The Kingston Frontenacs, with the fifth overall pick of the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection, chose Oakville Rangers U16 AAA right-winger Matthew Soto on Friday night.
Soto, who stands five-foot-11 and weighs 160 pounds, said in an interview he can bring some creativity to the offence.
“I can control the puck at high speed and I’m a really good playmaker,” he said.
Soto said his U16 team kept its players busy during the COVID-19 pandemic and provided opportunities for them to be seen by scouts. His team managed to play some exhibition games against other teams in the Oakville area and from Toronto.
“Everything was just different and it was really weird this year,” Soto said. “For the most part, our team did a good job of playing in everything we can and showcasing.”
Soto wants to get bigger and stronger before the Frontenacs’ training camp in the fall.
“I’ll be playing against a lot of bigger guys. That will be my focus for next year, and paying more attention to details,” he said. “The goalies are tougher to score on, so I want to work on my shot.”
Frontenacs coach and general manager Paul McFarland said in an interview he was happy Soto was available at the fifth selection.
“He’s a guy we’re really excited about. He’s got elite IQ, he can make plays and can score,” McFarland said. “In our conversations and meetings, obviously through Zoom, he was a really impressive kid that’s very driven.”
McFarland said he and the team’s scouts had many looks of Soto live and on video.
The Frontenacs also drafted fifth overall in 2020, taking centre Paul Ludwinski from the Toronto Marlboros.
The first three rounds of the 2021 draft were conducted on Friday night, with rounds 4 through 15 set for Saturday.
Kingston had two second-round selections and chose Mitchell Brooks, a 5-9, 173-pound centre from the U16 Toronto Titans, at 34th overall and defenceman Quinton Burns, a 6-2, 170-pound defenceman from the U18 Kemptville 73s, at 35th overall.
McFarland was also high on both Brooks and Burns.
“Mitchell Brooks is a player that can score, ultracompetitive for his size and has a great passion for the game of hockey,” McFarland said. “Quinton Burns is a big, puck-moving defenceman that’s only going to get better.
“Now we have to do our best to develop these players.”
On Saturday, Kingston will have a dozen more selections, with picks ranging from 61st to 284th overall, as the draft makes its way through the fourth to 15th round.
The Sudbury Wolves, who owned the first overall selection after winning the draft lottery, selected North Jersey Avalanche forward Quentin Musty (6-2, 190 pounds) on Thursday.
OHL scouts were challenged this year during the novel coronavirus pandemic and the cancellation of travel hockey. Scouts had to depend on video or watching prospects in scrimmages or skills competitions.
Prior to Kingston’s selection of Soto, centre Calum Ritchie went to the Oshawa Generals second overall. Ritchie is the younger brother of Frontenacs defenceman Ethan Ritchie. The Guelph Storm took defenceman Cameron Allen third, and left-winger Ethan Miedema went to the Windsor Spitfires fourth overall.
List of Kingston Frontenacs selections in the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection
•Matthew Soto, right-wing, Oakville Rangers U16, first round, fifth overall
•Mitchell Brooks, center, Toronto Titans, second round, 34th
•Quinton Burns, defence, Kemptville 73s U18, second round, 35th
•Mason Vaccari, goaltender, Vaughan Kings U16, fourth round, 61st
•Christopher Thibodeau, center, Kitchener Jr. Rangers, fourth round, 75th
•Duncan Schneider, defence, Quinte Red Devils U16, fifth round, 94th
•Adam Cavallin, center, Kemptville 73s U18, seventh round, 124th
•Andrew Kuzma, center, Chicago Mission 15s, eighth round, 155th
•Michael Chambre, goaltender, Florida Alliance 15s, 10th round, 164th
•Maleek McGowan, defence, Markham Majors U16, 10th round, 184th.
•Antoine Dorion, center, Hawksbury Hawks U18, 11th round, 214th.
•Jake Mallory, right-wing, Halton Hills Hurricanes U16, 13th round 244th.
•Izayah Luddington, defence, Markham Waxwes U16, 13th round, 254th
•Dante Siciliano, defence, Whitby Wildcats U16, 15th round, 284th.