BY SCOTT HUNTER HADDOW
The Sudbury Wolves had a plan going into the 2003 OHL priority draft and they stuck to it.
The plan was to bolster the defence and they did just that by making their first three picks blueliners.
Â?We set objectives going into the draft and we met them,Â? said Blaine Smith, vice-president of hockey operations and interim general manager. Â?We wanted to shore up the defence and we did just that.Â?
With the second pick overall, the Wolves selected Marc Staal, a six-foot-two, 185-pound defenceman from the Thunder Bay Kings minor midget team. Staal, a Thunder Bay native recorded four goals, 27 points and amassed 49 penalty minutes in 49 games this past season. He is the younger brother of Peterborough PetesÂ? star centre Eric Staal, projected by many to be the first player selected in the NHL entry draft in June.
Â?He was a leader on the blueline for Thunder Bay and their best defenceman,Â? said Smith. Â?HeÂ?s the complete package.Â?
Wolves brass were impressed with the way Staal improved over the season.
Â?He got stronger and raised his game above every other defencemen in the league,Â? said Smith. Â?He makes a lot of correct decisions in pressure situations.Â?
Besides size and skill, Staal brings a great deal of leadership and character to the club.
Â?YouÂ?re not going to find a better player on and off the ice as far as leadership and character,Â? said Smith. Â?He comes from a solid hockey family and we feel he could be six-foot-four by the time he is 18.Â?
The Wolves were sold on StaalÂ?s defensive play.
Â?HeÂ?s very physical and heÂ?s great at the transition game,Â? said Smith. Â?He will not be like Bobby Orr and rush the puck up the ice, but heÂ?s excellent at making the first pass and getting the puck out of the defensive zone.Â?
With the 22nd pick in the second round, the Wolves nabbed defenceman Kyle Lamb of the York Simcoe Express minor midget team.
The five-foot-eleven, 185-pound blueliner recorded 25 goals and 43 assists, along with 98 penalty minutes in 69 games.
Â?HeÂ?s a very skilled defenceman and plays with an edge,Â? said Smith. Â?HeÂ?s the prototypical power play quarterback.Â?
The Wolves regarded Lamb as one of the top 20 skilled players in the draft regardless of position.
Â?He was rumoured to be going to college so some teams may have stayed away from him,Â? said Smith. Â?HeÂ?s been a captain on just about every team heÂ?s played on.Â?
Lamb may be small, but has tremendous poise and a great attitude.
Â?He doesnÂ?t play a small game and is very shifty.Â?
Both Staal and Lamb are represented by agent and legendary NHL superstar Bobby Orr.
Â?ThatÂ?s not a bad guy to have helping them out,Â? said Smith. Â?He will give them both great advice.Â?
From there the Wolves were ready to draft a forward, but when the 43rd pick came up and defenceman Adam McQuaid was still available they just couldnÂ?t resist.
Â?We couldnÂ?t believe Adam was still available,Â? said Smith. Â?This kid is another all around package.Â?
McQuaid, 17, is six-foot-three and weighs 175 pounds.
Â?It was a no brainer for us because he has the potential to play for us right away.Â?
The Wolves hoisted Dan Ellis with the 63rd pick. The six-foot, 175 pounder played for Port Colborne and could provide some offence.
The 16-year-old recorded 12 goals and 35 points in 54 games playing against 20-year-olds.
Â?He has great offensive upside,Â? said Smith.
The fifth round saw the Wolves scoop up Nick Foligno, son of former Wolves all-time great Mike Foligno.
Â?HeÂ?s skilled, very physical and plays with a lot of tenacity like his dad,Â? said Smith.
As with all young players, Smith stresses patience with the new players.
The Wolves are licking their chops at the thought of the CHL Import Draft at the end of June. They have the sixth pick overall.
Â?ThereÂ?s the potential to bring someone in who could make an impact right away, especially on offence.Â?