IceDogs get the Juan they wanted
Juan Copeland finally got a good night of sleep.
The 15-year-old Michigan native had his share of nervous nights leading up to the 2021 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection, but after being selected by the Niagara IceDogs Friday night in the second round, the speedy winger finally got a good rest.
“Before the draft I was really anxious. I was restless the night before so last night was a relief they picked me and I got a pretty good sleep,” Copeland said Saturday morning.
The IceDogs used their first pick of the draft — they did not have a pick in the first round due to a recruiting violation — to take the talented winger.
“They reached out and said they were interested,” Copeland said. “We did Zooms and they definitely made me feel like I was at home. They made me feel like they would be by my side no matter what and I felt that was the best option for me and my family to move on with my hockey career.
“When they told me they wanted to draft me, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity.”
Copeland played for Detroit Honeybaked U15 AAA squad last season and got into about 40 games. He missed the first couple of months with a knee injury, but says he is fully healed now.
“I see myself as a very fast player,” he said. “With the high speed, I can be shifty and can turn a guy inside out just with my speed. I feel I have some good vision. I like to compare my game to Willy Nylander. He plays that way. He’s pretty fast and really shifty and sees the ice well and is in the right areas at the right time.”
Copeland believes he has the raw tools to make the jump to the OHL.
“I feel that’s what training camp is for, to get me into it. It’s mostly there to get me ready and feel out what the league is like,” he said. “I feel jumping into it will be tough, obviously, but I don’t feel it will be tough enough where I can’t do it.
“I can’t wait to get started.”
Copeland already knows Pano Fimas, Niagara’s first-round selection from last season, and skates with IceDogs goalie Andrew McLean, who also hails from Michigan.
“I got a couple of texts from some of the boys. I feel like it’s going to be a good transition and be like a family and I’m going to get nothing but support and love.”
Copeland watched the draft on line with his family and a few close friends at his home in Fowlerville, a small farming community about 45 minutes outside of Detroit.
“We had all set up outside on a big TV. We got through the first round and we were all nervous and then we saw my name called,” he said. “A lot of the people jumped up and everything. I was still shocked from it so I just sat there for a few minutes before I realized I got picked.”
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