The date is Sunday March 10th, 2020. The Niagara IceDogs were on the road for a Sunday evening tilt against the OHL leading team the Ottawa 67’s. The Dogs were at the time fighting for the last playoff spot in the eastern conference. The night didn’t go as planned for the IceDogs as they went on to lose that game 9-1, and for the Dogs this wasn’t anything new in the second half of the regular season. This was one of many crushing defeats since the OHL Trade Deadline which saw the IceDogs trade away star player Phil Tomasino, Kyen Sopa and Team Canada World Junior Gold Medalist Akil Thomas. Little did the IceDogs, the fans, hell, even the entire sporting world know that this wasn’t the darkest day yet.
The next morning the entire world woke up to shocking news. The NBA had suspended the rest of the regular season after one of the team members of the Utah Jazz had tested positive for COVID-19. This would then soon cause a “domino effect” as league by league across the sports world suspended their seasons and upcoming game/tournaments/seasons. From the NHL to the MLS to the NCAA and even all the leagues within the CHL. Eventually we would come to know now that the rest of the OHL season, playoffs and then CHL Memorial Cup would be cancelled for the rest of the 2019-2020 season. This was truly hard news and some that affected many in different ways.
When it came to the IceDogs, it meant that they wouldn’t be able to play the rest of the season and try and make an attempt at fighting for that last playoff spot. No one truly knows what could have happened but as it stood in the standings, Kingston would finish the season with the final playoff spot in the conference. Now where there is darkness, there is always light! The IceDogs finishing in 9th would mean they now had secured the second overall pick in the OHL Priority Selection Draft! This truly helped the IceDogs as well because of the current state of the team which is in an obvious rebuild, considering the trade deadline moves.
Now fast forward to Friday April 3rd and as you look on the OHL timeline, we see that the North Bay Battalion have announced that they have chosen Ty Nelson, Right-Handed Defenseman from the Toronto Jr. Canadians AAA. After doing some research, I found out this not something out of the ordinary for teams in the CHL to do. I have my reasons as to why I don’t like this but hey, it doesn’t say “General Manager of the North Bay Battalion” on my business card. So this left it to the Niagara IceDogs to have the first unannounced pick of the Draft the next morning....I guess I could thank North Bay for that. I had read numerous Draft Ranking articles that whole week and read multiple different prospects the IceDogs taking at #2. Myself, I had really like Frank Nazar of the Detroit Honeybaked (Taken by London in the 5th Round...Of course)
The next morning, The Niagara IceDogs selected with the 2nd Overall Pick in the OHL Priority Selection Draft: Pano Fimis from the Toronto Jr. Canadians. Although at this point in time there was no podium, no speaker, no Joey Burke along with the wonderful Burke Family to make the announcement. We had a YouTube Live Draft Board, with no sound, and watched the pick come across the screen. I probably had the same reaction as a lot of people out there, which was “WHO?” I had only scene 1 draft ranking with Pano Fimis going to the IceDogs and to be honest, I did not do my due diligence and look into the player....AND BOY was I wrong not too! I will put it into terms most hockey fans can understand: S-T-U-D!
After doing some scouting and looking into, I can honestly say to you reading this and to the IceDogs fans out there, we have drafted our next franchise player! Pano not only has the skill and hockey sense you look for in franchise Centermen, but he only has the important maturity and leadership qualities you look for in a leader for your team. Pano was the captain of the Toronto Jr. Canadians and was touted by scouts and teammates as one of the true leaders of the team. According the many scouts as well, Pano will be OHL ready next season and will have a very smooth transition from AAA junior hockey to the OHL. Pano finished with the incredible stat line of 55 Goals, 91 Assists, 146 points in 91 Games Played and possibly more if it not been for the recent world pandemic.
In conclusion, Pano Fimis is going to fit in quite well with the organization that will welcome the young man with open arms and help him on his journey toward the ultimate goal of any young junior hockey player and that is to get drafted again, but this time, into the National Hockey League. Welcome to the dog pound Pano!