Prince of the draft
Spencerport native’s draft year couldn’t be unfolding any better
by Kirk Luedeke/NYHJ Writer
Although every player strives for the best in their NHL draft season, Ottawa 67’s forward Shane Prince could not have asked for a more favorable situation.
A native of Spencerport, N.Y., Prince is near the top of the OHL scoring race in his third major junior season after leaving his home near Rochester at age 15 to skate in the league known for producing some of the more visible NHL stars. After two seasons in which Prince’s performance on the lower lines went largely unnoticed, the 2010-11 campaign has been a coming out party for the left winger.
Every year, players projected for early selection fall short in their draft seasons, while others rise to the occasion. Forwards like Alan Quine and Austen Brassard have disappointed, but Prince has gone in the opposite direction. With his output of 21 goals and 76 points in 44 games -- just three points behind league leader and linemate Tyler Toffoli (L.A. Kings) -- Prince has been rocketing up draft lists this season.
“It's definitely been great so far,” Prince said recently. “It's great to start the year strong and keep the wins going. The team's going great and I've enjoyed my best year in the OHL individually, so things are moving along in the right direction. I just want to do what I can to help the team keep it going.
At 5-foot-11 and just under 190 pounds, Prince may not have ideal size, but he’s a fast skater with excellent puck skills and offensive hockey sense. Originally drafted by the Kitchener Rangers, he was dealt to Ottawa a year ago in January, but went on his scoring tear only after head coach Chris Byrne juggled his lines after the first month. With Prince and Toffoli flanking center Ryan Martindale, an Edmonton prospect, the line has made the lives of opponents miserable, to the tune of 88 goals and 215 points among them in late January.
“Over the last 25 games or so, we really took off,” said Prince. “What I like about the line is that I feel like we bring the best of everything. I'm more of a playmaker and a grinder that the line needs; Tyler is more of the finisher who gets the goals and Ryan is a well-rounded player, whether it's playmaking or scoring.”
While Prince may not have been seen as much of an NHL prospect prior to this season, teams are paying more attention to him because of his production and heady game as one of Ottawa’s scoring stars. He was the 35th-best North American skater on NHL Central Scouting’s midterm rankings, and could end up higher at season’s end.
“It’s easy to get caught up in the points this year with Prince,” said one NHL scout who is based on Ontario for an Eastern Conference team. “But he’s a smart kid who plays a responsible defensive game, too. Now, he doesn’t have great size, and he’s got to prove he can get the production without (Tyler) Toffoli and (Ryan) Martindale, but he’s got legitimate skill and has been as consistent as they come.”
The scout added that Prince’s work ethic is another strength he brings to the mix. When you consider how he developed with his minor hockey before jumping to the OHL however, Prince’s hustle and energy is not a surprise.
Coming from a hockey family where father, Dan, played Jr. B in the Rochester Americans system, Prince played for the Syracuse Stars minor hockey program growing up, which was quite a haul from his Spencerport home.
“A group of us from Spencerport would carpool to the practices,” he said. “It was about an hour-and-a-half trip one-way, two to three times a week for practices, not including our travel and game schedule.”
If that kind of pace was rough for Prince to keep up with, he has no regrets.
“A lot of times, it meant going straight from school to the car and doing homework on the ride down, practicing and then home for bed,” he said. “My parents are the ones who gave up a lot to help me pursue my hockey dreams -- a lot of miles on the car and time spent in different rinks, and so I owe them a ton for what they've done to help get me where I am.”
Prince also credits much of the quantum leap he made, from 30 points all of last season split between Ottawa and Kitchener to the more than 100 he’s on pace to score, to the work he did in the offseason beyond the obvious move to a scoring role from the third- and fourth-line duty he previously held.
“I have a great trainer in my hometown -- Rick Billitier-- who is a role model for me,” said Prince. “He's been my trainer for a few years now and I give him a lot of credit for working me really hard, and that's important for a guy like me who doesn't have a lot of natural size. He doesn't let me get away with taking shortcuts, and we just had a really productive summer of building my strength and conditioning.”
That diligence is what has helped keep Prince productive and healthy despite the rigors of the highly competitive OHL. As a reward for his success, Prince was named to the CHL Top Prospects Game in January as an injury replacement for Gabriel Landeskog, and scored a goal in the contest. It seems like everything Prince does is setting him up for what could be a short wait at the NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn., come June.
“Obviously, the team comes first in any situation, but this is the year that any hockey player looks forward to -- his draft year,” Prince said. “Right now, it's working out as well as any player could dream of. I'm looking forward to going out to Minnesota with my family and taking it in, and just sharing the experience.“
However, as alluring as the thoughts of summer and taking that next critical step in pursuing his NHL dream may be (he grew up a hardcore Buffalo Sabres fan), Prince has his priorities in line.
“My focus is definitely in Ottawa right now, with my team and trying to win an OHL championship and Memorial Cup.,” he said. “Everything else will have to wait.”
Kirk Luedeke can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New York/New Jersey Top 5 NHL Draft Prospects
1. Shane Prince, LW Ottawa 67’s (OHL) 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, Spencerport, N.Y.
2. Adam Clendening, D Boston University (Hockey East) 5-foot-11, 187 pounds, Wheatfield, N.Y. Dropping to No. 2 here is more about Prince’s dominant season than Clendening’s performance. Freshman is 61st on Central Scouting’s rankings
3. Matt Killian, D Delbarton (N.J.) H.S. 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, Basking Ridge, N.J. Stock holding steady; Central Scouting’s 77th North American skater has upside.
4. Charles Orzetti, LW N.J. Hitmen (EJHL) 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Wyckoff, N.J. At No. 120 on Central’s midseason list, Orzetti has a good shot at being drafted after injury- plagued, lost 2009-10 campaign.
5. Rob O’Gara, D Milton (Mass.) Academy 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, Nesconset, N.Y. This skilled two-way defender with size who is developing rapidly this season after beginning as a relative unknown is a new debut in the top-five; 95th skater by Central.
Others of note: Dillon Donnelly, D Shawinigan (QMJHL) 6-1, 190 (Amherst, N.Y.); Colin Stevens, G Boston Jr. Bruins (EJHL) 6-2, 162 (Niskayuna, N.Y.)