Over the summer, Cameron Gaylor was at a lot of summer hockey tournaments and playing so well that he was frequently asked why wasn’t he playing AAA.
“Then (my family and I) asked ourselves, why wasn’t I?” said the 17-year-old forward. “I got invited to a Pickering Panthers (Jr. A) camp, and from there, they set me up with some (tryouts) for AAA.”
After six years of playing AA, Gaylor landed a spot on the Don Mills Flyers and impressed a number of Ontario Hockey League clubs, including the Mississauga Steelheads, who drafted him in the first round (13th overall) of the inaugural OHL Under-18 Draft on April 12.
Players like Anthony Cirelli and Andrew Mangiapane went undrafted in the traditional Priority Selection Draft for Under-16 players, but still signed in the OHL as free agents before they were drafted into the NHL.
The U18 Draft was created with those players in mind as the OHL looked for an avenue to promote the Midget AAA loop.
Gaylor considers himself a 200-foot player and Steelheads general manager James Boyd was impressed with his work ethic and athleticism.
“He’s a player we feel has the chance to crack our line up next year, which would mean that he’d go from AA hockey to the Ontario Hockey League almost in the same calendar year,” Boyd said.
Gaylor was one of eight 1999-born players chosen in the draft. Most teams opted to select players from the 2000 birth year because they’d have more years of eligibility in the league, but Boyd wasn’t concerned over that matter.
In subsequent rounds, the Steelheads chose Toronto Nationals goalie Jack Watson, Vaughan Kings forward Kevin Paschalis, York-Simcoe Express defender Austin Heinrich and Toronto Marlies defender Noah Romeo.
Gaylor also captained his high school team, Malvern Collegiate to a bronze medal at this year’s Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations championships.
A spot in the OHL is in his sights now after just one year of AAA.
“It’s been an incredible year,” he said. “My coaches have helped me and taught me a lot. It just feels pretty surreal.”
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