In a season which ended in utter disappointment, the Sudbury Wolves look towards a brighter future as they pick the next crop of players at the 2014 OHL priority draft Saturday.
The draft starts at 9 a.m. and can be followed live through the Ontario Hockey League website, ontariohockeyleague.com. The Sarnia Sting holds the first pick overall. The Wolves select 11th.
Sudbury GM and president Blaine Smith and his scouting staff, headed up by Andrew Shaw, are on the look out for an impact player and are leaning towards a forward.
“I think we can get what we want. We feel there will be three or four players available who have the skills we are looking for.”
The Wolves also have selections in the third and fourth rounds as well as in later rounds. The team doesn’t have their own second-round pick this year as it was part of the package given up to acquire Radek Faksa from Kitchener at the trade deadline. Smith has his fingers crossed the Pack can grab players with more skill, but plenty of character and competitive natures.
He is looking for warriors.
“We need to draft players who will compete and raise their level of play when it matters most,” Smith said. “We want guys who will play for keeps. We are looking for size, speed and skill in the later rounds.
“We are also looking for role players. This draft is going to be key for the franchise moving forward. We feel this is a deep draft and we can get some good players out of it.”
The rights will also have their day on Saturday. Smith needs to address voids on the right side of the team.
“One area we have to concentrate on are right wingers and right-shot defencemen,” Smith said. “Austin Clapham is our only right-shot defenceman. It is a priority for us. We have 14 selections overall. We are going to address every position, including goaltending.”
North American Central Scouting has a team of scouts who have spent the hockey season scouring every rink in the province and beyond to unearth talent. NACS chief scout Mark Seidel sees a solid class of prospects for the 2014 draft.
“It is not a phenomenal draft, but there are a lot of really good players,” Seidel said. “The first 12 or so players are high-end and are solid picks. The OHL draft is the single most important component for any team in the league.
“There is no free-agency period for teams to fill holes. The teams have to build through the draft in order to have success. If you draft poorly, it can set a franchise back for years.”
NACS has done a mock draft based on talks with OHL teams and scouts and managers and insiders. NACS has Sudbury taking forward Michael Pezzetta from Mississauga with the 11th overall pick as projection. It is not a claim Sudbury will take Pezzetta, just a projection.
“Pezzetta is a big, strong and skilled centre man who goes through people,” Seidel said.
When it comes to Sudbury-born and based players, the crop is thinner. NACS sees Nickel Sons midget forward Jacob Stos being taken sometime by or in the sixth round.
“He plays on the edge and is physical and is hard to play against,” Seidel said. “His ferocious play has attracted a lot of interest.”
NACS also projects Sudbury Nickel Capitals forward David Ranger to be taken, possibly in the ninth round.
“He is a big centre, smart and does a lot of good things with the puck,” Seidel said.
Others who are expected to be picked or receive a lot of consideration are Bray Crowder (defenceman with Toronto Red Wings minor midget team and projected to go in the second round), defenceman Brett Whitehead (defenceman with Toronto Red Wings minor midget team and projected to go in the ninth round). A dark horse will be Nickel City Sons forward Ryan Mooney, who is on the small side, but is considered an elite skater that could garner late attention.