Situated on the border with Michigan, Windsor has become an NHL prospect factory thanks to an equal development of Canadians, Europeans and Americans. The latest prize comes from the same U.S. national team development program that saw Cam Fowler, Jack Campbell and Kenny Ryan don Spitfires jerseys and proximity certainly mattered for Ann Arbor, Mich. defenseman Pat Sieloff.
“I grew up watching the OHL thanks to Plymouth,” he said. “Windsor, they put guys in the NHL. There isn’t another team I would have gone to in the ‘O.’ ”
Which is probably cold comfort for Miami RedHawks fans. Sieloff was originally slated to go the NCAA route, but with the draft approaching (Calgary selected him with the 42nd pick overall) he changed his mind and signed with Windsor, a team he was pretty familiar with already.
“I love the way they play,” he said. “They’ve got a lot of ‘94s (birth years) and I grew up with a couple of them.”
That cohort included fellow draftees Brady Vail and Ben Johnson, while Sieloff also skates in the summer with Kerby Rychel, a 2013 prospect and son of Windsor co-owner/GM Warren Rychel. For the normally skill-based Spitfires, Sieloff rounds out the lineup for next season.
“He’s a big specimen,” said co-owner/coach Bob Boughner. “His physical presence on the ice is what we need; a shutdown defenseman who is going to be hard on opposing players. I like that he has a defense-first mentality and that you can put him out in any situation.”
Scouts are also high on the youngster’s contributions.
“Not flashy, but has a lot of substance,” said one talent evaluator. “You might not find him in a game, but if you watch for him you don’t lose him. Coaches are really going to like him. Smart and competitive.”
Look for highlights from Sieloff and you won’t find many cannon shots or end-to-end rushes. You will, however, see carnage – whether it’s fearless shot-blocking or blowing up an opponent with a huge open-ice check. No surprise the Michigan native tabbed Red Wings blueliner Niklas Kronwall as an inspiration.
“I love the way he can change the momentum of a game with a hit,” Sieloff said.
Boughner described his latest addition as a character kid and the six-foot, 198-pounder minces no words when it comes to his team’s play. Sieloff won gold at the world under-18s in the Czech Republic with Team USA, a squad made up entirely of NTDPers with the exception of prep schooler Danny O’Regan. But it was a previous bronze medal performance at the Five Nations that set the table.
“In Finland back in February, we were awful,” he said. “We had to make changes and guys had to buy into their roles.”
Sieloff certainly has his role spelled out in Windsor and glory may follow there, too. On a team that attracts high-end imports from Europe and also develops local talent, the Spitfires are well positioned for next season and 2014, when the OHL once again hosts the Memorial Cup. Windsor, after controversially losing out to Mississauga in 2011, would be a perfect host based on its on-ice product and new arena, which opened in 2008. That 2014 squad would hypothetically include Sieloff, Rychel (who led the team in scoring this past year) and recent OHL draft pick Josh Ho-Sang, a dynamic offensive talent that harkens back to the Taylor Hall era in Windsor.
The Spits always score goals; now they have someone to punish those who attempt to light the lamp in the other direction.
THN.com’s Prospect Watch focuses on up-and-comers from the AHL, Europe, major junior, the NCAA and even minor hockey destined to become big names in the NHL.
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