Erie, Pennsylvania – A historic pick marks a historic moment for the Erie Otters.

Holding the top pick in the 2023 Ontario Hockey League’s Priority Selection Draft, the Otters organization welcomed defenseman Matthew Schaefer as the team’s first overall selection.

The selection was made official as part of a special introductory press conference held at the Erie Insurance Arena on Thursday evening. General Manager Dave Brown, and Director of Hockey Operations Scott Grieve welcomed Schaefer and family to the Flagship City at the event – a little under 26 hours before the pick will be formally made during the Priority Selection Draft.

“With Matthew, the first thing you notice immediately is his skating and his ability to evade pressure on the forecheck and and get the puck moving north quickly. He’s real good in transition, yet at the same time he won’t cheat for offense – he takes care of his own end and he competes hard.” said Grieve, “Matthew has a real projectable frame. He’s 6’1″, and when he fills out he’s really going to be a horse in our league. He’s been real good all year, we’ve loved him all year, and we’re excited to add him and his family to our organization.”

Schaefer is the third player in Otters team history to be drafted 1st overall, following in the footsteps of Otters legends Connor McDavid (2012) and Ryan O’Reilly (2007). The selection etched Schaeffer’s own mark in Otters history immediately, becoming the first defenseman to be taken first overall by the team. Erie was awarded the opportunity to hold the most coveted spot in the Draft thanks to luck of the draw of the Ontario Hockey League’s third Lottery Process held on March 29. With a 30 percent chance of earning the first overall pick, Erie would be the recipient of odds in their favor – and eventually, their guy in big-bodied defenseman Matthew Schaefer.

“I’m so honored to be picked by such a great organization.” said Schaefer, “It still just doesn’t feel real at all – all the amazing players that have come through this organization and ended up in the NHL.”

A 15-year-old native of Hamilton, ON, Matthew Schaefer comes in off a year to remember in his draft-eligible season. A point-plus-per-game regular season (12G+20A in 25GP), and nearly a three-point-per-game post-season (6G+8A in five GP) saw the defenseman as a top-scorer for the Ontario Minor Hockey Association’s SCTA U16 AAA league champion Halton Hurricanes. Playing in the prestigious OHL Cup tournament, the scoring touch of the season would continue for the blueliner with a point-per-game (1G+3A) in the four games played for the Hurricanes.

“[Matthew] is clearly a dominant player in his age-group. He can carry the tempo of a game, he can change a game in a moment with his explosive speed, ability, his edges, his hockey IQ.” said Brown, “He’s a big kid with all the intangibles and the skill set that a smaller, mobile [defensemen] would have.”

On top of a tremendous season with his AAA team, Schaefer would also get the chance to be a hero for his province. Selected to represent Team Ontario in the 2023 Canada Winter Games, Schaefer would be unanimously selected by the coaching staff as team captain – and go on to score the double-overtime game-winning goal in the championship game over Team Saskatchewan.

“[Scott Grieve and I] went out to Prince Edward Island and saw him at the Canada Winter Games and saw how much he affected his team as a leader. [For Matthew] going in and not having those guys as teammates, he went in and endured himself to the group, and we watched as he mingled and could see right away that he was a natural born leader.” said Brown, “That’s something organizations need, and our organization can definitely use more of that”

Schaefer lead all Team Ontario defenseman in scoring at a point-per-game (3G+3A) in the six games for the champion province.

“He’s able to control the pace of the game back in the defensive end, and he really showed that at the Winter Games.” said Grieve, “He captained that team and played a big role for Team Ontario.”

Team Ontario head coach Steve Devine would note Schaefer’s maturity as one of his strongest skills.

“[Matthew’s] looking for any information that can make him a better athlete and a better person. His willingness to learn off the ice and willingness to make sure [his] team is doing the right thing – as a coach, it’s something you can only dream that you have on a group and sometimes you get really lucky, and you have a person like Matthew.” said Devine, “He’s a pro.”

The top-ranked overall prospect in’s definitive 2023 OHL Draft Guide, Matthew Schaefer was touted as a “talented prospect who excels all over the ice playing on the backend“. OHL Central Scouting featured Matthew Schaefer in their January edition of Players to Watch, comparing his skill and ability to Hamilton’s Jorian Donovan.

“A powerful defender that has speed to burn and he uses it in all three zones. He can be a one-man breakout as his foot speed allows him to beat forecheckers and make a good heads-up pass or continue though the neutral zone with the puck as he isn’t afraid to lead the play and create offence.  He uses his outstanding skating ability to defend with the best of them as he closes on players fast and gives them little time and space to make plays. He has a great understanding of the game and knows what each situation calls for.”

The two-way, offensive option defenseman will find an organic fit in an Erie defensive corps. that features 2022-23 Best Skater of the Western Conference Spencer Sova – the last defenseman taken in the first round (2020) by the Otters. Alongside Sova (2020, #8), Schaefer will join a handful of fellow 1st Round draftees Malcolm Spence (2022, #2) Carey Terrance (2021, #10), and Pano Fimis (2020, #2 [NIA]) for the 2023-24 season.

“This organization has seen real elite defensemen come through it over the years – the [Darren] Raddysh’s, the [Jamie] Drysdale’s – and Otters fans have seen what a defenseman like that can do for the team.” said Grieve, “Getting the puck out of your end, moving it north, contribute offensively, and the ability to be dynamic from the back end – that’s what separated him from the group for us, and we’re excited to add that to our group.”

Schaefer will wear #48 for the Otters, becoming the first Otter in 20 years – and third Erie player all-time (Ryan Lee 1998-99; Peter Campbell 1999) – to don the number. He will also become the second member of his immediate-family to play Major Junior hockey – following in the footsteps of older brother and OHL alumnus Jonathan Schaefer (NIA, 2015-19). Additionally, Matthew Schaefer will be awarded the Jack Ferguson Award as the first player selected in the OHL Priority Selection. The award recognizes the dedication and contributions made by Jack Ferguson during his 25 year association with the Ontario Hockey League, first as a scout with the Ottawa 67’s and followed by his appointment as head of the OHL’s Central Scouting Bureau in 1981 as its Director of Central Scouting. Previous winners for Erie include O’Reilly (2007) and McDavid (2012).

“It’s a great feeling. I just want to get started working this summer, and I can’t wait for Training Camp.” said Schaefer, “I’m a hardworking player that will compete every day and will play whatever role the Erie Otters want me to.”

The Erie Otters are thrilled to welcome Matthew Schaefer to the Flagship City, and see what the dynamic defenseman can bring in the Fall.

All eyes will be on Erie on Friday, April 21 at 7:00 P.M. for day one the 2023 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection Draft – with the first three rounds taking place. Day two of the Priority Selection Draft will take place at 9:00 A.M. on Saturday, April 22 with rounds four through 15. Erie currently has 16 picks in the 2023 Priority Selection Draft, with two on day one (1st Round, 2nd Round), and 14 on day two (two in 4th [SAR], 5th, 6th [SBY], 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, two in 12th [SBY], 13th, 14th, 15th). Draft Picks are subject to change leading up to the day of the Draft.

Voodoo Brewing Draft Party

Fans are invited to attend a special Draft Night party at Voodoo Brewing Company – Erie Pub starting at 6:00 P.M. on Friday, April 21. Locally made craft beer and specialty crafted food will be available during this family-friendly event. Inside of Voodoo’s spacious taproom, attendees will be able to watch the Draft unfold live while also seeing Otters staff. After the team’s final pick, head coach Stan Butler will partake in an exclusive town hall to talk about the players selected thus far and a State of the Otters.

Player Eligibility 

North American players born in 2007 and non-overage players that were not registered with an Ontario based U16 AAA team from protected OHL territories are eligible for selection in the 15 rounds of the 2023 OHL Priority Selection. 

Selected Players in the OHL 

OHL Member Teams are permitted to register a maximum of four 16-year-old players selected in the OHL Priority Selection. Those 16 year old players that are allowed to be signed are the first two 16-year-old players selected and a maximum of two additional 16-year-old wild carded players in any round of the OHL Priority Selection. 

All other 16-year-old players selected are eligible to be called up as an “affiliated player” or “floating affiliate player” for a maximum of 10 games or for any OHL regular season or playoff games when such player’s team has been eliminated from competition for that season. 

Keep up with all the Otters picks and results on or across the Otters’ social media. For all results of the 2023 Priority Selection, please head to

For the latest Otters news, visit, or follow the team on Facebook (, Twitter (@ErieOtters), and Instagram (@ErieOtters). 

For further information on the Erie Otters and for media inquiries, please contact Shawn Bednard at


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