After more than a decade of early morning and late night practices, Jake Durham’s dream of being drafted into the OHL came true over the weekend.
The Hamilton Bulldogs selected the right winger from Port Perry - by way of the Central Ontario Wolves ‘AAA’ program - in the seventh round, 128th overall as the league conducted its annual Priority Selection on Saturday, April 11.
“It took awhile, but it was worth the wait and a great feeling for myself and my family when we saw my name come up,” Durham told The Standard.
Durham is the latest North Durham product to join the organization, which will be relocating from Belleville to Hamilton for next season.
“Hamilton is a great opportunity for me. There are lots of local guys on the team, like Jake Bricknell and other guys from Durham. It means a lot to me, because there is such a strong local connection to that organization. It was a pleasure to be drafted by George Burnett, because he’s local too and has been a great GM and coach in the OHL, with a proven track record of success,” added Durham.
After beginning his minor hockey career in Port Perry, where he was part of an OMHA Novice ‘BB’ finalist squad in 2007, Durham moved to the Central Ontario Wolves in 2009. After being selected he made special mention of the commitments and sacrifices made by his family over the many years of driving throughout the zone, which includes Port Perry, Uxbridge and the City of Kawartha Lakes.
“My parents were the biggest ones to help me get to where I am today. My dad was the coach when I first started playing and they’ve always been there, driving everywhere, especially to those practices in Fenelon Falls and Minden, and paying for it all. I really can’t thank them enough for all that they’ve done.”
Durham will travel with his family to Hamilton this weekend to meet with team staff as well as other prospects selected over the weekend. As well, he will tour the team’s facility and be a guest of the team at the Hamilton Bulldogs’ AHL game.
“It’ll be exciting to see the city and the facilities. I know some of the other guys already and I’m sure they are just as proud to be part of the Bulldogs as I am, and ready to start this next chapter of our careers.”
After previously spending his spring and summer playing rugby and lacrosse, Durham, currently a Grade 10 student at Port Perry High School will be focused on continuing to improve his game over the off season.
“Even though I broke my nose during the last rugby game with the Rebels last year, it was still a lot of fun and something I’ll miss this year. Just like with lacrosse, it was a lot of fun to play something different, because there’s always lessons that cross over. I will still try and get out and play some golf this summer though, because golf has always been a great way for me to clear my head.”
While the challenge of junior hockey is new to Durham, he was given a preview of the next level of competition this past season, when he suited up for four games with the Junior ‘A’ Stouffville Spirit.
“Just because I’ve been drafted doesn’t mean that the hard work is over by any means, if anything it’ll probably get more intense,” Durham explained. “I’m prepared to put in the time to be sure that I’m ready on and off the ice to make sure I can handle myself at the next level, if the opportunity comes.”
As well, Durham says he won’t stray too far from the attributes in his game that have been lauded by scouts.
“I think I have a pretty high compete level, I don’t ever want to get outworked and I’ve always tried to contribute at both ends of the ice.”
Should he not crack the Bulldogs’ line-up, Durham is expected to ply his trade closer to home next season, as he recently signed a letter of commitment to join the Junior ‘A’ Whitby Fury for the 2015-16 season.
“My top priority is Hamilton, but Whitby has done a good job of moving players onto the next level and I’ll be excited to join them in the fall if that is where I end up,” added Durham.
With the buzz and scrutiny of his Minor Midget season now behind him, Durham was able to reflect on the campaign, and offer some advice to other young players.
“The biggest takeaway from having gone through this experience is not to worry about having a bad game, it won’t be the be-all end-all of your career. And, the draft is just a starting point, it’s what you do afterwards that determines how far you can go.”