Rookie lives up to expectations
Isaac Enright has more than lived up to expectations so far for the Niagara IceDogs.
The IceDogs’ top pick (17th overall) in the 2019 Ontario Hockey League has come as advertised as a skilled, smart defenceman with a huge upside.
“I think he’s done more than what we hoped for,” IceDogs coach Billy Burke said. “He’s been in our top four right from Day 1 which means he’s playing against the best players from the other teams have to offer on a nightly basis. For a 16-year-old defenceman to shoulder that responsibility right off the bat can be very overwhelming.
“He’s very mature, he’s smart and he’s done a ton of video work. You can see him really trying to implement these things.”
Enright, a 16-year-old native of Cobden (about an hour from Ottawa), has been pleased with his progress.
“I think I’ve definitely seen progression with myself even from the first 10 games to the past 10 games,” Enright said. “I’m a lot more comfortable in the league now and (I’ve been) building chemistry with all the guys on the team so it’s been smooth, for sure.
“I’m happy with my play.”
Burke feels Enright’s hockey IQ has helped him make the adjustment from major midget to the OHL.
“I think that’s part of his game,” Burke said. “He came in a very smart player and he’s adapted and adjusted to the speed of everything. He’s very good at making quick decisions.
“Like any young guy, elite players like Isaac when they’re in minor hockey they can at times hold on to the puck and times do whatever they want, and that’s obviously not the case here. I thought early he did have that habit of wanting to make the perfect play every time.”
Enright has had to adapt his game from midget.
“The speed is a lot different. I try to think of it as trying to make the first good play I see I had a lot more time in minor midget to make plays or even hold on to the puck longer to find another open play,” he said. “You just have to be faster and quicker at making decisions.”
Enright points to his comfort level as a big reason for his early success.
“At the start of the year I was nervous,” he said. “I was over-thinking decisions because I didn’t want to make mistakes. It’s a lot easier now. I trust all the guys I’m playing with and they trust me too. It’s mostly knowing the people I’m playing with.”
Burke feels Enright has all the tools to be a stud defeneman in the league in the future.
“If he continues to work and improve the way he has — and I’m sure he will knowing him personally now and his makeup —there is no reason in a couple of years he can’t be a top two defenceman who plays 30 minutes, quarterbacks a power play, runs a PK and shuts down the best players and run an offence,” Burke said. “I know he’d probably like a couple of more points but for us I think he contributes offensively even if the points aren’t there.
“He’s really turning into everything we’d hoped he’d be which is a big-minute, all-situations, top-tier defenceman.”
Enright said away from the rink things have also gone well as he adjusts to living with a billet and going to a new school.
“I try to take it day by day and not think about it too much. It’s a lot different than when I was at home but I have a lot of good people supporting me and helping me out.”
The IceDogs have a difficult schedule this week as they host the London Knights (18-7-1-1) Thursday, then head to Peterborough (21-7-1-1) Saturday and Ottawa (22-6-4-4) Sunday.
Making things even more daunting is the fact the IceDogs will be without forwards Akil Thomas (Canada) and Kyen Sopa (Switzerland) and defenceman Giancarlo Chanton (Switzerland) who are all away at their respective U20 World Junior development camps.
“We were going with two healthy forwards scratched so everyone will get in,” Burke said. “Sopa and Akil played key minutes for us so that’s opportunities for other guys. I don’t think one guy is going to come in and replace what these guys do but it’s a chance for maybe three guys to maybe play more power play or up in the lineup or a little more in an offensive role. Guys will get opportunities and whoever can handle it will keep getting it.”
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