Passed over in both the OHL Priority Selection as well as the OHL Under-18 Draft, Owen Robinson didn’t let a long road to the Ontario Hockey League slow him down or zap his enthusiasm.
A 19-year-old from Orangeville, Ont., Robinson never took his foot off the gas after experiencing the disappointment of not being chosen in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection. After a Minor Midget season with the Halton Hurricanes, Robinson suited up with current Wolves teammate Emmett Serensits with the Oakville Rangers Midget AAA squad in 2016-17 before heading north to Blind River where he was named an NOJHL Second Team All-Star with the Beavers in 2017-18.
Robinson’s big season in Blind River included 56 points (22-34–56) over 51 games and garnered the attention of the Wolves who chose him amongst a group of players two years his junior in the 10th round, 184th overall.
The gamble paid off for general manager Rob Papineau and the Wolves this past season as the 18-year-old rookie slotted into the lineup and put up 41 points (9-32–41). He turned heads, recording a four point contest in October along with a five point effort in March.
“At times it’s hard to have a positive attitude, but I think throughout the whole process I’ve managed to maintain one along with a good work ethic,” said Robinson of his journey to the OHL. “There’ve been a few stops along the way, but I can say with many thanks that there have been some people in each of those cities that have really helped me along, particularly my coaches.”
In 2016, the same year the Wolves selected Owen Lalonde with the second overall pick of the OHL Priority Selection, Robinson stood in at 5-foot-9 and 140Ibs. Today he’s 6-feet tall and around 170Ibs., giving him some added size to withstand the rigours of an OHL season.
“Owen was always a skilled player, even in Minor Midget,” said Wolves GM Rob Papineau. “He was undersized at that point, but in the years since he definitely hit a growth spurt and he never lost focus of the fact that he wanted to play in the OHL. He never allowed himself to be discouraged by things that didn’t go his way in the past.
“A lot of kids in this game can learn a lot from Owen and his story,” Papineau continued. “He comes in, never loses sight of his goals, knows he isn’t owed anything and doesn’t take anything for granted. The result was a really positive first season with the Wolves.”
Robinson follows in the footsteps of past Wolves in recently graduated twin brothers Drake and Darian Pilon as well as former centreman Ryan Valentini, three other players who never carved out a regular role in the league until their 18-year-old season. Like the other three did in past years, Robinson will be attending an NHL rookie camp this fall after the Detroit Red Wings liked what they saw at their Development Camp in July. Robinson will represent the organization at the annual Traverse City Prospects Tournament in September.
“My experience in Detroit was really something,” he said. “They teach you the pro lifestyle and all the little things that go into a day in the life of a pro hockey player. I learned a ton, especially around nutrition and off-ice habits. They’re all things I’m taking back with me to Sudbury so that I can apply them over the course of the coming season.”
Though they’ll lose the OHL’s Most Valuable Player from 2018-19 in goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, the Wolves return most of their forward corps and Robinson projects to play an important role in the team’s offence. He’ll have lots to work with including top 2020 NHL Draft prospect Quinton Byfield who recently earned silver with Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
“Owen is an exceptional skater and in today’s game that’s really important,” said Papineau. “He’s just one of those unassuming guys who comes in, he fits in, gets along, is very low maintenance and he’s a team-first guy.
“No matter where Cory (Stillman) played him last year he was happy and that’s the kind of guy you can really work with and put into different situations. I’m really looking forward to seeing what he can do this season.”
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