Going into your first draft as a general manager (GM) can be a daunting task. It begins the mould for your era. At the 2020 OHL Priority Selection on Saturday, Windsor Spitfires’ GM Bill Bowler began his legacy by focusing on multiple areas of need.

From 2014-19, former GM Warren Rychel always had a target, including the 2018 and 2019 drafts when he went after multiple forwards within the first two rounds. This season was different for Bowler. In his first draft, he made sure to check off several different boxes, ensuring plenty of options for the future.

Let’s take a look at who Bowler chose and the likelihood of them wearing the Spitfires’ colours in 2020-21.

200-Feet in Opening Two Rounds

With multiple defensive holes, it felt guaranteed that Bowler would bring in an elite defenceman with his first pick, 14th overall. Instead, he steered the plane in a different direction.

Bowler went for scoring, selecting centre Ryan Abraham out of Detroit Compuware Under-15s. The 5-foot-7, 148 pounder had 9 goals and 23 points in 13 games in 2019-20.

Bowler told the Windsor Star that Abraham has leadership potential along with producing. “Intelligent, great hockey IQ, and a skilled player,” Bowler said.

“(He’s a) captain on his hockey team and just a guy who’s going to be a point producer all day long,” Bowler told the Windsor Star. (from ‘A pick-by-pick breakdown of all 14 selections by Spitfires in OHL Draft’, Windsor Star – 4/4/20)

Last year, first-round pick Wyatt Johnston waited a bit before reporting to the team. There’s no waiting now as Abraham has already said he’s coming.

Wyatt Johnston Windsor Spitfires
Windsor Spitfires’ 2019 first-round pick Wyatt Johnston. (CHL Images)

In the second round, Bowler had the 36th and 39th picks. First was the long-awaited defenceman, Nicholas De Angelis from the Mississauga Senators AAA. The 5-foot-11, 178 pounder had 16 points and 52 penalty minutes in 32 games last season. De Angelis is a strong, physical, two-way defenceman who can make smart passes on the rush.

To end the round, Bowler went to the crease, taking 6-foot-1, 177 pound goaltender Kyle Downey from the Toronto Nationals Minor Midget AAA. Called the “complete package” by Prospect Pipeline, he was considered one of the top goaltenders in the draft. Bowler told the Windsor Star that they had Downey tops on their list and he’s going to be a part of their future.

While defence seemed to be a necessity, going for a wide range of positions will benefit the Spitfires in the future. All three seem to be ready and willing to report and will play a role next season.

Middle Round Hopefuls

Since 2015, the Spitfires have become known for finding the heart-and-soul types from rounds three-through-six. Players like Cole Carter and Luke Boka in 2015, Tyler Angle in 2016, and Louka Henault and Daniel D’Amico in 2017 became tireless workers for the club. Getting that team-first depth is essential for creating a championship roster.

While the Spitfires didn’t have a third-round pick this year, thanks in part to the Will Cuylle trade in Sept. 2018, they had the 73rd and 77th-overall picks in the fourth round.

With the 73rd pick, Bowler added to the offence, selecting centre Coulson Pitre from the Richmond Hill Coyotes. The 5-foot-11, 150 pounder had 32 points in 28 games, and the Spitfires feel he’ll be a two-way player who can produce.

To finish off the fourth round, Bowler went back to defence, grabbing 6-foot-2, 185 pound Trevor McDowell from the Quinte Red Devils. With 20 points in 36 games, Bowler said he’s a big, mobile defender who has strong composure. Bowler didn’t have a fifth or sixth-round pick, but five selections in the top-80 gives him a nice foundation to work with going forward.

Late Round Potential?

The Spitfires continued their journey in the seventh round. Here is a summary of the team’s picks from rounds 7 through 15, including player vitals, stats from the OHL website and Elite Prospects, plus some information from Spitfires’ Director of Scouting Frank Evola via the Windsor Star.

  • 7th Round (134th overall) – D – Emerson Miller – Toronto Titans Minor Midget – 6-foot-1, 195 pounds – 10 points in 28 games.
  • 8th Round (154th overall) – F – Tyler Catalano – St. Louis Blues AAA 16U – 6-foot-2, 202 pounds – 22 points and 32 penalty minutes in 23 games. Evola said he’s a big guy with a good touch around the net. He has US National Team Development Program options but they will try to bring him over.
  • 9th Round (174th overall) – LW – Wylie Birkett – York-Simcoe Express Minor Midget – 6-foot-2, 169 pounds – 26 points and 42 penalty minutes in 34 games.
  • 10th Round (194th overall) – D – Kareem Alazem – New Jersey Rocket’s 15’s – 6-foot-2, 170 pounds – 19 points in 21 games.
  • 11th Round (214th overall) – RW – Luke Fritz – Huron-Perth Lakers Minor Midget – 5-foot-9, 148 pounds – 18 points and 28 penalty minutes in 17 games. Evola said he’s “kind of like (Toronto Maple Leafs Maple Leafs’) Zach Hyman”; does a bit of everything and plays aggressive.
Toronto Maple Leafs Zach Hyman
Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Zach Hyman (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)
  • 12th Round (234th overall) – C – Michael Mesic – Detroit Compuware 15’s – 5-foot-8, 140 pounds – 21 points in 21 games.
  • 13th Round (254th overall) – C – Josh Beiles – Mississauga Reps Minor Midget – 5-foot-11, 147 pounds – 13 points in 33 games.
  • 14th Round (280th overall) – C – Nicholas VanTessell – New Jersey Rockets 15’s – 6-foot, 154 pounds – 83 points in 44 games (elite prospects). Evola said, “if we get him, it’s a steal.”
  • 15th Round (294th overall) – C – Noah Morneau – Windsor AAA Zone Jr. Spitfires Minor Midgets – 5-foot-7, 135 pounds – 23 points in 32 games.

Bowler’s first draft as GM has plenty of positives for the future. He addressed every area and brought in kids who the team believes will play a gritty, productive style. With COVID-19 controlling life right now, nobody knows how the Summer will pan out. However, when hockey does return, this is a group that will be eager to show the team made the right choice.