Story by Jeff Gard/Total Sports Media
Ten players from the Quinte Red Devils were selected last year in the 2020 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection draft.
Connor Hunt, of Centre Hastings, thought he had a chance to hear his name called as well.
“I feel I did, later on (in the draft) for sure,” Hunt said.
Hunt enjoyed watching teammates have success in the draft, including Donovan McCoy who went in the first round (15th overall) to the Peterborough Petes while Owen Beck (29th overall to the Mississauga Steelheads) and Dalyn Wakely (with the 30th pick to the North Bay Battalion) both went in the second round.
“I was happy for them and seeing what they went through, it was very cool so I figured I would just keep working hard and hopefully get there one day,” Hunt said.
“People actually contacted me and told me not to get down and there’s been lots of people that got drafted in the later draft.”
Fast forward a year and Hunt had a second chance to be drafted by an OHL club and his name was called.
The Kingston Frontenacs selected Hunt with the 14th pick of the first round of the OHL U18 draft on Wednesday. The draft consists of two full rounds, plus a third for any teams that select a goalie with either of their first two picks. Those teams must then select a skater in the third round.
Hunt was at work when the selection was made and didn’t find out until he received a call from Red Devils teammate Jackson Stewart, who was a fourth-round pick by the Frontenacs in 2020.
“I didn’t really believe it at first, but it was great and I was very excited,” Hunt said.
Frontenacs head coach and general manager Paul McFarland was able to make contact during the afternoon as well and offer his congratulations.
Speaking to Total Sports Media, McFarland said he and Frontenacs staff were able to see Quinte players on the ice quite a bit during development sessions and scrimmages and Hunt is a player they’re “excited to get.”
“The 2004-2005 coaching staff there did a great job of being able to get their guys seen in obviously a difficult situation this year,” McFarland said. “I wasn’t a part of scouting the ‘04 age group, but it seems like he’s grown since last year and has very good IQ, a good skater, so all things that are encouraging for us. We’re looking forward to getting him to training camp to see him compete for a spot on our team.”
Hunt said during the past year he grew from under six feet to about 6-foot-2, which he thinks garnered the attention of more OHL teams. He knew there was interest heading into this draft and is excited by the opportunity with Kingston.
“I’m just going to keep working hard and I’m very happy right now for the opportunity to get down there, show what I can do and hopefully be able to crack a spot,” Hunt said.
Just like the main Priority Selection, which was held this past weekend, McFarland said the U18 draft is very beneficial for the OHL clubs as well.
“At the end of the day I think guys, whether they have different growth spurts or just their game matures at different times, that’s why we have this draft,” McFarland said. “There’s always going to be guys that are missed and it should be an exciting day for a lot of players to get an opportunity to go to an OHL training camp and get a chance to try to fight for a position on the team.”
McFarland believes the work is the same for all players, whether they get drafted or not.
“You’ve just got to keep working and those who are most passionate about the game and obviously take it seriously and continue to work on and off the ice to use this time that we all have right now to continue to get better are going to benefit,” McFarland said.
“There’s not necessarily one path that every player takes. Sometimes it’s a winding road and for any player, for that matter, if this is what they want to do and they’re passionate about it, they’ve got to keep working at it to find ways to get better and stick with it.”