“It’s just a great feeling.”
Getting drafted by the Ontario Hockey League team he watched growing up was an exciting moment for Soo Jr. Greyhounds defenceman Austin Fellinger.
“I couldn’t believe it,” Fellinger said of the feeling when his name was called. “I was ecstatic.”
With limited game action this season due to COVID-19, the 2020-21 season was a learning experience for the 16-year-old.
“One thing (Jr. Greyhounds coach Jamie Henderson) was big on was keeping your head up and being a second ahead in what to expect,” Fellinger said, adding that he felt his skating and confidence improved through the year as well.
As a first-year player at the U18 level, Fellinger said the experience of playing against older players will come in handy.
“Playing with older guys definitely pushes you to your limits,” Fellinger said. “You have to keep up with them. It’s hard on defencemen to keep up with them getting back and they’re bigger bodies too.”
In selecting Fellinger with the Greyhounds 11th round pick, general manager Kyle Raftis said the young blueliner was a player that stood out when discussing potential players to take with the pick.
“He skates well; he defends well,” Raftis said. “He makes a good first pass. We had a couple guys in that conversation and Austin just stood out for us as someone that could potentially come in and keep camp competitive on top of being a stay-at-home (defenceman) and good defensive specialist. He’s like a lot of guys in that range if he can take that next step. He’s a motivated kid.”
Henderson called Fellinger “a really steady player.”
“He takes care of his own end. He’s a defence-first guy. He’s a got a really good stick. In normal hockey, he would be a guy that can separate a guy from the puck physically. He should be a pretty big kid when he fills out and finishes growing. He makes a good first pass and is pretty responsible in his own end.”
How does Fellinger describe his game?
“I use my stick really well,” Fellinger said. “I’m capable of winning corner battles really well. I have good vision. I’m a great teammate.”
With the draft complete, Fellinger is looking to improve on what has made him the player he is as well as adding to his game this summer.
“Definitely using my body more,” Fellinger said. “Since this year, we weren’t able to hit, I’ve got to use my body more and rushing the puck. My coach (Jamie Henderson) told me to be more confident with myself, so I’m going to work on that too.”
“He just needs to continue to develop jumping up in the rush and being a guy that can play in the offensive zone a little bit more, which is kind of the new game now,” Henderson said.
With COVID restrictions during the season, the game wasn’t what Fellinger was used to in 2020-21.
“It was definitely different than what we were used to with no body contact, no penalties and just shootouts (when penalties were called),” Fellinger said. “It was actually faster hockey too because there were no faceoffs and you were constantly playing. It was like three-on-three.”
Fellinger was one of a pair of local players selected in the draft with the Ottawa 67’s selecting Jr. Greyhounds forward Cooper Foster as well.