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Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Jake Windbiel could be the next big player in Spitfires’ goal.

By Vaseline May30,2024
Jake Windbiel could be the next big player in Spitfires’ goal.

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Jake Windbiel could very well be the next big thing in goal for the Windsor Spitfires.

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The club hasn’t had a homegrown franchise goalie since Mikey DiPietro from Amherstburg was founded in 2015, but that changed on Thursday.

Less than two months after being drafted by the Spitfires, the 6-foot-4, 218-pound Windbiel, who played for the Chicago Mission 15 last season, has officially signed with the club.

“It’s a big deal,” said Darrell Woodley, the OHL’s director of central scouting. “I think he has franchise-like skills and abilities. We think he not only has a good junior upside, but also a pro upside.”

As the second day of the draft progressed last month, Spitfires general manager Bill Bowler was surprised to see Windbiel still on the board.

“When Billy called him up, he called and asked me, ‘Am I missing something here?’” Woodley said. “I told him, ‘If you can get him to commit, he’s going to be a great goalkeeper in our league.’ There’s always some uncertainty with Americans (coming to junior hockey), but I compare him to the top goalies in Ontario who went there.

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In fact, the Spitfires only spoke to Windbiel for several minutes before selecting him in the seventh round with the 124th pick overall.

“I’ve talked to some other teams, but I didn’t really talk to Windsor until the day of the draft, about five or 10 minutes before they took me,” Windbiel said. “They asked me how involved I was in the OHL.

“I was open to the OHL, but it wasn’t my intention. I went back and forth with the OHL and the NCAA. I gave them my answer and eventually they called me.”

He had been to Canada to play tournaments around Toronto, but never to Windsor. Bowler invited Windbiel and his family to visit and he subsequently attended the club’s orientation camp.

“After orientation camp, I fell in love with it,” Windbiel said. “I really think when I talked to Bill, I felt like it was a good fit for me.

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“The orientation camp went a long way with (seeing the) community, but also meeting some of my future teammates and getting to know them. I was convinced I wanted to go to Windsor and spoke to my agent (Kevin Magnuson).

Goalkeeper Jake Windbiel was seen in action this past season for the Chicago Mission 15's.  The Windsor Spitfires selected Windbiel in the seventh round of the OHL Draft.
Goalkeeper Jake Windbiel was seen in action this past season for the Chicago Mission 15’s. The Windsor Spitfires selected Windbiel in the seventh round of the OHL Draft. Dan Hickling/OHL images

Windbiel made 28 saves to help the Chicago Mission defeat the Long Island Gulls 4-1 and capture this year’s USA Hockey Tier I 15O championship in Fargo, ND

“He’s just a complete package,” Woodley said. “He has size and athleticism and he played for one of the best teams in the country, but he made numerous game-saving stops throughout the year.

“He’s not just a big project. He’s athletic, 6-foot-4 and has good movement for a kid that size.”

Windbiel dreams of playing professional hockey and sees playing for the Spitfires in the OHL as an opportunity to get a taste of that environment and take the first steps in that process.

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“I really just want to end that professional life,” Windbield said. “It won’t always be easy and sometimes it will be difficult, but I want to learn and learn from other goalkeepers there. Get used to the environment and make sure I develop.”

DiPietro’s development has never been rushed and Bowler said Windbiel will have the opportunity to grow and develop at his own pace, but he is thrilled that will happen with the Spitfires.

“He has everything you look for in a player and a goalkeeper with size, potential and pedigree,” Bowler said. “To get him where we were in the draft, with his potential and upside, we feel very fortunate. He cannot be rushed and with his size and potential we hope he continues to develop.”

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