Three Spirit players taken in NHL draft
Two defenseman and a goalie were drafted Saturday in Buffalo...
By: Jason Marcoux
27th June, 2016
The Saginaw Spirit were well represented this past Saturday at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo, NY for the final rounds of the 2016 NHL entry draft.
Three Spirit players were drafted: defenseman Markus Niemelainen was taken 63 overall in the third round by the Edmonton Oilers, defenseman Keaton Middleton went 101 overall in the fourth round to the Toronto Maple Leafs, and Goalie Evan Cormier was selected 105 overall in the fourth round by the New Jersey Devils.
Niemelainen, a 6-foot-6 205 pound defenseman from Finland is considered young for his draft year, turning 18 earlier this month. Recognizing his very high NHL ceiling, the Oilers used the first of their 3 third round picks to snatch up the smooth skating defenseman who plays both ends of the ice very well. His mobility and range as a defender has him as a potential 3 or 4 depth chart defenseman at the next level.
Middleton, a 6-foot-6 235 pound hulking defenseman impressed the Maple Leafs with his massive wingspan (sixth longest -79.5 inches) and his caveman strength (eighth in right hand grip strength -163) at the 2016 NHL combine. He uses his wingspan very effectively defending in front of his own net and battles relentlessly to win pucks along the wall in his own end. At just 18 he has the capability to become a steady stay-at-home NHL defenseman for many years if the Leaf's develop him well.
Cormier, a 6-foot-2 200 pound goal tender from Bowmanville, ON was ranked as the eleventh best North American goalie prior to the draft. The Devils did not want to miss out on Cormier, as they made him just the ninth goalie drafted, selecting him 105 overall in the fourth round. Someone on the Devil's scouting staff was doing their homework, realizing Cormier faced the second most shots of any goal tender in the OHL in 2015-16 and also noting his durability and performance throughout the playoffs.
The only disappointment for the Spirit came when Tye Felhaber was not drafted. Felhaber was ranked as the 139th best North American skater prior to the draft, which translates to a fifth or sixth round possible pick.
Felhaber will still have plenty of time to catch on as a free agent with an NHL team, he is too good of a skater and too good with the puck for an NHL team to not take a chance on him.