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OHL Draft Preview: Rangers ready for new recruits

Kitchener selects 17th overall, and have six of the first 67 selections
File photo of Kitchener's first round pick in 2019, forward Francesco Pinelli. Mark Pare/KitchenerToday

The event itself has been streamed online for years now.

But when Saturday's OHL Priority Selection rolls around, it's going to be a whole new adventure for teams making their selections.

Teams, including the Kitchener Rangers, will be connected via conference call.  But with COVID-19 restrictions in place, the 'war room' of team officials and scouts planning their next moves will have to be done online.

"We've gotten really familiar with Zoom (video) calls," says general manager Mike McKenzie.

"Definitely a unique situation.  We lose some of that lustre on having all the guys in the room, but it's obviously the only option right now."

Assuming Kitchener stands pat --- McKenzie says that's likely the case --- the Rangers own 17 picks, last making a draft pick swap with Sarnia earlier this week.

Included in that are the 17th overall selection, and six of the first 67 picks.

The Rangers were slotted 17th just two years ago when they took forward Reid Valade.

"We don't have a second round pick, but having the three thirds definitely makes up for that," McKenzie said, "Especially two of them being fairly early in the third round, and having two fourth round picks as well."

McKenzie is set on choosing the best player available at pick 17, but after that "you've got to be a bit careful."

"Positional stuff will come into play at some point," he said, "But early on, you basically want the best guy on your list."

There are some definite holes to fill after the aging out of forwards Greg Meireles, Liam Hawel and Jonathan Yantsis.

Not to mention the graduation of overage candidates including forwards Riley Damiani and Serron Noel, defenders Axel Bergkvist, Justin MacPheron and Holden Wale, team MVP and starter Jacob Ingham and backup goalie Lucas Pfeil.

Ingham, the LA Kings prospect, is primed to make the step up to the pros.

And Pfeil would be entering his overage year, opening up the question on if he can be a starter.

But with departures comes opportunity for the young guys to fill roles on the team, including some prospects to be selected over the weekend.

In that respect, McKenzie says they can't be caught chasing a certain type of player, from worrying about drafting only to get quick players to drafting only for size.

"I find when you do that, you chase year-after-year," McKenzie said, "One year, you're looking for big guys cause you drafted smaller, fast guys and the next year, you're looking for fast guys cause you drafted all big guys that maybe aren't as quick."

"We have a pretty detailed formula, and what we feel is a successful Ranger draft pick: what that make up looks like, in terms of where their skill sets are, the way they play and the style they play."

"We stick pretty close to that, and we're gonna try to draft as many of those guys as we can."

The draft starts at 9:00 a.m. Saturday.

(CLICK HERE to see the draft board, which will automatically update throughout the draft process.)

North Bay chooses first overall, and while there's no indication which way they'll go, the team is holding a press conference Friday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. to address the selection.

Adam Fantilli was projected to be the top pick, but that is in question now that he has committed to playing in the USHL next season and keep his NCAA eligibility alive.


Mark Pare

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