Score another victory for major junior hockey in its battle against the U.S. colleges for the hearts and minds of the best young players in North America.
In a rather surprising reversal, top prospect Ethan Werek joined the Kingston Frontenacs Monday, 16 months after the Frontenacs selected him ninth overall in the Ontario League draft.
Werek committed to Boston University two years ago and has maintained until recently his resolve to play college hockey next season. In fact, prior to joining the Frontenacs, Werek had spent the past two weeks with the Indiana Ice of the USHL and had every intention of playing there this season before joining BU next season.
But to the relief of the Frontenacs, Werek had a change of heart, due almost solely to the fact this is Werek’s NHL draft year.
“That was probably the biggest reason,” said Werek’s agent, Mark Guy. “I think it came down to which was the quickest route to the NHL for him. In the end, he wanted to be somewhere where he could play 68 games and get lots of exposure.”
One NHL scout said Werek is a solid top-10 prospect with the potential to move higher as the season goes along.
“I’m happy because it means a lot less driving for me to see him,” said one Ontario-based NHL scout, undoubtedly echoing the sentiments of many talent hounds in the business.
The bottom line here is that no matter what you think of the OHL or of Kingston GM-coach Larry Mavety as a developer of talent, it’s great for Werek that he bucked the hockey establishment for more than a year, took his time and explored his options before making a decision he feels is best for him.
Hockey’s old guard generally sneers at young men who don’t snap to attention and report to the first major junior team that drafts them, so good on Werek for not caving in and instead making an informed decision.
Werek, of course, had the luxury of playing for a Jr. A team in Stouffville, Ont., that is partly owned by his father, while his mother is a professor, meaning the family obviously puts a premium on education.
But young men who face a similar decision in the future would do well to follow Werek’s example and take their time before making a decision that could very well have life-long ramifications.
Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog normally appears Tuesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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