Cover photo credit: Photo by Jon Halpenny / Ottawa 67’s
The Ottawa 67’s made a couple of additions to their blueline at the 2022 OHL Priority Selection, particularly in the first round, when they selected Henry Mews with the seventh overall pick. This pick bucked their trend of drafting forwards in the opening round, having not picked a defenceman since Jack Matier in 2019.
Mews has drawn high praise in the buildup to being drafted, including comparisons to Erik Karlsson by Sports Illustrated Prospects, and to Jamie Drysdale at the same age by Steven Ellis in an article in The Hockey News. Although the smooth-skating, high-flying defenceman was one of the top talents available in the draft this year, there was no guarantee that he would be coming to the OHL, at least not until late in the process.
“I always wanted to explore my options, so I had big interest from universities and USHL teams,” Mews said in an interview on TSN 1200. “My Dad also went that route, so that’s what he wanted for me. I had the opportunity to go to Ottawa, so I thought that was the better route for me. That was my decision.”
“I had chatted with a lot of the teams, but I never really closed any doors,” said Mews. “Ottawa was the one that I was certainly very interested in, so it was Ottawa or the school route.”
After a season where the 67’s allowed 51 more goals than they scored, they made some choices to cut down on their defensive problems. With young forwards already showing great promise, they were able to satisfy a need, and still pick the best player available to them, all at the same time.
“I think it’s huge because you have to have goaltending, and I believe that you build goaltending through defence and centremen,” said 67’s head coach Dave Cameron. “Any time you talk to a coach, they are looking for defencemen. There are not enough defencemen in the world to satisfy all of the coaches in every league.”
“What we were missing on the back end is what we would call ‘dynamic’,” he said. “The guy that can make a difference on the power play, or the guy who can create something on his own. In drafting Mews, we think we have a guy who has the chance to do that.”
Cameron’s leadership and the proven abilities of general manager James Boyd, and assistant general manager Jan Egert is a large part of the reason Mews decided to come to the Barber Poles, rather than following in his father’s footsteps and heading for the USHL or NCAA.
“That’s one of the biggest parts of why I chose [to come] here,” said Mews. “It’s unbelievable what they have been able to do with this organization, it’s probably one of the best organizations in the CHL.”
With the Toronto Jr. Canadiens, last season, Mews scored a staggering 78 points in 52 games, scoring 14 goals in the process. He continued that success at the OHL Cup in March, scoring five points in six games, including one goal. Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the six-foot defenceman scores at a high rate, considering he has previously played forward growing up, but that only adds to his toolbox.
“This past year was my first year playing defence,” Mews said. “I thought going down to Toronto and playing on one of the stronger teams was going to help me learn how to play the position with good coaching and stronger players to play against.”
Cameron already seems excited to see what the young man brings to the table, and has checked all of the on-ice boxes for the veteran coach. For Mews, Cameron is excited for what he brings off the ice, just as much as what he can do on the ice.
“In this business, you don’t have to see a player a lot to identify his skating, passing, and shooting,” Cameron said. “You have to watch a little longer to get the hockey IQ, and the competitiveness. At the end of the day, that’s only part of the package. The other part is what do they bring other than that? In talking to Henry, he just wants to be a hockey player. All of the guys that I have seen reach their maximum potential, that’s the first thing that stands out.”
Although hopes of what Mews could become are sky-high, Cameron issued a caution that it will take some time.
“That said, he’s going to be a young defenceman coming in here, and there’s going to be a learning curve,” Cameron stressed. “We told Henry that there are going to be games that he plays where he loves it, and there are going to be games where he thinks he’s in over his head.”
“To start off the year, I think I’m going to keep my game simple and get used to the style, the speed, and physicality,” Mews said. “I’m going to get used to Cameron’s way.”
Mews is hoping to model his game after players like the New York Rangers’ Adam Fox, and the Ottawa Senators’ Thomas Chabot. He admitted that he enjoys watching Cale Makar, however, Mews compares him to a wizard, only wishing to one day be as talented as him. As for now, meeting those lofty expectations starts with time at the gym, with the skating coach, and doing the little things right for the remainder of the offseason.
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