By Paul Krotz/OHL
While the OHL Priority Selection might be most exciting for minor midget players and their families, OHL Director of Recruitment/Education Services Kyle Raftis and Phoenix Coyotes Amateur Scout Jeff Twohey both share in the enjoyment of draft day and offering advice for future OHL stars.
“Thinking back to my draft year brings back a lot of fond memories,” said Raftis who was a second round selection of the Oshawa Generals in 2002 before winning an OHL Championship with Twohey and the Petes in 2006. “Sitting at the computer and clicking refresh on the results page was nerve-racking at the time, but it was also fun to see your teammates and guys you played against get picked by different clubs.”
Raftis wasn’t nervous about this year’s draft but rather excited to see the names of so many players he worked with throughout his first season in a new position.
“The draft definitely brings the season full circle,” he said. “You start the year visiting clubs and speaking at tournaments and helping players and their families understand the league, it’s great to see those names on draft day knowing how excited they are for the next level.”
This season Twohey returned to the set of the Priority Selection Draft Show for a third season of providing analysis on the players chosen and the teams making the picks.
“As a scout, draft day is exciting,” said Twohey, who spent 17 years as General Manager of the Peterborough Petes. “You work so hard all season evaluating and projecting talent before finally being able to put some of your work into play.”
Now scouting amateur talent instead of focusing on minor hockey, Twohey’s excitement in the Priority Selection comes with the knowledge that OHL prospects soon turn into NHL prospects.
“A lot of physical change happens once a player gets drafted,” said Twohey, who remembers Zach Bogosian grew three inches and gained 40 pounds two years after his OHL draft, also noting the physical maturation of famous Petes’ grad Eric Staal. “A lot of people laughed at us when we drafted Eric in 2000 because he was only 5’11 and 145lb, but looking back you could make the case he turned out to be one of the best players.”
Once drafted, players attend rookie camps where they are provided fitness and conditioning programs for the off-season to help give them the best opportunity to compete when main training camps open in August.
“Training camp can be intimidating at first,” Raftis recalls. “You go from being one of the top players on your team to battling for a spot on a roster alongside players that have already been to NHL camps. You really have to trust your skills and preparation and learn from the veterans about what it takes to stay in the league and compete.”
Twohey notes the mental approach and desire to compete and succeed that players need to push upon themselves before they get too caught up in draft day excitement or taking their rookie year for granted.
“All the skill in the world means nothing if the player isn’t committed,” Twohey said. “Teams might select some players based on ability and hockey sense but they are really hoping that character and commitment make the player a gem.”
Twohey stresses the importance of focus and commitment moving forward applies for every player in the draft and even those that were overlooked.
“Wherever someone is picked an opportunity is presented,” he added. “In 1995 we picked Shawn Thornton after he was passed over in two different drafts and he went on to win two Stanley Cup rings.
“Real players put their head down and do the work. They either justify why they were picked high, or else prove that they deserved to be picked higher.”