Moving up-Minden teen drafted by OHL
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | April 14, 2016
Owen Smith is realizing his dreams.
The soft-spoken, well-mannered 15-year-old Minden resident was the youngest player to be chosen by the Ontario Hockey League's (OHL) Flint Firebirds during Saturday's Priority Selection. Smith was the team's 11th pick in the 13th round of the draft.
"We were getting discouraged in the thirteenth round—but then his name popped up for Flint," recalled Smith's dad, Craig.
"I think we all screamed."
The family tuned into the draft online from 9 a.m. until they heard the good news seven hours later. Once his name was announced, a sense of relief and excitement came over the young athlete.
"It was very exciting to have the opportunity. You know it's the next step in your hockey career," said Owen, a Grade 10 student at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School.
A total of 300 players were selected by 20 teams from across the OHL, said Craig.
Their phone was ringing off the hook with congratulatory calls from friends and family. "It was unbelievable the number of people who called. It was a big thrill for sure," said Craig.
Owen began skating the age of two. By three, he was playing hockey at S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena in Minden (he lives directly behind the arena on Stouffer Street).
He played minor hockey with the Highland Storm before moving on to the Central Ontario Wolves, a Triple A team in Lindsay, for his peewee years. Owen returned to play with the Storm's Bantam A team in 2013-14 and helped them capture the all-Ontario championship. This season he played Junior A hockey with the Lindsay Muskies.
Coming from a family of hockey players has had an influence on him.
"We've always been a sports family, I guess," said Craig. "We've always played hockey. His uncles and relatives are all hockey players."
Owen played baseball, but hockey was always his main focus. In recent years, he came to the realization he wanted to aggressively pursue the sport.
"He's always been pretty good," said his dad proudly.
"I think I developed a lot more this year and last year more than ever," added Owen.
He attributes part of his success to working with local trainer Lorie Kah, who has worked with Haliburton's NHL star Matt Duchene. His fitness regimen includes a variety of exercises including cardio.
Owen wasn't the only Wolves player to be selected by the team, which is located in Flint, Michigan. Ty Dellandrea of Port Perry was chosen fifth overall while Owen's linemate, Braydon Leeking, made the sixth round.
"It makes me more comfortable ... but I've got to beat them out," he said.
Owen will take part in a week-long training camp in Michigan this June. A maximum of four of the 14 players chosen by the team will earn a spot on the roster for the upcoming season.
"I'll try to work my hardest to make the cut."
If, however, he falls short, Owen will have an opportunity to try again next year. According to Craig, the team has rights to him for two years. If he makes it, he will have to relocate to Michigan, which is something the teen is looking forward to.
His parents will drive him to training camp and plan to be there for all the action.
"I don't think we've missed a game in 12 or 13 years," chuckled Craig.
It's a lot of pressure for someone his age. But Owen is taking it in stride.
"I don't usually feel pressure," he said. "I'll just go and have some fun out there—and work hard."
He thanked his supporters including his parents, friends and family, the Highland Storm Minor Hockey Association and the Wolves.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.