One of the most popular television shows of the mid-1950s was a sit com called “Father Knows Best.”
In the case of Kevin Bobczynski of Fort Frances, it’s a title that certainly rings true.
Bobczynski realized a dream recently when he was selected 110th overall by the St. Michael’s Majors in the Ontario Hockey League’s priority draft.
His story is remarkable not only because he’s one of a very small group who ever are given the opportunity to play in the OHL, but because of the path he chose to pursue his dream.
There currently exists a widely-held belief in Fort Frances that in order to make it to the next level, talented hockey players are best served by leaving town for larger centres such as Thunder Bay or Kenora.
The thought persists that the larger the town or city, the more exposure the player will receive—and the more likely that player is of getting drafted into leagues like the OHL.
It is a theory to which Bobczynski himself subscribed.
“I really wanted to go and play with the Kings [in Thunder Bay] but my dad wanted me to stay here [in Fort Frances] one more year to play high school one more time,” Bobczynski noted.
“He said that everything would work out just fine.”
The advice Bobczynski received from his father, Joe, couldn’t have been more correct.
The 16-year-old left-winger excelled for the Muskies last season, scoring 24 goals and adding 17 assists for 41 points in 49 games.
According to Muskie head coach Shane Bliss, while Bobczynski’s offensive production was solid, what set him apart was his ability to see the ice, be physical, and take the body.
“He’d do the little things—go to the net, work hard, and finish his checks. He always played his position well,” Bliss said of Bobczynski.
Scouts from across the region quickly took notice of the 6’3”, 185-pound forward and began making the trip to Fort Frances to see Bobczynski play in person.
One of the many scouts who made the trip was Lou Vigilanti. The head scout for the St. Mike’s Majors liked the physical style in which Bobczynski played the game and sent a favourable report back to head coach Bud Stefanski.
When it came time for the Majors to make a selection in the sixth round of the OHL draft, Stefanski was pleased to see Bobczynski was still available.
“Our scouts from Thunder Bay and our head scout, Lou Vigilanti, went up to see him play,” noted Stefanski. “He’s supposed to be an outstanding skater and someone that likes to take the body.
“He’s the type of guy that we wanted to fit into our system.”
Back in Fort Frances, Bobczynski, who’d spent the morning of the draft anxiously watching Internet updates on the OHL’s website, saw his name appear.
A phone call came shortly thereafter confirming he’d been selected. The news was exhilarating.
“I was pretty excited. It was a good feeling—a good feeling of relief,” said Bobczynski, adding that he didn’t have any idea when or where he might be going in the draft.
Also thrilled with the news was Bliss. The Muskie head coach said he was very happy for More from C1
Bobczynski and that he’d been a pleasure to coach due to his willingness to learn and strong work ethic.
Bliss added he hopes Bobczynski’s success will encourage more kids to stay home and play hockey locally.
“It should show the kids that you don’t have to be gone away or leave home at such a young age just to be noticed,” he remarked. “Kevin’s good proof that you don’t have to [leave].
“If you’re good enough, they [the scouts] will come and watch you. They know you’re out there,” Bliss reasoned.
Bliss’ comments were echoed by Stefanski, who said the scouting process has evolved to the point where it really doesn’t matter where players play their minor hockey.
If they have the talent, someone will notice. “It’s pretty hard for kids to hide nowadays,” Stefanski said.
Up next for Bobczynski is the Majors’ rookie camp next month in Toronto, where he’ll try to impress the coaching staff and take the next step in his hockey career.
Bobczynski will have his work cut out for him, though, as OHL rules stipulate each team only can carry three players with a 1990 birthday—the birth year of all of this year’s draft eligible players.
That means Bobczynski will be competing with each of the 14 other players selected by the Majors during the draft, as well as any walk-on players, for one of the three coveted roster spots.
Bobczynski said much of his time between now and the rookie camp will be spent in the gym as he tries to add some of the strength he’ll need to compete against players two or three years older than him.
But regardless of what the future holds for Bobczynski, one thing is for certain—he’s happy he listened to his dad’s advice last summer.
“I’m happy I got to stay home for another year,” he said.