Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Media
Cobourg’s Ethan Miedema of the Quinte Red Devils had plenty of advance notice the Windsor Spitfires were going to select him with their first-round pick in the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection draft.
That didn’t take away the excitement of hearing his name called with Windsor’s fourth-overall selection on Friday night.
“I really had no words, I was so speechless and overall such a great day with the family and looking forward to getting down to Windsor to meet everyone,” said Miedema, who enjoyed the draft with parents Jeremy and Amy and younger brothers Colby, 13, and Zachary, 10. He also had support from grandparents Harry and Debbie Jeschke, his uncle Mike and aunts Natalie and Erin.
There was speculation that Miedema, an elite winger, would be selected in the top-five and not get past Windsor at No. 4.
“I knew a few days before, obviously kept it quiet, but I’m really happy in Windsor,” Miedema said, noting he’s been able to get a virtual tour of the Spitfires’ facilities. “Bill Bowler the GM has been great with online interviews. I haven’t been down there yet, but it seems like a great hockey town. The rink’s huge, one of the nicest rinks in the league. I can’t wait to play in front of their great fans. I’ve been told by some of their players that it’s a great spot to play so I’m just looking forward to getting down there for the start of the season.”
Miedema became the highest Red Devils player selected in the OHL draft. The distinction previously belonged to another Northumberland County resident, Grafton’s Brady Gilmour, who was selected sixth overall by the Saginaw Spirit in 2015.
“The work is kind of starting now, but obviously it’s a huge accomplishment and I definitely appreciate that,” Miedema said. “I’m really just looking forward to the future. I know Brady’s a great guy and I really looked up to him.”
Considering the Spitfires were having a great season when the league shut down in 2020 and would normally have been selecting a player later in the first round, the organization was thrilled to receive the fourth overall pick from the OHL draft lottery.
“When we received the good fortune of the fourth overall pick, we felt fortunate and lucky to have Ethan sitting there,” general manager Bowler told Total Sports Media. “It was just a great moment for our organization and a young man with this type of upside and ability is a huge piece to add to our group.”
While no U16 games were played this season, Bowler said the organization has a good grasp on eligible players before they enter their draft year. The club was also able to continue watching video and talk to coaches and scouts.
“Every time you went to the rink, for me, he kept improving. The video, you just see a guy with offensive ability. He has all the tools…and when you dive deeper into the character and the drive and the work ethic, we just can’t be more thrilled,” Bowler said.
At 6-foot-4, 180 pounds, Miedema will bring more size to the Windsor roster as well as offence. Red Devils coach Tyler Longo noted in a previous interview that Miedema registered over 100 points in his U15 year before the U16 season was wiped out.
“Some attributes that kind of describe me would be hardworking, determined and focus, but I would say my strengths would be my IQ and vision,” Miedema said. “I think that’s my best strength and then my second and third would be my speed and my hands and how I kind of use all three of those to create plays for myself and my teammates in all three zones.”
Miedema is also a talented lacrosse player with the Northumberland Nemesis.
“It’s one of the best crossover sports, lacrosse to hockey and vice-versa,” he said. “Hand-eye coordination, I’ve definitely gotten way better, just playing with the stick and the ball whether it’s on a rebound or at practice. You’ve got to be conditioned to play lacrosse and it comes into play with hockey as well.”
Although Miedema was taken early in the draft, he kept watching eagerly awaiting his Red Devils teammates to be selected. Six others were selected, including Napanee’s Cal Uens in the third round to the Owen Sound Attack, Quine West’s Ethan Quick and Belleville’s Jack Dever both in the fourth round to the Ottawa 67’s, Belleville’s Duncan Schneider in the fifth round to the Kingston Frontenacs, Cobourg’s Christopher Brydges in the ninth round to the Guelph Storm and Whitby’s Ethan Beattie in the 13th round to the Hamilton Bulldogs.
“I wanted to support all my teammates and all the boys so I’ve been watching the draft ever since. Really just watching all the Quinte guys, my teammates, get drafted…I’m really super-excited for those guys…as well as my new Windsor Spitfires teammates that have been drafted to Windsor like me. I can’t wait to get started with all of them and looking forward to camp.”
Prior to Miedema’s selection, the Sudbury Wolves drafted right-winger Quentin Musty of the North Jersey Avalanche first overall and the Oshawa Generals took centre Calum Ritchie from the Oakville Rangers U16 team second while the Guelph Storm used the third pick on defenceman Cameron Allen of the Toronto Nationals U16 team.
The first three rounds of the OHL draft were completed on Friday night.
As the draft continued into Saturday afternoon with rounds 4 to 15, the Guelph Storm were pleased Christopher Brydges, of Cobourg, was still available in the ninth round. The Storm used the 162nd overall pick to select the Red Devils’ defenceman.
“It means everything. I’ve been working my whole life to get to this point and Guelph’s just a great city, a great organization so just being drafted into an environment like that is pretty special,” Brydges said.
Brydges said he “was getting really anxious” as the rounds began to add up.
“For some reason there’s a lot of Christophers in the draft so every time I heard Christopher I kind of got up a little bit and relaxed after it wasn’t me, but when my name got called I was pretty excited,” he said.
Guelph head scout Wade Branch stated in a comment to Total Sports Media that “Brydges is a very steady defensemen, possesses a very good skill level, hockey sense and puck moving ability. He was a very important piece to his team’s success last year and is a very efficient player in all three zones.”
Brydges said he received a call from Storm head coach and general manager George Burnett shortly after the pick was made.
“It was pretty cool. Obviously he’s a well-respected guy around the league so I think just getting the phone call from him kinda put the cherry on top for the draft, for me at least,” Brydges said. “I think they expect from me what they expect from everybody: bring your ‘A’ game every time you’re on the ice or off the ice and be a respectful guy outside the rink as well.”
Brydges played his first season of novice hockey in Cobourg before moving up to the AAA level with the Clarington Toros for his second novice year and has played with the Quinte Red Devils since minor atom. He also previously enjoyed playing lacrosse and baseball at home in Cobourg before committing most of his time to hockey.
Going forward, Brydges knows it will take “a lot of hard work and dedication” to earn a roster spot with the Storm in the future.
“I think that being physically ready and mentally ready before any ice time is huge nowadays, especially right now during the pandemic,” he said. “I think really just keeping myself sharp and keeping myself in tip-top shape is going to be the biggest thing for me to be able to step up to the next level.”