Army marches to Philly
Mitchell Armstrong, left, is presented with a scholarship award by Double Blue Alumni chair Corey Quinn. File photo: BILL POTRECZ
To declare or not to declare, that was the question for Mitch Armstrong.
The 19-year-old defender for the St. Catharines WMKL Athletics was recently faced with a tough decision — declare himself eligible this year as an underage player or wait another year and perhaps move up in the draft rankings.
Unsure what to do, Armstrong sought out A’s general manager Jeff Chcoski.
“We had a quick conversation and I told him I thought he should enter,” Chcoski said. “He said he wasn’t sure with the year he had but I told him with who you are as a person and with your athletic ability, I truly think you should enter this year and I think you’ll get drafted.”
Chcoski also made it clear he would support Armstrong’s decision either way.
“I left it up to him,” Chcoski said.
Armstrong ultimately decided to enter the draft, but not without some serious soul searching first.
“I declared only two weeks ago. A couple of people I trust and are really familiar with the game recommended me and it’s been a super quick turnaround,” he said. “I give them (Chcoski and A’s coach Steve Toll) all the credit in the world. Without them I wouldn’t have declared and wouldn’t have even known where to start or where my next step would have been.”
Armstrong’s decision paid off when he was selected in the second round (22nd overall) of the draft by the Philadelphia Wings.
“I had a little bit of an idea. I had a meeting with Paul Day and went through a questionnaire with him,” Armstrong said. “He was super nice with me and I’m super excited to be drafted by Philly. It’s a dream come true. I’ve been dreaming of it since I was little and I can’t wait to get started.”
Day, who coached the A’s in 1993 and has strong ties to the organization and area, is thrilled to have Armstrong.
“We love Mitch’s compete level his athleticism, speed and grit. We think being the youngest player drafted and two more years of junior A development his future is very bright,” Day said. “We think he should transition to the pro game well and with development this year he has a chance to be a roster player and play.”
Armstrong is looking forward to the challenge.
“I think my position with the team will be as young defender and bring my speed and athleticism to the team,” he said. “I think I was one of the youngest guys in the draft, if not the youngest, and I think I’ll be able to contribute hugely when it comes time for camp.”
Chcoski feels the experience of being around pro players will be a huge asset for both Armstrong and his A’s teammates.
“It’s going to help him as a player to get that experience, just like with Latrell Harris who was playing for the Toronto Rock and the St. Catharines Athletics,” Chcoski said. “It does a lot for their growth to be around those pro players. To get that experience and Philly connection with St. Catharines is amazing with Paul Day and (assistant coach) Ian Rubel. On top of that, what he’ll be able to bring back to our guys after being at pro camp is out of this world.”
The decision to turn pro likely puts an end to Armstrong junior hockey career with the St. Catharines Falcons, where he was part of a Sutherland Cup championship team two years ago.
“I miss it a ton. It was a super tough decision for me. Hockey is something I’ve grown up with and Tyler (Falcons coach Tyler Bielby) is one of the best, if not the best, coaches I’ve ever had so it was a hard to leave hockey and leave him,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong, who is a member of the Brock Badgers field lacrosse team, admits his body feels much better after several years of playing both sports.
“I have so much more free time. My body went through the wringer there for a bit but this year it’s definitely a huge change of pace and I’m grateful I’ve taken my foot off the gas of hockey.”
Armstrong will head to Philadelphia in October for development camp.
“I’m super proud of Mitchell. It’s a big step for him and it’s great for our program,” Chcoski said.
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