Inspired by his hockey idol, Colts’ Haight strives for greatness on and off the ice

Whether he’s on the ice or in the classroom, Hunter Haight is always striving for the best. He boasts a strong work ethic that helped him win back-to-back ALLIANCE championships with the Elgin-Middlesex Chiefs and, more recently, recognition as the OHL’s Central Division Academic Player of the Month for November.

“When it comes to me as a person, student, or athlete, I just want to be the best I can be. I work hard at everything I do so I present myself with more opportunities,” said the 16-year-old centreman. “Everything is of equal importance: training, hockey, school – it’s a little balance and it’s really important to me.”

Now, as the ninth overall pick of the Barrie Colts at the 2020 OHL Priority Selection, Haight is ready to transfer his talents to the OHL ranks and attributes that strong work ethic to some advice he received from his long-time hockey idol, fellow Chief and former OHL star Travis Konecny.

“He’s always been such a hard worker,” he said of the Philadelphia Flyers forward. “He used to tell me all the time that if you put in the work and work hard, good things will happen.”

The London product racked up 32 goals and 58 points in 33 games over his 2019-20 minor midget championship season. Though he doesn’t really think to model his game after other players, he compares his style to that of Chiefs graduate Bo Horvat, thinks his hockey IQ and vision are similar to Mitch Marner’s, and remains inspired by Konecny’s work ethic. All three are players he kept tabs on while growing up in the London area, but Konecny has remained a hockey idol since the two first met.

“It was my minor atom year when he was in his OHL Draft year and he was slated to go first overall, and I kind of got to stay and watch him practice because he practiced after me. We developed a little bond,” Haight recalled. “He’s an awesome guy. We welcomed me, really helped guide me and fall in love with the game, and he gave me advice when I was just an eight-year-old. It was really special. I followed him throughout his whole OHL career and now I get to train with him in the summer which is pretty special. I get to practice with him and play against him.”

Among Haight’s many strengths are his standout speed, his playmaking ability and his compete level on both ends of the ice.

“His skating is the first thing that jumps out at everyone. He makes it look easy to move around the ice,” said Barrie Colts assistant GM Rob Stewart. “He pairs that with his skill and his brains and he can operate at full speed all the time, which is not something everyone can do. He can make plays at full speed without breaking stride. He’s a well-rounded player who’ll fit in well when he comes to Barrie.”

His accomplishments at school are just as impressive. During his first term at Blyth Academy, he maintained grades of 98% in Grade 11 University Level Physics and 95% in Grade 12 Community Technology. Out of 19 courses as of December, he had yet to receive a grade lower than 90%. Recently, he was named the recipient of the Emerging Leaders Award on account of his leadership, positivity and contributions in the community.

“It’s something we seek out when we’re looking at these guys before draft day,” said Stewart of Haight’s academic success. “And it was something impressive about him. I think it speaks to his character and being able to focus on the challenge in front of him.”

Awaiting confirmation on a start date for the 2020-21 OHL season and having developed a close friendship with defenceman Nathan Allensen, Haight’s eager to get settled in Barrie.

“I’ve already met my billet family and I’m super excited to get to know them. They have three brothers so I’m really excited to be the big brother, since I’ve always been the younger brother,” he said. “I’m excited to get to be part of the community, meet new people, new friends, enjoy a different high school experience, play with my teammates, build bonds with them and then learn from the coaching staff.”

And the Colts organization has high hopes for the up-and-coming centreman, both on and off the ice.

“He’s a mature kid. He comes from a program where he was well-coached and was surrounded by a pretty impressive group of players. I think that can drive a guy at a young age,” said Stewart. “And I know he’s school-driven. We’d like him to capture Scholastic Player of the Year at some point in his career and it looks like he’s off to a pretty good start.”

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