Halton Hurricanes defenceman Matthew Schaefer is the recipient of the Ontario Hockey League's Jack Ferguson Award as the first overall draft pick by the Erie Otters in the 2023 OHL Draft.
Schaefer is the most recent OMHA player to be selected first overall, following Quinton Byfield in 2018.
"I'm so honoured to be picked by such a great organization," said Schaefer in a press release. "It still just doesn't feel real at all - all the amazing players that have come through this organization and ended up in the NHL.
"It's a great feeling," he added. "I just want to get started working this summer, and I can't wait for training camp. I'm a hard-working player that will compete every day and will play whatever role the Erie Otters want me to."
2023 #OHLDraft Watch— Ontario Hockey League (@OHLHockey) April 20, 2023
A new-age defenceman who models his game after Cale Makar, Matthew Schaefer excelled on the blue line for the Halton Hurricanes, as well as with gold medalist @GoTeamOntario this past season pic.twitter.com/oFYIGvSAyp
"Matthew is clearly a dominant player in his age-group,” said Otters General Manager and Executive Vice-President Dave Brown. “He can carry the tempo of a game, he can change a game in a moment with his explosive speed, ability, his edges and his hockey IQ. He’s a big kid with all the intangibles and the skill set that a smaller, mobile defenceman would have. He’s also a natural-born leader and that’s something that organizations need, and our organization can definitely use more of that.”
Manning the blueline for the Hurricanes, Schaefer helped lead the team to 31-2-3 regular season record and reach the semi-finals at the U16 AAA OMHA Championships.
Earlier this year, Schaefer scored the game winning goal in overtime at the Canada Winter Games to help Team Ontario earn the gold medal at the event. He also served as Captain of the team.
"Matthew is an elite defenceman in this age group and he continued his strong play since playing U16 last season as an underage," said Darrell Woodley, Director of OHL Central Scouting. "He is a powerful defender that has speed to burn and he uses it in all three zones. He can be a one-man breakout as his foot speed allows him to beat forecheckers and make a good heads-up pass or continue though the neutral zone with the puck, as he is not afraid to lead the play and create offence. He uses his outstanding skating ability to defend with the best of them as he closes on players fast and gives them little time and space to make plays. He has a great understanding for the game and knows what each situation calls for."
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