DALLAS — There was plenty of provincial pride on display Saturday in the Lone Star State, as eight Manitoba-born hockey players heard their names called during the NHL draft.
Winnipeg defenceman Jett Woo got the party started when he was selected 37th-overall by the Vancouver Canucks.
“I’m still shaking. Like every other person that’s gone through this, there’s really no words to describe it,” Woo, 17, said shortly after the big moment at American Airlines Center.
He’s just the second player of Chinese descent to ever be selected in the draft and revealed Saturday how he was often picked on in his younger years for playing hockey. He stuck with it, and now it’s paid off.
“To have so much support in that way and to have my heritage with me in this process is something that is cool with me and (something) to grow off of. I’m so involved in my heritage. With my family, it’s something that’s really special,” said Woo.
His father, Larry, played a huge role in his minor hockey development as a popular local coach of many talented young players.
“My whole family, they’ve dedicated so much and sacrificed so much for me. My brother and my sister as well. To have him (Larry) and my mom always on my side and to take those long road trips with me or to drive me to the rink and back, to go through that whole process and to make it to here and to see that it’s all been for something, it’s really awesome to have all of that support as well. It’s an amazing feeling,” said Woo, who currently plays with the Moose Jaw Warriors of the WHL.
Brandon’s Calen Addison was at a similar loss for words when he was selected 53rd-overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I don’t know what to think right now. I’ve dreamt about this since the day I was born. I’ve always been a hockey player. This is a dream come true for me and my family. It’s the best moment of my life, for sure,” said the talented 18-year-old defenceman for the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the WHL.
“There’s so many big names on that team. I don’t know what to think right now. I can’t wait to get there.”
Up next was Winnipeg forward Riley Stotts, who was taken by Toronto with the 83rd pick. He joins a Maple Leafs organization that includes friend and fellow ‘Pegger Adam Brooks, who spent last season in the AHL
“It was really exciting. We were watching TV and it cut to commercial, so I refreshed my phone to see who was going to go. I saw my name pop up and I was really excited. I said ‘Dad, I just got drafted by the Maple Leafs.’ He got a little excited and it was awesome,” Stotts said in a telephone interview.
Stotts, 18, currently plays for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL.
“Toronto is such a high-class organization and it’s an honour to be a part of them and I’m really excited to get things started,” he said.
The Minnesota Wild chose 19-year-old forward Connor Dewar with the 92nd pick Saturday. Born in The Pas, Dewar was passed over in last year’s draft and spent last season as captain of the Everett Silvertips in the WHL. He exploded for 38 goals and 30 assists after posting just 14 goals and 16 helpers the previous season.
St. Louis chose Winnipeg-born goalie Joel Hofer in the fourth round with the 107th pick. The 17-year-old spent last year playing with the Swift Current Broncos of the WHL.
Central division teams continued to look to Manitoba as the draft continued, with Dallas picking Foxwarren’s Dawson Barteaux 167th. The 18-year-old defenceman played last year for the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL.
After picking Woo earlier in the day, Vancouver added Altona’s Matthew Thiessen to their prospect pool with the 192nd pick. The 18-year-old goalie spent last year with the Steinbach Pistons, leading them to the Manitoba Junior Hockey League championship. He is committed to going to the University of Maine to play NCAA hockey in the fall of 2019.
The final Manitoban was Jermaine Loewen of Arborg. Now 20, he was passed over in the NHL draft last year but picked this time by Dallas with the 199th selection, joining Barteaux as a potential future member of the Stars. The forward just finished his fourth season with the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL, with 36 goals and 28 assists in 66 games. He had just 14 goals and 18 assists in his previous three seasons combined.
“We’ve got a great program growing up and they’ve helped develop us well as good players. We’re all happy to be drafted and it’s awesome,” Stotts said in summing up the day from a Manitoba perspective.
Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.