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Wild sign Ryan O’Rourke, Daemon Hunt to ELCs

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Both defenseman drafted in 2020 are now signed to their rookie deals.

Sault Ste Marie Greyhounds v Windsor Spitfires Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

With the regular season winding down and the only thing left is to jostle the seeding and determine their playoff roster, the Minnesota Wild sparked some interest in the future by signing two young defensemen to their Entry-Level Contracts on Thursday.

O’Rourke, an 18 year old drafted in the second round of the 2020 NHL Draft, has been playing with the Wild’s AHL affiliate, the Iowa Wild, this season. Due to the Ontario Hockey League postponing their season until ultimately its cancellation, the captain of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds has been busy developing on a professional team with players much older than himself.

Through 28 games, O’Rourke has scored on goal and seven points, a respectable total for a teenage defenseman that is having his first taste of playing against established players.

Drafted the very next round in 2020, Hunt was heralded as an interesting prospect to take. Due to a significant injury in his draft year, the teenager barely played for the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors and wasn’t really able to show off his stuff on the league’s worst team.

This season, he has bounced around different minor organizations just looking for some time to work his way up to game shape and keep active. At the start of the pandemic, he was able to play a little bit with the Virden Oil Capitals of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League — essentially one of the leagues a step below the WHL — and then worked up to three appearances for the Iowa Wild when his original junior league was still paused.

With the WHL actually resuming play unlike the OHL, Hunt returned to Moose Jaw and with the “C” on his chest, scored 8 goals and 18 points through 23 games on a team that is still losing more games than they are winning.

Both blueliners have some promise according to some prospect experts, and are a substantial factor whether this next crop of young Wild talent are able to keep the consistent level of success this franchise has come to know in the regular season.

O’Rourke and Hunt will still have a year remaining on their junior eligibility next season, so if everything goes according to plan, they will be with their respective CHL franchises for the 2021-22 season.