The Oakville Rangers minor bantam AAA team dominated their age group two years ago and now they’re looking to do the same in the early rounds of Friday’s OHL Priority Selection.
Led by top prospect Calum Ritchie, the powerhouse Rangers squad could have as many as four players drafted in the opening round of the OHL draft on Friday night.
Ritchie won’t have to wait long before hearing his name called. The smooth skating 16-year-old is expected to be among the top three picks overall.
The Sudbury Wolves, who won the OHL Draft Lottery and hold the first overall selection, are expected to take forward Quentin Musty of the North Jersey Avalanche.
The Oshawa Generals hold the second pick, followed by Guelph Storm. Both Ritchie and top offensive defenceman Cameron Allen are expected to round out the top three overall selections.
Armed with high-end skill and a strong skater, Ritchie is arguably the top two-way player in his age group.
“He’s going to be good, he just needs to play with a little more jam sometimes,” said an OHL scout, who added Ritchie reminds him a lot of current Winnipeg Jets star Mark Scheifele.
“He’s a good skater, a good playmaker. He’s a good shooter and takes pucks to the net. He makes plays and works his ass off. He comes from a great family.”
His older brother, Ethan Ritchie, is a defenceman with the Kingston Frontenacs.
“(Calum) checks all the boxes, totally,” the scout said.
Another Oakville Rangers graduate who could find himself going in the top five of the draft is centre Nick Lardis.
The five-foot-10, 155-pound 15-year-old forward is a dynamic offensive player who had 40 goals in 37 games in his bantam year.
“Nick Lardis is a great offensive player,” said Darrell Woodley, OHL Director of Scouting. “Probably one of his best attributes is his skating ability. With the game being so fast-paced today, it’s the reason why Nick is so successful.
“He played on Oakville which was a power house team, but you still got to put the puck in the net, you still got to do all those little things and Nick is very strong in all aspects of the game.”
Lardis sees himself as a fast, skilled two-way player who is creative and can make plays in all three zones.
“I love to play the game at a high speed, just making quick and smart decisions,” he said. “And really just using my speed and stickhandling to my advantage to help me beat players one-on-one.”
Luke Misa is another Oakville player who is certain to find himself off the board in the first round thanks to his tremendous speed.
The five-foot-11, 160-pound centre played a big role in Oakville’s success during minor bantam and they likely would have been a powerhouse this year in minor midget had not the pandemic shut down play.
“They were a quick team and he was probably their quickest straight-line skater,” Woodley said. “Not many guys in his age group could keep up with him. He played 33 games and had 31 goals.”
Ottawa native Owen Outwater was a force with the Rangers. The six-foot-three, 170-pound winger is a big, skilled forward who blends scoring touch with a good stride.
“He’s a big threat when he’s on the ice, whether it’s scoring goals or setting up goals he makes his teammates better around him,” Woodley said of the 16-year-old winger.
“He’s got the skill and ability to beat defenders one-on-one as well. He’s not afraid to have the puck on his stick. ”
The 2021 OHL Priority Selection runs June 4-5. Rounds 1-3 will take place on Friday night, beginning at 7 p.m. Rounds 4-15 go Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m.
The draft can be seen on www.youtube.com/ontariohockeyleagueofficial.