At a press conference from the Spirit dressing room inside the Dow Event Center this morning, the Saginaw Spirit announced the signing of two of its top three draft picks from last Saturday's 2018 Ontario Hockey League priority selection draft.
Spirit GM Dave Drinkill announced that goal tender Tristan Lennox (26 overall) and forward Ethan Cardwell (33 overall) had each been signed by the Spirit to a respective OHL standard player agreement.
“Both players are very excited to start their careers in Saginaw and that means a lot to our franchise as we continue to build towards our end goals,” Drinkill said. “We are looking forward to seeing both players on the ice at our prospect camp in May, along with the rest of our draft class as we start the process of building the Spirit team for the 2018-19 season.”
The Spirit selected Lennox with its second pick (26 overall) thinking of the future after Evan Cormier (a fourth round pick of the New Jersey Devils in the 2016 NHL draft) aged out of the league at the end of this year. Lennox and Saginaw's third round pick from 2016, Cam Lamour, will battle for the starting job next year.
The Saginaw GM couldn't wait to introduce the 6-foot-2 Mississauga, ON native Lennox, whom many scouting services (including Saginaw's scouting and coaching staff) believed was the No. 1 ranked goal tender in the draft.
“We had him as the best goal tender in the draft,” Drinkill said of Lennox. “He's big, he's athletic, you know, A.J. Walczak, our goalie coach, says that's what he was looking for, big athletic goalies with tremendous compete levels, and goalies that won't quit on plays, and will fight for pucks and battle.”
Lennox had a 1.91 goals against average, along with a .915 save percentage while playing minor midget triple-A for the Mississauga Rep's in the Greater Toronto Hockey League last year, and the 15-year old couldn't believe his dream of playing major junior hockey had finally come true after hearing his name called Saturday.
“My mind was spinning like a thousand miles an hour,” Lennox admitted. “I didn't really know what to think, it was just pure excitement and my dream came true, to be playing in the OHL.”
Saginaw's other second round pick, Cardwell (33 overall) is a speedy forward from Courtice, ON whose grandfather Steve played in the NHL, and whose father Justin played NCAA hockey at Western Michigan.
Cardwell (who has dual citizenship between the U.S. and Canada) had been following the draft at home, however, the true gravity of the moment didn't really sink in until Drinkill called him on the phone to tell him the Spirit had selected him with the No. 33 overall pick.
“I was watching on the TV with all of my family, so it was definitely a big moment,” Cardwell said. “Then, when Dave (Drinkill) called, everything started to set in. Like, this is for real, I have been drafted by the Saginaw Spirit in the OHL. It's just a dream come true, I have been playing for that since I was in house league.”
Cardwell had 54-points (30-goals, 24-assists) in 35-games playing for the Clarington (ON.) Toros in the Eastern Triple-A Hockey League last year, which is a sub-division of the Ontario Minor Hockey Association. He plays both ends of the ice with exceptional awareness and has an accurate shot using great vision to pick apart defenses. Scouts believe he can be trusted to make an impact by winning face-offs deep in the defensive zone late in games at the OHL level.
Cardwell already feels a special connection to the Spirit family and is ready to start building for the future.
“I have heard all great things from the Saginaw Spirit organization,” Cardwell said. “I met Dave (Drinkill) and Angelo (Nasato) earlier this year and just felt great vibes from them. We have an up and coming group with a bright future.”
The pair of second round picks will be back in Saginaw for the Spirit prospects camp in May, however, Lennox is already chomping at the bit to get on the ice and prove to the fans and organization what he has planned for this young group of talented prospects.
“I'm just ready to get started right away,” Lennox said. “I'm here to win games and to take this team to another level.”
Drinkill and the Spirit will shift the focus to signing first round pick (No. 4 overall) extremely gifted forward Cole Perfetti, a 15-year old phenom from Whitby, ON who has verbally committed to play NCAA hockey at UofM, but the Spirit GM (as he was before signing Spirit rookie sensation Blade Jenkins) is confident Perfetti and other unsigned top picks, like Saginaw native Mitchell Smith, will continue to buy into the Memorial Cup caliber program he's building here in Saginaw.
Today, however, Drinkill is excited to celebrate these two big signings with Lennox and Cardwell; along with their respective families, who are all now an important part of the Saginaw Spirit family as well.
“It's a big day for our franchise and we're very proud that both families could come down here and be with us,” Drinkill concluded. “In less than a week after the draft, showing a commitment to our franchise, and also our commitment to them and their families as well.”
Saginaw Spirit 2018 OHL priority selection draft review: