by Brandon Sudeyko (@intheoradio)
After what could have been a completely disappointing season for Saginaw, turned into a magical second half. Shades of the season prior too. The OHL trade deadline comes up and the Spirit deal their captain Vincent Trocheck, not many thought that the Spirit could be competitive. Turns out everyone forgot that Jake Paterson was in between the pipes and that the team under Greg Gilbert just doesn’t quit. The Spirit battled hard and was able to stave off the Windsor Spitfires to hold onto the 8th seed and make another post season berth.
The Spirit were swept by the London Knights in the first round, not really surprising, but given that Saginaw was able to push for 6 games last season, there was some hope that they could make the series longer. With their first round exit, it gave the Spirit hockey operations time to focus on the upcoming OHL draft. Saginaw was stocked with 4 picks in the first 44 picks, almost assuring that the team will have a really great 97 corps to step into the OHL this season, similar to Kingston with the 96’s.
With their first four picks, Saginaw’s GM Jim Paliafito selected Mitchell Stephens (8th), Ryan Orban (23rd), Michael Holmes (28th) and Marcus Crawford (44th), Stephens a high profile forward who helped lead the Toronto Marlboros all season long, along with Orban, Holmes and Crawford being defenceman, each with a unique skill set. Saginaw wasted no time in signing these four individuals as the last player to put pen to paper was Marcus Crawford who signed a few days ago.
Entering next season the Spirit look to be icing a farily competitive squad with returning forwards that could be lead by OA Eric Locke, Justin Kea, Nick Moutrey, Jimmy Lodge with sophomores, Dylan Sadowy, Zach Bratina and Jeremiah Addison. Add to the mix Mitchell Stephens who could instantly see second line minutes on a younger but very competitive squad. From one scout, here is how they see Stephens’ game heading into his rookie season of the OHL.
“Biggest gift is his excellent footwork and extremely strong skating stride… Remarkable skater with a great range of speed… He is at his best when aggressively driving into lanes… A shoot first player… Needs to continue his core strength to win battles down low… Has the potential to be a top line forward.”
Adding Stephens in with the aforementioned 7 forwards is a very dynamic top 8 that has pretty good depth heading into this season. Looking at the defence corps and you have Dalton Young and Steven Strong hopefully returning for an OA season, if not the Spirit will at least get 1 of the 2 OHL veterans back to help teach the 97’s as well as help them mature and grow their own game. Brandon Prophet will of course be returning to be a 3-4 defeneman depending on if both veteran blueliners come back. From there Saginaw has a lot of choice on the back end. There is Marseilis Subban, Ramon Lopez, Grant Weiberman and Jacob Ringuette, the first two D-men splitting half the season. Here is a quick glance at what each signed defencemen from this year’s OHL draft can bring to the team…
Michael Holmes – “Stable, intelligent defenceman… quite strong and balanced on his feet… top offensive weapon… projects as a depth defenceman at the next level who should be effective physically.”
Ryan Orban – “Smooth, cerebral workhorse with deceivingly effective north south mobility… thick legs generate a lot of power with and without the puck… strong skater who manages the gaps… slowly refining outlets and offensive decision making.”
Marcus Crawford – “Smooth heads up puck-mover… balanced skater with good quickness… confident puck rusher possesses top end elusiveness… creative running the powerplay and can open up lanes for powerful slapshot… projects out to be a top 4 defenceman at the next level , with potential to be a puck distributor on the powerplay.”
Those are your ‘cole’s notes’ on the Spirit’s first four draft picks from this year’s OHL Priority Selection Draft, all of which who are signed and should be in the lineup at the start of the 2013/14 season for Saginaw. After the quick sweep in the playoffs and this year being a ‘step back’ after the last couple, the Spirit are in prime position to make a big impact this season thanks to these four players.