Holmes ready for NHL draft
All things considered, Hunter Holmes was more than pleased where he was rated by NHL Central Scouting Services when they released their final draft rankings this week ahead of the 2018 Draft in Dallas.
The 18-year-old winger for the Flint Firebirds was ranked as the 148th North American skater, up one spot from the mid-term rankings despite the fact he missed almost half the season with mononucleosis.
“I didn’t know when they were coming out, but obviously I saw it and it was pretty cool,” said Holmes, a Grade 12 student at A.N. Myer who resides in St. Davids. “I moved up one spot. It was pretty good for my self confidence.
“I only played 30 games so I was pretty happy with that.”
Holmes, Flint’s second round selection in 2016, was on his way to a solid sophomore season when he fell ill. He still finished with 11 goals and 20 points in 40 games, easily surpassing his rookie numbers.
He managed to recover enough to return to play a handful of games at the end of the season.
“Mentally, it was a weight off my shoulders not letting my season end like that and giving myself the opportunity to prove myself again,” he said. “I was able to put up a couple of goals and finish the season strong.”
Overall, Holmes thought his second season went well, the illness notwithstanding.
“The first year is definitely a learning curve,” he said. “Coming in the second year you have all that experience behind you and you play with more confidence. With confidence, comes improved play and then the stats just follow after that.”
The Firebirds struggled this season and missed the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean it was a wasted year.
“You never want to be on a losing team but for the young guys you get put in spots that guys your age on better teams won’t necessarily get the opportunity to do,” Holmes said.
“You’re growing as a player so it lends itself nicely to the future for our team. Now we have more young guys with more experience. It’s good for the future and it’s good for us now.”
Holmes has enjoyed his two seasons in Flint, despite the fact it is a city perhaps best known for its undrinkable water.
“This is my second year and the only thing people hear about the city is the crime and the bad water, but when you get there you would never think it’s that bad. There are still bad parts, but you get that anywhere,” he said. “It’s a nice place to play. It’s unfortunate it gets the rap it does.”
Holmes will maintain his normal off-season program as he waits to see if his name is called in Dallas June 22-23.
“For the draft, it’s just a waiting game to see how the cards fall,” he said. “It’s just working out and taking care of your body and recovering and skating. All the little things you have to do to keep improving this year and be even better next year.”
It’s been a good couple weeks for the Holmes household after younger brother Owen was selected by the Firebirds in the recent Ontario Hockey League draft.
“It’s definitely pretty cool getting drafted as the same team as me,” Hunter said. “To play with him would be pretty cool for us and our whole family. Hopefully some time in the future we have the opportunity to do so.”
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