The retirement of Rocky Kaura followed by the trade of Tye Felhaber to the Ottawa 67's
back in the first couple weeks of November opened up a roster spot allowing Drinkill to make the calculated decision to add a free agent.
“D.J. is a player that we have followed very closely over the last year with Compuware U16 and continuing into this season with Topeka of the NAHL,” Drinkill said in an email. “He has done nothing but produce at every level that he has played and has earned this opportunity with us. Adding a player of his character, work ethic, and drive to be a pro is infectious and we are looking forward to getting him started in our organization. By moving a player off our roster recently this opened up the opportunity to bring D.J. in allow him the opportunity to grow with our group of young players.”
A 5-foot-11, 172-pound forward from Dexter, Michigan, Busdeker had 21 goals and 21 assists for 42 points in 22 games while playing for the Detroit Compuware U16
team which led the entire High Performance Hockey League
in scoring during the 2015-16 season. This year, before joining the Spirit he had 4 goals and 9 assists for 13 points through 12 games with Topeka.
Busdeker adds to the growing list of American born talent emerging throughout Hockey. Last year, 55 American-born players were taken in the 2016 NHL draft,
including a record 12 in the first round.
With the signing of Busdeker, Drinkill seems to be following a recent trend of many OHL teams, most notably the defending Memorial Cup Champion London Knights, who featured two of those American-born first round picks in Matthew Tkachuk (Calgary Flames, sixth overall) and Max Jones (Anaheim Ducks, twenty fourth overall) on its roster last year.
The two played together in the Compuware program under Jenkins' father, Todd Jenkins -a former NCAA player for the University of Maine Black Bears- who has also been spotted at a few Spirit games this season.
A 17 year old born in September of 1999, Busdeker is considered a late 99 birth year, making him eligible for the 2018 NHL draft.
Will he be able to convince his best friend to forgo college hockey and join him in Saginaw? We can only wait and see, until then he is very happy to have his own shot at his life long dream of playing in the NHL.
“I am very much looking forward to making the jump to the Ontario Hockey League,” Budseker said in the press release. “My goal is to one day play in the National Hockey League and I feel like the professional environment the Saginaw Spirit provides gives me the best opportunity to do so. My goal for this year is to come in and help the team any way I can. There are some great players here and I look forward to playing with them and learning from them.”
Busdeker will join his new team when the Spirit host the Kitchener Rangers for a 7:05 pm face off at the Dow Event Center Saturday night.