Following in the Footsteps of Champions: Bulldogs’ 8th Overall Draft Legacy
The Brantford Bulldogs enter the opening night of the 2023 OHL Priority Selection Draft holding 4 picks through the first 3 rounds with none more important than the 8th overall selection. The 2023 OHL Draft marks the third occasion in franchise history for the Bulldogs to hold the 8th overall selection and to say the previous two occasions turned out successful would be putting it mildly. First holding the Draft’s #8 pick in 2015, the Bulldogs selected Matthew Strome from the Toronto Marlboros U16 AAA and followed that in 2019 using the 8th overall selection on Ryan Winterton of the Whitby Wildcats U16 AAA. Both players went on to be NHL Drafted two years following their OHL selection and become Champions three years following with Strome playing a key part in the 2018 OHL Championship & Winterton key in the run to the 2022 OHL Championship.
Having captained the Toronto Marlboros to both the 2015 GTHL & OHL Cup Championships, Matthew Strome was exactly the type of player the Bulldogs wanted to build around. Bringing a rare combination of size, skill and hockey IQ Strome leapt off the page and the Bulldogs were overjoyed to select him 8th overall.
Strome immediately carved out a role as a rookie in the 2015-16 OHL season, setting a Bulldogs rookie scoring record, that stood until Arthur Kaliyev in 2017-18. With 16 goals & 22 assists for 38 points in 61 games, Strome impressed not only with his offensive acumen but his ability to play in all situations including becoming a big part of the Bulldogs penalty kill as a 16-year-old. Returning for the 2016-17 Strome took off as a top line contributor and never looked back. Leading the team in goals, 34, & points, 62, Strome continued his tremendous season with 8 points over 7 playoffs games, leading on to representing Team Canada at the World U-18 Championship and being selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 4th round, 106th overall at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The 2017-18 was magical for Strome and the Bulldogs with the towering #18 posting another 30/60 season with a team leading 37 goals and 31 assists for 68 points in 65 games. Strome again stepped up in the post-season with 18 points in 20 games, helping lead the Bulldogs to their first OHL Championship.
WATCH THIS: @Mstrome16 are you kidding me 😱
Lacrosse style goal by the @NHLFlyers prospect is one of the most skilled plays you’ll see @BulldogsOHL: pic.twitter.com/9A1iSTUbNZ
— Ontario Hockey League (@OHLHockey) November 26, 2017
Strome continued his OHL dominance in the 2018-19 season, becoming the 4th captain in team history just after the trade deadline and teaming up with Arthur Kaliyev on a top line that blistered opposition defenses. Strome concluded his final OHL season with 28 goals & 51 assists for 79 points while playing in all 68 games, adding another 4 points in 4 playoff games. Strome ended his OHL career as, at the time, the Bulldogs all-time leading scorer with 115 goals & 132 assists for 247 points in 260 games played.
As Strome’s OHL career ended, the Bulldogs held the 8th overall selection in the 2019 OHL Priority Selection Draft where the team added another gifted offensive talent in Ryan Winterton from the Whitby Wildcats. Coming off an absurd season with the Wildcats where the power-forward notched 38 goals & 34 assists for 72 in just 36 games, it was immediately obvious the Bulldogs had a special talent and character.
Scoring in his first OHL game against the Sarnia Sting on September 20th, 2019, Winterton set the table for an impressive rookie season posting 12 goals & 11 assists for 23 points in 53 games and like Strome before him became a trusted 200-ft player carving out a role on the Bulldogs penalty kill in addition to his offensive talents. Though Winterton’s sophomore season would be wiped out due to COVID, the budding star impressed at the U-18 World Championship where he posted 4 points in 7 games and played a multi-faceted role in helping Team Canada to a Gold Medal, alongside future linemate Mason McTavish. Two-years following his 8th overall selection to the Bulldogs, the expansion Seattle Kraken made Winterton the 67th overall selection in the 2021 NHL Draft and the rocket ship wearing #27 was set into launch position.
Missing the first half of the 2021-22 season due to injury, Winterton returned with a vengeance on January 11th, 2022, against the Niagara IceDogs where he recorded 5 points on 1 goal & 4 assists on route to closing the season with 20 goals & 26 assists for 46 points in 37 games. Winterton, like Strome before him once again, took his game to another level in the 2022 OHL Playoffs. Scoring 7 goals & 12 assists for 19 points in 18 post-season games, Winterton helped lead the Bulldogs to their 2nd OHL Championship triumph.
Oh, how we missed this 😍😍 pic.twitter.com/s8PfLPhzDR
— Brantford Bulldogs (@BulldogsOHL) January 12, 2022
Finishing his OHL career with the London Knights, Winterton is on the run for potential back-to-back OHL Championship glory, again taking a leadership position among his teammates.
The 8th overall selection has been brilliant for the Bulldogs, and with the 2023 selection following in the 4 year cycle, the Bulldogs will look to help lightning strike a 3rd time!