A pair of Hockey Canada Skills Academy (HCSA) products will get a chance to take the next step in their hockey careers – Aidan Graham and Jordan Hurtubise have been drafted into the Ontario Hockey League.
Hurtubise, who was enrolled in the HCSA program at École secondaire catholique Saint-François-Xavier in Sarnia, Ont., went 188th overall to the Mississauga Steelheads in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection, while Graham, from the HCSA at Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School in Orillia, Ont., went 31 picks later, 219th overall to the Kingston Frontenacs.
A defenceman with the North Central Predators (Minor Midget AAA), Graham posted 17 points (two goals, 15 assists) in 34 regular-season games and spent the first semester of the season with the HCSA.
"The HCSA at Patrick Fogarty was a great opportunity for me to work on my individual skill set and spend time on things that I often overlooked during my rep experiences,” Graham said. “I was able to work on my defenceman-related skills, and I saw an immediate benefit in game situations during the season.
“I saw a lot of improvement in my off-ice strength and conditioning as well. It was a great learning experience for me and I am thankful that I had the opportunity to participate in something like this and achieve two high school credits at the same time."
"Aidan has always been a very smart, heads-up hockey player, and I believe the HCSA allowed him an opportunity to take his game to the level it needed to be in order to get drafted into the OHL,” said Jeffrey Hopkins, lead coordinator and head instructor with the HCSA at Patrick Fogarty. “He was not on the pre-season draft list in September, but he definitely brought it upon himself to make sure he received a phone call on draft day.
“To have Aidan be a part of the inaugural HCSA at Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School and be drafted in the same year will help show others that this type of program can pay off in helping their game get to the next level."
Also a blue-liner, Hurtubise recorded five assists in 33 regular-season games, along with one helper in eight playoff games, with the Lambton Jr. Sting (Minor Midget AAA), while also getting a chance to skate with the local Junior B team, the Sarnia Legionnaires of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League.
“The Skills Academy [at Saint-François-Xavier] played a crucial part in developing my skills as a player during this important season,” Hurtubise said. “The program allowed me to spend about five hours more each week [compared to most players in my league] during which I could hone skills that I didn’t get a chance to train with my local team, and then apply these skills during hockey games.”
“I’m not surprised he got noticed, since he’s a smart player who communicates a lot on the ice,” said Jordan Pennesi, Hurtubise’s coach. “The fact that he grew almost 10 inches in two years adds to his size and makes him stronger in corners and in front of the net. He’s a really well-balanced kid who knows and loves hockey. It was fun working with him this year.”
Graham and Hurtubise attended prospect and development camps shortly after the draft, with hopes of earning an invite to training camp ahead of the 2016-17 OHL season.