Chris Hofley | Ottawa67s.com
Making it through an 82-game season of major junior hockey is no easy feat.
It’s a long haul, a grueling grind and, well, just a lot of hockey.
But as long as a season can seem when you’re in the middle of it, for the players whose OHL careers have now come to an end as graduating overagers — defencemen Evan de Haan and Nevin Guy and forward Nathan Todd — it feels like it’s gone by with “blink and you’ll miss it” speed.
“It goes by so quickly,” said Guy, who will turn his focus to pursuing a post-secondary education after suiting up for the Barber Poles for four seasons, playing 259 regular season games en route to becoming a key cog in Ottawa’s defensive corp. “I’m really proud to have played in the OHL, especially being a kid from close to Ottawa.”
Guy, who hails from nearby Mountain and lists his first OHL game and first playoff game as highlights from his time with the 67’s, is one of overage players saying goodbye to their junior club following Ottawa’s elimination from the OHL playoffs.
Though Guy played big and important minutes for Ottawa that will be missed next season, he’s confident he’s leaving the team in a good and steadily-improving position.
“I think they’re definitely heading in the right direction,” Guy said. “The young guys they have brought in have a lot skill and they’re going to be really good. It’s a team that’s going to keep getting better.”
Todd, who made a late jump to the OHL as a 19-year-old rookie last season only to finish fourth in team scoring in both campaigns, and de Haan, a Carp native who was dealt to Ottawa last year, giving him an opportunity to close out his junior career with his hometown club, give the 67’s a rare all-local graduating class.
Former 67’s GM Pat Higgins says he’s proud that the club was able to graduate three players from the city, but particularly proud of the three players themselves for what they brought to the game as players and people.
“When you talk about character, they are just really good kids,” said Higgins, now the 67’s head scout. “All three of them did us proud.”
In the case of Guy and Todd, selected fourth and fifth in 2012 and 2014, respectively, Higgins saw something in them to the point he was driving all over the place – Pembroke, Winchester and “all over the countryside,” he said – to get a complete picture of their games. He bet on both of them and it paid off.
“They made me proud and made look like I know what I’m doing sometimes,” Higgins said with a laugh.
As for de Haan, Higgins jumped at the chance to bring another local kid home for the rest of his OHL career.
“He was really happy to come here and he was really good for us,” Higgins said.
After the trade that brought de Haan to Ottawa from the Sudbury Wolves, the defenceman would go on to play 100 games for his hometown OHL club
“It still hasn’t really sunk in, it feels like I’m just home for Christmas,” he said at the time of the trade. “I grew up here and it’s obviously a dream come true playing in your home town.”
Like Guy, Todd is still coming to terms with the fact that his OHL career has also come to an end, though he hasn’t had much time to sit back and reflect just say after being picked up by the Binghamton Senators on an amateur tryout.
“It’s hard to believe my time with the 67’s is over, it seems like yesterday I was a rookie in Brockville,” Todd said of his time with the Junior A Braves before making the jump to the OHL.
Todd set goals for himself over a two-year major junior career, which included paying as much attention to his defensive as his offensive game, a focus that earned him praise from head coach Jeff Brown.
“Brownie’s a great coach and really makes you want to be better,” Todd said. “I pride myself on being a 200-foot player and I think I was able to do that here.”
Having grown up going to 67’s games from his home in nearby Kemptville, playing for the Barber Poles was a dream come true for Todd.
“It was an amazing experience,” he said.
The Ottawa 67’s hockey operations staff led by head coach and GM Jeff Brown will begin their search for the next generation of 67’s talent this Saturday with the 2016 OHL Priority Selection Draft.
The 67’s have 15 picks in this year’s draft, including eight selections in the top-100. They include:
- 1 first-round pick
- 2 second-round picks
- 1 third-round pick
- 2 fourth-round picks
- 2 fifth-round picks
Fans can stay up-to-date with ‘draft day’ coverage by following @Ottawa67sHockey on Twitter.