It wasn't the season Carson Latimer had in mind entering his age 17 junior season, but it sure wound up being a successful one.
In 22 games with the WHL's Edmonton Oil Kings, Latimer buried five goals and added 11 assists to take home Central Division rookie of the year honours.
"It was an honour," he said from Ottawa Senators development camp. "There's lots of great players in that division who I was up against and to be able to win that was really exciting and to go up for the rookie of the year for the whole WHL was pretty cool. It was an amazing feeling."
Things would only get better for the Surrey, B.C., native.
Latimer was selected on Day 2 of the 2021 NHL Draft by the Sens, who moved up 13 spots to grab the Oil Kings forward in the fourth round (123rd overall).
"It meant everything," he said of being drafted. "It's what you work for your whole life and to have that finally come true was amazing and there's no better place to go than somewhere in Canada and to a great place like Ottawa where there's such a historic background. I've loved everything about it so far.
"It means a lot when they really want you, to trade up to get you … now I want to do my best to show them that I was worth it."
It's not the first time the Sens have gone west on draft night as over the last three years, the Sens have dipped regularly into the WHL. They took Lassi Thomson and Ridly Greig in the first round (2019 and 2020 respectively) and all in all, have selected seven players from the WHL in the last three drafts.
"The [WHL] do a great job of developing their players and putting together a pro like schedule and I think that draws a lot of attention," Latimer said. "For me when I was a younger kid, choosing the WHL, it prepares you for the NHL."
While development camp is officially over, focus turns to rookie camp that starts Wednesday and includes two games against Montreal's rookies (Sept. 18 and 20). Latimer is hoping to continue to use the time with Sens player development coaches Shean Donovan and Jesse Winchester, as well as Ottawa and Belleville's coaching staff, to put him into a position to continue to succeed in his first full season of junior this year.
"My goal is to take as much away from this as I can," Latimer said. "There's a lot of very talented hockey players here. There's lots to learn from the coaching staff.
"I want to take in as much as I can, have fun while doing so, and become a better hockey player from this."