By Matt Mackinder –
Zach Bratina is sure to become a household name around the Ontario Hockey League in short order.
The Plymouth Whalers’ first-round pick (19th overall) during the OHL draft on April 7, Bratina was tabbed “The One” last summer after scoring the highest SPARQ rating in physical combines conducted in Ontario last summer.
SPARQ is an acronym that stands for speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness.
Bratina is equally as good on the ice, as the 16-year-old from Lindsay, Ont., scored 22 goals and added 21 assists with 60 penalty minutes in 30 games with the Central Ontario Wolves minor midget team this past season.
Even OHL Central Scouting thinks Plymouth got a steal at pick No. 19.
“Zach’s a very smart hockey player,” said OHL director of central scouting Darrell Woodley. “The puck really follows him around the ice. He has good vision and the ability to score, coming out of the corners or in tight around the net.”
Bratina, who trains with former NHL star Gary Roberts, was in Plymouth last week with his parents to visit Compuware Arena, meet the team and tour the city.
“I’m definitely excited to be a Whaler now and the arena seems to be looking nice,” Bratina told PlymouthWhalers.com. “The room and the guys have been very welcoming so far.”
Bratina described his game as that of a playmaker and a two-way player – something that should help him fit in with Plymouth next season and not miss a beat.
“I find that I’m good at finding open ice up in the front of the ice,” added the 6-foot-1, 165-pound Bratina.
In the second round, Plymouth went for a family affair as the Whalers chose 6-foot-4 defenseman Alex Peters from the Huron Perth Lakers minor midgets. Peters is the younger brother of former Whalers goaltender Justin Peters (2005-06), who is now in the Carolina Hurricanes’ system.
Peters scored 15 goals and 14 assists for 29 points in 58 games this past season for the Lakers.
Plymouth took another member of its extended family with current forward Tom Wilson’s brother, defenseman James Wilson, in the tenth round.
The Whalers went with another player they know in the fourth round, taking high-scoring forward Sonny Milano from the Cleveland Barons U16 team. Milano scored 63 goals and 57 points for 120 points in 64 games. Plymouth director of scouting Don Harkins is an assistant coach with the team. Milano is committed to playing for the U.S. National Team Developmental Program next season, as is fifth-round pick Josh Wesley from the Carolina Hurricanes U16 outfit. Wesley is the son of former NHL defenseman and current Hurricanes director of defensive development Glen Wesley.
Plymouth selected its first and only goaltender of the draft in the sixth round in Belle Tire midget minor’s Alex Nedeljkovic, who registered a 1.88 goals-against average and a .903 save percentage in 18 games last season.
The rest of the draft was spent on mid-level players and late-round flyers that may or may not turn into OHL players. With one of their eighth round picks, the Whalers grabbed offensive defenseman Daniel Willett from the New Jersey Rockets of the Metro Junior Hockey League. Willett, who scored 23 goals and 38 assists for 61 points in 68 games, verbally committed to Northeastern University last September for either 2014 or 2015.
Defenseman Jake Linhart and forward Seamus Malone from the Chicago Mission U16 team were drafted by the Whalers in the ninth and 14th round, respectively, to round out their American draft picks. Both players have committed to the University of Wisconsin.
PLYMOUTH 2012 OHL DRAFT PICKS
1st round, Zach Bratina, LW, Central Ontario Wolves
2nd round, Alex Peters, LD, Huron-Perth Lakers
4th round, Sonny Milano, LC, Cleveland Barons U16
5th round, Joshua Wesley, LD, Carolina Hurricanes U16
6th round, Alex Nedeljkovic, G, Belle Tire U16
7th round, Mathieu Henderson, LD, Brantford 99ers
7th round, Liam Grande, RW, Whitby Wildcats
8th round, Daniel Willett, RD, New Jersey Rockets
8th round, Mitchell Smith, LW, Toronto Young Nationals
9th round, Jake Linhart, RD, Chicago Mission U16
10th round, James Wilson, LD, Jr. Canadiens
11th round, Patrick Kudla, LW, Guelph
12th round, Kyler Challis, RD, Whitby Wildcats
14th round, Seamus Malone, LC, Chicago Mission U16
15th round, Camden VanBrocklin, LD, NPI Leafs
This article originally appeared in the April 23 issue of MiHockeyMag.