While his club took care of business on the ice this weekend, Windsor Spitfires’ general manager Bill Bowler was focused on the future. The annual Ontario Hockey League (OHL) 2022 Priority Selection was held on Friday and Saturday and team scouts were busy finding ways to reload the roster.
Over his three years as Spitfires’ GM, Bowler has been a bit of a silent assassin. While his mentor Warren Rychel was in-your-face and happy to make the bold move with some fanfare, Bowler has taken a different approach. He’s calm, quiet, and slowly putting his mark on the club. While the club has found success this season, he and his staff know that a big part of maintaining that success is finding talents in this season’s draft. Those players will be key both in the short and long term.
How did the draft unfold? Let’s take a look!
Bowler Goes for Defence With Top Pick
In his first two drafts, Bowler targeted both ends of the ice while ensuring the team could compete both physically and with finesse. He also made sure they were character kids, the types that will lead on the ice and in the room. This season, he went the same route.
You can view Bowler’s first two drafts here:
For the second-straight season, the draft was held on Friday evening (Rounds 1-3) and Saturday morning (4-15). The Spitfires’ record this season, combined with Compensation picks (for clubs whose picks didn’t report in previous seasons), meant the team had to wait until pick 22 to make their first selection. When Bowler’s turn came, though, he made the most of it.
With his first pick, Bowler went to the Toronto Jr. Canadiens U16 AAA and selected 5-foot-10, 173-pound defenceman Anthony Cristoforo. The youngster had 15 goals and 78 points in 65 games in 2021-22.
Bowler told the Windsor Star that Cristoforo has the makings of a great leader.
“A versatile, two-way defenceman that oozes leadership and can play in all situations,” Bowler said. (from ‘A pick-by-pick look with GM Bowler at the 15 selections made by the Spitfires in the OHL Draft’, Windsor Star, 4/30/22)
“He’s just a guy that’s a great teammate and an excellent player.”
Bowler was likely going after the best player available on his list and, with the Spitfires losing defencemen Louka Henault and Andrew Perrott to graduation this summer, a strong two-way defenceman hits the mark. He’ll step in and contribute right away.
Spitfires Get Size in Second and Third Rounds
Once he got his defenceman, Bowler grabbed some offence with the second pick. With the 34th selection, the Spitfires went back to the Toronto area, selecting Markham Majors U16AAA forward Liam Greentree. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound right-winger had 13 goals and 25 points in 23 games. He’s a big-bodied producer who the club is high on for his future offence.
Sports Illustrated Prospects reports that Greentree has compared himself to Winnipeg Jets’ star (and former Barrie Colt) Mark Scheifele.
“Greentree’s playstyle, which is a more offensively driven game, where he uses his size, strength, and aggressiveness to get the job done, has compared himself to Mark Scheifele,” the report said.
In the third round, the Spitfires took a big gamble and went to the Cleveland Barons 15’s for center Anthony Spellacy. The 6-foot-2, 182-pounder is a dual athlete with hockey and football (free safety and wide receiver) but is looking to pick one for the future. In 15 games with the Barons this season, he had six goals and 11 points.
“A good two-way player,” Bowler told The Windsor Star.
“(He’s an) elite skater with an all-around game that can be a factor physically, defensively, and offensively.”
All three players were at the WFCU Centre in Windsor on Saturday evening for Game 5 between the Spitfires and Sarnia Sting. Below, left-to-right, are Spellacy, Cristoforo, and Greentree.
Having all three come to a game is a good first step. The team has the chance to continue their success in 2022-23 and these three could contribute to that.
A nearly life-long resident of Windsor, ON, I graduated from St. Clair College (Journalism) and University of Windsor (Communications) and have attended Windsor Spitfires’ (and OHL) games for 30-years. My areas include multimedia journalism and photography.