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OHL Draft Omens and Portents

The Ontario Hockey League held their Priority Selection on Saturday. Full results are here. As always, there were huge implications for college hockey in the draft.

Starting off, there were three American players to go in the first round of the draft: Blake Clarke (15th to Brampton), Brendan Perlini (16th to Barrie), and Aaron Haydon(20th to Niagara). Clarke seemed a given to head to the OHL, with no college commitment, and the USHL not exactly working out for him this year. Perlini is committed to Michigan State, and going in the first round really decreases the odds of him ever playing there. Aaron Haydon, we hardly knew ye. He's a big, physical defenseman, and going in the first round means it's virtually a lock he'll play there.

The second round had a bit of a surprise when Green Bay Gamblers leading scorer and UNO recruit Alex Broadhurst was selected by London. News came that Broadhurst has not yet qualified academically to play at UNO, so the OHL provides a nice back-up plan. Broadhurst said he is still considering attending UNO, and will make a decision once his season is over.

The fourth round of the draft is where action really started to pick up for American players. North Dakota saw both of their eligible recruits get taken. Brendan Lemieux went to Barrie, while Nick Schmaltz was drafted by Windsor, as expected. Dropping to the fourth round seems like a decent sign for Lemieux, because he probably would have gone higher if a deal was already worked out, but it's not like he dropped into the later rounds where it seems like a shot in the dark. With Schmaltz, where he was drafted didn't mean much. Everyone knew Windsor was the only team with any shot at signing him, and they'll have to do a lot of work over the summer to convince him and his brother to sign.

Darby Llewellyn, the younger brother of former Michigan defenseman Tristin Llewellyn, was also drafted in the fourth round by Kitchener. Tristin was drafted by Saginaw back in the day, but at one point, was convinced he was going to play for Kitchener, prior to committing to Michigan. Tristin ended up choosing Michigan over the OHL based on strong input from his family, but after Tristin's disappointing experience at Michigan, it looks like his brother may go the other way.

The Plymouth Whalers took a couple kids that have already committed to the NTDP, as they usually, and did so relatively early, but both have interesting connections to the Whale. High-scoring forward Sonny Milano, drafted by Plymouth in the 4th round, plays for the Cleveland Barons Midget Minor team. The assistant coach of that team is Don Harkins(the head coach is his younger brother Brett), director of scouting for the Plymouth Whalers. Harkins already had success in recruiting Milano from Long Island to a stacked Barons team. Perhaps they're gambling they can convince him to come to Plymouth too. Meanwhile, in the fifth round, Plymouth selected Carolina Jr. Hurricanes defenseman Josh Wesley. Both the Carolina Hurricanes and Plymouth Whalers are owned by Peter Karmanos, so there has always been a close relationship between the two organizations.

Prior to the draft I had pinpointed this as an important day for Michigan State. They came out of the day scarred, but far from catastrophe. Perlini going in the first round is a bad sign. Heading into the draft, Josh Jacobs seemed like a lock for the first round, and eventually signing in the OHL, so to see him fall to the fourth round is potentially a good sign. He was drafted by Sarnia. He was drafted by Sarnia, who generally isn't a big spender, but really tried to buy a championship team this year, a strategy which resulted in a karmic string of injuries and a first playoff exit. They may try to double down on that gamble next year, in which case Jacobs could be a key piece, but it looks like less than a given that he'll sign.

Off Michigan State's other two recruits, Marcel Godbout wasn't picked until the 9th round, which appears pretty safe. MacKenzie MacEachern went completely undrafted. That's a positive sign in terms of him making to MSU, but not necessarily a great sign for his NHL Draft stock. If he was likely to be picked in the NHL Draft, I think a team would have drafted him, hoping that the NHL team that drafted him didn't want him playing in the USHL next year, and persuading him to head to the OHL. Providence recruit Mark Jankowski is in a similar position, and likely to be drafted in the NHL this summer, and was taken in the 7th round by Saginaw today.

Eighth round pick Jake Evans of Mississauga is a Canadian player that reportedly dropped because he was interested in pursuing the NCAA route.

For the most part, every other college-committed player went late enough in the draft that there are no immediate concerns about them signing in the OHL.