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Wolves pick second overall in Saturday?s OHL draft

BY SCOTT HUNTER HADDOW After the nightmarish season the Sudbury Wolves finished, there are questions to be answered and holes to be filled.
BY SCOTT HUNTER HADDOW

After the nightmarish season the Sudbury Wolves finished, there are questions to be answered and holes to be filled.

The Wolves are hoping to address both at this yearÂ?s Ontario Hockey League priority draft set for this weekend on Saturday, May 3.

Because of finishing with the second worst record in the entire league, the Wolves will have the benefit of selecting second overall.

Â?We consider it to be a fairly deep draft,Â? said Blaine Smith, vice-president of hockey operations and interim general manager. Â?I think we can draft players in the third and fourth rounds who will be impact players down the road.Â?

With such a high pick itÂ?s easy to get excited about a top player pulling on the silver and blue for the upcoming season. Unfortunately for the Wolves, three of the top rated players rated have adamantly stressed through their agents they will not play in OHL.

Americans Bobby Ryan, and Phil Kessel and Canadian Andrew Cogliano, all highly skilled forwards, whom the Wolves could use, have indicated they will play college hockey and will be looking at accepting American scholarship packages rather than any invitation to an OHL camp.

Â?You can pick them, but itÂ?s a huge risk and we donÂ?t want to be in the position Kingston was in last year.Â?

The Frontenacs took Wes OÂ?Neill second overall last year, even though he stressed he wanted to play college. OÂ?Neill never dressed one game for Kingston.

Â?ThatÂ?s a big loss for a club,Â? said Smith. Â?Ideally you want to draft the best player who really wants to play in the OHL.Â?

Heading into the crucial draft, the Wolves will go with the Â?best player availableÂ? mentality, said Smith.

The club is leaning towards addressing their blue line with several of its top picks this year.

Â?Our top four picks last year were forwards,Â? said Smith. Â?We need to bring in some top notch defencemen at some point who can step in and help.Â?

The Wolves will also look for firepower.

Oscar Clouthier, assistant GM, Mike Schutte, head scout and Smith will be making the decisions this year following the firing of coach and general manager Bert Templeton following the 2002-2003 season.

These three amigos and the rest of the scouting staff have spent a lot of time scouting players who could best fit into a Wolves uniform and depth chart.

The Wolves are looking for players with skill, skating speed and character.

The Wolves top three picks last year all played with the big club.

Craig Voakes showed some offensive flair with 11 goals and 27 points in 61 games. It took him most of the season to get going, but once he was given increased ice time, Howie Martin showed he has the potential to be a solid contributor. Martin was one of the WolvesÂ? best players over the past dozen or so games and scored several big goals down the stretch.

Brett Connolly, who many considered a bust, is expected to work hard over the summer and be prepared to receive more ice time, said Smith. The good news in regards to Connolly is while he never did score his first OHL goal, he managed a five-game point streak late in the season, once again after receiving increased ice time.

The Wolves are hoping two prospects from last yearÂ?s draft will step in and supply the club with scoring and help on the blueline.

Sean Grendus, a left winger from the Burlington Cougars of the Ontario provincial junior league, had 13 goals, 18 assists and racked up 119 penalty minutes in 41 games. Grendus made a huge impression when he was called up after injuries decimated the Wolves after Christmas scoring four goals and five points in only four games.

Jonathan DÂ?Aversa, a defenceman with the Stouffville Spirit of the provincial junior league, had four goals and 21 assists in 49 games. The highly skilled defenceman is expected to earn a job among the Wolves defensive corps.

Â?Jon is highly regarded by NHL scouts,Â? said Smith. Â?He will bring size and skill to the blueline.Â?

Add a solid draft, further positive development of rookies and prospects and a coach with a winning system and the Wolves could be poised to rise from the cellar of the Central Division.

Â?We will bring in a top notch coach,Â? said Smith. Â?We are looking for a coach who is dedicated to winning and developing players.Â?