While, for the most part, Detroit lacks quality defensive prospects in their system, Paul Ballantyne has turned some heads with his consistent play in the OHL over the past four seasons. Bally, as he is known, is a prototypical late bloomer. Ballantyne began (and ended) his junior career with the Soo Greyhounds of the OHL, who picked him in the 3rd round of the OHL draft in 1998. After playing sparsely in his rookie season, Ballantyne took on a bigger role with the club during his draft year, 1999-2000. He was drafted 196th overall by the Red Wings in the 2000 entry draft after being ranked as the 72nd overall North American by CSS, and has show steady improvement ever since.
The year after being drafted, Ballantyne was named as an OHL All-Star and earned the Player’s Player Award for Sault St. Marie. He was also named as the team’s top defenseman that year. After his excellent showing in 2000-01 Ballantyne ended the season practicing with then Detroit affiliate, the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, for a few games and also, due to his play over the season, earned his first professional contract with Detroit. Ballantyne has an excellent frame, standing at 6’3″, and has continued to add strength since being drafted as he now weighs in at a very solid 215 lbs after being around 200 lbs when drafted.
Ballantyne has many qualities that cannot be taught. He served as captain for the Soo Greyhounds for his last two seasons with the club. He has shown tremendous leadership abilities and displayed an excellent work ethic which has shown in his development as a player. He even has displayed a bit of offensive skill at times in the OHL, scoring 12 goals in the 2000-01 season, though he is not projected to have very much offensive upside at the NHL level. Bally was never a real physical force on the blueline early in his development. Recently, he has started to make more of an effort to play a physical game, while not giving up anything in his positioning.
During this year’s prospect camp in Traverse City, Ballantyne’s third prospect camp in as many years, Paul was one of the most impressive players throughout. He was named captain of the Red Wings squad and continued showing his leadership qualities and character on the ice during the tournament. He was often a calming presence on the ice. In one game, fellow prospect Tomas Kopecky was attacked by a player on the St. Louis Blues, Ballantyne came to his rescue pummelling the opposing player. When Ballantyne stood up for his teammate like he did, it made quite an impression on many Wings staff members and fans. His character cannot be stressed enough.
Many had projected Ballantyne’s upside to be as a possible 6th or depth defenseman when he was drafted. However, with his progress coming in leaps and bounds over the last few seasons, Ballantyne’s upside and value continue to rise. He could be a very solid second pairing defenseman during his NHL career, and may not be that far off from debuting at the NHL level. Ballantyne was sent down to Detroit’s new AHL affiliate in Grand Rapids on September 25th to begin his professional career. While he will be one of the youngest defenseman on the team, he is expected to see a good amount of icetime. It is believed he could be paired with QMJHL star and recent free agent signee, Danny Groulx. The two played together during Detroit’s prospect camp and tournament and excelled. Ballantyne’s defensive abilities compliment Groulx’s offensive flair very well. He has the skill, size, and intelligence to have a very successful NHL career, and his character truly sets him apart from other, similar, prospects.