Spitfires hope to find gem in trio of players taken in OHL Under-18 Draft

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Spitfires general manager Bill Bowler has selected three players who were bypassed a year ago when COVID-19 wiped out the season for most minor hockey players.

“We’re getting three more looks at these kids and giving them a chance to be part of our hockey club,” Bowler said. “Each child did something to get the attention of our Scouts.

“We watch a lot of hockey, we’ve seen a lot of it in their Minor Midget year and things change when we go to Major Midget and the coaches use you differently. »

Defender Cameron Eke had his season wiped out by the pandemic a year ago and wasn’t surprised he wasn’t drafted.

“I was about 5-foot-9 and 150 pounds before last year’s draft,” said Eke, 17, who is now 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds. “It was tough after last year and disappointing and some guys who don’t get caught give up and don’t believe, but I think I’ve become more motivated to show people who I am and what I can do. »

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The St. Catharines native played for the Niagara North Stars under-18 team where he scored seven goals and had 17 points in 21 games. He also played 10 Junior B games with Niagara.

“We loved him in his draft year and knew he had a good brain and hopefully he can take advantage of that opportunity,” Bowler said.

The Spitfires will lose Louka Henault and Andrew Perrott to graduation after this season, which means there will be opportunities on defense.

“I just have to get stronger over the summer to give myself the best chance to break into the roster,” Eke said. “It’s definitely an exciting day for all my work throughout the season. »

Goaltender Tre Altiman was the only player withdrawn from the Windsor Jr. Spitfires Zone AAA team in Thursday’s draft. Altiman, who hails from Chatham, joined the club this year after spending most of his minor hockey time with the Chatham-Kent Cyclones.

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“He played a lot in his minor hockey career,” Bowler said. “He’s not the greatest goaltender, but he finds a way to stop the pucks and he performed well.

In 17 games this season, the 5-foot-10, 161-pound Altiman posted a 2.03 goals-against-average and one shutout with the Junior Spitfires.

Windsor closed out the draft by selecting 17-year-old center Alec Stewart, who plays for the Mississauga Reps under-18 team and also got Junior B time with Brantford.

“He’s a really competitive kid,” Bowler said of the 5-foot-11, 166-pound Stewart. “That’s the kind of kid you need on your list.

“He can win draws, kill penalties, is a hard worker and just a good teammate. He’s off to the Telus Cup and hopefully winning a national championship.

Since the introduction of the draft in 2017, the Spitfires have only had two players to play a regular season game with the team. Goaltender Matt Tovell, who was a second-round pick in 2019, played two seasons and 10 games. Forward Jackson McLlwain, who was a 2020 third-round pick, played two games with the club last season.

“Kids develop at different times and we think these three are real competitive players and create depth,” Bowler said.

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