Sixteen-year-old defenseman Owen Protz has proven to be an outstanding addition to the Junior Senators defense corps.
Selected in the fifth round of the 2022 OHL Priority Selection draft by the Sudbury Wolves, Protz joined Ottawa just in time for the start of the season, after playing for the Junior Sens U18 squad last year. Despite being one of the youngest players on the team, Protz’s talent and work ethic earned him regular ice time. Soon, he was paired with captain Wil Murphy.
“I was a little nervous at first,” the 6-1, 190-pounder said. “Even though I was in the organization last year, I didn’t know any of the Junior A coaches. So getting used to them and learning their styles and what they want was an adjustment. We also have lot of veterans, and they went out of their way to make me feel welcome and they encouraged me to relax and just enjoy playing.”
That certainly helped as Protz adjusted to a faster league where many of the players are not only older and more experienced, but also bigger and stronger.
“Everything happens much quicker, but you really notice how they do the little things,” he explained. “Like being able to receive a pass that has some heat on it or make a pass with some heat on it, on your backhand. The guys that were already here had some extra time to kind of hone skills like that.”
Protz noted that he has always been one of the bigger guys for the teams he has played on previously. As a result, he has learned to use that his size like a veteran.
That size, in fact, helped him find a home on defense. He briefly played forward and even tried goalkeeping during his youth hockey days, but his true home is on the blue line, and his youth coaches realized that.
“Owen is a super-talented guy,” Junior Senators Coach Kyle Makaric said. “At first, he tried to do a little too much, but he’s really grown into a very responsible role. We give him a lot of ice time and he’s one of our penalty-killers. He has great poise and confidence for a 16-year-old. He’s also fearless, he’ll skate right up the middle.”
Playing on a team with high expectations—like Ottawa—has been a beneficial learning experience for the young player. The coaches and staff are demanding; responsibility and the ice time that goes with it are earned.
“It’s not just the games, it’s what you do in practice,” Protz explained. “The guys here all have the drive to win and to get better. They never let you take a day off. That’s really brought out the best in me. I’m very competitive and I hate to lose.”
Some of the high points for Protz were playing a key role on the CCHL’s top defensive team, winning the regular season crown, and, of course, scoring his first goal in a match at Carleton Place. He was also called up and played in a game for Sudbury.
Now he is hoping to help his teammates hoist the Bogart Cup.