Enright thrilled to be back
Isaac Enright has dealt with more than his share of adversity during his time in the Ontario Hockey League.
The Ottawa native arrived in Niagara with high expectations after being selected in the first round (17th) overall of the 2019 Ontario Hockey League draft.
Enright showed great potential in his rookie season, but at times was hampered playing on a team in the middle of a rebuild which saw stars Phil Tomasino and Akil Thomas dealt for draft picks at the trade deadline. Niagara finished with an 18-39-0-5-1 mark before play was halted due to the COVID pandemic.
“I think overall he’s handled it very well,” IceDogs general manager Joey Burke said. “In his first year as a 16-year-old, he was put in situations that a 16-year-old defenceman never is. We thought he handled himself really well to the point he arguably could have been our top defenceman as rookie.”
Enright then lost his sophomore campaign last season as the pandemic forced the OHL to shut down for the entire season.
Burke feels Enright was poised to take his game to the next level.
“As you see with D at this level, we thought he would have made a huge stride last year,” Burke said. “We think he would have been a (NHL) draft pick for sure so it was very discouraging for him that way.”
Enright has done his best not to let circumstances beyond his control upset him.
“It’s not really frustrating, it’s just kind of unfortunate,” the 18-year-old rearguard said. “I kind of learned to deal with it. I put in a lot of work in the offseason to try to bring my game up to the level that it should be in my third year.”
Enright does admit the timing of missing a season in his draft year got to him at one point.
“It used to bother me, but I’ve kind of gotten over the fact that I didn’t get drafted and I’m just looking forward to this year. If I get picked, that’s great. If not, it’s just an invite to camp at the end of the day.
“There are lots of people in my boat now and we’re all battling for the spots.”
Enright’s third season got off to a rocky start when he injured his ankle in training camp and wasn’t able to play in any exhibition games. He missed Niagara’s season-opener in Barrie but was in the line-up for the home opener and scored a goal in a win over the Oshawa Generals.
“Stepping back into the lineup right away was a little difficult. I wasn’t ready for the speed of it, but even by the third period it was an enormous difference from the first,” he said. “When I got my head back into the game, I felt a lot more comfortable.”
Enright is enjoying being part of a solid defence which features a good mix of veterans and promising younger players.
“It’s amazing, it’s really been nice, he said. “It’s a change from my first year in the league where by the end of the season it was hard and everyone was kind of trying to do everything by themselves. This year I have a lot more trust in the guys around me and I can see everybody that’s improved and it’s really nice to be able to play with some really talented players out there.”
Enright said when he stepped on the ice for the home opener it was everything he hoped it would be after last playing in an OHL game in March of 2020.
“It’s unbelievable, it’s amazing,” he said. “I’ve been missing this since our last game. I’ve been thinking about it, coming back here, so it’s really nice to see everybody coming out and getting lots of support from around the community.”
Enright has simple expectations for the season.
“I just expect to not disappoint the team. My role here is just to be a good team player, be a leader. And if I can, if I can play consistently well throughout the year, I’ll be happy with that. It’s not about points, it’s just about team performance for me.”
The IceDogs, 2-2, have a busy week with home games Thursday versus Barrie and Saturday versus Mississauga sandwiched around a Friday game in Oshawa.
Enright admitted three games in three nights can be a challenge.
“Even two games back-to-back, I’ve noticed it takes a toll on your body,” he said. “It can be OK as long as you take care of your body in between games and really focus on preparation and cool downs, but it can go sideways real fast, so you have to stay focused.”
Ice cubes: Mason Howard and Anthony Agostinelli, both out with shoulder injuries, and Cam Snow (triceps) are listed week to week and not expected to play this weekend . . . Burke confirmed a deal or two could be in the works to thin out the number of players on the roster which sits at 26.
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