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Patience and playing time the keys for Maple Leafs' prospect Durzi

Sean Durzi was an OHL draft afterthought and initially overlooked by NHL teams, but he takes it in stride.

There’s a good chance that if Sean Durzi had been subjected to one of those delayed gratification tests when he was a child, he would’ve dutifully sat and not eaten the marshmallow in front of him in order to get another one 15 minutes later.

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That has certainly been, and continues to be, the case during the defenseman’s hockey career. In his minor midget season, he was originally sent down by his AAA midget team only to be called up halfway through the year. After being selected 228th overall in the OHL draft by the Owen Sound Attack, he had to wait a year before he was good enough to make the team. Then, after being passed over entirely in the 2018 NHL draft, he went 52nd overall to his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs last June. They sent him back to Owen Sound as an overage junior rather than have him suit up for the AHL’s Marlies. “(Toronto) management has my best development in their interests, and they think, with opportunity and ice time and growth rate, it would be good for me to be (in Owen Sound) this season,” Durzi said. “I think to play as much as I will and have the opportunity they’re going to give me here is a great opportunity for me to develop and learn how to be a leader.”

But, as is the case with so many players, the path is not a linear one. Durzi has always been offensively gifted, with good vision and an ability to do the right thing with the puck on his stick. He makes a responsible first play out of the defensive zone and has a number of attributes that are needed to be a good NHL player. At six-foot and 190 pounds, he’s not exactly undersized, but he’s not going to overwhelm opponents physically. And he has an ability to accept obstacles without getting bogged down in self-doubt. “I really believe that players and people in general learn a lot about themselves in moments of adversity,” Durzi said. “It’s really easy to get down on yourself, but I think it’s an opportunity to show your mental toughness. After you go through it, you realize, ‘I’ve gone through it once. I can do it again.’ It’s a great opportunity to grow.”

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