Cameron McEwan Makes History As First WHL Draftee Born in Austin

Cameron McEwan (Courtesy of the McEwan Family)

The Austin area quietly hit a huge hockey milestone this past week. Amid everything that is going on, the WHL held its Bantam draft last week, selecting players for major junior from the 2005 birth year. Among them was 15 year-old Cameron McEwan, the first ever Austinite to be drafted into major junior.

Cameron McEwan
"I was just at home, here in quarantine," McEwan told 100 Degree Hockey when reached by phone last week. "Some of my friends started texting and they're congratulating me! I was excited."

McEwan was selected 20th overall in the WHL US Prospect Bantam Draft by the Moose Jaw Warriors on Tuesday, marking another guidepost in his journey through the hockey hierarchy, one that no Austin-born player has ever hit before.

As any hockey parent will attest, it wasn't an easy road. It all started with a Texas Stars when McEwan was seven.

"One of the first hockey games was a Texas Stars game against the Marlies and my close friend's dad was good friends with [Dallas Eakins], the Marlies coach, so we got to go back in their locker room and meet some of the players."

"That fueled his interest in playing hockey," added his mother, Caroline. "We're British, so it's primarily soccer in this household. And we actually bought a soccer goal for Christmas, and with it, there was a little tiny hockey stick in there. And that's what he picked up and was playing with, shooting on the goal with a hockey stick rather than what my husband had intended."

McEwan and Travis Morin
He learned to play in the Chaparral Ice and Pond Hockey Club leagues, becoming good friends with former Texas Stars assistant coach Karl Taylor's sons, who also played in the leagues. With Austin still a relatively small youth hockey scene, the most talented players who want to play at the top bantam levels have to make a tough choice: uprooting their entire life to practice and play in Dallas.

The process to even try out for those bantam teams as an out-of-town player was arduous to say the least. He first had to attend training camp in Valley Ranch over the course of six weeks while still living and attending school in Austin. "[My school] really helped adjust my schedule. They changed all my electives around so I could leave early at the end of the day. And I drove up to Dallas three times a week to attend [training camp]. It was a long drive, four hours there and back."

Thanks to some bureaucracy, he was kept off the bantam team his first year trying out as there was a rule, now removed, that out-of-town players were not allowed on elite major bantam teams. That just fueled him more. He joined the TPH Thunder, a travel team based out of Atlanta, Georgia, but with players from across the Southeast who do not have a deep hierarchy of hockey options in their hometowns, including Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Louisiana and North Carolina. Every month the team gathered in Atlanta for a three day mini-camp with five or six hours of skating.

Fueled by seeing a friend make the Dallas team the first year, McEwan locked up his spot the second year, dropping an excellent stat line as a puck distributor: 19-48=67 in 70 GP. His team was invited to the inaugural WHL US Challenge Cup last month in Washington, where he had five points in four games including a power play marker.

McEwan stands next to Maxime Fortunus as the Texas Stars raise the Calder Cup banner in 2014

Following his draft, he's gotten a lot of congratulatory calls, but none more unexpected than Dallas Stars GM Jim Nill, who chatted him up about Moose Jaw and how his family is doing in quarantine. There are many more signposts to pass before he laces them up for the Warriors, but this is a big one for a player who saw his first game in Cedar Park, Texas.

As to his future home in Saskatchewan, he's looking forward to the culture and maybe packing a few more coats than he has now in Texas. "I know it's cold," he laughed.

"It's a small town, too. The small town atmosphere brings all the people together, and they live and breathe hockey up there."