67’s Stonehouse exceeds own expectations in regular season

As if anyone needed to give Brady Stonehouse any extra motivation.

One of the many players who missed out on what should have been their rookie season in 2020-21, Stonehouse was forced to wait for his time in the OHL, being dropped immediately into his draft-eligible season in 2021-22.

It didn’t take long for him to make up for the lost time, quickly asserting himself as a fan favourite in Ottawa. Despite finishing third on the Barber Poles in scoring, netting 18 goals and 35 points, Stonehouse wasn’t among the 225 young players to hear their name called at the 2022 NHL Entry Draft.

Fortunately, the youngster managed to garner enough attention for himself from scouts to earn himself an invite to Colorado Avalance development camp, where he showcased his talents to Stanley Cup-winning staff, including Jared Bednar and Joe Sakic.

“Going to Avalanche camp was an eye-opener,” Stonehouse said. “I came back a little more confident, I brought some things back to add to my game, so I think that was really beneficial.”

The look wasn’t enough to earn a pro contract, and after doing undrafted, Stonehouse had some time to reflect. Disappointed with how things went, he chose to channel the frustration into something positive, and find extra motivation to prove his doubters wrong.

“I came back with a chip on my shoulder, I mean, it’s every kid’s dream to be drafted in the NHL,” Stonehouse admitted, adding that he’s still hopeful to hear his name called. “Dave [Cameron] says that sometimes it’s better to have all of your options open, so [I’m not too worried about it].”

Set for a second season with the 67’s, Stonehouse dedicated himself to improving in just about every aspect of the game – something none of his opponents would be happy to hear. Known for his hard-nosed style of play, where nothing comes easy for the opposition, the Blenheim, Ontario native worked hard to get more physical, faster, and perhaps most notably, improve his shot.

He set his sights on 30 goals in his sophomore season – a lofty goal, some thought, but for Stonehouse, the belief that it was more than doable. He started the season with six goals in six games, and as the year rolled forward, he continued finding the back of the net.

Before long, Stonhouse reached 10, then 20, and by the end of February, he was staring right at his goal. With the Windsor Spitfires in town, he mixed immense skill with undeniable grit to net his 30th of the season, reaching his benchmark in just 55 games. He describes the feeling as “amazing,” noting that the play of his linemates played as big of a role as anyone.

Head Coach Dave Cameron typically raves about the 67’s second-round pick in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection, who is the only player on the team to suit up in every game since the beginning of last season.

Stonehouse is frequently on the ice in the game’s biggest moments, whether the Barber Poles are down late, looking for an equalizer, or looking to finish out the contest. It’s no mistake, he has earned every second of his ice time.

“He’s a competitor, and he never takes a game off,” Cameron said. “He gives our team an edge, but it’s under control.”

Sure, Stonehouse never takes a game off, but that’s only half of the equation. There’s a lot that goes into being a junior hockey player who hopes to one day find themselves in the NHL. There’s practice, off-ice training sessions, recovery periods, and many other important pieces away from the rink, including school and personal relationships.

A large portion of the credit for his improvement is thanks to his commitment to those other factors. He has put in the work, and so far, it has paid off.

“Everyone has bought into the system,” Stonehouse said. “It just shows you how determined we are. We’re here at 6:30 every morning, and our day isn’t done until 2:00. We put a lot of work in here, but still have a long way to go.”

When you put all of the factors together, it’s obvious why Ottawa has attached itself to Stonehouse. After seemingly every game, fans are leaning over the railings inside The Arena at TD Place, looking for an autograph or a selfie, and while all of the attention is appreciated, given the choice between being loved by the fans or hated by the opposition, the choice is easy.

“I’ll have to go with hated by the other side,” Stonehouse said, further building on his agitator narrative. “You never want to be liked by the other team.”

The work hasn’t stopped for Stonehouse, despite reaching his first goal. He says the personal milestones are great, but it’s only the start. The ultimate goal begins now, as the Barber Poles embark on their playoff journey, looking to return the J. Ross Robertson Cup back to Ottawa for the first time since 2001.

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