Impressive start for Hawks rookie
Ethan Whitcomb is leaving no stone unturned in his quest to become a better hockey player.
The 16-year-old St. Catharines native has been working overtime on and off the ice and the results have been impressive.
Whitcomb led the Thorold Blackhawks in scoring with seven goals and eight assists in 10 games versus the Pelham Panthers in the month of November in pre-season, non-contact scrimmage action.
“It’s all the hard work paying off,” said Whitcomb, a Grade 11 student at Governor Simcoe. “I’m really happy with what I’ve done in the off-season.”
Whitcomb worked out with multiple trainers on and off the ice and also hit the video room.
“It was lots of work,” he said. “I’m watching as much video as I can to see what I can improve on and keep doing the good things I’m doing.”
Whitcomb realizes he will get out of the sport what he puts into it.
“It’s important to me to make sure to do the right things at the right time, eating right and preparing for my games right,” he said.
Blackhawks coach/owner Scott Barnes worked with Whitcomb over the summer and quickly saw the potential in the 6-foot-2, 174-pound forward.
“He was a 16-year-old I signed right off the bat,” Barnes said. “It was almost pre-determined he was going to have one of our 16-year-old cards.”
Whitcomb’s fast start didn’t really come as a surprise to Barnes.
“I had a lot of really good sessions with a ton of D1, NCAA guys and pro guys and had some really good skates. He was out there with some really good guys and I think that really helped him.
“He really pushed himself this summer. He is determined to be a hockey player.”
Barnes’ only question was how quickly Whitcomb would acclimatize himself to junior hockey while playing with and against older competition.
“Whether I thought he would be lightning it up this much right away, I don’t know, but I felt there was that potential to do this with his size and skill. It was just whether he could get comfortable right away and he was,” Barnes said.
Whitcomb is enjoying playing with older and more accomplished players.
“It’s great. They teach me some really good things and I appreciate everything they have done for me so far. It’s really great being here,” he said.
As far as playing against better competition, Whitcomb doesn’t seem the least bit fazed.
“I just try not to let it get to my head. I’m here for a reason and I want to do my job as best as I can,” he said.
Whitcomb, who was selected by the Guelph Storm in the eighth round of the 2020 Ontario Hockey League Priority Selection, isn’t sure if he will attend Storm camp in the new year.
“I’m not too sure what camp is going to look like. As soon as they can, they will let me know what’s happening,” he said.
“I’m keeping my options open. If something pops up I wasn’t thinking about before I’ll take a look at it. My main goal is to make it to the NHL, so whatever gets me there the quickest.”
Barnes has no question Whitcomb will succeed at a higher level.
“I know he’s an eighth-round OHL draft pick but there’s no question he could play in the OHL,” Barnes said. “I think he commits to a D1 school this year. If he keeps going this way, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on an NHL draft list next year.”
Barnes said Whitcomb is working hard to improve in a couple of areas.
“People questioned his skating and maybe even his compete level I heard when he was in minor hockey but he’s really worked on his skating,” Barnes said. “I’m trying to focus with him on his play away from the puck, driving to the net and battling in the D zone and face-offs. He’s bought in. He’s progressing really well for a 16-year-old in this league.”
The Hawks have six more scrimmages remaining with the Panthers with 12 already in the books.
“The guys are getting sick of playing each other but they all understand they are lucky to be playing. It’s better than not playing. They are getting three practices and two games a week so we’re going like a normal year,” Barnes said.
The Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League is hoping to begin regular season play Jan. 15, pending approval from government and local health boards.
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