Anyone who watched Owen Robinson compete for the NOJHL’s Blind River Beavers this season would have noticed the forward’s speed and skill.
They may also have wondered how he could have been passed over in OHL drafts not once, but twice.
Wonder no more. Impressed by Robinson’s breakout 56-point season with Blind River, the Sudbury Wolves made the 6-foot, 170-pounder from Orangeville, Ont. a 10th-round pick, 184th overall, in Saturday’s draft.
“I was kind of surprised, but it’s a good feeling to be drafted by someone,” said the 18-year-old, reached at home Saturday afternoon. “It’s definitely an honour and I’m excited for the future.
“Sudbury’s a great city, it’s a hockey town and they have great fans, so I can’t wait to get started.”
A relatively late growth spurt bolstered his draft chances, as did a standout 22-goal, 34-assist season and a point-per-game playoff run. Robinson also played in the CJHL Prospects game, surely garnering the attention of Canadian major-junior brass and American university recruiters, as well.
As a 2000-born prospect, Robinson had to be added to the OHL draft list by one of the participating teams, meaning at least one squad didn’t want to let him reach free agency.
“It’s nice to know teams were kind of worried I would go as a free agent, so they added me to the list and Sudbury picked me, so I’m happy about it,” Robinson said.
Wolves general manager Rob Papineau, whose team is affiliated with the NOJHL’s Rayside-Balfour Canadians and had several opportunities to catch Robinson in action, didn’t want to risk a “bidding war” for the skater’s services.
“We knew he had a lot of interest from a lot of teams, because he was having an outstanding year in a very good league,” Papineau said. “He was definitely a guy we felt we were going to have to take a serious look at in the draft if he wanted to get him to Sudbury.”
Robinson’s example is one of several, Papineau said, that prove different players take different development paths, and that youngsters need not give up if not drafted in their first year of eligibility.
“He’s just a determined guy, moved from down south up to Blind River, and all the coaches’ comments there were extremely positive,” Sudbury’s GM said. “He’s a guy we think has a chance to come up and jump right into our lineup, so this is his opportunity to prove it to Cory (Stillman) and the coaching staff.”
Robinson listed his speed and offensive ability as his biggest strengths.
“I think I make the players around me better,” he said. “I like to score a lot of goals and also get a lot of assists.”
With that kind of skill, it’s perhaps no surprise the he has also drawn interest from NCAA programs, but his first choice is to play in the OHL. He plans to attend the Wolves’ prospect orientation camp next weekend.
He encouraged other undrafted players, including those who weren’t selected on Saturday, to keep their goals in focus.
“Definitely, don’t give up,” he said. “I never gave up, even last year, after the under-18 draft when I was undrafted there, I never gave up. You never know where it’s going to take you if you keep pushing hard and have a positive attitude. I’m thankful to be drafted.”