Big Bulldogs get even bigger

Sports Apr 10, 2016 by Scott Radley The Hamilton Spectator

For weeks leading up to Saturday's Ontario Hockey League draft, the oft-repeated mantra around the Hamilton Bulldogs was that they were looking for one specific quality in any player they selected. He had to have character. Tons of character. A mix of Mark Messier, Mother Teresa and Winston Churchill would be a good starting point.

Oh, and size.

They never actually mentioned that last bit but there can no longer be any doubt that this organization loves big guys. A good attitude, a strong work ethic and leadership qualities are important for sure. But the brief two-year history of Bulldogs' drafts loudly screams that being huge is, well, huge.

Deposed general manager George Burnett's picks last year were almost all jumbo. His first eight selections all buy their clothes at the big-and-tall store. Burnett's gone now but new GM Steve Staios picked up right where he left off, grabbing the largest elite player available with the third-overall pick.

Connor Roberts is one sizeable 16-year-old. At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds – and presumably still growing – he's already in the mold of a traditional power forward. Various reports called him an offensive force with perhaps the best shot in the draft. Which sounds like a great addition to a team in need of scoring.

"He's a big young man with high, high character and great potential," Staios says.

With his second-round pick, the GM then selected the even-bigger DJ King. The son of former NHLer and Hamilton native Derek King is 6-foot-4, 215 pounds and described as an intimidating force on the blue-line who can play. With a bit of a nasty streak thrown in.

Hamilton now has six forwards that are 6-foot-2 or taller and another six defencemen in that category who should make the season-opening roster. Nearly all are closing in on 200 pounds or larger. As they get a little older and become a little stronger, this team should be an absolute load on the ice.

Staios may simply call all this size a bonus, but it's a bonus the staff clearly covets.

Of course, size in isolation means nothing. You can be 8-foot-7 and 497 pounds with two per cent body fat and rippling muscles but unless you can play, you're useless. So scouting by tape measure would be foolish. Big and skilled, though? That's an intriguing combo. And those first two picks can both be described in those terms.

To be sure, it's not like the Bulldogs only took giants. With their third pick they took Riley McCourt, a 5-foot-11 puck-moving defenceman. Then with their fourth – their second pick in the third round – they grabbed 5-foot-11 Jake Pivonka, son of former NHLer, Michal. And with their next choice, they grabbed diminutive offensive whiz Jake Murray who's listed at 5-foot-8. Others who followed in the later rounds were as small as 5-foot-6.

Yet it's still a generally gigantic group that's been assembled here. Even if there is some work to be done to bring it all together.

Both King and Pivonka have committed to the U.S. Developmental Program rather than the OHL for next season. Meaning Staios now has to become a charmer, a convincer and a changer of minds. He has to make them believe the Bulldogs are a better path to the pros than the U.S. college system.

"We think they'll highly consider coming to Hamilton," says head scout Dave Gray, who wouldn't call their selection a gamble even though the team used two high picks on guys who may never set foot in the team's dressing room.

He might be right. If the GM – and maybe owner Michael Andlauer and some players and the new head coach whenever he's named – can work a little magic and convince these two to show up this year or even next, a draft that looks like a good class could quickly become a great one. Filled with skill. And with size.

And, yes, with the character the team so clearly covets.

sradley@thespec.com

905-526-2440 @radleyatthespec

Spectator columnist Scott Radley hosts The Scott Radley Show weeknights from 7-9 on 900CHML

Big Bulldogs get even bigger

Top two picks continue the team’s tradition of drafting XL-sized players

Sports Apr 10, 2016 by Scott Radley The Hamilton Spectator

For weeks leading up to Saturday's Ontario Hockey League draft, the oft-repeated mantra around the Hamilton Bulldogs was that they were looking for one specific quality in any player they selected. He had to have character. Tons of character. A mix of Mark Messier, Mother Teresa and Winston Churchill would be a good starting point.

Oh, and size.

They never actually mentioned that last bit but there can no longer be any doubt that this organization loves big guys. A good attitude, a strong work ethic and leadership qualities are important for sure. But the brief two-year history of Bulldogs' drafts loudly screams that being huge is, well, huge.

Deposed general manager George Burnett's picks last year were almost all jumbo. His first eight selections all buy their clothes at the big-and-tall store. Burnett's gone now but new GM Steve Staios picked up right where he left off, grabbing the largest elite player available with the third-overall pick.

Connor Roberts is one sizeable 16-year-old. At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds – and presumably still growing – he's already in the mold of a traditional power forward. Various reports called him an offensive force with perhaps the best shot in the draft. Which sounds like a great addition to a team in need of scoring.

"He's a big young man with high, high character and great potential," Staios says.

With his second-round pick, the GM then selected the even-bigger DJ King. The son of former NHLer and Hamilton native Derek King is 6-foot-4, 215 pounds and described as an intimidating force on the blue-line who can play. With a bit of a nasty streak thrown in.

Hamilton now has six forwards that are 6-foot-2 or taller and another six defencemen in that category who should make the season-opening roster. Nearly all are closing in on 200 pounds or larger. As they get a little older and become a little stronger, this team should be an absolute load on the ice.

Staios may simply call all this size a bonus, but it's a bonus the staff clearly covets.

Of course, size in isolation means nothing. You can be 8-foot-7 and 497 pounds with two per cent body fat and rippling muscles but unless you can play, you're useless. So scouting by tape measure would be foolish. Big and skilled, though? That's an intriguing combo. And those first two picks can both be described in those terms.

To be sure, it's not like the Bulldogs only took giants. With their third pick they took Riley McCourt, a 5-foot-11 puck-moving defenceman. Then with their fourth – their second pick in the third round – they grabbed 5-foot-11 Jake Pivonka, son of former NHLer, Michal. And with their next choice, they grabbed diminutive offensive whiz Jake Murray who's listed at 5-foot-8. Others who followed in the later rounds were as small as 5-foot-6.

Yet it's still a generally gigantic group that's been assembled here. Even if there is some work to be done to bring it all together.

Both King and Pivonka have committed to the U.S. Developmental Program rather than the OHL for next season. Meaning Staios now has to become a charmer, a convincer and a changer of minds. He has to make them believe the Bulldogs are a better path to the pros than the U.S. college system.

"We think they'll highly consider coming to Hamilton," says head scout Dave Gray, who wouldn't call their selection a gamble even though the team used two high picks on guys who may never set foot in the team's dressing room.

He might be right. If the GM – and maybe owner Michael Andlauer and some players and the new head coach whenever he's named – can work a little magic and convince these two to show up this year or even next, a draft that looks like a good class could quickly become a great one. Filled with skill. And with size.

And, yes, with the character the team so clearly covets.

sradley@thespec.com

905-526-2440 @radleyatthespec

Spectator columnist Scott Radley hosts The Scott Radley Show weeknights from 7-9 on 900CHML

Big Bulldogs get even bigger

Top two picks continue the team’s tradition of drafting XL-sized players

Sports Apr 10, 2016 by Scott Radley The Hamilton Spectator

For weeks leading up to Saturday's Ontario Hockey League draft, the oft-repeated mantra around the Hamilton Bulldogs was that they were looking for one specific quality in any player they selected. He had to have character. Tons of character. A mix of Mark Messier, Mother Teresa and Winston Churchill would be a good starting point.

Oh, and size.

They never actually mentioned that last bit but there can no longer be any doubt that this organization loves big guys. A good attitude, a strong work ethic and leadership qualities are important for sure. But the brief two-year history of Bulldogs' drafts loudly screams that being huge is, well, huge.

Deposed general manager George Burnett's picks last year were almost all jumbo. His first eight selections all buy their clothes at the big-and-tall store. Burnett's gone now but new GM Steve Staios picked up right where he left off, grabbing the largest elite player available with the third-overall pick.

Connor Roberts is one sizeable 16-year-old. At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds – and presumably still growing – he's already in the mold of a traditional power forward. Various reports called him an offensive force with perhaps the best shot in the draft. Which sounds like a great addition to a team in need of scoring.

"He's a big young man with high, high character and great potential," Staios says.

With his second-round pick, the GM then selected the even-bigger DJ King. The son of former NHLer and Hamilton native Derek King is 6-foot-4, 215 pounds and described as an intimidating force on the blue-line who can play. With a bit of a nasty streak thrown in.

Hamilton now has six forwards that are 6-foot-2 or taller and another six defencemen in that category who should make the season-opening roster. Nearly all are closing in on 200 pounds or larger. As they get a little older and become a little stronger, this team should be an absolute load on the ice.

Staios may simply call all this size a bonus, but it's a bonus the staff clearly covets.

Of course, size in isolation means nothing. You can be 8-foot-7 and 497 pounds with two per cent body fat and rippling muscles but unless you can play, you're useless. So scouting by tape measure would be foolish. Big and skilled, though? That's an intriguing combo. And those first two picks can both be described in those terms.

To be sure, it's not like the Bulldogs only took giants. With their third pick they took Riley McCourt, a 5-foot-11 puck-moving defenceman. Then with their fourth – their second pick in the third round – they grabbed 5-foot-11 Jake Pivonka, son of former NHLer, Michal. And with their next choice, they grabbed diminutive offensive whiz Jake Murray who's listed at 5-foot-8. Others who followed in the later rounds were as small as 5-foot-6.

Yet it's still a generally gigantic group that's been assembled here. Even if there is some work to be done to bring it all together.

Both King and Pivonka have committed to the U.S. Developmental Program rather than the OHL for next season. Meaning Staios now has to become a charmer, a convincer and a changer of minds. He has to make them believe the Bulldogs are a better path to the pros than the U.S. college system.

"We think they'll highly consider coming to Hamilton," says head scout Dave Gray, who wouldn't call their selection a gamble even though the team used two high picks on guys who may never set foot in the team's dressing room.

He might be right. If the GM – and maybe owner Michael Andlauer and some players and the new head coach whenever he's named – can work a little magic and convince these two to show up this year or even next, a draft that looks like a good class could quickly become a great one. Filled with skill. And with size.

And, yes, with the character the team so clearly covets.

sradley@thespec.com

905-526-2440 @radleyatthespec

Spectator columnist Scott Radley hosts The Scott Radley Show weeknights from 7-9 on 900CHML