CHL Notebook: Looking back at best of junior hockey’s draft history

Michael McCarron and Leon Draisaitl face off. (Aaron Bell/CHL Images)

The Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection was held on Saturday and it marks the opportunity to build teams like any other league.

With a 15-round draft, teams can set themselves up quite well for the future in the process. Over the years, a lot of teams have had success building through the draft and the Soo Greyhounds are no different. One of the more impressive drafts the organization had was the 2014 event.

In the midst of building the program under current Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas, who served the same role with the Greyhounds prior to moving on to the pros, the Greyhounds wound up selecting a number of players who would be impactful at the major-junior or NCAA level.

Of the 16 players the Greyhounds drafted in 2014, nine would become regulars in the OHL while another landed in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and four more went on to play NCAA hockey.

What’s more impressive from that draft was that seven of those players were eventually NHL draft picks, and an eight eventually signed free-agent deals after three years of college hockey.

Among the players the Greyhounds selected were Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Boris Katchouk, New York Rangers prospect Tim Gettinger, Colorado Avalanche prospect Connor Timmins, Anaheim ducks prospect Jack Kopacka, and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Mac Hollowell.

All five would become major pieces in the Greyhounds’ run to an OHL final berth in 2018.

Rouyn-Noranda Huskies’ Timo Meier, centre, from Switzerland, celebrates his goal with teammates Jeremy Lauzon, left, and Alexandre Fortin. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)

When it comes to building through the draft, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies did that to perfection with their group in 2016.

En route to a league title and Memorial Cup berth, the Huskies did it with a roster built with 17 of 23 players drafted by the organization. The team had eight NHL prospects, including San Jose Sharks forward Timo Meier and Philippe Myers of the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Huskies advanced to the Memorial Cup final that year before losing in overtime to the OHL’s London Knights.

In 2015, it was the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets who used a roster littered with homegrown talent to make a run.

Led by a group that included current Detroit Red Wings defenceman Madison Bowey and Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl, Kelowna went all the way to the Memorial Cup final before losing in overtime to the OHL’s Oshawa Generals.

Looking back through the Western Hockey League draft in recent years, it’s not so much one specific team that stands about but more so a draft class as a whole.

The league’s 2016 bantam draft, which saw players born in 2001 selected, has produced plenty of players who have eventually played major roles in the league.

The top three picks saw the Winnipeg ICE, who were still located in Kootenay at the time, select current Vegas Golden Knights prospect Peyton Krebs with the top pick.

The Saskatoon Blades used the second pick to select current Chicago Blackhawks forward Kirby Dach, while Colorado Avalanche prospect Bowen Byram was selected third overall by the Vancouver Giants.

Sasha Mutala, also an Avalanche prospect, went sixth overall to the Tri-City Americans.

The Edmonton Oil Kings selected New York Rangers prospect Matthew Robertson seventh overall while Anaheim Ducks first-rounder Brayden Tracey went 21st overall to the Moose Jaw Warriors.

High-scoring forward Connor Zary was selected in the second round by Kamloops while the Portland Winterhawks selected Reece Newkirk in round three.

Proof of just how tough drafting bantam-aged players is, the Spokane Chiefs selected Minnesota Wild prospect Adam Beckman with the 96th-overall pick. Beckman is coming off a 107-point season with the Chiefs.

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