Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Media
Cobourg’s Ethan Miedema of the Quinte Red Devils had plenty of advance notice the Windsor Spitfires were going to select him with their first-round pick in the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection draft.
That didn’t take away the excitement of hearing his name called with Windsor’s fourth-overall pick on Friday night.
“I really had no words, I was so speechless and overall such a great day with the family and looking forward to getting down to Windsor to meet everyone,” said Miedema, who enjoyed the draft with parents Jeremy and Amy and younger brothers Colby and Zachary.
There was speculation that Miedema, an elite winger, would be selected in the top-five and not get past Windsor at No. 4.
“I knew a few days before, obviously kept it quiet, but I’m really happy in Windsor,” Miedema said, noting he’s been able to get a virtual tour of the Spitfires’ facilities. “Bill Bowler the GM has been great with online interviews. I haven’t been down there yet, but it seems like a great hockey town. The rink’s huge, one of the nicest rinks in the league. I can’t wait to play in front of their great fans. I’ve been told by some of their players that it’s a great spot to play so I’m just looking forward to getting down there for the start of the season.”
Miedema became the highest Red Devils player selected in the OHL draft. The distinction previously belonged to another Northumberland County resident, Grafton’s Brady Gilmour, who was selected sixth overall by the Saginaw Spirit in 2015.
“The work is kind of starting now, but obviously it’s a huge accomplishment and I definitely appreciate that,” Miedema said. “I’m really just looking forward to the future. I know Brady’s a great guy and I really looked up to him.”
Considering the Spitfires were having a great season when the league shut down in 2020 and would normally have been selecting a player later in the first round, the organization was thrilled to receive the fourth overall pick from the OHL draft lottery.
“When we received the good fortune of the fourth overall pick, we felt fortunate and lucky to have Ethan sitting there,” general manager Bowler told Total Sports Media. “It was just a great moment for our organization and a young man with this type of upside and ability is a huge piece to add to our group.”
While no U16 games were played this season, Bowler said the organization has a good grasp on eligible players before they enter their draft year. The club was also able to continue watching video and talk to coaches and scouts.
“Every time you went to the rink, for me, he kept improving. The video, you just see a guy with offensive ability. He has all the tools…and when you dive deeper into the character and the drive and the work ethic, we just can’t be more thrilled,” Bowler said.
At 6-foot-4, 180 pounds, Miedema will bring more size to the Windsor roster as well as offence. Red Devils coach Tyler Longo noted in a previous interview that Miedema registered over 100 points in his U15 year before the U16 season was wiped out.
“Some attributes that kind of describe me would be hardworking, determined and focus, but I would say my strengths would be my IQ and vision,” Miedema said. “I think that’s my best strength and then my second and third would be my speed and my hands and how I kind of use all three of those to create plays for myself and my teammates in all three zones.”
Miedema is also a talented lacrosse player with the Northumberland Nemesis.
“It’s one of the best crossover sports, lacrosse to hockey and vice-versa,” he said. “Hand-eye coordination, I’ve definitely gotten way better, just playing with the stick and the ball whether it’s on a rebound or at practice. You’ve got to be conditioned to play lacrosse and it comes into play with hockey as well.”
Although Miedema was taken early in the draft, he kept watching eagerly awaiting his Red Devils teammates to be selected.
“I wanted to support all my teammates and all the boys so I’ve been watching the draft ever since. Really just watching all the Quinte guys, my teammates, get drafted…I’m really super-excited for those guys…as well as my new Windsor Spitfires teammates that have been drafted to Windsor like me. I can’t wait to get started with all of them and looking forward to camp.”
Prior to Miedema’s selection, the Sudbury Wolves drafted right-winger Quentin Musty of the North Jersey Avalanche first overall and the Oshawa Generals took centre Calum Ritchie from the Oakville Rangers U16 team second while the Guelph Storm used the third pick on defenceman Cameron Allen of the Toronto Nationals U16 team.
The first three rounds of the OHL draft were completed on Friday night.
Cal Uens, of Napanee, was the second Red Devils player selected. He was chosen in the third round (42nd overall) by the Owen Sound Attack.
Based on some pre-draft projections, Uens said he didn’t expect to still be on the board when it came to Owen Sound’s next pick, but he’s glad he was.
“It was pretty nerve-wracking,” Uens remarked. “They were actually my number one or two spot that I wanted to go so it was super exciting when I saw my name called by them. Even though I slipped a little bit, it worked out really well.”
In a story on the club’s website, the Attack noted the transition Uens made from forward to becoming a dynamic defenceman during the 2019-20 season.
“Cal should be impactful right away,” Owen Sound head scout and director of player development Sean Lafortune stated. “He plays with high-end pace that projects to be a power play quarterback in his time with the team.”
Owen Sound’s style of play was a key attraction for Uens.
“They like to play a high-speed puck possession game and that’s definitely something I like to do,” he said. “I love to have the puck on my stick, I like to control the play and I’m never looking to dump-and-chase. I’m always trying to keep possession of the puck and create opportunities for my teammates. That’s kind of the style they play and should translate nicely into my game.”
Uens initially moved to defence to help his Red Devils team, which at the time had a depleted blueline due to injuries. He opted to move forward in his career as a defenceman.
“I just found that I got a lot more puck-touches on the back-end and I really got a lot more involved in every game and was a bigger piece of the team,” Uens said. “I really didn’t care whether I was playing forward or ‘D’ but our team needed a little more help on the ‘D’ side so I fell back there and fell in love with it.”
Uens said his focus now turns to earning a roster spot with the Attack next season. Playing in Owen Sound is another factor that played into his desire to be drafted by the club.
“It’s a smaller city and I’m not a big-city kid so it’s nice to go to a smaller city,” Uens said. “They get sell-out crowds there a lot. It’s a smaller barn, but they pack it pretty well every night so I can’t wait for that experience. Come September, hopefully I can crack the lineup. I think it would just be the most amazing thing to be able to play in front of thousands of fans.”
Two Red Devils players didn’t have to wait long to hear their names called when the draft continued Saturday with rounds 4 to 15.
Early in the fourth round, the Ottawa 67’s looked to the Quinte team for its next two picks, selecting forwards Ethan Quick, of Quinte West, at No. 64 overall and Belleville’s Jack Dever at No. 68.
Quick was following the draft Saturday morning with his parents, brother and grandparents.
“My dad got a text from my agent saying ‘Ottawa’s going to take him’ a couple picks before (it happened), but he never showed me,” Quick said. “He knew, my grandparents knew, but I was still sitting there anxious and saw my name and everyone jumped up. It was huge, it was unreal.”
Having worked towards the goal of being drafted by an OHL club for a long time, the pick by Ottawa relieved Quick of a lot of stress and anxiety.
“It’s the best feeling ever,” he said. “To be drafted in the fourth round is a huge honour. I just can’t wait to keep working and continue the accomplishments. The real work starts now…work even harder, extra motivation with my trainer and power skating coaches every day and putting my full effort into making sure I’m the best player I can be when September rolls around.”
With the draft continuing, Quick’s phone “was blowing up” with messages of congratulations and his brother, Joshua, pointed out Dever had also been selected by the 67’s four picks later.
“With Jack being my best friend, it’s unreal to have him there with me, someone I’ve played with and work well together with,” Quick said.
Dever, meanwhile, was excited for Quick’s selection before he soon was able to celebrate his own as well.
“I thought that it was great for Ethan. I was very proud of him, just being able to play with him the last couple years being his linemate,” Dever said. “I thought that it was a great accomplishment for him. When I saw my name come up, I was honoured to be selected by Ottawa and it was just a great accomplishment for myself and made me feel very good about myself.”
Dever received a phone call from 67’s general manager James Boyd right before his name was announced.
“It was great. I’ve always dreamed of getting drafted to the OHL. I was just so excited to finally hear my name be called,” Dever said, noting it has taken a lot of hard work to get to this point. “Just lots of training five or six days a week, runs, workouts, shooting pucks, stickhandling and being on the ice normally, not this year because of COVID, but the last couple years being on the ice five times a week.”
Boyd was certainly pleased to add Quick and Dever to the club’s prospects through the draft on Saturday.
“We were high on both of the Quinte players and had trouble passing on them in previous rounds so we were very excited to pick them in the fourth,” the 67’s GM told Total Sports Media. “Our goal was to address skill up front after graduating some of the top offensive players in the OHL and both Dever and Quick fit that mold.”
Boyd said Quick has “excellent vision and always around the heavy traffic areas of the ice, has the ability to make plays under pressure” while “using his size and strength to his advantage.”
Dever is a “high-energy player who is always on the move and knows where the puck is going before he gets it,” Boyd said, adding that he’s a proven annual point-producer in his age group and “a leader who plays with a lot of heart.”
In the fifth round, the Kingston Frontenacs used the 94th overall pick on Belleville’s Duncan Schneider, who is a defenceman for the Red Devils.
Schneider was watching the draft and right after hearing his name selected received a phone call from Frontenacs head coach and general manager Paul McFarland.
“It’s just amazing to see because of the work I’ve put into my game,” Schneider said. “The draft was crazy, players going (in spots) you didn’t think would go and players not going you think would’ve gone. I’ve watched previous ones, but when you’re in it, you’re just sitting there waiting and the music is playing and you’re just waiting for your name to be called.”
Schneider noted he has worked with Frontenacs staff members in the past such as Chris Longo and Kory Cooper.
“It’s an honour to be drafted by them. I think it’s a great place for me,” Schneider said. “I’ve just got to put in the work. Everything’s difficult, it has been for a while with COVID, hard to get ice time, but I think there’s a lot you can do away from the ice. That’s something I’ll definitely be doing a lot of and something I did a lot last year and I’ll take it to the next level this summer.”
When the Red Devils were able to get on the ice this season, Schneider certainly appreciated the opportunity he had to continue developing his game.
“Ty Longo, our coach, he did a great job. It can seem like it gets boring when you’re going to three practices a week and you’re not playing any games, but he did a great job with it,” Schneider said. “Also, the teammates, competing like we weren’t on the same team at times when you maybe get into not as friendly battles on the ice, but it’s definitely what you need. At this point in your hockey career, that’s what you would experience when you’re playing other teams so I think it was a great job by Ty and the players loved it.”
As the draft continued into Saturday afternoon, the Guelph Storm were pleased Christopher Brydges, of Cobourg, was still available in the ninth round. The Storm used the 162nd overall pick to select the Red Devils’ defenceman.
“It means everything. I’ve been working my whole life to get to this point and Guelph’s just a great city, a great organization so just being drafted into an environment like that is pretty special,” Brydges said.
Brydges said he “was getting really anxious” as the rounds began to add up.
“For some reason there’s a lot of Christophers in the draft so every time I heard Christopher I kind of got up a little bit and relaxed after it wasn’t me, but when my name got called I was pretty excited,” he said.
Guelph head scout Wade Branch stated in a comment to Total Sports Media that “Brydges is a very steady defensemen, possesses a very good skill level, hockey sense and puck moving ability. He was a very important piece to his team’s success last year and is a very efficient player in all three zones.”
Brydges said he received a call from Storm head coach and general manager George Burnett shortly after the pick was made.
“It was pretty cool. Obviously he’s a well-respected guy around the league so I think just getting the phone call from him kinda put the cherry on top for the draft, for me at least,” Brydges said. “I think they expect from me what they expect from everybody: bring your ‘A’ game every time you’re on the ice or off the ice and be a respectful guy outside the rink as well.”
Brydges knows it will take “a lot of hard work and dedication” to earn a roster spot with the Storm in the future.
“I think that being physically ready and mentally ready before any ice time is huge nowadays, especially right now during the pandemic,” he said. “I think really just keeping myself sharp and keeping myself in tip-top shape is going to be the biggest thing for me to be able to step up to the next level.”
In the 13th round, the Hamilton Bulldogs selected Red Devils goaltender Ethan Beattie, of Whitby, with the 253rd overall pick.