The Barrie Colts made Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs Midget AAA defenceman Victor Hadfield the first overall pick of the inaugural OHL Under-18 Priority Selection on Wednesday.
The first of 96 players to be chosen in the five round priority selection, Hadfield is a talented player with a fitting backstory that encapsulates many of the reasons the OHL Under-18 Priority Selection was implemented this season.
The Oakville, Ont., native went from playing Minor Midget A hockey at home a year ago to being the first player selected among eligible 1999 and 2000-born Midget AAA players in the province on Wednesday.
Hadfield, who had played AAA hockey in Oakville for eight years, had a setback in his minor midget season before returning to the circuit this past year.
“I got sick at the beginning of tryouts last season,” he said of the experience. “It kind of put me behind, so I decided to stay home and play with my friends in Oakville. This year I really wanted to get back to playing at the highest level so I tried out for Triple-A in Hamilton and I made the team and ended up having a great season.”
The name sure sounds familiar.
Hadfield is the grandson of 1960’s and 70’s star Vic Hadfield, a hard-working winger who played for the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins from 1961-77. His best NHL season featured 50 goals, 56 assists and 106 points with the Blueshirts in ’72, serving as the team’s captain as he played on a line alongside Jean Ratelle and Rod Gilbert.
“My grandpa has had a lot of influence on my career,” the younger Hadfield noted. “He got out to see a lot of my games this year and has been a real encouragement to me.
“I don’t think I’m quite as tough as he is,” he laughed.
Hadfield looks to crack a Colts roster next fall that features longtime Oakville Rangers AAA teammate and 6-foot-8 winger Curtis Douglas.
The smooth-skating rearguard who models his game after Chicago Blackhawks star Duncan Keith is thrilled about the opportunity.
“I’m very grateful to have been taken by such a great organization,” he said. “I’ve heard a lot of good things about the Colts and the success they have had. I’m thankful to their staff for having faith in me and taking me first overall.”
From the Barrie side of things, the feeling is mutual as they add Hadfield to a stable of young defencemen that includes 2016 first round pick Tyler Tucker, Swedish talent Tom Hedberg, big shutdown presence Christopher Cameron and recent second round pick Nate Allensen among others.
“We felt Hadfield was the best skater in the draft and his ability to skate and move the puck gives him an edge,” said Colts GM Jason Ford. “He is a late birthday player that has come a long way over the past 18 months. His skating is elite, and his frame should fill out over time.”
The Guelph Storm took the first goaltender with the next selection, naming Windsor Jr. Spitfires netminder James Walker as the second overall pick of the draft.
Walker backstopped Windsor to its first ALLIANCE Championship this past season and was one of five Jr. Spitfires to be selected on Wednesday. The 16-year-old who was a teammate of Sudbury Wolves blueliner Owen Lalonde in minor midget last season models his game after Vancouver Canucks goaltender Ryan Miller.
“It’s an amazing feeling and something I’ve worked towards my entire career,” he said following the selection. “It’s been a great night for our team and I hope that I can play against some of these guys in the OHL down the road.”
The North Bay Battalion selected Carleton Place Canadians winger Ryland Mosley with the third overall pick.
The Arnprior, Ont. native had 20 goals, 36 assists and 56 points in 45 games this past season, growing from 160Ibs. in his minor midget year to tipping the scales at 181Ibs. this season.
“I like to do things at high speed and always move my feet with or without the puck,” Mosley said of his game. “My favourite player is Connor McDavid and I really like to set up my teammates and score goals. I try and be a 200-foot player and take care of things in the defensive zone and the offensive zone.”
The first round featured a total of 13 forwards, four goaltenders and three defencemen selected, contributing to a total of 49 forwards, 31 defencemen and 16 goaltenders taken in the 2017 OHL Under-18 Priority Selection.