The Saginaw Spirit completed two blockbuster acquisition's this week when 2017 No. 1 pick Nicholas Porco
announced his signing at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, followed by 2016 No. 1 pick Blade Jenkins
, who signed at another press conference on Thursday afternoon. The pair were signed to respective Ontario Hockey League standard player agreement's.
The entire Spirit ownership group, coaching staff, and especially GM Dave Drinkill managed to win over the Jackson, MI native who was impressed with the family atmosphere within the Saginaw organization.
“I thought It came down to (how much) I really liked the managerial staff and the owners here,” Jenkins said at his press conference this afternoon. “They're second to none, just great guys and they make you feel like you're part of the family. Planning for next year, they're making it that much easier to step up to play here in the OHL, I couldn't be happier. It's going to be a great year.”
Jenkins, a 6-foot, 172-pound forward, had verbally committed to play NCAA hockey at the University of Michigan
right down the road in Ann Arbor, MI before deciding on the same path as his new Spirit teammate Cole Coskey, who had once committed to play NCAA hockey for Miami Ohio University
prior to joining the Spirit.
The Spirit are hoping Jenkins' decision will create a pattern and help sway other draft picks who may be leaning toward the NCAA. Bode Wilde,
a 2016 pick who also played for the USNTDP and has verbally committed to play NCAA hockey for Harvard; along with 2017 pick Alex Turcotte,
who is committed to play NCAA hockey for the University of Wisconsin
are at the top of that list.
Jenkins had the luxury of hearing first-hand from Busdeker on what it's like playing in the Saginaw Spirit organization.
“It was good to get a little insight from him,” Jenkins said of talking to Busdeker about coming to Saginaw. “He told me how great the managerial staff is with GM Dave Drinkill and the owners, and the coaches that are here as well. (He) said they're going to be great for your development. He had nothing but good things to say, so it made the decision that much easier.”
Earlier in the week, on Tuesday afternoon, Drinkill announced the signing of Saginaw's 2017 first round pick (fourth overall in the 2017 OHL U-17 priority selection draft) Nicholas Porco
to an OHL standard player agreement.
“Nicholas is a big building block in this organization as we continue to build through the draft,” Drinkill said. “Having the fourth overall pick commit to us is a very exciting day for the franchise. Seeing Nicholas and his family take time to come to Saginaw to be a part of this before the OHL Gold Cup shows their commitment to the franchise, and we couldn't be happier to welcome them.”
Topping off his minor midget career, Porco was named the 2016-17 player of the year in the GTHL after a 41-point campaign (22-goals, 19-assists) through 33 games this year. Now, he's anxious to get his OHL career started with a talented group of young players here in Saginaw.
“I am very excited right now,” Porco said. “To sign with the Saginaw Spirit, a great organization, I could not be happier. I look forward to the bright future ahead for this team. (Damien) Giroux and a couple players reached out to congratulate me and it just made me feel a part of the team right away. It was very comforting.”
Porco will now head to the 2017 OHL Gold Cup
which will feature 160 of the top players from the province of Ontario who are under the age of 16 for a chance to be invited to the Canadian National Under-17 selection camp and a possibility to compete in the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge
Immediately following Tuesday's press conference Porco left for the Gold Cup, which started Wednesday May, 3 and runs through Sunday May, 7 at the Activa Sports Complex in Kitchener, ON.
Jenkins and Porco are both set to return to Saginaw for the annual Spirit Prospect Camp which will begin next week May, 13-14 at Saginaw Bay Ice Arena.