Jr. Canadiens teammates Ty Nelson, Pano Fimis go 1-2 in OHL draft
Event proceedings, celebratory gatherings altered due to coronavirus pandemic
Teammates Ty Nelson and Pano Fimis were the top two picks in the Ontario Hockey League's Priority Selection Draft on Saturday.
Nelson, a 16-year-old defenceman from the Greater Toronto Hockey League's Toronto Jr. Canadiens, was announced by the North Bay Battalion as the first overall pick on Friday, the night before the OHL draft formally began.
Fimis, a centre with the GTHL's Canadiens, was taken second overall on Saturday morning by the Niagara IceDogs.
North Bay had the first overall pick when the season was cancelled on March 18 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nelson led all GTHL defencemen in regular-season scoring with 32 points (11 goals, 21 assists) over 33 games. He then posted a league-best 12 points over 11 playoff contests as he helped lead the Jr. Canadiens to the league title.
"I want to thank my mother, father and sister for all of their dedication, love and hard work they've put into helping me get here," Nelson said Friday in a statement released by the OHL. "I also want to say thank you to all of the coaches, teachers and trainers that I've had over the years as they've shaped the player that I am today."
Added Battalion general manager Adam Dennis: "Those close to our team have seen the growth in the second half of the season and the promise in our young group. "It's imperative that we add to this momentum, and we feel that in Ty we're adding a player and a person that can do that."
Fimis had 14 goals and 28 assists in 32 games for the Jr. Canadiens. Three more centres were taken after Fimis on Saturday.
Highly touted Fantilli chosen 18th overall
Maxim Namestnikov was selected third by the Sarnia Sting, Bryce McConnell-Barker was picked fourth by the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, and the Kingston Frontenacs made Paul Ludwinski the fifth overall pick.
Namestnikov is the younger brother of Colorado Avalanche forward Vladislav Namestnikov. The younger Namestnikov had 53 goals and 75 assists in 59 games for the midget Honeybaked U15 team, then had 12 goals and 11 assists in 13 games for the same team in the High Performance Hockey League.
Defenceman Jorian Donovan, the son of former NHLer Shean Donovan, was taken sixth overall by the Hamilton Bulldogs.
Highly touted prospect Adam Fantilli went 18th overall to the Saginaw Spirit.
Fantilli, is a six-foot-two 181-pound centre who spent 2019-20 with Kimball Union Academy — a US high school prep program based in Plainfield, N.H — who had already committed to the United States Hockey League's Chicago Steel on March 25.
That means it's very unlikely the Toronto native comes back north while allowing him to keep the NCAA route open when he turns 18.
Teams made picks through conference call
The Priority Selection has been held online every year since 2001. However, this year teams worked remotely and adhered to all government and public health guidelines on physical distancing when selecting the 2004-born skaters.
Team staff were not allowed to work the draft from their hockey offices or arenas and made their announcements through a conference call, most often from home.
Players were not permitted to enter into league offices for introductions and sweaters on draft day. They also weren't allowed to meet their new fans and interviews were out of the question.
The OHL also reminded prospects and their families that the province of Ontario has prohibited organized public gatherings and social gatherings of more than five people, keeping celebratory groups tight, while American-based OHL teams are following the rules set in place by their state.
The Western Hockey League Bantam Draft is scheduled for April 22 while the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Entry Draft goes June 6.