Over 90 2007-born hockey players now have the chance to further their on-ice journey after being selected in the 2023 MJHL Draft. Noah Oughton was the first player to see his name taken off the draft board, going number one overall to the Winnipeg Freeze.
"My family and I got a phone call the night before saying that (being selected with the first pick) might be a possibility," says Oughton. "In the morning, we were just watching the draft, and my name came up. It was pretty exciting. Just to look back on the work that I put in and everything that led up to that moment, is pretty cool. I'm looking forward to what's next."
The local forward put up 24 points in 44 games for the U18 AAA Interlake Lightning last season. He says going first overall is something he never could've imagined.
"It's pretty special. I put a lot of work in to be in this position, so it's nice to see that it paid off," Oughton continues. "If you told me last year that this would be happening, I don't think I would've believed you. I'm a player that usually goes under the radar. So, to put the work in quietly and see this come out of it is really exciting."
The Freeze are a very young team with plenty of opportunity for rookies to crack the 2023-24 roster.
"It's a big step up for a young kid my age but I think I've been training properly. If I were to make that step up to the MJHL, I think it would be pretty cool. I'm looking forward to training camp."
The Interlake program brought in a new coach this season and had one of their most successful seasons in years. Oughton says first-year head coach Aaron Kaatz really helped further his development.
"He is definitely one of the reasons there were seven kids drafted out of Interlake. He helped us all grow as people and as players," Oughton explains. "It's pretty cool to have a guy like that come in and teach us everything we need to know."
The Winnipeg Freeze are excited to announce that 1st Overall Selection Noah Oughton has committed to the Freeze for the 2023-24 season! pic.twitter.com/pSYYAabzsc— Winnipeg Freeze (@wpg_freeze) June 6, 2023
Oughton is very proud of this accomplishment but he knows the work has just begun.
"I think during the offseason, I'm going to focus on my stride and my speed. I know if it were to happen that I make the jump to Junior A, I'm going need to adjust my speed to match the next level," says Oughton. "I think that's going to be a huge thing that's going to help me. So, I would say my leg strength, my endurance, and my speed are going to be the main focus."