Having the opportunity to have a pair of bonafide high NHL draft picks on the same CHL team is often a rare feat, but not one that is unprecedented. Recently, dynamic duos such as Patrick Kane and Sam Gagner in 2007 with London, and Brayden Schenn and Scott Glennie with Brandon just last season are fine examples of players who have both been very high NHL picks after playing on the same team in the CHL.
Looking across the CHL rosters today, there is one team that really jumps out at potentially having two Top 10 NHL picks waiting in the wings, that team being the Sudbury Wolves of the Ontario Hockey League. While the Wolves have continually had to battle the fact that many kids are not willing to come to Sudbury to play hockey, the team’s past two first round selections have changed that theme for the time being.
After a magical run in the 2006/2007 season that led to the Wolves coming up just short in a six game series against the Plymouth Whalers in the OHL Championship, the following season was certainly one to forget. After having their roster gutted by departures in the off-season, optimism for 2007/2008 was low and the season was nothing short of a struggle. Finishing the year with only 39 points, the Wolves got a bit of a silver lining in that they finished one point behind the Erie Otters which gave them the rights to the first overall selection in the 2008 OHL Priority Selection.
The Wolves used that pick to select highly touted center John McFarland who put up gaudy numbers with the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, the top AAA team in Ontario that season. After joining Sudbury, the right handed McFarland spent most of the season playing the left wing where he showed many flashes of why he has the ability to be a top NHL pick. McFarland has elite speed and an NHL shot which are the two main tools he relies on to create a lot of his offense off the rush. His overall game still needs some work, but there is no doubt that these two attributes are something that NHL scouts will be very excited about.
John McFarland (www.ontariohockeyleague.com)
While some may have expected more than a 21 goal, 52 point rookie season with the Wolves, McFarland earned a position with the Canadian Under 18 team as an underager and did not disappoint. After spending most of the tournament riding shotgun on the team’s top line, McFarland produced 3 goals and 8 points in only 5 games. McFarland also captained the Under 18 team at the recent Ivan Hlinka tournament where he was a key component in leading the team to the gold medal. McFarland will no doubt enter the season as a consensus Top 10 selection and if he can show an increased commitment to his positional play and the defensive end of the ice, there is nothing stopping him from climbing the ladder in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft.
The second component to Sudbury’s elite young duo is defenseman Justin Sefton, who will certainly be making a name for himself in the OHL this season. After spending his OHL draft year playing with the famed Notre Dame Hounds AAA team, the Thunder Bay native was a key piece of the team’s run all the way to winning the Air Canada Cup as Midget AAA Canadian Champions. Sefton was picked up by Sudbury with the 5th Overall pick in this summer’s OHL Priority Selection, as some felt he might have slipped due to the fact he could be in the NHL before the age of 20. A 1993 birthdate, Sefton will not be eligible until the 2011 Entry Draft, however.
He isn’t a player who is going to overwhelm you with offensive flare, but he will be a player you notice all game long when he is busy making life miserable for opposing forwards. Sefton is already an imposing figure with NHL size despite being only 16 years old. The 6’2” defenseman is a tremendous skater for his size and is extremely good in his own end. He competes hard on the ice and takes the body whenever he has the opportunity to do so. His offensive game needs some refinement, but he does have a very good shot and he makes a good first pass.
Justin Sefton (www.thehockeynews.com)
Suffice to say, Sudbury fans are in for some very exciting seasons with these two players on the roster. While McFarland has the elite offensive ability to be a high end point producer, having a defensive force like Justin Sefton on the blue-line is the icing on the cake. If things go according to plan for both of these players, you can certainly mark these guys down as players who will have their names called early in the first round of the 2010 and 2011 NHL Entry Drafts. While fans never want to see their team’s struggle in the CHL, these two players are prime examples of the types of players that you can add to your roster if you find yourself drafting high in the first round.
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