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Tavares, McDavid - And Now Michael Misa

The Mississauga Senators center has been granted Exceptional Status to enter the OHL a year early, just like a number of phenoms before him.
Luke Misa

Michael Misa

When you break a scoring record set by Connor McDavid, people are going to notice you. And while the hype surrounding Mississauga Senators U16 center Michael Misa had begun before that OHL Cup tournament, it certainly hit a crescendo when the underaged dynamo put up a hat trick and five points in the final to help his team clinch the title over the archrival Toronto Jr. Canadiens.

Now, Misa has been the latest player granted Exceptional Status by the Ontario Hockey Federation, which will allow the 15-year-old to play in the OHL one year early. McDavid got that ticket, as did John Tavares, Shane Wright and only a handful of others. Humbling? For sure.

"It's a tremendous honor," Misa said. "I don't really like to compare myself to those superstars because they've already had tremendous success and my work is just getting started, but I can obviously learn off them and take what they have into my game as I develop as a player."

It's a lot to take in for such a young player and that's why the process for determining Exceptional Status is not limited to on-ice performance.

"We brought in a life skills interviewer to sit down with Michael and his family," said OHF executive director Phillip McKee. "It's about them as a person, their maturity, their ability as a student and how they relate that entire aspect onto the ice with their game. It is a fairly significant process set up by Hockey Canada and from that, it's about the ability to be mature beyond your age and take those next steps in your career as a young person in a game with a lot of older players."

Misa's older brother Luke is already in the OHL, playing for the Mississauga Steelheads, and has been both a best friend and big help along the way. Misa has played with older kids for a long time, so he hasn't been intimidated by his situation recently - which was quite evident when he became the first player to record a hat trick in the OHL Cup final while also setting a record with five points in that title game.

"I've always played with kids a year older than me and if they're all getting drafted, why can't I?" Misa said. "I've always had a huge impact on my teams and I think I can fit in nicely in the OHL next year."

Now the mission is to get bigger and stronger. Misa is currently 5-foot-10 and 150 pounds, so adding some bulk and muscle to his frame will help his transition when he's facing 19 and 20-year-olds next season. As to where he plays, that is yet to be decided. An equal-weighted lottery will be held to determine the first four selections in the draft, comprised of the four teams that miss the OHL playoffs. Right now, Saginaw, Niagara and Sudbury are in the lottery, while one of either Erie or Sarnia will be the last, depending on how this last weekend of action shakes out. As for the idea of potentially playing and going to school in the United States (if he is picked by Saginaw or Erie), the youngster was still processing everything.

"Twenty-four hours ago I didn't even know if I'd be eligible for this year's draft," he said. "So I'm just taking things day by day and will see how it plays out."

There had also been talk of Misa going to Shattuck-St. Mary's prep school in Minnesota next season, where luminaries such as Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon and Jonathan Toews played. This was before the Exceptional Status designation however and now, it's something Misa said he will have to go over with his family and his advisors.

The OHL Draft begins on April 29 and no matter what happens, it will be exciting to see what Misa's future holds. He's an incredibly dynamic talent - and he's only getting started.

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