us know how well he did on the ice, which we saw, and also the leadership he was providing to the team and how pleased they were. It was definitely an unfortunate collision that he had and that happens in hockey sometimes, but he’ll be fine, he’s resilient. But he was definitely outstanding.”
While Stillman won’t take part in on-ice sessions this weekend, the Wolves will have much of their future on display at orientation camp, with picks from the 2018 and 2019 OHL Priority Selections and under-18 drafts, as well as several free agents, taking part in practices on Saturday, at 5:15 p.m. and 6:15 p.m., and a scrimmage on Sunday, at 8:15 a.m.
Forward Quinton Byfield and defencemen Jack Thompson and Isaak Phillips, who played for the Wolves as rookies in 2018-19, will attend the camp. Goalies Jonathan Lemaire and Mitchell Weeks, who each suited up for a few games last season, will join 2018 13th-round pick Nicholas Heinzle in guarding the crease.
Other prospects from the 2018 OHL Priority Selection include forwards Blake Butler, Michael Tiveron, Simon Labelle, Ryan Smith, Giordano Biondi and Luke Strickland and defencemen Darren Beattie and Robbie Stewart. Blueliner Nathan Ribau was set to take part, but he’ll be in Brooks, Alta., vying for a National Junior A Championship with Oakville of the Ontario Junior Hockey League. Defenceman Kyle Aucoin, committed to an NCAA program at Harvard, is not expected to attend.
Participants from the 2019 OHL Priority Selection include forwards McCallum, Larmand, Ryan Gillespie, Burke, Jaxon Bedard, Cameron Kosurko, Cole Watson and Owen Hollingsworth and defencemen Anania, Payton Robinson, Pineau and Simpson.
Sudbury’s 2019 draft picks who won’t attend camp include forward Red Savage, a commit to Miami University and the U.S. under-17 program, and defenceman Trevor Mitchell, a Western Michigan commit. Goalie Justyn Ross, the brother of Wolves defenceman Liam Ross, will miss camp while trying out for a junior A team.
“We really believed, like I’m sure a lot of other teams did, that we had other guys from our draft who should have been at the (Gold Cup),” Papineau said. “We really thought Robinson belonged there for sure and felt he was a much better player than some who were there. Same with Hollingsworth out of Ottawa and Cam Kosurko from Central Ontario. We felt that more of our guys could have been there, but it’s going to be exciting to see them this weekend. We’re also really looking forward to the guys coming back. As excited as you get about a draft, it happens every year and we were having the same conversation one year ago about a lot of the players who have now gone away, gotten bigger, stronger, faster, more experienced, and bringing in those guys is something we’re really looking forward to.”
Among that group of returnees will be Weeks, the reigning OJHL rookie of the year and Sudbury’s only pick from the 2018 under-18 draft who will attend camp this weekend. Forwards Nick DeGrazia and Samuel Vachon, forwards taken in the 2019 U18 draft, will also be in attendance.
Rounding out the field is a group of free agents that include forward Nikolas Campbell and defenceman Anthony Biniaris, DeGrazia’s teammates from the Thunder Bay midgets, as well as forwards Philippe Daoust, from the French River Rapids, Joseph Jordan, from the North Bay Trappers, and Sheldon Pryce, from the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs, and defenceman Carter Geoffroy, from the Niagara North Stars.