Fort McMurray’s Austin Zemlak is joining the WHL’s Victoria Royals after being picked ninth-overall in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft on Wednesday.
“It’s been a really exciting day,” he said. “I’m honoured to go there. I think it’s going to be a great place to play.”
Growing up in Fort McMurray, the 15-year-old defenseman has been playing hockey for 11 years.
In 2014, Zemlak joined the Junior Brick Alberta team to play at the North American Hockey Classic in Winnipeg.
The following year he was named captain for Team Brick Alberta, playing in the Brick Invitational Tournament for ‘Super Novice’ players. The team made it to the quarterfinals before being stopped by the Saskatchewan Jr. Pats with a 6-2 loss.
He said the coaching he received in Fort McMurray has stuck with him, as well as the May 2016 wildfires. He said the fires were a partial reason why his family moved to Edmonton.
“That did help me grow as a hockey player,” he said, adding the move gave him “more opportunity and more exposure.”