TORONTO– Laughing off the fact that today was the largest crowd of media he’s ever encountered, 19 year old Mitchell Heard stepped to the camera as the leading scorer at Leafs prospects camp.
His three goals through two exhibition games may not be a statistic kept for very long, but the young Bowmanville Ontario native has shown he has a touch around the net and that he can compete with the best players of his age group.
One thing separating Heard however from many of the other rookies is that he was passed over by all 30 NHL teams at this year’s draft. Fortunately he found another way to make it to camp.
“I got a call after the draft and I said ya I will gladly come.”
Believe it or not, as devastating as it was for him to not hear his name called on draft day, he was prepared for it from past experiences in junior.
“I wasn’t drafted to the O (OHL) and I’m there now. The draft is great but you have to look past it and keep working hard. Keep plugging away and good thing s will happen.”
He’s right; his hard work has paid off.
To start the 2009/10 season Heard popped in 17 goals in 22 games with the Bowmanville Eagles of the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL); which gained notice with the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL.
He played only 16 games with the Whale that season but 2010/11 he stepped up his role and finished the season ranked fifth on team scoring with 50 points in 66 games, including 20 goals.
Also at prospects camp is fellow Whaler Jamie Devane but, other than him, Heard has come to Toronto knowing very few others and admitted he had to hit the ice before he could settle in.
“Coming in undrafted I didn’t know what to expect, don’t really know anybody, so there were a lot of nerves to begin with but once you get going out there its fun and play your game and everything will be fine.”
So far everything has been fine for Heard and he doesn’t want to get ahead of himself too early. He is guaranteed to stay with the Whalers for a third season this year but now that he’s on radar with Leafs staff.
“We do have to place some value in him,” said Jim Hughes, Director of Player Development. “He had a strong day yesterday and today. He’s a guy that continues to make himself a conversation piece.”
The next step for Heard would be earning a spot for rookie camp in late August. When asked about his chances for rookie camp, the young 6’2” lefty simply stated,
“Guess we’ll have to wait n see.”