The OHL’s Saginaw Spirit lost their captain when Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Mitchell Stephens was traded to the London Knights recently.
Today the team announced that Keaton Middleton, a draft pick of the Maple Leafs, will take his place for the rest of the season.
“Keaton exemplifies what we want our players to stand for on and off the ice,” said [head coach] Carbery. “He has demonstrated tremendous leadership qualities that are far beyond his years from day one. His work ethic on a daily basis and his ability to motivate teammates to be better are just a few of the qualities that he brings every day.”
Middleton, 18, is in his third season with the Spirit. He was serving as an alternate captain, but with the departure of Mitchell Stephens, the Toronto Maple Leaf prospect has been promoted into the captaincy. In 38 games this season, the 6’5, 235 pound rugged defenseman has one [goal] and nine assists and 27 penalty minutes.
It’s trite to say that Middleton is “good in the room”, but that’s clearly what the team feels is true. Middleton fulfills another hockey cliché: “You can’t teach big.” The team saw fit to mention his considerable size and not his , and that’s the first thing everyone sees about him. He casts a very big shadow.
He is not a scoring machine. He has 10 points on what is, without question, one of the worst teams in the OHL. They have a goal diffential of -38 He is, however, one of only six regular players with a positive plus/minus (and just hush about how bad a stat plus/minus is). One of those six was the departed Stephens, the only really good player on the team. There was one good unit on the team and Middleton was part of it. Just not a scoring part of it.
Middleton was taken 101st overall in the 2016 draft, in the fourth round.
We know three things for sure about him. His team thinks that at 18, he’s a good enough man to be captain in what will be a difficult run to the end of the season for a bottom dwelling team. And at 10 points he’s 263rd in the OHL points standings. He’s also six foot-five every game.