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 Saginaw Spirit

Spirit Welcome 12 Players Via 2024 OHL Priority Selection

April 13, 2024 - Ontario Hockey League (OHL)
Saginaw Spirit News Release

Saginaw, Mich. - The Saginaw Spirit made 12 selections at the 2024 OHL Priority Selection, concluding Saturday afternoon with Rounds 4-15.

With their 12 selections, the Spirit drafted six forwards, five defensemen and a goaltender.

2024 Priority Selection HQ

Round 1, 19th Overall - Dimian Zhilkin

A right-shot winger with a dynamic playmaking touch, Dimian Zhilkin is Saginaw's first-round pick in the 2024 OHL Priority Selection. Zhilkin spent the past season with the Toronto Jr. Canadians of the GTHL. In 60 games, Zhilkin notched 73 points (26G, 47A) from the right side of the ice. The Oakville, Ontario native stands 5'9" and weighs in at 150lbs.

"You saw the excitement in the room when we were able to draft Dima," said Spirit GM Dave Drinkill. "He's a player that we really liked and really targeted throughout the year. Every time you watch him play, he's the type of player that will bring you to the edge of your seat; a dynamic, offensively gifted young player."

Zhilkin is the younger brother of Winnipeg Jets 3rd rounder Danny Zhilkin. Brother Danny spent 186 games in the Ontario Hockey League between the Guelph Storm and Kitchener Rangers.

"I'm really speechless," said Zhilkin. "I'm super honored to be drafted by such a high-class organization. I'm excited to get down there and meet all of the players and staff. I'm really looking forward to what's next and can't wait to get started!"

Dimian Zhilkin is just the third player to be picked 19th overall by the Spirit. He joins Zayne Parekh (2022) and Connor Punnett (2019) in that slot.

Round 3 - 60th Overall: Brady Knowling

The Spirit selected 6'4 goaltender Brady Knowling with their 3rd Round pick in 2024. The Toronto, Ontario native played 76 games with the GTHL's North York Rangers, claiming 31 victories.

"We think he's the best goaltender in this draft, if not one of the best players," said Drinkill. "As the year went on, he got better and better, especially in big games. When you look at him, there's not a lot of net to shoot at.

Knowling and the Rangers picked up three victories at the 2024 OHL Cup, where he posted a 3.22 GAA and .841 SV%.

"His ability to take control of a game helps him stand out above the other goaltenders in this draft," said Goaltending Coach Rick Ice. "His control in net and technical ability give him the tools to become an elite goaltender in our league."

Round 4 - 70th Overall: Nolan Battler

With their first pick of the 2024 OHL Priority Selection's second day, the Spirit selected right-handed defenseman Nolan Battler from the Guelph Gryphons U16 AAA program. Standing at 6'0", Battler skated in 47 games with the Gryphons this season and grabbed 32 points (9G, 23A) from the backend.

"He's a guy from the first time I saw him this year, I really liked him. Nolan has good size, good puck skill, and I think he's a guy that fits in real well with the way we want to play."

Battler was the top defenseman with the U16 program, but also saw action with their U18 squad as well, picking up a pair of assists in five games. He made his GOJHL debut with the Elmira Sugar Kings earlier this season.

In the playoffs with the U16's, Battler was a point-per-game performer through eight contests (4G-4A-8P).

Round 6 - 107th Overall: Blake Barnes

The Spirit picked another defenseman to begin the 6th round in Blake Barnes. The 5'10 right-hander hails from Sarnia, Ontario, and spent this season with the Lambton Jr. Sting AAA program. He was the team's leading scorer from the blueline, tallying 12 points (2G, 10A) in 22 games.

"Anyone that's seen us knows how we like our defensemen to play," said Spirit assistant GM Brian Prout. "They have to be mobile, they have to be smart, and they have to be comfortable with the puck; Blake checks all of those boxes. He's a high character kid and he always has his head up looking to make plays."

Round 6 - 110th Overall: Brody Najim

Saginaw picked their first center of the draft in the 6th round with Brody Najim. Another Sarnia native, he led the Lambton Jr. Sting in 2023-24 in scoring with 19 goals and 20 assists for 39 points in 32 games.

"Brody's a player we've followed since September," said Alliance Scout Adam Simpson. "He's not only a player that can score off the rush, he's really good below the dots with the way he can control the play."

Najim continued his point-per-game clip in the postseason with Lambton, scoring a goal and three assists in four postseason games.

Round 6 - 117th Overall: Tyler Martyniuk

Tyler Martyniuk wore the "C" for the Detroit HoneyBaked 15's this season and was Saginaw's final pick of the 6th round. Already a sizeable defenseman, he stands 6'0 180lbs.

"Dave Drinkill and I were in Buffalo in July for the USA '08 festival and Tyler was one of our favorite players," said Brian Prout. "It's hard to find defensemen who really control how the game is played when the puck is on their stick, and that's Tyler."

Martyniuk saw 69 games of action with HoneyBaked in 2023-34, picking up 43 points (14G, 29A). He also skated with the Team USA U16's at the Young Olympic Games.

Round 7 - 141st Overall: Liam Campbell

Saginaw added another dynamic scorer with the 141st overall selection in left winger Liam Campbell. He finished 3rd in scoring for the Quinte Red Devils this season (31G-26A-57P) in 39 games played.

"I've coached against him and I've seen him play many times, he plays in all situations and on his team's top line," said ETA Scout Jamey Hicks. "He can play every position up front and he's a player who makes his teammates better.

Campbell is a late birthday (Oct. 22nd) and is a left-handed shooter.

Round 8 - 161st Overall: Nash Jacobs

Nash Jacobs comes to Saginaw from the Chatham-Kent Cyclones U16 AAA program. A tall, rangy winger, Jacobs was reliable for the Cyclones with 19 points (10G, 9A) in 26 games this past season.

"Nash is a big winger, really strong," said Adam Simpson. "When he fills out, he's going to be a really dominant force up and down the ice. He's got soft hands, especially for a bigger player."

Jacobs upped his scoring during the postseason with Chatham-Kent, scoring four goals in five playoff games.

Round 10 - 201st Overall: Trevor Theuer

The Spirit claimed Clarkston, Michigan's Trevor Theuer just past the 200 player mark in 2024. A left-shot center, Theuer is the second player to be claimed from the Detroit HoneyBaked program in this draft.

In 56 games with Detroit, Theuer notched 24 goals and 45 assists for 69 points.

Round 12 - 241st Overall: Tyson Ackerman

With their fourth defenseman of the draft, the Spirit selected Tyson Ackerman at the tail end of Round 12. Another blueliner with size, Ackerman is a right-shot defenseman standing 6'0" tall. He comes to the Spirit from the Elgin-Middlesex Canucks U16 AAA program and notched four points (4A) in 28 games this season.

Ackerman added 12 games of action in the postseason with Elgin-Middlesex, and made his GOJHL debut with the St. Mary's Lincolns earlier this year.

Round 13 - 261st Overall: Kaden Sienko

Sienko comes to the Spirit from the South Kent School in Binghamton, New York, where he wore the "C" this season. An imposing right-shot defenseman, Sienko clocks in at 6'2, 185lbs.

The Binghamton native also provides tremendous offensive upside as he managed nearly a point per game though 42 contests this season (10G-28A-38P).

Round 15 - 287th Overall: Edan Etheridge

Edan Etheridge rounds out Saginaw's 12 selections at the 2024 OHL Priority Selection. A sturdy center from Timmins, Ontario, Etheridge clocks in at 6'0" 160lbs.

Etheridge spent the season with the Timmins Majors U18 program this year, producing well over a point-per-game pace (32G-24A-56P) in 41 games. He also added a pair of assists at this year's OHL Cup representing Team NOHA.

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