This past week, the Western Hockey League’s Brandon Wheat Kings announced the signings of Manitoba-born defencemen Owen Harris and Zach Turner. Both players were selected in the early stages of the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft and have been teammates with the Southwest Cougars.
With birthdays on the exact opposite ends of the spectrum, the small-town Manitoba products each put pen to paper on standard WHL player agreements in hopes of cracking the team in future years. Turner, born on January 7 of 2004, is nearly an entire year older than Harris, who came into the world 354 days later on December 26 of the same calendar year – hence his availability in the 2019 draft.
Turner, 17, hails from Boissevain, while Harris, 16, is from Wawanesa. The two have spent the past three seasons suiting up alongside one another for the AAA U-15 and most recently U-18 Southwest Cougars of the provincial AAA league. Turner has more of an offensive flair, while Harris is known for providing his shutdown defence.
“Owen is a high character person that has all the tools to be a reliable defender in our league, he consistently makes the right play at a high execution rate,” Wheat Kings general manager Darren Ritchie said of his recent signees in a team-issued press release. “While Zach moves the puck well and has a very good shot from the offensive blueline. We’re really happy with his progression on the ice.”
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound Turner was chosen 31st overall by Brandon in 2019, and has suited up for 128 regular season games with Southwest over the past four seasons, amassing 41 goals and 88 points, alongside 100 penalty minutes. He had 12 goals and 29 points for the Cougars in 2019-20, and has picked up four goals and nine points in eight games so far this season.
“Signing with the Wheat Kings is awesome,” says Turner. “I’ve always wanted to play for the Wheat Kings so when I got drafted by them I was really excited to work towards becoming part of the team. Growing up 45 minutes away from Brandon, I’ve been to lots of games at the Keystone and this is another big step towards my goal”.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Harris went 53rd overall in 2019. He has played in 98 games for the Cougars over the past three years, earning 12 goals, 47 points and a whopping 221 penalty minutes. Last season saw the third round pick score four times while adding 13 assists and 96 penalty minutes in 41 contests. He has suited up for eight games with the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Swan Valley Stampeders in 2020-21, putting up one assist and six penalty minutes.
“Because I’ve grown up near Brandon, I went to Wheat Kings games all the time with my parents over the years so this is really special”, says Harris. “This is a great opportunity and I can’t wait to see what the future holds. I’m very I’m thankful for my parents, my friends and all the coaches I’ve had who have all helped me get to this point.”