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Battalion set to draft first overall

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This Saturday, the 2020 edition of the OHL Priority Selection will play out.

For the North Bay Battalion, the team will be drafting first overall, after finishing out the 2019/20 OHL campaign with a 17-41-4 record, good for 38 points and last in the league.

“We’re happy to have the first overall pick,” Battalion General Manager Adam Dennis said. “North Bay can get excited about it, and I think it will really help improve our squad.”

The last time the Battalion drafted first was in the 1998 draft when the team first came into the league. That selection was Jay Harrison, who would spend four seasons in Battalion green, posting 19 goals, and 78 assists for 97 points in 245 games. The defender was then drafted in the third round, 82nd overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2001 NHL draft. He would lace ‘em up for 372 NHL games spent with Toronto, Carolina and Winnipeg.

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The last time North Bay drafted in the top five was in 2017 when they selected Brandon Coe third overall. Coe figures to go in the NHL draft later this year.

However, there is a different hurdle for North Bay to get past this year, and that’s the lack of interaction with top prospects due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That includes not being able to provide tours of the facilities at Memorial Gardens.

“We are lucky enough to have advances in technology,” Dennis said. “We’re going to be in touch with players and families and showcase our facilities and town through options like webinars. We will be able to give a virtual tour as opposed to an in-person tour.”

The top name on fan’s minds is that of Adam Fantilli. It could have gone either way last year in who the league decided to give exceptional status to, between him and Shane Wright, before ultimately granting it to Wright, who put up impressive numbers with Kingston this past season. The only question is if he will report, as he and his older brother have committed to the Chicago Steel of the USHL for the 2020/21 season.

Fantilli isn’t the only big name out there, however. Defender Ty Nelson, Pano Fimis, Kocha Delic, and Bryce McConnell-Barker all offer up interesting options. Either way, for owner Scott Abbott, it is all about acquiring young talent.

“We hope to acquire a great deal of talent in this draft and the next few drafts and we are certainly in position to do it this year with the first overall selection,” he said. “We are doing our due diligence towards that selection and we feel good about where we are going.”

Knowing the team is picking first has taken some of the stress off of Dennis, if only slightly.

“It puts the numbers in place right now,” he explained. “We know we are picking at number one, and number 30. It gives us an idea to dial in on who we think is going to be there, not necessarily with the first pick but certainly with the 30th pick. It gives us an idea of what to forecast and puts things closer to reality.”

For the Battalion, the team is looking to follow up on a so-far successful 2019 draft class. Last year’s draft netted the team Liam Arnsby along with Paul and Alex Christopoulos with their first three selections. The trio showed potential throughout the last season.

“I think it’s really important to follow up on the success that we had last year,” Dennis stated. “We went in with a plan, we went in with a prototype of a player we wanted to bring into town and I think it is important we stay stubborn with our plan and continue to add players that are going to contribute and contribute the way we want.”

The draft starts Saturday at 9:00 a.m., but normally the first overall pick is announced the day prior. For North Bay fans, they won’t have to wait too long to find out which name will be stitched on their next jersey.

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