A step in the next direction

Ryan Forwell

Three Woolwich hockey players, all from the Waterloo Wolves U16 AAA team, were among those chosen last week in the Ontario Hockey League’s 2021 priority selection draft.

The minor hockey efforts of Jack O’Donnell from Elmira, Mitchell Young from Elmira and Ryan Forwell from St. Clements caught the eye of OHL clubs. O’Donnell went third in the fifth round (82nd overall) to the Guelph Storm, while both Young (eighth in the seventh round, 127th overall) and Forwell (13th in the 14th round, 272nd overall) were picked by the Owen Sound Attack.

In total, nine players were drafted from the ranks of the Waterloo Wolves, which made head coach Shawn Dietrich a happy man.

“We had nine of our guys drafted this year, which was half of our team,” said Dietrich. “It’s always great for local guys to be drafted… [It] was a pleasure working with them and I wish them luck on their next step.”

Dietrich was also keen on advertising the skill these three young players bring to the ice.

“Mitch Young is a very highly skilled defenseman. [He] has a really heavy shot, has a huge offensive upside and dedicated himself this year to rounding out his game. Ryan Forwell is the guy that will give you everything he’s got – he’s a leader amongst his teammates and he’s a guy that’s going to be successful at the next level. Jack O’Donnell is a very skilled forward. He’s big at [6’3”] he just has a lot of offensive skills for a big guy that I think will be very helpful for him at the next level,” explained Dietrich.

It seems like it runs in the family for the O’Donnells, now having two sons drafted into the OHL. After seeing his older brother’s career path, Jack has had similar goals.

“I got to watch him go through the whole draft process, and I kind of zoned in on my goals when that happened,” said O’Donnell.

O’Donnell attributes his edge on the competition to his size and ability to be nimble and quick on the ice.

Jack O’Donnell

“I think I’m a lot bigger than some of the guys my age – I can move like a smaller guy being the size that I am. I think that’s definitely my biggest strength,” said O’Donnell. “Some of that makes me a little bit more valuable to the team.”

For the three young hockey talents, the opportunity to play in the OHL has been an aspiration held by them since they first laced up.

“I’ve always gone and watched the OHL players play, and now to get the opportunity to be one of those guys that maybe younger kids get to see, it’s pretty sweet,” said Young.

Those sentiments were echoed by Forwell when asked about his reaction to getting drafted by the Owen Sound Attack.

“It’s just a huge honour,” said Forwell. “I’ve been working my whole life for this and I’m just so excited to go to a team like Owen Sound. [It’s] just a great organization and known for putting players into the NHL.”

Getting into the NHL is the ultimate goal at the end of the road for these young players still honing their skills. A road which just got one step shorter as they hope to prove their worth to the OHL.

“It’s definitely the first step in the process,” said Young. “Get drafted and then obviously, you have to make the team – so we’ll focus on that.”

“You see all the guys that get into the NHL through that program [OHL] and it makes me really excited and happy to be a part of it,” said O’Donnell.

“Getting drafted is just the first step,” explained Forwell. “The hard work starts now.”

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