Dan Hickling

Windsor Spitfires first-round pick Wyatt Johnston adds depth at centre

It is not often a player is granted exceptional status in the CHL draft. When it does happen, it’s not only a good thing for the team selecting first overall but also for the teams selecting in the top 10. It means they move up a spot and get better players than they might otherwise have gotten. With Shane Wright granted exceptional status and the Windsor Spitfires selecting sixth overall, they had an opportunity for a top 5 player.

With that pick, the Spitfires selected Wyatt Johnston from the Toronto Marlboros of the GTMMHL. The 5 foot 10 centre scored 48 goals and 46 assists in 73 games, averaging 1.29 points per game during the 2018-2019 season.

The Toronto, Ontario native scored a lot of goals over the 2018-19 season between his GTMMHL season and the OHL Cup, which drew the Spitfire’s attention. “He put pucks away a lot last year,” said Windsor Spitfires General Manager Warren Rychel,  “And scored in big games. We had a lot of coverage of him this season and like what he brings to the table.”

The Spitfires would get an extra five games to see Johnston play in the OHL Cup before selecting him. Johnston finished off by scoring five goals in the five games. Of the five, two of them were shorthanded and one was a game winner. He was also the only player on the Toronto Marlboros to score in their 4-1 elimination loss from the tournament. Big game scorer indeed.

Johnston ended up finishing fourth overall in scoring with 13 points in 5 games but finished first in points per game with 2.6. Shane Wright finished slightly below him with 2.57 points per game, with 18 points in 7 games.

Comparables

It’s hard to predict how exactly a player will transition from minor-midget to the OHL. A couple of players that seem to have transitioned well from the GTMMHL to the OHL are current Windsor Spitfires, Jean-Luc Foudy and Will Cuylle.

Johnston is a mixture of both players. He has a similar vision to Foudy and is able to use that to create scoring chances. He’s also a great shot and finds a way to find the back of the net similar to Cuylle.

In the year before being drafted 10th overall by the Spitfires, Foudy played for the Toronto Titans. Foudy scored 25 goals and added 35 assists, averaging 1.15 points per game over a 52 game season. Known for his playmaking, Foudy averaged 0.67 assists per game, compared to Johnston’s 0.63. Foudy would go to show that playmaking with the Spitfires in his rookie season, recording 44 assists in 63 games, averaging 0.77 assists per game. The centerman didn’t light the lamp much in his first 62 games on the season, scoring only 6 goals before tallying two more in his final game of the season to bring his total to 8. As a result, Foudy wouldn’t match his impressive assist tally with his goal totals, finishing with 49 points, averaging 0.78 points per game.

Will Cuylle – Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.
COPYRIGHT
CHL Images

After being drafted 3rd overall by the Peterborough Petes in 2018, Cuylle would fail to report at the start of the season and was later traded to the Spitfires. The Toronto, Ontario native, would go on to score 26 goals in 63 games with the Spitfires, averaging 0.41 goals per game. In his last season in Minor Midget, Cuylle scored 33 goals and added 29 assists, averaging 1.44 points per game, in 43 games with the Toronto Marlboros. Cuylle averaged 0.76 goals per game in his draft season compared to Johnston’s 0.65.

Using these comparable, Johnston will probably up around 20 goals and add 25 assists to that total.

Future With The Spitfires

First things first, Johnston needs to commit to the Spitfires. With the new structuring of the Spitfires ownership, that is looking more likely. If or when he does, he will probably be eased into a role in the bottom six with the club.  The Spitfires drafted Johnston in the hopes of running Foudy and Johnston in a one-two punch at down the middle but it also wouldn’t be surprising to see Johnston start the season on the wing. Center holds added defensive responsibility and starting on the wing would allow Johnston to find his footing in the league.

Once he finds his footing, it’s not hard to imagine Johnston and Foudy as that one-two punch by the end of the season.