The Ontario Hockey League welcomed 300 new players on Saturday through the 2018 OHL Priority Selection process, with no fewer than 40 more to be chosen Wednesday night by OHL teams.
Tonight marks the second annual OHL Under-18 Priority Selection which targets the top 2000 and 2001-born Midget AAA players from programs across the province.
The concept was developed a year ago with full support from Hockey Canada’s three Ontario Branches including the Ontario Hockey Federation (OHF), Hockey Eastern Ontario (HEO), and Hockey Northwestern Ontario (HNO), to assist in the growth of Midget hockey and provide further opportunities for players at different stages of their hockey development.
“The Under-18 Priority Selection is to the benefit of players who may take some extra time in their overall hockey development,” said Joe Birch, OHL Senior Director of Hockey Development and Special Events. “The long term hope remains that this initiative will bring accomplished players to the OHL, but also grow the exposure of Midget AAA hockey within the province and help the development of this important level for players, goaltenders, and coaches.”
2017’s first overall pick Victor Hadfield (Barrie Colts), seventh overall pick Emmett Serensits (Sudbury Wolves), 13th overall pick Cameron Gaylor (Mississauga Steelheads), second round pick Marko Jakovljevic (Sarnia Sting) and third round pick Seva Losev (Ottawa 67’s) are among those who made the jump to the OHL this past season.
“It’s only been one year but so far the Under-18 Priority Selection has been very well embraced by Minor Hockey Associations, Midget AAA clubs, coaches, players, and parents alike,” Birch continued. “We’ve found an increased competitiveness in most Midget AAA leagues with players who wish to continue to develop at Midget AAA being excited for the opportunity of a second look by OHL member teams. We’re optimistic we’ll continue to see more growth as the process develops.”
Current OHL playoff standouts Sean Josling (Sarnia Sting) and Matthew Villalta (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds) are other examples of players who have come out of the Midget AAA ranks to have OHL success, with recent graduates like Anthony Cirelli (Erie Otters), Andrew Mangiapane (Barrie Colts) and Nick Paul (North Bay Battalion) parlaying their Midget AAA and OHL experiences into NHL opportunities.
“Midget AAA players are certainly included in the overall evaluation process for OHL member teams in building their future hockey clubs,” Birch added. “Every year we’re seeing players who are making an impact in our league after spending a little more time in Minor Hockey.”
The 2018 OHL Under-18 Priority Selection will consist of two rounds instead of the four rounds that existed in the inaugural format. Selections will follow the order of the first round of the 2018 OHL Priority Selection with the Sudbury Wolves at number one, followed by the Flint Firebirds, Peterborough Petes, and Erie Otters. Should a goaltender be selected in any of the first two rounds, the club has the option to select another player (skater only) in a third round utilizing the same order and process.
“The third round option remains an incentive to provide enhanced opportunities for goaltenders,” said OHL Vice-President Ted Baker, who also explained the reduction in rounds from four to two. “The original premise of the OHL Under-18 Priority Selection was for it to be a two-round process. The inaugural draft included four rounds to provide a balanced opportunity for the double cohort of 1999 and 2000-born players.”
Canadian and American players from OHL territory states competing for OHF, HEO and HNO U18 and Midget AAA teams are eligible for the Priority Selection. Once selected, players will be added to a separately designated Under-18 Priority Selection protected list, distinct from the 50-man protected list for players selected in the OHL Priority Selection or committing to OHL member teams as free agents.
The 2018 OHL Under-18 Priority Selection will be conducted live at ontariohockeyleague.com on Wednesday April 11th beginning at 7:00pm. Follow the OHL on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for extended coverage of the event.