Windsor Spitfires defenceman Patrick Sieloff is making a big impression — quite literally — on the Ontario Hockey League in his rookie season.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound native of Ann Arbor, Mich., has impressed with his bone-crunching physical play, earning a spot on the preliminary roster of the United States team in advance of the upcoming world junior championship in Russia.
After spending two seasons with the USA Hockey National Development Program (NTDP) in the USHL, Sieloff’s transition to the OHL has been a smooth process.
“Every game has been a new step for me,” said Sieloff, who was selected in the second round, 42nd overall, by Calgary in the 2012 NHL draft. “I think what has helped my adjustment is that I’ve been playing against players who have been a few years older than myself the past few years while some of the other rookies here with the Spitfires are only a year out of bantam hockey.”
Sieloff has quickly earned a reputation for being one of the OHL’s most ferocious hitters, delivering solid open-ice checks to Kitchener’s Justin Bailey and Erie’s Hayden Hodgson.
“When it comes to hitting or throwing a big open-ice check, I’m not about to pass up an opportunity to do just that,” Sieloff said. “I’m not going to get caught out of position to throw a check, but if someone has their head down and he’s got the puck, he’s a lost cause.
“I find that making the big hit really gets my adrenalin going and if I have to fight afterwards, than I will.”
In four of his five fights so far this season, the opposing player has been assessed the instigator penalty.
“I’m here in Windsor because of the way I play and I’m not about to change,” the 18-year-old rearguard said.
One former NHL player thinks Sieloff should a minor adjustment to his game.
“I don’t think it’s right that Patrick has to fight after giving a clean, hard check,” said Todd Warriner, now a colour commentator on Windsor home television broadcasts. “I think sometimes he should just skate away.
“He’s more valuable to the Spitfires when he is out on the ice.”
In 30 games with Windsor this season, Sieloff has three goals and nine assists along with 59 penalty minutes.
He acknowledges that he’s unlikely to develop into a big offensive threat from the blue-line.
“I’m not going to score 50 points in a season, or even put up 30 points,” Sieloff said. “But with my shot I can pick up the odd goal from the point or have the shot deflected.”
Spitfires head coach Bob Boughner, himself a former Calgary Flame defensive stalwart, knew his team had a special player after Sieloff arrived in Windsor and made him an assistant captain quickly.
“We were so impressed with his compete level from the start of training camp that we had to put an ‘A’ on his jersey right away,” Boughner said. “He practises as hard as he plays and he knows only one way.
“I hate to try and pull the reigns in on him because I think that is what is going to make Patrick Sieloff a great pro.”
The stay-at-home defenceman has a firm grasp on his role with the Spitfires this season.
“I love to play against the other team’s top line, no matter how old they are or what skills level they have,” he said. “I love shutting down the top guys and getting under their skin, but not in a dirty way.
“I take pride in not getting scored on and I see penalty killing as being a big part of my game.”
Sieloff attended the Flames’ rookie camp a month after the NHL draft and came away impressed.
“I was there during the Stampede and it was a ton of fun, even during the summer, everyone was talking about the Flames,” he said. “It’s going to be awesome playing in a city where hockey is No. 1 all year around.”
Boughner, who captained the Flames during one of his seasons with the club, already has a good idea of how Sieloff will be embraced in Calgary.
“He’s going to be a true Calgary Flames player right from the start of his pro career,” Boughner said. “The hard-working fans in Calgary are just going to love this guy.
“He’s going to have the Saddledome rocking on Saturday nights.”
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