Two members of the Estevan Eclipse Downhole Solutions U18 AAA Bears were selected in the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Prospect Draft on Dec. 9.
Carter Onrait, a 15-year-old forward, was picked in the seventh round, 144th overall, by the Prince George Cougars.
Onrait is from Estevan and played his development hockey here. In his first year of U18 hockey, he has five goals in 25 games for the Bears.
“I’ve been working pretty hard, and I had gotten a few surveys to do from (WHL) teams,” said Onrait. “I expected it, but it was still very exciting when I found out.”
Those surveys talked about his game and personal life. But none of the teams he had spoken with indicated they would select him.
Onrait is excited to join the Cougars’ organization.
“They have a great organization, and I’ll be super happy once I get the opportunity to play there,” said Onrait.
He noted that the Cougars have people with some great history in the game, including head coach and general manager Mark Lamb, who played in the NHL. Their arena and facility is very nice.
Onrait believes he will need to work on his overall game, and continue to get faster, stronger and better. And he’ll need to spend lots of time on off-ice work.
He’s the latest member of the Estevan Minor Hockey Association to be drafted into the Western Hockey League, and he’s grateful to have played minor hockey here.
“All of my coaches have been really good to me, and have helped me along the way to get to where I am now.”
Also selected was Bears’ defenceman Cutter Knight, who hails from Swift Current. He was nabbed in the seventh round, 149th overall, by the Kelowna Rockets. Knight has a goal and five points in 24 games this season.
Knight said he had been told by a few people that he might be selected, but he couldn’t be certain it would happen.
Kelowna was not one of the teams he had been in contact with, so he was surprised the Rockets were interested.
“From what I’ve heard, it’s really good. The coaching staff is strong, and the organization is really good, and Kelowna’s a really nice place,” said Knight.
When he came to Estevan at the start of this season, being selected in the WHL Draft was one of his goals, along with becoming a better player.
The Bears have helped with his development.
“Playing in the U18 AAA league has really helped, and the Bears have helped me by giving a smooth transition into the league, playing against the older guys and at the faster pace,” he said.
Carievale native Turner McMillen, who was the Bears’ captain in last year’s shortened season, is currently with the Rockets.
Onrait said he was excited when he found out that Knight had been picked, especially since it happened minutes after Onrait.
The draft featured 2006-born talent. Traditionally it is held in the spring, and features players who just wrapped up their time in U15 hockey. But this year the draft was held in December, so the players chosen are in their first season of U18 hockey.