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Troops go heavy on 'hard to play against players' in 2024 draft

'They have a good batch this year'
2022 04 05 adam Dennis
File Photo - North Bay Battalion General Manager Adam Dennis.

After two days of drafting the North Bay Battalion “got a lot of the guys that we wanted that were high on our list,” North Bay General Manager Adam Dennis told Baytoday. "The more we do this the more we dial in exactly what we need, what we are looking for, and what works for us." 

According to Paul O’Hagen with Neutral Zone scouting, what the Battalion were looking for were players that are "hard nosed, have skill and are hard to play against."  

“They have a good batch this year,” says O’Hagen, the Ontario Director of Scouting for Neutral Zone (an In-depth amateur scouting coverage and rankings website) and he says “some of their picks have more to work on than others in terms of foot speed and pace,” adding a good number should be intriguing to watch when camp opens ahead of next season.  

The Battalion picked three forwards within their first four picks, including drafting 6’ 175lbs Centreman Ryder Carey 16th overall out of the Oakville Rangers program.  

“We had him near the top of our list all year, he’s a hard nosed winger who is great in every zone of the ice. He’s got good vision and can play with some of the best players in the province,” says O’Hagen. “He’s versatile as well, he played on the top line at the beginning of the year and was really putting up numbers but got moved down to the second line centre role at times towards the end of the year. He’s very competitive on the cycle and has shown he can play on the wing, he can play down the middle and he kills penalties.” 

The other forwards chosen within the first four picks are both Centres. Quinn Kipfer selected in the 5th round (90th overall) and Kam Hodgson taken in the 6th round (118th overall).  

“I actually liked Kipfer better on the wing when I saw him last year,” says O’Hagen. “He is able to take on a lot of guys one-on-one and he can isolate defenders on the wing and get in on the forecheck.” 

Meantime he says Hodgson, who was playing in the United States at Culver Academy is good on the cycle and can protect pucks. “He’s got good maturity when he handles the puck and plays a high IQ game. These three forwards are pretty versatile and can play any position up front and can play it really well.”  

In the 2nd round, 29th overall, the Battalion drafted Kent Greer, a right shot defenceman out of the Barrie Jr. Colts program. “He’s one of the elite defenders in his age group,” says O’Hagen. “He’s a puck mover, a bit undersized at 5’8” but not afraid to play his body in front of the net and protect the net. He can support the attack, he can run the power play and he’s got a heck of a shot. He’s going to be pretty good if he matures and fills out a bit. He was really fun to watch all year.” 

The second denceman taken by the Battalion came in the 6th round (121st overall) as 6’1 170lbs Right-D Devran Brown was picked out of the Ottawa Myers Automotive U16 AAA club. “That team won the Ottawa loop and he was on the top two pair. Pretty mobile for a big fella and someone who didn’t panic too much under a heavy forecheck,” says O’Hagen. “There’s a lot of potential there and he’ll have to focus on his mobility.”  

From rounds seven through nine the Battalion selected three forwards Austin Brekelmans (138th), Lucas Van Steensel (158th), and Jack Foley (172nd), as well as one defenseman, Jackson Webster (178) with two picks in round nine. 

“Brekelmans is a big physical winger, he can hit, you need to keep your head up around him,” says O’Hagen. “He’s got a heck of a shot on him to when he gets free. He put in some work this year and got better as the season went on and I thought he was the best player on Elgin-Middlesex in the OHL Cup.” 

“Van Steensel was also on that team and he has a similar game to his brother (current Battalion forward Owen) where he’s hard to play against, he’s going to outwork you and he has a high IQ, played on the top line for most of the year before getting hurt in the playoffs,” says O’Hagen. 

“Foley was head and shoulders the best player on the Kingston Jr. Gaels,” says O’Hagen. “He had 55 points this year and their next highest scorer had 33, so Foley was their offensive catalyst. He handles the puck well, he’s smart and crafty and he was very noticeable on that team.” 

“Big, lanky, strong skater who gets around the ice ok, and makes good stretch passes,” says O’Hagen about Webster. “Not too dissimilar to Brown and Greer.” 

Jacob Ceranic was the lone goalie chosen by the Battalion in the 2024 OHL Priority Selection. He was taken in the 10th round (198th overall). “He was dynamite this year,” says O’Hagen. “He played in a true tandem on that Oakville Rangers team, but he seemed to get the starts in a lot of key games. Down the stretch I saw him in the OMHA’s against Peterborough and he was outstanding, he had a shutout in the finals against Vaughn. Just a big game kid and when he challenged shooters he was tough to beat.” 

The Battalion also selected three North Bay born skaters, Left-D Samuel Rivet (11th round, 218th overall) who played with the Halton Hurricanes this past year as well as Right-D Aydin Beharie (14th round, 278th overall) and Right Winger Cameron Lockhart (15th round, 301st overall) whom both spent this past season at home with the North Bay Trappers U18 AAA club.  

“Rivet is a solid kid and plays a mature game,” says O’Hagen. “Battles in the corners well and protects the net well. I thought he looked like a junior level ready defender. He wasn’t afraid to jump in and support the attack.” 

Both the Trappers players spoke to Baytoday. Beharie says, "I like to move the puck a lot and I do whatever it takes to help the team win, blocking shots, big hits, no dumb penalties, I try to play with control.” 

O’Hagen says Beharie has a late birthday which will allow the Battalion to have him for an extra year of development. He says, “I saw him when they came down for the OHL Cup and he can handle the pace and he’s not afraid to step up and make the play, I like that about defenceman. He’ll protect the net well and play tough in the corners.” 

Meantime, Lockhart says, “I wanted to be a physical presence out there even if I'm playing against guys two years older than me. I am big, physical, hard on pucks. I am always in the corners, F 1, that kind of guy, battle and grind. That's my game."   

Lockhart full feature:  

“I really liked Lockhart’s game,” says O’Hagen. “Created havoc when he was out there, you had to keep your head up against him. He took on a couple of big defenders. He was hard on the cycle and was able to drive the net with the puck. Defenders had to really compete to keep him to the outside.” 
Rounding out the draft the Battalion selected Centreman Javian Nei in the 12th round, Right Winger Max Wetherup in the 12th round and Right-D Liam Watson in the 13th round. 

O’Hagen says, “Nei was one of their top centres. He was mobile, he gives hits and takes hits, might need to learn to take less hits against the older players, but he’s got skill and can play an abrasive game.” 

“Whetherup is a big body who battles in the corners and has some touch around the net, not afraid to get to the net. He was pretty productive for Whitby, I saw him score in a couple of games that he played in. Probably needs to get his feet going to get the pace up through the transition, but he plays tough on the forecheck.” 

Watson is another northern Ontario product, from Sault Ste. Marie and playing in the Soo Jr. Greyhounds program. At 5’5” O’Hagen says Watson is a gamer and the size shouldn’t fool you.  

“He isn’t afraid to step up and make a hit. He doesn’t backdown. Good puck handler who can run a power play. His game, with a few more inches on him, we would’ve been talking about him earlier because he can really play.” 

 All of the Battalion prospects will congregate in North Bay on April 26 and 27 for the Battalion Orientation Camp at Memorial Gardens.    

Matt Sookram

About the Author: Matt Sookram

Matthew Sookram is a Canadore College graduate. He has lived and worked in North Bay since 2009 covering different beats; everything from City Council to North Bay Battalion.
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