IceDogs load up for draft
The Niagara IceDogs will be busy in the second round of the 2021 Ontario Priority Selection Friday night.
The IceDogs have three selections in the second round after adding the 39th overall pick in a deal with the Erie Otters Thursday.
The IceDogs dealt their third round (54th overall) and fourth round (70th overall) picks in 2021 to acquire the selection, which originally belonged to the Sudbury Wolves. The IceDogs will also select third and fourth in the second round.
“We now have three picks in the second, our high pick in the third and our high pick in the fourth,” IceDogs general manager Joey Burke said. “We didn’t have to use anything in the future or any seconds so it really is a great deal for us.”
The IceDogs also own the 45th overall section in the third round and 60th selection overall in the fourth round.
“With so much depth towards the top of the class, we feel we are going to get three or four home runs picks on Friday,” Burke said. “We’re planning on two to four guys — certainly no less than two and no more than four — we expect likely our top four picks will make the jump.”
Burke said the organization isn’t necessarily focused on one position.
“We’ll likely spread it around. We’re comfortable everywhere so we’re in a great spot and see who gets to us and go from there.”
The IceDogs will need to work in the picks from this year’s draft along with those from last season who did not play with the season being cancelled due to the COVID pandemic.
“We’re incredibly high on the 04 group we have and without them being afforded their true rookie season as 16-year-olds, we’re excited with the impact they are going to make right off the bat as 17-year-olds,” Burke said. “There are certainly guys who we took in the mid rounds last year, with a year of development, we certainly would have expected to come in now, but with the year lost, maybe they have to spend the year at a lower category of junior before coming to us.”
Forwards Jake Uberti, Ethan Sims, Cam Peters, Cam Butler, defenceman Giancarlo Chanton and goaltender Tucker Tynan comprise the players born in 2002 who would seem a lock to make the team while defencemen Landon Cato and Issac Enright are 03-born players who will anchor the blueline.
“We feel are going to have a nice balance,” Burke said. “We don’t want to be too young, but at the same time, we know we’re going to have the calibre of guys who project to be future stars in this league and we want to get them going as soon as possible.”
Burke confirmed defenceman Mason Howard will return as an overage player while goaltender Andrew McLean, defencemen Dakota Betts and A.J. Cook and forward Ryan Campbell are other OA possibilities.
As well, import forward Danil Gushchin, 19, is on the radar after lighting up the United States Hockey League with 32 goals and 64 points in 46 games last season with the Muskegon Lumberjacks. Gushchin is property of the San Jose Sharks who selected the Russian winger in the third round of the 2020 National Hockey League draft.
“We’re at the mercy a little bit of San Jose and where they want to place him in terms of if they feel he is strong enough to play in the AHL this year,” Burke said. “We have a great relationship with the player and the family and the agency and we feel confident if he’s not in the AHL next year, he’ll be back with us.”
The draft will be held over the course of two days, with rounds 1-3 being held on Friday beginning at 7 p.m. Rounds 4-15 will take place on Saturday beginning at 9 a.m.
The IceDogs forfeited their first-round selection at part of a penalty for a player recruitment violation in 2018.
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