CHL Notebook: Unheralded OHLers that went on to NHL success

Sam Cosentino and Fizal Khamisa discuss the top talent in the upcoming NHL Draft, including Alex Lafreniere, a race for the number two spot, and the likeliness of a combine taking place.

Looking back, the OHL draft’s first round has obviously produced plenty of great players.

Players like Joe Thornton (Soo Greyhounds), Connor McDavid (Erie Otters) and John Tavares (London Knights), to name a few.

But some players have gone on to solid professional careers and weren’t at the top of their OHL draft class.

Following is a look at some players who weren’t necessarily early picks in the OHL, or picked at all in some cases, but caught the attention of NHL scouts and found success at the next level.

Barrie Colts: Bryan Little was a third-round pick by the Colts in the 2003 OHL Priority Selection. After posting 100 points in the 2005-06 season, Little was selected in the first round of the NHL draft by the then-Atlanta Thrashers and has gone on to play over 800 NHL games with the Thrashers franchise, now the Winnipeg Jets.

Erie Otters: Alex DeBrincat was signed by the Otters as a free agent before being selected in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft by Chicago and has become a productive offensive player with the Blackhawks.

Flint Firebirds: Going back to the Firebirds’ days in Plymouth, Justin Williams was a sixth-round pick by the Whalers in 1998. Since being selected in the first round of the 2000 NHL Draft by Philadelphia, Williams has gone on to play over 1,200 NHL games, split between the Flyers, Carolina Hurricanes, Los Angeles Kings and Washington Capitals.

Guelph Storm: A 15th round pick in the 2001 OHL Draft, Ryan Callahan eventually was selected by the New York Rangers in the fourth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft and has played over 700 NHL games split between the Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning.

Hamilton Bulldogs: Going back to Hamilton’s days as the Belleville Bulls, the franchise selected defenceman P.K. Subban in the sixth round of the 2005 draft. Selected in the second round of the 2007 NHL Draft by the Montreal Canadiens, Subban has played over 700 NHL games with the Canadiens, Nashville Predators and New Jersey Devils. He won the Norris Trophy in 2013 as the NHL’s top defenceman.

Kingston Frontenacs: Goaltender Mike Smith was a seventh-round pick of the Frontenacs in 1999 before eventually becoming a Stars fifth-rounder and going on to play over 600 NHL games with Dallas, the Tampa Bay Lightning, Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers.

Kitchener Rangers: Justin Bailey was a seventh-round pick by the Rangers in the 2011 OHL Draft. In 2013, Bailey was selected in the second round of the NHL draft by Buffalo, and has played NHL games with the Sabers, Flyers and Vancouver Canucks.

London Knights: An 11th-round pick by the Knights in the 2016 OHL Draft, Alex Formenton was ultimately selected by the Ottawa Senators in the second round of the 2017 NHL Draft. Formenton is coming off a strong first season with the Senators’ American Hockey League affiliate in Belleville.

Mississauga Steelheads: Nathan Bastian was a seventh-round pick of the Steelheads in 2013 before being selected in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft by the New Jersey Devils. Bastian got into his first seven NHL games with the Devils in 2018-19, scoring three times.

Niagara IceDogs: A sixth-round pick of the IceDogs in 2012, Vince Dunn used a pair of strong seasons in St. Catharines to become a second-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in 2015. Dunn has since become a regular on the St. Louis blue line.

North Bay Battalion: Prior to moving to North Bay, the Brampton Battalion selected Brent Burns in the third round of the 2001 OHL Draft. Burns was then selected by Minnesota in the first round of the 2003 NHL Draft and has put up 694 points across 1113 games with the Wild and San Jose Sharks.

Oshawa Generals: Signed by the Generals as a free agent, Anthony Cirelli would eventually score the Memorial Cup-winning goal for the team in 2015 and was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the third round of the 2015 NHL Draft.

Ottawa 67’s: Jamie McGinn was a third-round pick of the 67’s in 2004 before the San Jose Sharks used a second-rounder to select the winger two years later. McGinn has gone on to play over 600 NHL games with the Sharks, Colorado Avalanche, Buffalo Sabres, Anaheim Ducks and Florida Panthers.

Owen Sound Attack: The 2006 OHL Draft saw the Attack select Wayne Simmonds. The following year, the Los Angeles Kings drafted the power forward as a second-round pick. The winger is now approaching 1,000 career NHL games after stints with the Kings, Flyers, Predators, Devils and Sabres.

Peterborough Petes: Going back to 1991, the Petes selected Chris Pronger in the sixth round of the OHL draft. Pronger eventually turned into a first-round pick of the Hartford Whalers and would play over 1,100 NHL games with the Whalers, Blues, Oilers, Ducks and Flyers, winning the Norris in 2000.

Saginaw Spirit: Though he played his OHL career in Barrie, Mark Scheifele was a seventh-round pick by the Spirit before being traded to the Colts in early September 2010. Scheifele was a first-round pick by the Winnipeg Jets in 2011 and has gone on to play 519 games with the team and collect 444 points.

Sarnia Sting: Now a coach in the OHL, Trevor Letowski was once a seventh-round pick by the Sting in 1994. After being selected in the seventh round of the 1996 NHL Draft by the Coyotes, Letowski went on to play over 600 NHL games.

Soo Greyhounds: A first-round pick of the Flyers in 2017, Morgan Frost was once a fourth-rounder by the Greyhounds. In his first pro season in 2019-20, Frost got into 20 games with the Flyers.

Sudbury Wolves: Once a 20th-round pick of the Wolves in 1990 – selected behind 280 other players – Derek Armstrong went on to be picked by the New York Islanders in the sixth round of the 1992 NHL Draft. Armstrong would eventually suit up for 467 NHL games with the Islanders, Senators, Rangers, Kings and Blues.

Windsor Spitfires: Before being selected in the sixth round of the 1997 NHL Draft and playing over 1,000 NHL games, Matt Cooke was a 10th round pick of the Spitfires in the 1995 OHL Draft.

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