Trio of Manitobans hear names called at NHL Draft
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/07/2022 (336 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
It was an historic night for Manitoba hockey at the NHL Draft in Montreal.
Three homegrown talents — Strathclair’s Conor Geekie, Dominion City’s Denton Mateychuk and St. Adolphe’s Owen Pickering — heard their names called during the province’s most productive first round in almost 50 years.
Geekie, an 18-year-old centre from the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice, went 11th overall to the Arizona Coyotes.
Mateychuk, a 17-year-old defenceman from the Moose Jaw Warriors, went 12th to the Columbus Blue Jackets and his second cousin, Pickering, an 18-year-old blue-liner with the Swift Current Broncos, was selected 21st by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Getting chosen by the Coyotes sounded just fine to Geekie, whose older brother Morgan was the 67th overall pick by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2017.
Morgan currently suits up for the Seattle Kraken.
“I think they play a little bit of my style of game, right?” Geekie told reporters in Montreal. “I know they got a lot of resources when it comes to working out and skating.
“(Arizona’s 2021 first-rounder) Dylan Guenther, obviously, I know is there and having (former Coyotes captain) Shane Doan in your organization — it’s pretty surreal. Again, it’s just exciting (to) kick things off and see where it all happens.”
Minutes earlier, Winnipeg Ice centre Matt Savoie, who hails from St. Albert, Alta., was the second WHL player chosen when he was chosen ninth overall by the Buffalo Sabres.
Savoie and Geekie have developed a close bond since being selected Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in the 2019 WHL Prospects Draft.
“It’s almost like your brother, right?” said Geekie. “A proud brother moment. Our hug was I’d say pretty emotional when it came down to it. Seeing him go, (I was) super proud of him and super happy with how everything’s turned out for us so far. Hopefully, the future holds something pretty special.”
Pickering had the privilege of hearing his name announced by Penguins star defenceman Kris Letang. Earlier in the day, Letang signed a six-year, US$36.6 million contract extension with the club.
”When he was announcing the pick I heard my name and kind of just blacked out,” Pickering told Sportsnet. “So (it was a) super special moment.”
Geekie, Mateychuk and Pickering have also played together as members of provincial age-group baseball teams.
“It’s a big day for Hockey Manitoba,” said Pickering. “So, super proud. It was nice to watch those guys have their moments.”
Geekie, who scored 24 goals and 70 points in 63 games during his first full season in the WHL, was realistic about making an immediate jump to pro hockey.
“Obviously, I want to try and crack the team (roster) when I’m 18,” said Geekie. “I think with how good our Winnipeg team is going to be, I think maybe I’ll stay one more year and kind of mature, get a little bit faster and have a little more pace to my game.”
Geekie was asked about his key improvements during the 2021-22 season.
“I think I started kind of halfway through the season playing a lot more (of a) physical game, trusting that I can really beat guys wide and really be able to kind of do my thing when it comes to using my body,” he said. “All I can do is get stronger from here… faster.”
The trio of first-rounders was tied for the province’s second-best output in the draft going back to 1974 when forward Cam Connor went fifth to Montreal, forward Ron Chipperfield went 17th to California and Don Larway went 18th to the Boston Bruins.
Manitoba’s biggest output came in 1968 and 1970 with four first-rounders chosen in each year.
In ‘68, defenceman Jim Pritchard went third to Montreal, right-winger Jim Benzelock went fifth to the Minnesota North Stars, left-winger John Marks went ninth to Chicago and right-winger Steve Andrascik went 11th to the Detroit Red Wings.
In 1970, right-winger Reggie Leach went third to Boston, goaltender Ray Martynuik went fifth to Montreal, left-winger Chuck Lefley went sixth to Montreal, and Chris Oddleifson went 10th to the California Golden Seals.
The draft continues Friday with rounds two through seven.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.
Updated on Friday, July 8, 2022 10:49 AM CDT: Fixes typo