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Thorold native eager to take next step in hockey career with OHL's Kitchener Rangers 0

By Jeff Blay, Special to The Standard

THOROLD - 

Mike Davies can be added to the list of Thorold natives currently excelling in their hockey careers.

After wrapping up a successful season with the Welland-based Southern Tier Admirals, where he collected 47 goals, 73 points and 94 penalty minutes in 61 games, the 16-year-old forward was selected by the Kitchener Rangers in the first round (13th overall) of the Ontario Hockey League Priority Draft last Saturday.

“It’s obviously exciting and it’s an honour to be called by the Kitchener Rangers – I know they’re a very high-end organization,” said Davies, though he wasn’t exactly anticipating to get picked as early as 13th. “I was sort of expecting to go in the first round, but I didn’t expect to go that high.”

Nonetheless, now officially belonging to an OHL team, Davies could very well join fellow Thoroldites Hunter Garlent (Guelph Storm), Anthony DiFruscia (Niagara IceDogs) and Jake Evans (Erie Otters) – who were all taken in the early rounds of the 2011 draft – in the league next season.

“I know them all very well,” Davies said of the aforementioned trio. “I have a lot of respect for them and hopefully they can teach me some of the tricks of the trade this summer.”

With OHL training camps beginning in August, Davies knows he has a lot of hard work ahead of him this offseason in order to improve his game and ensure he’s in the right shape when it comes time to vie for a spot in the Rangers lineup.

“I’m going to work on putting on some muscle weight just so I’m a bit stronger for when I make the step to the next level,” he said. “My first few strides will be huge at the next level too, just to keep up with the pace of play, and my defensive zone – board work and positioning.”

At six-foot, 195-pounds, Davies is known as a dynamic offensive player who can use his size effectively, shoot the puck well and play with a physical edge.

“Mike possesses an excellent shot and one-on-one finishing abilities,” said Sean Lafortune, OHL scout for McKeen’s Hockey and director of scouting at TheScout.ca. “He has the opportunity to be a top-nine forward initially – perhaps on the wing – where he can play physical and use his size and strength to his advantage.

“As he progresses, he projects out as a top-six forward at the OHL level.”

Likewise, Davies’ midget AAA coach, Scott Barnes, commended his shooting capabilities and offensive intuition, also noting his drive to improve.

“He’s a great kid, he’s very coachable and he wants to learn,” Barnes said of Davies. “He’s still got some things to learn, but he came a long way in a year and I expect him to keep producing at the next level.

“He’s almost got a professional shot on him right now and if he gets a chance, the puck is in the back of the net.”

While Davies may have been a bit surprised at being selected with the 13th overall pick, Barnes, on the other hand, wouldn’t have expected anything less.

“Had he not got a bout of mono and some other things happen this season, I think he had the potential to be in the top 10,” he said. “To go 13th, I figured he would go somewhere in there, so it wasn’t a shock to me at all.”

While Davies maintains he’s taking nothing for granted when it comes to earning a spot with the Rangers next season, if he does crack the roster, his focus will be on learning the team’s systems and playing the role he’s given by his coaches – the points will come from there.

“Hopefully I can put up a few points,” he said, “but all in all, just be a good team player.”

EARLY SIGNS OF LEADERSHIP

Being a ‘good team player’ extends further than simply being unselfish on the ice. At 16, Davies is already showing his ability to demonstrate leadership and character.

He told the Thorold Niagara News he’s dedicating both his past and upcoming seasons to fellow Thorold resident Matteo Mancini – a 12-year-old boy who’s been battling cancer for the past couple of years.

Davies is close with Mancini’s brother, Chris, and their father, Dino, who coached him on a summer hockey tournament team last year. After hearing of Mancini’s story, he’s since taken inspiration from the brave youngster.

“It’s obviously a tough situation, but I give him credit,” Davies said. “He’s a fighter and he’s always got a smile on his face, so he’s definitely an inspiration.

“To see him battling cancer, I just try to think of him as much as I can and he’s been my idol through the year. I’d like to dedicate my season to him.”

jeff.blay@hotmail.com

Twitter: @JeffBlay 

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