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Catching Up with Former First Overall Pick Matthew Schaefer

By Ontario Minor Hockey Association, 05/30/24, 12:30PM EDT

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OMHA grad reflects on his time in minor hockey

Matthew Schaefer, a defenceman from the Erie Otters, recently completed his first season in the Ontario Hockey League. The 2023 first overall pick in the OHL Draft was just named to the OHL All-Rookie First Team and won a gold medal earlier in the season with Team Canada at the World U18 Championships.

We spoke with Schafer to reflect on his time in the Ontario Minor Hockey Association with the Halton Hurricanes on what he learned playing minor hockey, what he misses the most about it and advice he has for Ethan Belchetz, another OMHA grad who was selected first overall in the 2024 OHL Draft.

Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.

What do you miss the most about minor hockey?

It was always nice to live at home and be with your family a lot and go to your home school and be with all of your close friends you played minor hockey with growing up. As you get older, it’s a big commitment and you want to go as far as you can in hockey so you start to go on different teams, meet new friends, maybe move away from home. It becomes a commitment. Probably the best things while I played in the OMHA was just being at home, being with friends and family and playing with friends.

What did you learn playing in the OMHA that has helped you in the OHL so far?

I learned a lot. At the start of minor hockey, you kind of just do it, you start and you play and you have fun. As you get older, it’s still always going to be fun but then it gets more serious. It’s just always so fun to go to battle with a lot of great people that you’ve played with on lots of teams. In the OMHA, I learned a lot that’s helped me get to the point I am today. I feel like it’s just good to meet new friends.

What was the biggest difference you experienced between your U16 year and your rookie year?

The biggest thing everybody says when they come to the OHL is the age difference. Five years could be the most. At the end of the day, you just need confidence no matter where you play. I feel like confidence is the key. If you have confidence, it helps the outcome of your play.

What was your experience like with Hockey Canada at the recent U18 World Championships?

Any time you get the chance to go to Hockey Canada, you always say yes. It’s an honour to go play with Hockey Canada because everybody when they’re younger looks up to everybody who puts the leaf on their jersey and on their chest. You always want to play with pride and play for your country. It’s always been a great experience with Hockey Canada. Hopefully there can be some more times that I get to play with them and make some more teams.

Ethan Belchetz, another OMHA grad, was picked first overall in this year’s OHL Draft. What would be your advice for him coming into his rookie year in the OHL?

I’ve already talked to him quite a bit because he works out at the same gym as me. He’s a really good kid. I think he’s going to do just fine. He’s a big, strong power forward. He can put the puck in the net, play defence. He’s a good player. I haven’t really got to watch him but I hear lots of good stuff about him. I think he’s going to do just fine. Honestly, just have fun, make friends and work as hard as you can, put your head down and get to work. First overall is pretty cool, but once it’s over then you kind of just want to focus on the year and game by game and playing as hard as you can.


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