It seems like a lifetime ago that I was hoisting my league's championship over my head at center ice. Perhaps it is because it was a little over two months ago, or maybe it is the fact that these two months have been a whirlwind experience for me. I was a key cog in my team's undefeated championship run, logging 25-30 minutes in a 45 minute game. My partner and I were used for shutting down opponent's top lines on even strength and being rocks on the penalty kill. On the powerplay, I was stuck out in front by my coach so I could use my 6'4", 185 pound body to screen the goalie and get tips. Needless to say, it was a very wearing, but rewarding experience. I didn't get any recognition in terms of awards for my season, but I was partnered with the best defenseman in all of New Jersey prep schools. He led me in points by a wide margin, scoring 36 points to my 15, but hasn't gotten anyone's attention when it comes to junior teams. There are guys like him all over the place, and he is just too small (6'0", 165 pounds) to be good, both offensively and defensively, outside of our league. My size and physical abilities are what's giving me the edge over smaller, more offensive guys, and that's mainly why it's been a fast-paced two months.
These two months started when I got a call from Sebastien Fortier, CEO of OneHockey and scout for the Lindsay Muskies of the OJHL. He invited me to play on one of his 95/96/97 Team North Americas. I, being completely taken aback by the offer, wondered where he had seen or heard my name. He told me that I was on the scouting list for the Peterborough Petes of the OHL, and that he was told about me from the Petes Northeastern US scout, Randy Walker. I was skeptical about that whole idea. Why would the Petes be scouting an independent prep school team in central New Jersey? Then, I saw him at a game. Then, I saw him again at another. I took Sebastien up on his offer due to the repeated attendance of the man, who Sebastien said was scouting me, who could give me a whole new future. I had to get ready for the tournament, and I had to get ready fast.
I had been working out on my own for a while, but I wasn't seeing the gains in size or strength that I needed to get in order to be at prime physical condition. It just seemed that no matter what I did, I just wasn't gaining weight. My knight in shining armor arrived soon after that realization though, as my school hired a private strength and conditioning coach. I could go to him for free and get a personalized workout, set up for my body type and sport. It's made a world of difference so far, and it can only continue to do so as long as I keep putting in the work. My bench press is up from barely 135 to around 185, and my squat has made an even better jump, coming up from 185 to 300 pounds. If I can continue to work out with this trainer, the sky is the limit for me and my career.
I've felt the difference on the ice too. I can bend my knees deeper and for longer increments of time because my legs aren't getting tired as easily. My feet move quicker, my shot is harder, and my speed has increased significantly. My private on ice coach has noticed the change, and seeing an opportunity to put someone that he's worked with for years into one of the best junior leagues in the world, he asked me if he could be my family advisor for all of my hockey. When I didn't get drafted into the OHL, he worked on getting a scout from the OHL Central Scouting out to his invite-only training camp which he had invited me to. Knowing, however, that the OHL is a long shot, he started working the phones for other junior teams in all different leagues.
He immediately found teams who were interested in my services for next year. It's nice to know that no matter what happens, I will be playing Junior A next year, barring injury. That is not good enough for him, or me though. We want to shoot for the stars and right now, that is the NAHL. The NAHL is the second best junior league in the US, sending guys D1 consistently and some to the pro leagues. The first sign of interest came from the Soo Eagles. After registering for an open camp, my mom got a call from the GM of the team, saying that I was already on their scouting list. My advisor, suspicious of the whole thing, called the GM to ask about his interest in me. Long story short, the GM lied and my advisor was fuming due to that. The next day, he was on the phone with more NA teams and that is how we found my next big opportunity.
The Johnstown Tomahawks, Pennsylvania's resident NAHL team, called my advisor the next day, but it wasn't about me. They asked him to be their east coast scout, but he turned down the offer. Before he got off the phone with the head coach of the Tomahawks, my advisor told him about me. Johnstown usually likes big, tough, physical defenseman and that fits my style of play perfectly. The head coach liked me enough to give me an invite to their pre-draft camp in Detroit in mid-May. The fun hasn't stopped there with the Tomahawks though. The GM of the Tomahawks has agreed to come watch one of my private sessions, and he could give me a tender right then and there and save me a lot of stress and travel. Of course, I have to perform well, but I've done these drills thousands of times and at this point, they're part of my muscle memory.
That's all that's going on right now. It's been a hell of a ride for these next two months and it doesn't look like it's going to stop any time soon. Thank you for reading guys and gals
Keep an eye out for Part Two: GM Meeting and Pre-Draft coming soon