By EMMA MASON
An exciting season is underway for three of Niagara’s newest residents. Ben Jones, Hayden Davis and Christian Mitri are learning the ropes as they prepare for the Niagara IceDogs’ 2015/2016 season.
May 13 was a big day for the IceDogs, as two of their first round draft picks signed standard player agreements with the team. The IceDogs’ first round, seventh overall pick in the 2015 Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Priority Selection was Ben Jones, a six-foot, 167-pound centre from Waterloo, Ont. The 16-year-old spent last season with the OHL Cup-winning Toronto Marlboros.
“It was amazing,” Jones says. “I mean obviously you always dream about it as a kid, that’s what you want to do, it’s the stepping stone to get to the pro level, so when I heard my name called by such a great organization I could not have been happier.”
When asked if there was anything that made him nervous about the move from junior hockey to the OHL , Jones says, “The guys are a lot bigger and older so you just don’t wanna put yourself in a vulnerable position that can get you hurt or give yourself a bad play that’ll result in a turnover but you can’t really think about all the nerve wracking parts.”
Hayden Davis, a 16-year-old from Hamilton, Ont., was the second player to sign a contract with the club that day. Davis, a six-foot one-inch 194-pound defenceman, was drafted in the first round, 13th overall, from the Hamilton Huskies.
“Two weeks leading up to it you’re worried about where you’re gonna go but thankfully the IceDogs called my name and I couldn’t have been happier. Davis recalled as he talked about the draft.
Christian Mitri, a 17-year-old free agent, went undrafted during the 2014 Priority Selection and remained a free agent until the team picked him up on Aug. 25. It signed the five-foot 10-inch 180-pound centre from Brampton, Ont., after he spent last season with the Vaughan Kings Midget AAA.
“It was a dream come true,” Mitri says as he reflected on the day he was signed.“I’ve always wanted to play in the OHL. When they signed me, it was just kind of out of the blue almost. I didn’t really know I was gonna get signed until the day it happened so when it happened I was just ecstatic.”
But, just because players have signed their contracts doesn’t mean they get to relax.
“Basically, coming to play everyday is nerve wracking because you always have to perform at 100 per cent or else you might get sent down,” Mitri says, in a statement echoed by Davis.
“All you can do is just work as hard as you can. Whether you’re in practice or in a game it doesn’t matter because you never know if someone’s watching.”
The trio’s first game as IceDogs was on Sept. 9 in Bowmanville, Ont., against the Oshawa Generals. Although the IceDogs lost, Davis and Jones each got an assist and Mitri left with a goal.
“I’d definitely say the first game was a little bit nerve wracking but it was obviously really exciting to finally get my first game under my belt,” says Davis.Mitri went on to give some words of wisdom to any younger players coming into their draft year.
“If you don’t get drafted it’s not that big of a deal. I mean, a lot of guys don’t get drafted, like myself. I didn’t get drafted and I’m here this year so just don’t worry about it.
Play as hard as you can during your minor midget year and if things pan out then that’s the way it happens but if not, just keep going hard. There’s always another way to get there.”