Perseverance and determination pave Charlie Hilton’s path to the 67’s
The Ottawa 67’s have a standard: they never take a pick off at the OHL Priority Selection, no matter if it’s the first pick overall, or the very last one.
Most times, despite their best efforts, things don’t work out in the later rounds. There’s only a limited amount of roster spots, and they can’t take everyone. But other times, they find a player with potential, just like Charlie Hilton, who was their 14th-round pick in 2022, going 270th overall.
On Wednesday morning, the Barber Poles and Hilton made his commitment to the club official.
“It’s really exciting, Ottawa is a great place to play,” Hilton said. “Just from meeting some of the players at main camp, it seems like a great group of guys.”
When he looks back at the night of the draft, he recalls hope and optimism to hear his name, but he thought that might come sooner. As the rounds ticked forward, he was left wondering if his time might not come after all, but eventually, his wait thankfully ended with a phone call.
“I definitely waited a long time that day to hear my name called,” Hilton said. “I knew that when I did hear it, no matter where it was, I was going to have to go prove myself in camp. I didn’t have a lot of expectations on me when I did come my first year, and I think that relieved some pressure for me.”
The reduced expectations of a 14th-round selection versus a player taken in the top five rounds worked in Hilton’s favour, he says. In 32 games with the Oshawa Jr. Generals this past season, the six-foot-five forward potted 23 goals and 45 total points playing ETAHL U18, earning himself a one-game call-up with the Burlington Cougars in the OJHL.
Hilton helped lead the Jr. Generals to the league championship, scoring another five points in six playoff games, before falling in the bronze medal game of the Telus Cup qualifiers. He never felt the pressure of being an OHL-drafted player, and did his best to always come to the rink with a smile.
“It has been a key to my success over the past year,” Hilton admitted. “I’ve just been trying to have fun while I’m at the rink, and play loose. I’ve tried to forget about who’s watching, and play my game. It goes to show that anyone can do anything they put their mind to it, no matter where you go in the draft.”
With his more relaxed approach in mind, Hilton set off with the intention of turning some heads, using his draft slide as motivation to prove people wrong, and show that he was worthy of a higher slot.
To get there, Hilton spent countless hours in the gym, getting himself into shape, and it took a tremendous effort to earn the trust of his coaches and teammates with the Jr. Generals. He didn’t know where all of that work would get him, but it didn’t matter, as even the slightest glimmer of hope would have been enough to attack.
“With my abilities and how I play the game, I was confident in myself that I was going to go out there and work my hardest,” Hilton said. “I know that when I’m done playing, I won’t have any regrets. I leave it all out there, and give my best effort.”
When Hilton steps on the ice with the rest of his 67’s teammates in a little more than three months’ time for training camp, anything could happen, and there aren’t many guarantees. One thing you can take to the bank, however, is his commitment to the grind.
“I’m going to come to camp ready,” Hilton said. “I feel like my work ethic in training this summer will show up next year, but nothing is going to change. I’m going to work hard like I always do, and I’ll come to training camp ready to push for a spot on the team.”
His commitment has come against the odds, but in the Hilton household, belief never faded.
“My parents have always believed in me,” he explained. “They knew this was going to happen, they never had a doubt in their mind. Even going in the 14th round, they knew. Obviously, they were really happy, but I wouldn’t say they were surprised.”