Hockey star sets sights on being picked in the OHL priority selection draft

Oakville Rangers forward Calum Ritchie is ready to take the next step towards his dream of lacing up in the NHL now that he's eligible for the upcoming OHL draft.

This year, the 16-year-old is being touted as one of the top prospects ahead of next month's OHL priority draft, and some teams believe he has the potential to go first overall.

But like everything else with the pandemic, this year's draft is anything but ordinary.

In past years, last-place teams would receive top draft ranking honours, but with the 2020-21 season cancelled and no standings results, for the first time in the league's history, a lottery will decide the first round of the draft, and which of the OHL's 20 teams will take that number one pick.

"I'm not too sure what's going to happen with the teams and stuff," says Ritchie. "I just wanna get a chance to get drafted and play in the league. It would be a huge honour."

Once drafted, Calum will join his older brother Ethan in the league.

Ethan, a defenseman for the Kingston Frontenacs, has been a role model for Calum, who says it's because of Ethan that he knows what it will take to play in the OHL.

"He's definitely been a huge help, and watching them [Kingston] play definitely has some benefits in my game, being able to watch their systems and what it takes to play at the next level," he says.

Calum believes while it would be an honour to be drafted by the Frontenacs and play alongside his brother, he's open to the thought of letting sibling rivalry set in at the drop of the puck.

"We're both competitive so, it would be pretty intense," he says.

If the season starts as expected in September, the Barrie Colts will see the return of veteran forward Tyson Foerster and defenceman Brandt Clarke.

Acting general manager Marty Williamson says while most of the team from the 2019-2020 season will be returning, he wouldn't mind seeing Calum in a Colts' sweater, believing he would be a great addition to a team that's ready to win.

"You make room for Calum if you're lucky enough to get him, and he definitely fits into our system. He's a top six forward almost instantly," says Williamson.

The Colts have only had first overall pick twice in their 26-year history, taking now Florida Panthers' defenceman Aaron Ekblad in 2011 and six years later in 2017, drafting the now Carolina Hurricanes prospect Ryan Suzuki.

"I think it just adds that confidence, you know, because you worked so hard throughout your whole career and just kinda getting that recognition, it means a lot," says Suzuki.

With just a month to go until he puts on a new team's sweater, Calum says he'll take that time to prepare for that next stage of his career.

"For now, I'm just focusing kind of on just getting bigger, faster, stronger, just trying to get better every single day," says Calum.

This year's draft lottery will take place Wednesday at 7 p.m. and can be watched live on the OHL's Youtube channel.