The Toronto Maple Leafs have made their final selection of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, selecting defenceman Ryan O’Connell 203rd overall in the seventh round.
Information on O’Connell is sparse, right down to a lack of isolated game footage on the internet (though several full games are available). That’s because of his upbringing; O’Connell played AAA with the Ottawa Junior 67’s from 2013 to 2015 before moving on to St. Andrew’s College, a private preparatory high school.
“After participating in the OHL Gold Cup in Kitchener, Waterloo (April 2015, with the Ottawa Junior 67’s), I was contacted by Dave Manning, Coach of the St. Andrew’s College “Saints”. Coach Manning had seen me play and thought I would be a good fit on his hockey team. I had a tough decision to make within a short period of time as the Nepean Raiders (CCHL) had also offered me a spot on their team; but academically, I knew I would be getting a top notch education at St. Andrew’s College (SAC) as it is one of the leading private schools in Canada. Everything happened so fast. My family and I visited the school in June, 2015, loved what we saw and the people we met, and I started Grade Eleven a couple of months later (September 2015). I was fortunate to have received a two-year scholarship.”
It seems the 18-year-old left-handed defenceman has his head screwed on straight, preparing himself for a life after hockey if he doesn’t make it all the way up to the pros. His goal is to get an engineering degree while playing at Boston University, who he committed to last summer and will begin attending and playing for in two years (with a BCHL Junior-A season in between).
“Not only does BU have a fantastic hockey team, coaching staff, and facility, they also have a strong academic presence. I was watching this year’s NHL draft and when they kept calling BU players in the first round and beyond – it confirmed what an awesome hockey program they offer. I was so hopeful that they would offer me a commitment. I was offered other commitments from NCAA schools and chances to play with other Canadian teams, but I told myself that I would wait until this summer to decide. I am so happy to be part of this great organization and I am over the moon on how things turned out for me!” [NeutralZone]
As it stands, there are no active players from St. Andrews’ College playing in the pro ranks. This year’s 20th overall pick Robert Thomas can be claimed as an alumni, but he played just one game with them.
O’Connell is listed as 6’2, and 175 pounds, and was a multi-sport athlete at St. Andrew’s, playing soccer as well.
I suppose the hope here is that some upside can be found in a player with no top development league experience once he gets to college. With his degree a priority, the Leafs will have years to figure out whether he’s much of anything, which is ideal given their current depth chart.
There are other players I would’ve preferred to pick at this spot (snagging Alexander Polunin’s rights would’ve been sweet), but we’ll have to see where this one goes.