To be sure, it would have been nice for the family if the Soo Greyhounds had used the 18th pick of the first round of the 2019 Ontario Hockey League priority selections draft to take homegrown defenseman Jack Matier.
But while the Greyhounds opted to pass on Matier in favour of another defenseman, the Ottawa 67’s used the 21st and final pick of the first round to select the 6-foot-2, 175-pound, right-handed shooting defender from the Soo Minor Thunderbirds of the Great North Midget Hockey League.
Matier may not be staying home to begin what many are projecting will be a splendid OHL career as a cornerstone defenseman but the youngster is going to an iconic franchise with a history of winning.
Ottawa has been to the Memorial Cup tournament five times in its 52-year history and won the big prize three times.
Not only that, the 67’s represent a model franchise that has had just two ownership groups since entering the OHL in 1967.
Founder and all-around good person, the late Howard Darwin led the 67’s until 1998 when he sold the team to current president Jeff Hunt. Hunt, in turn, has maintained a standard of excellence for the OHL in Ottawa and after a few lean years, the 67’s are again among the league’s elite.
From first-ever coach, the gentlemanly Bill Long (who would move on to be the coach and general manager of the London Knights, who Howard Darwin also once owned, along with the 67’s) to legendary bench boss Brian Kilrea, Ottawa continues to represent a stately, well-run program that is now in the hands of GM James Boyd and coach Andre Tourigny.
And really, with all due respect to other OHL teams, the aforementioned Matier could not be in a better place as he is poised to don a 67’s jersey and play hockey in Ottawa.
Without question, the 67’s are not just in a one-year mode of championship contention in the OHL after winning the Eastern Conference in 2018-2019 before losing out to the Guelph Storm in the league finals.
With a team of veterans slated to return in 2019-2020 — including five defensemen — Ottawa will be in position to properly develop Matier as the 67’s again pursue a title next season.
Through careful planning, good drafting and a few pickups along the way, the aforementioned Boyd and Tourigny have set the table for a good run in Ottawa.
And the 67’s are in a good position to bring along Matier and have him develop around a crew of seasoned blue-liners.
Ottawa stands to return five defenseman from the 2018-2019 team in 2019-2020. The five are Kevin Bahl, Merrick Rippon, Nikita Okhotyuk, Lucas Peric and Alec Belanger.
Bahl, Rippon and Okhotyuk were all born in 2000, Peric has a 2001 birth date and Belanger was born in 2002.
Additionally, there is a possibility that the 67’s could return one or both of 1999 birth-year defensemen Noel Hoefenmayer and Hudson Wilson as overage players for the 2019-2020 campaign.
As Boyd as the 67’s GM and Tourigny as the head coach have both noted, Matier is going to have no shortage of veteran defensemen to guide him in his rookie OHL season in Ottawa.
Yes, it certainly seems as though Ottawa has panned out as the perfect fit for Matier as he gets ready to begin what is being projected as a splendid four-year OHL career in the nation’s capital.
PHOTO: Jack Matier, first round pick of the Ottawa 67’s at the 2019 OHL draft.