Considered one of the best Ontario minor midget teams in hockey history, the Don Mills Flyers were an unstoppable force all the way to the OHL Cup final.
Brandt Clarke, Shane Wright, Brennan Othmann|Steven Ellis/The Hockey News
Perhaps it was only fitting that the biggest goal the Don Mills Flyers scored in their remarkable 2018-19 season came in overtime off the stick of Brennan Othmann on assists from Shane Wright and Brandt Clarke. And that’s not the only time you may see the names of these three phenoms together. Depending upon how things shake out at the Ontario League draft April 6, there’s a chance those three players could be the top three picks.
This much we know: Wright, who scored his 168th point in his 79th game in the Flyers’ 6-5 overtime win over the Toronto Red Wings in the OHL Cup final Monday night, has been granted exceptional status and will be chosen first overall by the Kingston Frontenacs in the draft.
After that, things can get a little confusing, and there is a lot of jockeying to be done and decisions to be made between now and the draft, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Clarke could go second to the Flint Firebirds and Othmann third overall to the Barrie Colts. If that were to happen, it would mark the first time in OHL history that players from the same team accounted for each of the top three picks.
The Flyers are a tightly-knit group, on that was brought together that much more by the death of their goalie, Roy Pejcinovski, in a triple homicide on March 14, 2018, one year and one week before they won the OHL Cup. And the bonds were no tighter than those between Wright and Othmann. On the winning goal in 4-on-4 overtime, Wright took the puck along the right side and fed Othmann for a one-timer from the slot, a common occurrence for the pair.
“It sure feels good because he’s my best buddy,” Wright said of Othmann. “He’s my best friend. Three years in a row, we’ve been playing on the same line and we connected right from the start.”
“No words can explain our chemistry,” Othmann said. “It’s unbelievable. Next year, we’ll go our separate ways and it will be tough, but for sure we’ll be best friends for life. We started off the year really well and the draft stocks for all three of us kept going higher and higher. People say 1-2-3 and that would be amazing. I can’t believe this moment is almost here. I’ve been dreaming about for 10 years now.”
With a Jan. 5 birthday, Wright missed the cutoff for this year’s OHL draft by only five days, but managed to be included in this year’s draft by being granted exceptional status by Hockey Canada. And he certainly has done nothing to dispel the notion that he is exceptional. He led the OHL Cup in scoring with eight goals and 18 points in seven games, while Othmann finished second with 8-6-14 totals. Clarke was the top-scoring defenseman in the tournament with two goals and 11 points.
The Flyers have been talked about as one of the best minor midget teams the province has ever produced. They were so dominant that they lost only one game this season and when they fell behind 4-1 in the second period to the Red Wings in the OHL Cup, it marked the first time this season they had faced a three-goal deficit. With a team that dominant, it should come as no surprise that there is a bevy of top prospects in its ranks. Liam Arnsby, who plays a physical game and set up the tying goal by winning a battle in the corner, should also go in the first round, as should Francesca Arcuri.
One of the wildcards on the Flyers is 6-foot-5, 210-pound behemoth defenseman Roman Schmidt, who has dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship and is slated to try out for the under-17 U.S. National Development team later this month. He has already committed to Boston University. “And I think he’s actually serious about it,” said Flyers coach Marc Slawson. “So, that might drop him (in the draft).”
As far as Wright is concerned, Slawson has had him for the past three seasons and is confident the player will live up to his exceptional status billing. “Shane’s skating, stickhandling, his vision, his 200-foot game, his defensive side of the puck is outstanding,” Slawson said.
“And that’s what Hockey Canada recognized, but then they had to dig deeper and find more about him as a person. And I think that’s where they really understood they have a special kid who is very mature, very focused and very disciplined, and as a result, I think he’s capable of moving to the next step and handle the pressure that comes with that title.”