Powered by Liuna Local 837, the Hamilton Bulldogs drafted a total of 16 players during the course of the 2021 Priority Selection Draft presented by Real Canadian Superstore. Over the course of the 15 rounds split between June 4th and 5th, the Bulldogs would add 9 forwards, 5 defensemen and a pair of goaltenders, all led by 1st round pick Alex Pharand from Sudbury.
The Bulldogs would first be on the clock at #14 where the team would look north, selecting towering center Alex Pharand from the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves. Going from Nickel to Steel, the 6’2”, 188lbs, Pharand models his game after the likes of Patrice Bergeron & Nathan MacKinnon. A 200-foot player with high hockey IQ who combines strength, speed and creativity to succeed at all levels he’s played it so far including 22 goals & 18 assists for 40 points in just 27 games in the 2019-20 season with Nickel City while adding another 2 points across 6 games while playing underage for the Sudbury Nickel Capital Wolves in the same season. Named team captain at the U18 level for the 2020-21 year in Sudbury, Pharand’s character immediately stands out and he looks to be an immediate fan favourite coming to Hamilton.
Next on the clock at 43rd overall, the Bulldogs would turn to the York-Simcoe Express in selecting goal scoring phenom Cole Brown. The Aurora, ON product potted an astounding 44 goals to go along with 32 assists for 72 points in just 42 games in the 19-20 season. Standing 6’3” Brown combines dynamic talent with a great mind for the game and a nose for the net that will make the winger a problem for defenses all over the Ontario Hockey League.
With the Bulldogs’ second pick in the 3rd round, 53rd overall, the team would select defenseman Noah Roberts from St. Andrews College. Roberts carries the bloodlines of a star, the son of Gary Roberts who played 1225 games in the NHL across 21 seasons with Calgary, Carolina, Toronto, Florida, Pittsburgh & Tampa Bay and won 2 OHL Championships, 2 CHL Memorial Cups & the 1989 Stanley Cup with Calgary in his career. Roberts, a fleet-footed yet bruising defensive force standing 6’1” & 177lbs, models his game after future Hall of Fame defender Shea Weber. In the 19-20 season while with the York-Simcoe Express Roberts would record 4 goals & 20 assists for 24 points in 37 games while providing rock solid defence before heading to St. Andrews College for 4 games.
A potential steal for the Bulldogs came with the 66th overall selection in the 4th round as the team would welcome defenseman Lucas Moore from the Peterborough Petes U16. A gifted defender Moore combines an incredible ability to read the play with his tremendous skating and adds physicality to the mix. At 5’10” & 180lbs, Moore already looks ready to make the jump to the OHL and his 2019-20 season went a long way in making his case, recording 12 goals & 22 assists for 34 points in 46 games at the U15 level while stepping in as an underage player at the U16 level to record 2 points in 8 games and looking entirely comfortable stepping up.
The Bulldogs would go electric with their first of two 5th round picks, selecting the exciting Noah VandenBrink with the 83rd overall pick. The ultra-competitive right winger brings a blend of exciting speed and talent, which was on full display with the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs where VandenBrink would record 26 goals & 32 assists for 58 points in only 32 games. As dangerous in tight spaces as he is in open ice, VandenBrink overall skill set is something that should really excite Hamilton fans.
At 93rd overall with the second of the team’s 5th round picks the Bulldogs would select the thunder to Noah VandenBrink’s lightning in Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs center Noah Nelson. At 6’1” & 175lbs, the London, ON product has developed side by side with teammate & friend VandenBrink and brings a well-rounded 200-ft game while also showing his offensive skill in the 2019-20 season recording 24 goals & 23 assists for 47 points across 32 games. The Nelson-VandenBrink connection much like Cole Brown & Noah Roberts will have the opportunity to jump to the next level together, making another great draft day story.
With the 106th overall selection in the 6th round the Hamilton Bulldogs would turn to the Ottawa area, selecting Nepean Raiders U18 product Lucas Veilleux. Veilleux spent his 2020-21 season in Nepean at the U18 level in the HEO’s modified exhibition schedule and much like 2020 selections Jorian Donovan & Jonathan Melee, was able to excel while playing against much older competition. The slick centerman spent the 2019-20 season with the Upper Canada Cyclones recording 15 goals & 18 assists for 33 points in 30 games adding another 7 points in 5 playoff games and serving as an assistant captain showing his character and leadership levels.
In the 7th round, 133rd overall the Bulldogs would welcome defenseman Larry Keenan from the York-Simcoe Express. From the same program as fellow Bulldogs’ picks Cole Brown & Noah Roberts, Keenan also carries the game in his genes. Keenan’s grandfather, also Larry Keenan, played 233 games in the NHL over 6 years from 1961-1972 with his greatest success coming as a defensive stalwart for the expansion St. Louis Blues from 1967-1971 and playing in three straight Stanley Cup Finals from 1968-1970. The younger Keenan, like his grandfather, a rugged defender also carries significant offensive upside, recording 13 goals & 15 assists for 28 points in 41 with the Express in 2019-20 and will look to build on that success moving forward with the Bulldogs.
Marcus Lougheed would hear his name called in the 8th round, 146th overall, as the Grey-Bruce Highlanders left winger heads south. The Collingwood, ON product scored 19 goals & 14 assists for 33 points across 36 games in the 2019-20 season and will look to make his mark at camp for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs would head next to Edgewood, MD for fast, physical defender Daniel Johnson of the Chicago Young Americans 15’s. A tremendous value in the 9th round with the 173rd overall selection, Johnson had a tremendous 2020-21 season in Chicago recording 22 goals & 29 assists for 51 points across 60 games while providing solid defense and giving fans an exciting talent to watch across all 200-feet.
With the 186th overall selection in the 10th round, the Bulldogs would turn to the crease for the first time in the draft adding Ethan Simpson from the Don Mills Flyers. Having played U15 with the Mississauga Senators before moving to the Don Mills Flyers U16, Simpson is someone to keep a close eye on for the future of the Bulldogs crease.
Jamie Darlison would become the next Bulldog in the 11th round with the 213th overall selection and could turn out to be a real steal. The same round where the Bulldogs picked a former captain, Isaac Nurse, in 2015, Darlison had a spectacular 2019-20 with the Whitby Wildcats U15 recording 27 goals & 23 assists for 50 points across 45 games while stepping up to the U16 level for a pair of games as an underage player recording a goal.
For the third time in the draft the Hamilton Bulldogs would draft a player with deep family connections to the NHL with the 226th pick in the 12th round, selecting Zachary Gratton. The Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs product is the son of former NHL, Brantford, ON product, Chris Gratton who played 1092 games at the game’s highest level between Tampa Bay, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Phoenix, Colorado, Florida & Columbus. The younger Gratton is approaching his dad’s size standing 6’2” & 178lbs, and recorded 6 goals & 7 assists for 13 points across 36 games while playing an advanced 200-ft game with hockey IQ beyond his years.
In the 13th round, with the 253rd overall selection, the Bulldogs took their second trip to the crease selecting goaltender Ethan Beattie from the Quinte Red Devils U16. The towering netminder stands 6’4” & 175lbs and along with earlier selection Ethan Simpson provide a 2005-born duo who will push each other to success.
The Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs would have a second player called by the hometown team as the Bulldogs would select Braeden O’Keefe with the 266th overall pick in the 14th round. An offensively gifted talent with tons of potential, O’Keefe recorded 17 goals & 19 assists for 36 points in 37 games in the 2019-20 season. Along with Zachary Gratton, the teammates represent the 3rd pair of teammates (one trio) selected to the Bulldogs in the 2021 OHL Draft.
Rounding out the Bulldogs draft board with the 293rd pick in the 15th round, defenseman Rory Browne of the Oakville Rangers U16 will provide another talented two-way defenseman to compete in this class. Standing 6’0” & 171lbs, Browne possess the size and skating ability to make the jump to the junior level and will be fun to watch at training camp.
With 16 draftees now in the fold, training camp for the 2021-22 OHL season will be the most hotly contested in Hamilton Bulldogs history and we look forward to seeing all our new Bulldogs on the ice!