By Scott Taylor
Photos by James Carey Lauder and Dylan Asmundson

Rob Smith, the head coach of the RINK's U18 Prep team is always excited before the start of a new season. After all, in Prep school hockey these days, a near- brand-new team will soon be present at his practices. In fact, this season Smith's U18 program is set to welcome more than just a handful of 2007s and recent Western Hockey League Draft picks -first-round pick Peyton Kettles, second-rounder Matthew Gard, third- rounder Hayden Paupanekis and sixth-round pick (and goaltender) Burke Hood. As well, he has another second-round pick coming in from Oak Bank and while he watched Kettles and Gard play in the RINK program last season for Coach Brad Purdie and the U15s, he's excited to see how Owen Martin fares in his first season in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League. At 5-foot-11, 170 pounds, Martin is a big 15-year-old forward with an ability to put the puck in the net. Last season, with the Eastman Selects U15, he had 61 goals and 88 points in 32 games during the regular season and then added 10 goals and 21 points in 10 playoff games. He was a first-team WAAA U15 All-Star and the league's leading goal scorer.

Owen Martin RINK Hockey Academy

"We're really excited to have him," said Smith enthusiastically. "He's a great hockey player, he's a great kid and you can just feel, after talking to him, that he's deeply committed to the game. He's really serious about his development and he wants to prepare himself properly for his next step." "He can score," Smith continued. "There aren't a lot of kids who can beat goalies cleanly anymore. Goalies are getting so good, especially at the higher levels, in the times I've watched him, I've seen him beat some good goalies cleanly. Without any deception, he just beat 'em clean. I'm excited about that. It's hard to find kids who can score, who can find the net, pure attackers. A lot of kids nowadays are pass-first kids, so to have a player like Owen will be a lot of fun. It will be fun to work with him and unlock more of the skill that he has. He's going to add a lot to our program." Even though he doesn't turn 16 until May 11, 2023, Martin is clear-eyed about his hockey future. Selected by Spokane in the second round (27th overall) of the 2022 Draft, he's already signed with the Chiefs and can't wait to play in the WHL.

He also had a terrific POE camp for Hockey Manitoba this summer and has been called "a Matthew Tkachuk type." A player who will go hard to the net without any fear at all."I think that's a fair comparison," Martin said. "I feel like I play quite similar to him (Tkachuk) and I'm pretty good at agitating the other team."Martin played all of his minor hockey in the Eastman region and started as a youngster with the Springfield Ice Hawks"I don't even remember how old I was when I started," he said. "I was probably around four or five. I played minor hockey with the Springfield Ice Hawks in my hometown in Oak Bank and played with the Ice Hawks through Novice and Atom and then Peewee AA came around and I made Eastman Selects as an underaged player. Then made it again my second year and wore the C. "My minor Bantam year got cut short because of COVID. I wore the C there, as well. This past year was a great year for me, I thought I played really well. I wore an A because we didn't have a captain, just four assistant captains, and I really enjoyed my year. Then, this summer, I decided to go play at RHA because I think it's a great facility and the best place for me to develop and get ready to play at the next level." Martin makes it clear that he has no trepidation about playing U18 Prep as a 15-year-old. "It's going to be a big step, sure, but while I won't be the biggest guy, I also won't be the smallest," he said.

Owen Martin RINK Hockey Academy

"I have good size, so I won't get hit around. I have no concerns about having success as a 15-year-old playing U18." A Grade 10 student, he intends to drive into Winnipeg most mornings for school and then training at the RINK. He's excited about attending Shaftesbury High School and noted that his grandparents live close to the school. He also plays ball hockey and does so quite successfully. At the recent national ball hockey championships in Winnipeg this past summer, Martin helped Team Manitoba U15 win the bronze medal. "That was pretty sweet," he said. "That was really fun. I play on a team called the Warriors in Manitoba and we won the championship. Then I got to play for Team Manitoba and won a bronze at the nationals. That was a great experience." In the meantime, he's fired up for his first season at the RINK. "I'm super excited about playing at that level," he said. "It will be a challenge, but I think I'm ready for that. I'm just super excited about going to the RINK."

Scott Taylor | Game On Magazine