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Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018
Four locals selected in OHL draft
by Randy Pascal

The Sudbury Minor Midget "AAA" Wolves were a tight-knit group during the 2017-2018 season, according to those involved with the team.

Come OHL (Ontario Hockey League) draft day, that wasn't about to change.

On a Saturday in April which would see exactly 300 young hopefuls earn a selection as a prospect of one of the twenty teams that compete in the Ontario junior league, the four Sudbury lads who would crack that list were separated by just over 100 spots in all.

Forward Hunter Brazier was the first to go, nabbed in the 9th round by the Oshawa Generals, with teammate Dario Beljo following him one round later, the 10th round choice of the London Knights.

The only Sudbury minor midget talent to remain local was Giordano Biondi, selected in the 14th round by the hometown Sudbury Wolves, while defenceman A.J. Favot closed off the local contingent, going to the Niagara Ice Dogs 11 picks later.

Where some teens are only too anxious to move away from home, Biondi could not be happier in staying put. "I kind of had a thought, it crossed my mind a few times about going to the Wolves," he said on Sunday, attending the Rayside-Balfour NOJHL playoff game along with his long-time teammate, Dario Beljo.

"I did have one phone interview with them, as well as a few other teams. I'm glad I went to the Wolves. I was hoping for it too, to stay home. I don't have to change schools or move anywhere, so I'm happy."

And as for a quick description of what Wolves fans might expect, Biondi provided a balanced assessment. "What I think caught the Wolves' attention is definitely my skating," he said. "I feel it's the best part of my game, my speed."

"The stuff I need to work on to get to the next level is becoming a lot stronger. I need to gain weight, and I need to work on my defensive zone coverage. Sometimes I find myself cheating in the defensive zone."

While he may be heading some six hours away for training camp in September, Beljo was no less excited than Biondi about his destination. "I had talked to them throughout the season," he said. "When I got the call, I was so excited."

"I've always dreamed of playing for them, because that's where my uncle (Jadran Beljo) played in his last year, so it was pretty special." Having suited up with the Canadians for a pair of post-season games in recent weeks, Beljo is already displaying the type of mature understanding of his game that scouts have raved about this year.

"It's just the attention to detail," he said. "In midget, you can get away with a lot of little things. Coaches will preach on it, but I never really understood because it never really cost me in midget."

"It hit me in my first junior game, the little things, like being on the right side of the puck, body position, all of that stuff. You need to do the little things right, because it will cost you at the next level."

As for the Wolves, the highlight was undoubtedly the Friday announcement that top rated power forward Quinton Byfield would be coming to Sudbury, honoured with the Jack Ferguson Award as the first overall pick in the 2018 OHL Entry Draft.

GM Rob Papineau and head coach Cory Stillman are certainly hopeful that the member of the York-Simcoe Minor Midget Express is joined by several of his fellow 2018 Sudbury selections, somewhere down the road.

In terms of positioning, the Wolves were all over the ice, which in the case of a last-place team and its draft strategy, is probably not a bad thing. Blueliner Jack Thompson (5'11" - 161 lbs) from the Clarington Toros was the team's second round choice (30th overall), followed by Lambton Jr Sting forward Blake Butler (5'10.5" - 181) at #46 (3rd round) and Nathan Ribau from the Oakville Rangers in the fourth (LD - 6'0" - 175).

The Wolves would add some depth to their goaltending situation in round five, nabbing Jonathan Lemaire, a 6'5" netminder with the Kemptville 73's Minor Midgets. Following is the remainder of the Sudbury selections in April of 2018:

7th rd - Kyle Aucoin - LD (5'9" - 142) - Chicago Mission 16U
8th rd - Michael Tiveron - C (5'9" - 161) Brampton '45s
10th rd - Simon Labelle - LW (5'9" - 147) - Rockland Nationals
10th rd - Owen Robinson - C (5'11" - 165) - Blind River Beavers - NOJHL
10th rd - Darren Beattie - RD (5'9" - 161) - Lambton Jr. Sting
11th rd - Ryan Smith - C (5'8" - 140) - North Central Predators
12th rd - Robbie Stewart - LD (6'3" - 172) - Niagara North Stars
13th rd - Nicholas Heinzle - G (6'1" - 172) - Hawkesbury Hawks
14th rd - Giordano Biondi - RW (5'10" - 144) - Sudbury Wolves
15th rd - Luke Strickland - LW (5'11" - 176) - Markham Waxers

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