A two-way defender who has a reputation for being difficult to tackle and a forward with the ability to elude defenders with his speed are the Niagara IceDogs’ top two picks in the Ontario Hockey League draft.

Blueliner Sam Dickinson, who was selected fourth overall in the 15-round draft, and second-round leftist Kevin He, 25th overall; they were also 1-2 in the Niagara draft.

“This is how the board turned out for us. You project where our needs are,” interim head coach Jody Hull said. “At the same time, other teams are doing the same things, so the guys just fit in.”

Dickinson, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound left-handed shot, was the first defenseman selected in a draft that began with three rounds Friday night. The Toronto native, who turns 16 on June 7, had four goals, 35 assists for 39 points in 46 triple-A under-16 games with the Toronto Marlboros of the Greater Toronto Hockey League.

“He is an elite player at that position. He has some size, he skates well, he defends well,” Hull said. “It’s hard to find defenses that can do that.

“It was an opportunity that we decided we could pass up.”

Did Dickinson’s offensive advantage tip the scales even further in his favor?

“I think it helps. Is it the end and all? No. He’s a tough guy to play against,” Hull said.

“In our league, you want guys that are tough to play against.

“I think it’s a missing piece and we may be needed in our back-end to keep us going in the right direction.”

Dickinson is not expected to need some junior-B experience to prepare for more experienced competition in the OHL.

It will be here immediately. With his size and the way he plays, I think for us he was the most adaptable defender from the start to come into our league,” Hull said. “I think he has a lot of upside to be one of the best picks in the NHL draft in a couple of years.

“I think he’s going to have the ability to come in and put pressure on the guys that are currently here at our back end and put pressure on them to play.”

Dickinson was not available for comment at the time of publication. He told a draft profile posted on the OHL website that he designs his game after Victor Hedman and Roman Josi.

“I think they are both the best defenders in the NHL right now. They dominate with their size and their IQ,” Dickinson said. “I think that’s something I want to do next year and move on when I play hockey.”

Skating is the skill he intends to improve on the most during the offseason.

“I think being a really good skater will help me get to the next level and that’s something I hope to work on a lot this year.”

The IceDogs aren’t at all concerned about He’s height, at 5-foot-11 and 166 pounds.

“He is a guy who skates very well. I think with that he can be elusive for defenders,” Hull said. “He has the ability to score, put the puck in the back of the net.

“You can never get enough of that.”

He, who turned 16 on Saturday, considers speed to be the ace up his sleeve.

“Speed ​​skating is a way to get away from the punches, but I know how to make contact, if you know what I mean,” he said. “Being able to avoid using my skate and being able to make the impact less impactful.”

He drove with his father from Nobleton, Ontario, after the IceDogs selected him with their second pick in the draft. After meeting the coaches and scouts, he took a photo in the team’s jersey with scouting director Roger MacLeod.

“I am super excited to come here. I love the organization, I know a lot of players,” said the 10th grader. “It’s going to be a wonderful experience.”

Three years ago he trained with defender Andrew Wysick and is studying high school with the brother of center back Pano Fimis.

He intends to spend most of his time training in the gym between now and training camp.

“I’m going to work on getting stronger and faster, really making my game more adaptable to the OHL.”

In 2021-22, he had 13 goals and 12 assists for 25 points in 16 games for the North York Rangers. He compares his style to that of Pavel Bure.

Barring last-minute changes, Niagara will have nine picks when the draft ends on Saturday.


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