Wolves draft picks look to junior A, B teams for next phase of development

Just when and how the next hockey season will commence is still uncertain, though optimism has been buoyed, at least somewhat, by Canada’s relative success in combatting COVID-19.

Lingering questions about the status of the coming campaign, however, have done little to dissuade Sudbury Wolves prospects from making arrangements for 2020-21, with several committing to junior clubs in recent weeks.

The Pack wasted little time in signing its top three draft picks from this year’s OHL Priority Selection, those being first-rounder David Goyette, second-rounder Kocha Delic and fourth-rounder Evan Konyen (Sudbury had no third-round selection), all of whom were inked by mid-April. And while most of their fellow draft picks have the ultimate goal of joining them in donning the Blue, White and Grey eventually, many have already taken steps to ensure they’ll have roster spots with junior A or B teams, for what will be a key year in their development.

Goalie Ethan Morrow, the Wolves’ sixth-round pick, 105th overall, in this year’s draft, recently signed with the Wellington Dukes, almost always a competitive entry in the Ontario Junior Hockey League.

Morrow, a 6-foot, 165-pound Kingston native is coming off a successful season with his hometown U16 squad, having posted a 2.73 goals-against average in 19 regular-season games, followed by a 2.15 GAA in six playoff contests.

Another sixth-round selection, defenceman Wilson Farrow, has returned to his Greater Sudbury stomping grounds after two seasons in the Greater Toronto Hockey League. The smooth-skating 5-foot-10, 165-pound rearguard was inked by the Rayside-Balfour Canadians of the NOJHL last month, after the Wolves made him the 111th pick in the OHL draft.

Farrow had four goals and 11 assists in 32 games with the Toronto Nationals U16s in 2019-20. He’ll join Samuel Assinewai, his former teammate in the Nickel City Sons system, on the Rayside roster. Assinewai was drafted by the OHL’s Flint Firebirds.

Defenceman Josh Hoover, a 10th-round choice, 191st overall, stayed close to home by signing with the Sarnia Legionnaires of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League, after spending his draft year with the Lambton Junior Sting of the Alliance Hockey U16 loop. Hoover is no stranger to the Legionnaires, having played two games for the junior B team as an affiliate in 2019-20.

The 5-foot-10, 194-pounder showed potential as an offensive defenceman this past season, with nine goals and 15 assists in only 26 regular-season games. His average of 0.92 points per game was first among Alliance blueliners. Giving a hint of his hard-hitting physical style was the Sarnia native’s total of 51 penalty minutes.

Devin Mauro, a highly skilled forward who could prove one of Sudbury’s highest-value picks as an 11th-round, 211th-overall selection, also signed where he had previously played as an affiliate. Following his older brother, Justin, Mauro signed with the Blind River Beavers, Rayside’s chief rivals in the NOJHL West Division this past season.

Mauro, a 5-foot-6, 141-pound Sault Ste. Marie native who only turned 16 last month, had an impressive 30 goals and 32 assists in 39 games with the Soo Greyhounds U18 squad this past season.

Moving to the OHL Under-18 Priority Selection, third-round pick Owen Hardy has committed to Lake Forest Academy, a prep school in Lake Forest, Ill., though the speedy 5-foot-8, 175 Stittsville, Ont. native has stressed that his ultimate objective is to make the Wolves roster.

That is certainly the goal for many of the Wolves’ 2019 draft selections, as well, including defenceman Andre Anania, who is an odds-on favourite to make the team after a standout season with the Stouffville Spirit, Sudbury’s affiliate in the OJHL. Anania signed with the Wolves after training camp last year and saw some pre-season action with the OHL team.

The same goes for forward Nick DeGrazia, a first-round pick in the 2019 U18 draft and the reigning NOJHL rookie of the year after a stellar season with Rayside-Balfour Canadians.

Another player who may have had a strong case for a roster spot, yet appears set on a different path for the time being, is 2019 seventh-round pick Ryan Gillespie, a right-winger who recently committed to Clarkson University. The swift-skating 6-foot, 174-pounder had a fine season with the Brockville Braves of the Central Canada Hockey League, with 22 goals and 19 assists in 59 games, and made the CCHL all-rookie team.

Gillespie joined forward Red Savage (sixth round, 117th) and defencemen Payton Robinson (fifth round, 97th) and Trevor Mitchell (14th round, 277th) as 2019 picks who have committed to NCAA programs.

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