There is always great anticipation leading up to draft day.
For those involved, it’s a necessary step toward their goal of playing in
the National Hockey League and a validation to years of training and
But when that crescendo is delayed due to a virus that shut the game down
for months, the wait is excruciatingly extended.
“I’m really excited,” Jack Quinn, the eighth overall pick by the Buffalo Sabres said
ahead of the draft. “It’s been a while. I’m just excited to go through the
day with family, friends and teammates. I’m excited for it to finally
While most view the 2019-20 season – and the whole of 2020 – with
indignation and even distain for what COVID-19 has inflicted around the
globe, Quinn might remember it differently.
In fact, it was a period of importance and progression in his hockey
Prior to the season, Quinn’s draft stock was considerably lower. His name
was rarely mentioned alongside others in the 2020 draft class like fellow
Canadians Alexis Lafrenière and Quinton Byfield, or Ottawa 67’s teammate
Marco Rossi, all of whom joined Quinn as early picks.
And when you review his hockey résumé, it’s understandable. Unlike most
projected first-rounders, Quinn was never part of the Program of Excellence
with Hockey Canada.
A product of the Muskrat Minor Hockey Association, he played Bantam AA (now
U15) as a 13- and 14-year-old in Renfrew, Ont., about 20 minutes from his
hometown of Cobden. From there, he played single seasons of Midget AAA
(U18) and Junior A with the Kanata Lasers, the last of which in 2017-18
earned him a spot on the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL) All-Rookie
Team, and rookie of the year and top prospect awards.
The acknowledgements were fitting, as along the way all he did was score
and get better – 28 goals and 52 points in 45 games in Midget AAA, followed
by 21 goals and 46 points in 49 games in Junior A.
It was during his CCHL season with the Lasers that the 67’s – who had
selected Quinn in the second round of the 2017 OHL Priority Selection –
brought him into the fold with an eight-game audition that helped earn him
a full-time spot on the team for 2018-19.
It was quite the nondescript path to Major Junior hockey and his current
spot on top prospect lists of all the reputable NHL scouting services.
“I thought I could have got a shot to play for Hockey Canada along the
way,” Quinn said. “But it didn’t happen and I was fine with that. So
actually being under the radar to prove myself has worked out, too.”
In his first full season in the Ontario Hockey League, Quinn produced 12
goals and 32 points in 61 games for a 67’s team that posted the league’s
best regular-season record – pedestrian numbers for sure.
But with a September 19, 2001 birthday, four days after the cut-off date
for the 2019 NHL Draft, Quinn wasn’t eligible until 2020. So he sagely used
the extra year to continue his evolution into an elite player.
“It helped me a lot,” he admitted. “I looked at it more like an opportunity
and an advantage. I knew I needed to have a big year. I think I set some
high goals for myself. I had a great year and got a lot better as the year
Indeed he did. Quinn put together an incredible break out campaign and a
season that forced scouts to move him up on draft rankings, especially once
the calendar flipped to 2020.
His year included 52 goals and a better than a point-per-game pace – 89 in
For Quinn, however, the transition from just another draft-eligible player
to first-rounder started in the summer of 2019 under the tutelage of Ottawa
head coach André Tourigny.
Aside from coaching the 67’s, Tourigny doubled as an assistant on Canada’s
gold medal-winning entry at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship last
winter, and he is set to serve as head coach for the 2021 edition.
One area of improvement that Tourigny stressed was for Quinn to penetrate
the middle of the ice to help get the puck to the net and increase his
“Right from training camp I was a different player,” Quinn said. “My
offseason was a big part of that. Getting to the inside and being harder to
play against was a goal and André was really good and hard on me. A couple
of months into the season I felt I really hit my stride and kept improving
“For me it was a mindset. I don’t think I realized that I wasn’t doing
that. And once I switched, I noticed the opportunities to score went way
It wasn’t just Quinn that noticed the change. The scouts did, too.
In two separate game reports to Elite Prospects, an international scouting
service that projected Quinn as a mid-first-round pick, OHL scout Rachel
“The puck seemed to follow him around tonight, whether he was winning board
battles, cutting through the middle or battling at the net front.
“He positively impacted the game on every shift, offensively or
defensively. Today was an exhibit as to why Quinn can be a mid-first
Entering draft week, every scouting service that provided projections had
Quinn being selected in the first round, including NHL Central Scouting,
which listed him seventh overall among North American skaters.
In the lead up to the big day, the six-foot, 175-pounder engaged in several
conversations with a lengthy list of NHL teams, including a handful more
Quinn maintained the frequency of contact by some teams didn’t necessarily
mean anything, but now he knows he’ll be beginning his pro career with the
And you can bet he will be ready.