Within a span of 28 picks in the fourth and fifth rounds of the 2022 OHL Draft on Saturday, Sudbury and area U16 AAA hockey prospects had plenty to celebrate. Throw in one more selection, a little later on as another rugged blueliner gets added to the mix and you have the makings of a fairly solid day in terms of the locals hitting their expectations.
Defenceman Tyson Rismond opened the floodgates, nabbed in the 66th overall slot by the North Bay Battalion, the third pick of the day as the OHL brainthrust reconvened following the first three rounds taking place on Friday evening.
He was followed by goaltender Karsen Chartier, the multi-sport talent who signed on with the North York U16 AAA Rangers for the 2021-2022 eason (5th rd - 91st overall - Sarnia Sting) and forward Nolan Newton (5th rd - 93rd overall - Barrie Colts) just two picks later.
Braeden Vis capped things off from a Sudbury U16 AAA Nickel Capitals point of view, chosen by the Niagara Ice Dogs in the 10th round, 187th overall.
For the young man who got things rolling, a solid stretch of hockey heading into the draft certainly did not hurt his chances at all. "I thought things were starting to come together going into the (GNU18L) playoffs, and then I had a really good playoff," said Rismond.
"Then from the playoffs to the OHL Cup, I was really happy with my play at OHL Cup - and then from the OHL Cup to the combines."
Always noted as a very gifted natural athlete, Rismond has worked hard to mold his physical traits into the makings of a very complete blueline prospect.
"My physicality has improved, just being able to throw my body around a lot better - and also being more offensive, being able to generate more scoring opportunities. I want to be able to help out the forwards, not just on the defensive end but also in the offensive end."
And while he noted that his final destination was still very much a mystery even as draft day drew nearer, he couldn't be happier than to be in the North Bay fold.
"Being drafted as a player in the north and going to a northern team is a pretty special thing," stated Rismond. "I played against the Trappers my whole life and now getting drafted to their OHL team is pretty cool."
At the other end of the spectrum, Karsen Chartier will be moving the furthest away, though things have worked out pretty darn well for North Bay native and current Sarnia netminding sensation Benjamin Gaudreau, a third round pick of the San Jose Sharks in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
Besides, Chartier already has some familiarity with being away from home for hockey. "I think it was a good experience moving down," noted the young puckstopper who called the North York area home this winter and also shines on the diamonds, suiting up with the Sudbury Voyageurs in summers past.
"I think it was a good decision moving away from home and getting ready for this year."
And though going to the Sting was hardly a given, Chartier was definitely on high alert as the fifth round started. "I knew that Sarnia was an option," he said. "I didn't really know what was going to happen, but I kind of had a feeling that in that round, that's when I was going to go."
Focused heavily on getting to know his new teammates early this year, Chartier ultimately became a highly valuable resource for a North York dressing room that would see twin brothers Kieron and Conor Walton as well as goaltender Finn Marshall all drafted by the Sudbury Wolves.
"A couple of them knew that Sudbury was an option for them so I kind of gave them an idea about what it's like up here," said Chartier. "I was kind of their go to advice guy, telling them about the organization and the talent."
Of all the locals, Nolan Newton likely had the greatest inkling regarding the team that would ultimately call his name, having talked face to face with Colts Director of Player Personnel Mark Seidel on more than one occasion.
That, however, wasn't the only reason that he wasn't all that surprised when his name appeared on the screen.
"My uncle (who was sitting next to him) kind of spoiled it for me," Newton said with a laugh. "My phone is a bit late, so he was on his phone and he kind of hopped up a bit - so I kind of knew that I was going."
While the majority of fifth round picks will make their way back to an affiliated team for a little more development before hopefully joining the OHL club, Newton, like the others, wants to give himself every opportunity to stick with the team coming straight out of training camp in September.
"I would like to work on getting stronger this summer," he suggested. "With my speed and my skill, I think I can play (in Barrie) next year, but I need to put on some pounds to take the hits that I will get."
"I'm going to walk into camp looking to make the team, but obviously, if they send me down, I'm not going to be too upset."
More of a longshot to crack the Ice Dogs roster come the fall, Braeden Vis is more than aware that a re-drafting of the 2006-born talent, three years from now, would likely lead to a fair bit of flip-flopping in the order of the draft, with player development not at all linear at this age.
"I think there's a little too much hype around the draft," noted the 6'2" back-end prospect, something that the majority of the undrafted prospects will likely take to heart. "Even if I didn't go, I was planning to keep working hard this summer to get better and then go prove the teams wrong the next year."
Now that he is part of the Niagara system, Vis knows that the real work is only just beginning. "There's a lot of training to be done," he said. "In the OHL, you're playing against guys that are three or four years older than you."
"You really have to go in there with that next level mentality."