The “Fergie” is presented annually to the player selected first overall in the Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection. The award recognizes the dedication and contributions made by Jack Ferguson during his 25 year association with the Ontario Hockey League, first as a scout with the Ottawa 67’s and followed by his appointment as head of the OHL’s Central Scouting Bureau in 1981 as its Director of Central Scouting.
On Thursday, April 20th, the Erie Otters Hockey Club announced that 15-year-old defenceman Matthew Schaefer of the Halton Hurricanes U16 program will be the first overall pick in the 2023 OHL Priority Selection presented by Real Canadian Superstore.
The announcement was made at a news conference held at Erie Insurance Arena, introducing Schaefer and his family to the organization and local media.
“I’m so honoured to be picked by such a great organization,” said Schaefer. “It still just doesn’t feel real at all – all the amazing players that have come through this organization and ended up in the NHL.
“It’s a great feeling,” he added. “I just want to get started working this summer, and I can’t wait for training camp. I’m a hard-working player that will compete every day and will play whatever role the Erie Otters want me to.”
Schaefer follows Otters franchise cornerstones Connor McDavid (2012) and Ryan O’Reilly (2007) as the third first overall selection in the organization’s history, making him Erie’s highest-drafted blueliner. He joins a franchise that has also produced the likes of NHL talent in Dylan Strome (Washington Capitals), Alex DeBrincat (Ottawa Senators), Jamie Drysdale (Anaheim Ducks), Adam Pelech (NY Islanders) and Connor Brown (Washington Capitals) among several others.
“Matthew is clearly a dominant player in his age-group,” said Otters General Manager and Executive Vice-President Dave Brown. “He can carry the tempo of a game, he can change a game in a moment with his explosive speed, ability, his edges and his hockey IQ. He’s a big kid with all the intangibles and the skill set that a smaller, mobile defenceman would have. He’s also a natural-born leader and that’s something that organizations need, and our organization can definitely use more of that.”
Hailing from Hamilton, Ont., Schaefer put together an outstanding season on the Halton blue line, producing 12 goals, 20 assists and 32 points over 25 games for the Hurricanes, who finished first place in the OMHA’s SCTA circuit with a regular season record of 31-2-3. Schaefer had a memorable experience representing Ontario at the 2023 Canada Games in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island in February, scoring the overtime winner to push Ontario to a gold medal finish, defeating Saskatchewan 3-2. Schaefer will be eligible for the 2025 NHL Draft.
Schaefer is the 2023 recipient of the Jack Ferguson Award presented annually to the player selected first overall in the OHL Priority Selection. The “Fergie” recognizes the dedication and contributions made by Jack Ferguson during his 25 year association with the OHL, first as a scout with the Ottawa 67’s and followed by his appointment as head of the OHL’s Central Scouting Bureau in 1981 as its Director of Central Scouting.
“Matthew is an elite defenceman in this age group and he continued his strong play since playing U16 last season as an underage,” said Darrell Woodley, Director of OHL Central Scouting. “He is a powerful defender that has speed to burn and he uses it in all three zones. He can be a one-man breakout as his foot speed allows him to beat forecheckers and make a good heads-up pass or continue though the neutral zone with the puck, as he is not afraid to lead the play and create offence. He uses his outstanding skating ability to defend with the best of them as he closes on players fast and gives them little time and space to make plays. He has a great understanding for the game and knows what each situation calls for.”
Former winners of the Jack Ferguson Award Include:
1981 Dan Quinn, Belleville Bulls
1982 Kirk Muller, Guelph Platers
1983 Trevor Stienburg, Guelph Platers
1984 Dave Moylan, Sudbury Wolves
1985 Bryan Fogarty, Kingston Canadians
1986 Troy Mallette, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
1987 John Uniac, Sudbury Wolves
1988 Drake Berehowsky, Kingston Raiders
1989 Eric Lindros, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
1990 Pat Peake, Detroit Ambassadors
1991 Todd Harvey, Detroit Ambassadors
1992 Jeff O’Neill, Guelph Storm
1993 Alyn McCauley, Ottawa 67’s
1994 Jeff Brown, Sarnia Sting
1995 Daniel Tkaczuk, Barrie Colts
1996 Rico Fata, London Knights
1997 Charlie Stephens, Toronto St. Michael’s Majors
1998 Jay Harrison, Brampton Battalion
1999 Jason Spezza, Mississauga IceDogs
2000 Patrick Jarrett, Mississauga IceDogs
2001 Patrick O’Sullivan,Mississauga IceDogs
2002 Robbie Schremp, Mississauga IceDogs
2003 Patrick McNeill, Saginaw Spirit
2004 John Hughes, Belleville Bulls
2005 John Tavares, Oshawa Generals
2006 Steven Stamkos, Sarnia Sting
2007 Ryan O’Reilly, Erie Otters
2008 John McFarland, Sudbury Wolves
2009 Daniel Catenacci, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
2010 Alex Galchenyuk, Sarnia Sting
2011 Aaron Ekblad, Barrie Colts
2012 Connor McDavid, Erie Otters
2013 Travis Konecny, Ottawa 67’s
2014 Jakob Chychrun, Sarnia Sting
2015 David Levin, Sudbury Wolves
2016 Ryan Merkley, Guelph Storm
2017 Ryan Suzuki, Barrie Colts
2018 Quinton Byfield, Sudbury Wolves
2019 Shane Wright, Kingston Frontenacs
2020 Ty Nelson, North Bay Battalion
2021 Quentin Musty, Sudbury Wolves
2022 Michael Misa, Saginaw Spirit
2023 Matthew Schaefer, Erie Otters