The 2015 NHL entry draft is set to start at 6:30 pm tonight at the BB&T center in Sunrise, FL. Elite hockey players throughout North America and Europe will be glued to their television sets this weekend with the hopes of hearing their names called.
This year there are three Saginaw Spirit players who have legitimate chances for a phone call from an NHL executive, fulfilling their lifelong hockey dreams. Mitchell Stephens, Artem Artemov, and Marcus Crawford all made the final list of NHL central scouting's top draft eligible players.
Eighteen year old Mitchell Stephens is a 6-foot 182 pound forward from Peterborough, ON who joined the Spirit as top pick in the 2013 OHL priority selection draft. He is coming off a season in which he scored 22 goals and 26 assists for 48 points through 62 games. Since joining the Spirit Stephens has built a very strong international resume with team Canada. He represented team Ontario at the 2013 world under-17 hockey challenge. In 2014 Stephens was selected to team Canada's entry in the under-18 Ivan Hlinka memorial cup. In April of 2015 Stephens was named captain of Team Canada at the IIHF world championships in Lucerne, Switzerland and he will also represent Team Canada again in August at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka memorial cup. Stephens was ranked number 112 on the final rankings for NHL central scouting. Mock drafts have him as a mid second-to-third round pick.
Eighteen year old Artem Artemov is a 6-foot 200-pound forward from Moscow who was the top import selection for the Spirit last season. He is coming off an 14 goal 18 assist 32 point year. In the 2013-14 season he scored 16 goals 17 assists for 33 points in 56 games for the Chicago Steel of the USHL. Although he is from Russia, he plays the game like a North American but he can still handle the puck if needed, which is why Spirit coach Greg Gilbert loves this kid. NHL central scouting has him ranked 150 on their final list. He's predicted to be a fifth-to-sixth round selection.
Marcus Crawford is an eighteen year old defenseman from Ajax, ON who is coming off a breakout year with the Spirit. The six-foot 190-pound Crawford was drafted by Saginaw in the 2013 OHL priority selection but wasn't added to the teams roster for the 2013-14 season. Instead he worked on his game playing for the Whitby Fury in the Ontario Junior Hockey League where he scored 8 goals 13 assists for 21 points through 52 games. He parlayed that season into a very productive rookie campaign with the Spirit scoring 2 goals and 21 assists in just his first OHL season. His ability to move the puck and make plays from the point earned him a spot at 207 on the final NHL central scouting list. He's predicted to be a sixth-to-seventh round selection.