Matthew Highmore woke up on his QMJHL draft day hoping he’d end up with the Saint John Sea Dogs. It wasn’t long before he got his wish.
The Dartmouth native, who was ranked 11th by Central Scouting, knew the two-time defending QMJHL champions had first-round picks at Nos. 8 and 11 and was ecstatic when they selected him eighth overall at Colisee Pepsi in Quebec City.
“I was always hoping Saint John because it’s such a great place to be,” Highmore said after posing for a photo with his first-round peers.
“When I saw that (they had picks at eight and 11), (I knew) I had a chance.”
“It’s very exciting,” he added. “They’re a great organization and I just can’t wait to get there.”
The five-foot-11, 160-pound Dartmouth Ice Dawgs winger was a first-team Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League all-star last season after recording 13 goals and 13 assists for 26 points in 25 games.
Unlike most players his age, he has an extra year of major midget experience because he was granted Hockey Nova Scotia’s “exceptional player” status for the 2010-11 season and played for the Ice Dawgs as a 14-year-old.
That extra experience will help him step in right away with the Sea Dogs, who are losing a number of key players to the pros.
“There’s still going to be a lot of good guys there,” Highmore said. “But I feel like I can help them out offensively and defensively.”
Although Highmore recently had shoulder surgery and couldn’t handshake with his dominant right on draft day, he said he’ll be ready for training camp.
He was the top Nova Scotian selected and the only Bluenoser to go in the first round.
“I love being from Nova Scotia and I’m proud to be the first guy selected,” he said.
The Sea Dogs had their sights set on Highmore and consider him a quality two-way forward.
“We really liked the way he plays on both sides of the puck,” said Sea Dogs head coach Gerard Gallant. “He competes hard, he’s very skilled and we’re really happy to get him.”
The Sea Dogs, who won the Memorial Cup in 2011 and have been to three straight finals, expect him to step right in.
“There’s room — there’s lots of room,” Gallant said with a laugh. “We’ve got a lot of guys going to the next level, so he’ll have a job on our team next year and we expect him to be a good player and get lots of ice time.”
For a list of all Nova Scotians picked in Saturday’s draft, visit Metro’s Q Files blog.