Craig added to list of OHL hopefuls
Michael Craig of the Niagara North Stars was selected by the Niagara IceDogs in the ninth round of the Ontario Hockey League draft Saturday. Photo special to BPSN Sports.
Being patient paid off big time for Michael Craig.
The 15-year-old St. Francis Secondary School student had to wait a few hours to be selected at the Ontario Hockey League draft Saturday, but the wait was well worth it.
Craig was selected in the ninth round (172nd overall) by the Niagara IceDogs, an event which raised the roof at the Craig household.
“We went crazy. We had a few family members over,” Craig said. “Everyone was pretty excited.”
Craig had no inkling where he was going to be selected.
“I honestly had no idea where I was going to go. I was just happy it was Niagara.
“It’s a cool opportunity being a hometown kid.”
Craig had his fingers crossed he would be picked, but wasn’t going to let it bother him if he didn’t get selected.
“I was just waiting patiently. I knew I was good enough to be up there but if it didn’t happen it wasn’t the end of the world,” he said. “I was just sitting there patiently waiting to see my name pop up.”
IceDogs general manager Joey Burke was thrilled Craig was still available in the ninth round.
“He’s really a higher-end defenceman than where we got him,” Burke said. “He’s a right shot guy who we’ve been coveting. He moves the puck very well and has strong instincts.
“We had him on our radar all year and were kind of hoping he would get to those later rounds for us and being the local kid made it an even easier decision for us.”
Craig, who is listed at 5-foot-8, 160 pounds, had a solid season for the Niagara North Stars under former IceDogs and current Brock Badgers coach Marty Williamson with four goals and 20 points in 345 regular season games.
“I thought I had a strong year,” he said. “Our team had a good regular season and overall it was good for my development.
“I thought the coaching was really strong and really helped me get better.”
After the North Stars’ season, Craig joined the Thorold Blackhawks where he got into six games and accorded himself well against more experienced competition.
“I thought it really helped playing against older and stronger competition to help me get ready for the next level,” Craig said. “I definitely want to work on my offensive game because that’s big in the new age hockey, but at the same time, work on my D zone and make sure I’m still reliable.”
Burke saw enough of Craig with the Blackhawks to be satisfied he could play at the next level.
“He looked good,” Burke said. “He wasn’t particularly overwhelmed. He was creative at that level. In the D zone, things at times became a bit much for him but that’s to be expected in later-round guy.
“He has the same making and trajectory as Daniel Nardi does. He has similar kind of tools and he’s been a very impressive kid.”
Nardi was a ninth-round selection of the IceDogs last season who played with the Fort Erie Meteors and also got his feet wet at the OHL level with three games for Niagara.
Craig knows the deck is stacked against him cracking the lineup next season, but he’s not going to concede anything.
“I’m going to go into camp and try and win a job, that’s the main goal,” he said. “Whatever happens will be alright and I will work hard and see what happens.”
Burke expects Craig to be in the mix for a job with the IceDogs at some point, if not necessarily next season.
“With our depth back there, he would be a year or two away anyway,” he said. “The ceiling is extremely high. We love the potential he has.
“We really have a heck of a group of nice, talented defencemen back there that can skate with anyone and move with anyone. We’re very happy on that end as well.”
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