*The 2020 OHL Priority Selection will be conducted entirely online on April 4th, 2020. In addition, the first three rounds of the event will be streamed on the OHL’s YouTube channel with player highlight footage and live updates. The League will also be gathering content throughout the event, engaging draftees, general managers and OHL Central Scouting personnel on virtual platforms.*
Following a tough playoff exit in a 7-game series in the franchise’s first playoff appearance, expectations were high on the Hamilton Bulldogs for the 2017 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection Draft as well as the 2017-18 season. Those expectations would not only bet met but exceeded as time would show and the 2017 Draft would be remembered for delivering the most prolific scorer in franchise history.
In the 2nd round, with the 26th overall selection the Bulldogs would take Arthur Kaliyev from a traditional Michigan powerhouse in Detroit Compuware U16. Following his commitment, Kaliyev would proceed to re-write the franchise record book over the next 3 seasons, beginning with setting the Bulldogs rookie record for goals, 31, and points, 48, while adding another 11 through 21 playoff games on the way to the 2018 OHL Championship. Kaliyev would take his offensive output to the next level in the 2018-19 season, setting the single season franchise records for goals, 51, and points, 102, becoming the first Hamilton Bulldog player to cross the 50-goal and 100-point thresholds. Following the 18-19 season Kaliyev would become the highest Hamilton Bulldog selected in the NHL Entry Draft as the Los Angeles Kings would take the sniper in the 2nd round, 33rd overall, earning him the nickname “King Arthur”. Kaliyev returned to the Bulldogs for the 2019-20 season and continued his assault on the record books, setting the single season mark for assists by a Bulldogs player, 54, as well as setting the all time franchise goal scoring record, 116 (now 126 by the end of season) and all time franchise points record, 248. Kaliyev also had the honour of representing Team USA at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship where he would lead the team in goal scoring with 4 over 5 games to go along with 2 assists for 6 points in the tournament. With his re-writing of the record books and part in the 2018 OHL Championship, Kaliyev has been the most successful draft pick in Hamilton Bulldogs franchise history.
Another player who would enter his name among the most successful picks in Bulldogs history would be the Hamilton’s 1st round selection, 11th overall, from the Ajax-Pickering Raiders, Connor McMichael. As the 2017-18 season began, McMichael would form a very exciting rookie duo with Arthur Kaliyev, scoring 10 points in his first 32 games and showing that he had the ability to be a breakout star. The Bulldogs weren’t the only team to see star potential in McMichael as with the Bulldogs pushing for the 2018 OHL Championship, McMichael would become the centerpiece in the deal with the London Knights that would bring eventual 2018 Playoff MVP, and now Stanley Cup Champion, Robert Thomas to the Hamilton Bulldogs in January 2018. Since the trade McMichael has gone on to score 180 points over 147 games in London, while also going on to be selected in the 1st round, 25th overall by the Washington Capitals in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft, and winning a gold medal at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship with Team Canada while scoring 7 points over 7 games.
In the 3rd round with the 50th overall pick, the Bulldogs would turn to the London Jr. Knights and select team sparkplug Liam Van Loon. Coming off a tremendous season at the minor midget level that would see Van Loon pile up 34 points across 32 league games adding 9 points in 10 playoff games and excelling at the OHL Cup with 7 points in 6 games in the tournament to lead the team. Van Loon would appear 2 regular season games and 1 playoff game with the Bulldogs on the road to the 2018 OHL Championship while excelling with the then Ancaster Avalanche of the GOJHL where he produced 53 points in 42 regular season games as a 16-year old and added another 7 points in 10 playoff games, scoring the biggest goal in Ancaster franchise history, a triple overtime buzzer beater to keep his team alive in Game 6 against St. Catharines. Van Loon would make the Bulldogs roster full time in the 2018-19 season forming a line with fellow rookies Logan Morrison and Avery Hayes that would give Bulldogs fans a great picture of things to come for the future. In the 2019-20 season Van Loon would set his career high in assists, 30, and points, 33 in the OHL as for the first half of the season he would play left wing with Arthur Kaliyev and Jan Jenik, forming a dynamic combination before joining Bradey Johnson and Isaac Nurse in the second half of the season to form an elite shutdown line. Described by Jenik as the “engine of the team” Van Loon consistently brings effort and heart to a growing skill set that has made him a fan favourite in Hamilton.
With the 71st overall pick in the 4th round the Bulldogs would select goaltender Zachary Roy from the Toronto Nationals. Roy was coming off an incredible performance at the 2017 OHL Cup with the Nationals posting a 1.43 GAA / .956 SV% over 7 games, the most games played of any goaltender in the tournament, on his way to an OHL Cup All-Star Team nod. Behind older goaltenders in franchise backstop Kaden Fulcher and backup Nick Donofrio for the 2017-18 season, Roy would head to the CCHL with the Rockland Nationals for a season before earning his spot on the Bulldogs for the 2018-19 season. Roy would go on to wrestle the starters job away from Donofrio and has since played in 77 games over the past two seasons, showing incredible determination in between the pipes and willingness to through caution to the wind and use any possible part of his body to make a save. Roy was named to the OHL Second All-Rookie Team following the 2018-19 season and is creating an impressive 1-2 tandem with 2018 OHL Priority Draft selection Marco Costantini moving forward.
In the 5th round with the 83rd overall selection the Bulldogs would clear the tracks for power forward who has come to be known as “Train #15” from the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs, Navrin Mutter. A ferocious checker who plays with no fear, Mutter instantly became a fan favourite making the Bulldogs as a 16-year old in the 2017-18 season where he would see 28 games and make a physical impact in all of them as a part of the 2018 OHL Champions. Consistently improving his game, Mutter has raised his offensive output in each of his three seasons in the OHL while continuing to bring a physical deterrent for anyone who would want to try and pick on his teammates. The franchise all-time leader in penalty minutes, 231, has also shown an impressive shot which he began to let loose more often in the 2019-20 where he recorded 8 goals, most of the fantastic variety. A leader by example, Mutter has made everyone in the black & gold feel six inches taller since his arrival in Hamilton.
Additionally, other players who have made an impact outside of the Bulldogs organization include Xavier Henry, selected in the 4th round (70th overall) from the Toronto Titans, the 6’5’’ 200lbs defenceman served as an assistant captain with St. Andrews College in the 2018-19 before heading to the Chilliwack Chiefs of the BCHL where he would appear in 55 games between the regular season and playoffs. Selected in the 5th round (91st overall) from the Hamilton Huskies, Jordan Stock has stayed local having played for the Brantford Jr. 99ers & Hamilton Kilty Bees, before heading to the Milton Menace of the OJHL for the 2019-20 season where the power forward would lead the Menace in scoring by more then 20 points. Finally, selected in the 12th round (229th overall) forward Matthew Mancinelli from Honeybaked U16 in Michigan, would eventually commit to Arizona State University in the NCAA where he will enroll for the 2020-21 season.
Although the Hamilton Bulldogs have seen draft classes where more members would reach the OHL, the 2017 class would have to be considered right at the top historically. The selections of Arthur Kaliyev & Connor McMichael for various reasons changed the face of the franchise and set the table for the 2018 OHL Championship. Additionally the commitments from Zachary Roy and Navrin Mutter have given the Bulldogs two additional lineup staples in what has been an incredibly impressive haul from the 2001-class.