Two Fort Frances teens were selected in the Ontario Hockey League draft earlier this month.
Luke Judson was taken in the fifth round by Belleville while Pat Bobczynski went in the 14th round by Guelph.
Between draft day (May 5) and now having to work to be their best for team camps (not to mention spending this past weekend in Thunder Bay trying out at a preliminary Ontario under-17 camp), the experience has been a blur.
“It’s kinda taken its toll,” Bobczynski admitted, thinking back to the day of the draft, when he got up at 8 a.m. but wasn’t drafted until late afternoon.
“It was a long day [but] it was pretty exciting,” he noted. “I watched two of my other friends go, and I didn’t get drafted until the 14th round and there’s only 15 rounds.”
“I was starting to get a little worried there, and I had to go to work in half-an-hour, too,” he added. “It was a great relief.”
While Judson went much earlier (99th overall in the fifth round), his father, Morris, recalled a similar day.
“That was probably one of the hardest things in hockey to watch Luke go through,” he remarked. “We had my wife’s parents and my parents and some friends over, and we had some computers set up, and we were all just watching the computers, watching the names pop up.
“We’d been told that he might have went earlier than that, just from different teams that had talked to him,” Morris Judson added.
“Luke, I think, was expecting to go a little sooner than that, but as it turned out, we were happy that he went.”
Bobczynski’s father, Howard, is proud his son was drafted, but looked at it as just the first step.
“It’s going to be a long process for him, whether he’ll actually go play there this year . . . it’s not very often that first-year draft picks actually go and play for the team,” he noted.
“It’s still a long road ahead, and we’ll see what happens.”
Shane Bliss, who coaches Bobczynski with the Muskies and also knows Judson, agreed there’s still a lot to be done.
“Not very often will the kid make the major junior team at [age] 15, 16. There’s very few exceptions,” he said. “They’ve got probably two years of work ahead of them realistically before they’re ready to make that.”
Bliss said other than focusing on their skills and athleticism, one of the things OHL clubs look for is the right attitude—and that would have factored in the cases of both young wingers.
“You can see these kids are good kids, too, and that’s one of the reasons they’ve been drafted,” he noted.
Morris Judson said that was very much his experience. He recalled a recent phone call with Belleville Bulls’ coach George Burnett.
“He just phoned and ran over what would be happening . . . they seem more concerned about the kids being away from home, being 16 years old.
“I think they have a lot of trouble with being lonely and depression.”
The senior Judson said he had spoken to a number of coaches other than Burnett before the draft.
“A few managers didn’t want to talk to Luke, they just wanted to talk to me,” he remarked.
Those who did speak to his son often would ask situational questions of character, like how he would react in the face of a possible trade.
The difference between where the two went in the draft may be indicative of the scrutiny placed on each.
Judson was contacted by nine teams—almost half of the 20-team league—while Bobczynski’s draft at 271st overall was a little more under the radar.
“The whole process was kinda funny for him,” Howard Bobczynski said. “He never got spoken to by any teams directly through the year and neither did we.”
In fact, Guelph drafted the 15-year-old on the basis of one game he played at a tournament that a Storm scout attended, according to head coach Dave Barr.
“We took a bit of a chance on a player we’ve only seen play one time and hopefully it’ll become fruitful for everybody,” Barr said.