James Hardie has received a lot of attention of late and for good reason. As one of the most gifted scorers in triple-A minor midget hockey this past season, the Barrie Colts forward has been one of the most highly sought after minor hockey players in the last three months.
First it was the Mississauga Steelheads that showed interest in the Innisfil native, using their eighth overall pick in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) Priority Selection to nab him. Now it’s Hockey Canada.
Hardie is one of 111 players invited in mid-June to participate in Canada’s national under-17 development camp set for July 21-27 at WinSport’s Canada Olympic Park in Calgary. He will be one of 63 forwards, along with 12 goaltenders and 36 defencemen, split into six teams for on- and off -ice training, fitness testing, classroom sessions, practices and inter-squad games.
A potent finisher who had 41 goals in 34 games for Barrie in the Eastern triple-A Hockey League, former Barrie coach Josh Dahmer said, during the OHL Cup in March, Hardie reminds him a little bit of Toronto Maple Leafs forward Austin Matthews when he has the puck on his stick.
“He’s a guy who can only take one shift and he can change the whole game,” said Dahmer. “He’s a difference maker.”
Hardie isn’t the only Steelheads player to get the call from Hockey Canada. Mississauga native and second-round pick (39th overall), William Portokalis will also be taking part in the development camp. A captain the past two seasons with the Don Mills Flyers, the five-foot-10, 174-pound centre had 34 goals and 81 points in 63 games this past season.
“William plays with speed, is strong on the puck and is a great character kid that we’re thrilled to add to our team,” Steelheads head coach and general manager James Richmond said of Portokalis.
Three players from the Mississauga Reps triple-A minor midgets are also heading to Calgary, including team captain Owen Power, a second-round pick (22nd overall) of the Flint Firebirds this April. The big six-foot-five left defenceman had 33 points in 32 games this season and was touted by OHL Central Scouting as one of the elite blue-line defenders in this year’s draft.
Reps teammates Tristan Lennox, Michael Renwick and Noel Dillingham-Morelli will be joining Power.
Lennox, a six-foot-two, 173-pound goaltender, was Saginaw’s second-round (36th overall) pick in the OHL draft and was a member of the OHL Cup champion Team Blue, making 25 saves in an 8-2 win over Team Red in the final.
Renwick was a second-round pick (34th overall) by the Hamilton Bulldogs in the OHL draft. the five-foot-11, 168-pound defenceman had 24 points in 33 games with the Reps last season.
Dillingham-Morelli was the Sarnia Sting’s fourth-round pick (68th overall). The six-foot, 197-pound defender had 19 points in 30 games with the Reps last season.
Players will continue to be evaluated through the early part of this upcoming season following the development camp before 66 will be selected to one of the Team Canada Black, Team Canada White and Team Canada Red rosters that will compete at the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, scheduled for Nov. 3-10 in Saint John and Quispamsis, N.B.
Photo: It’s been quite the last three months for James Hardie. The Mississauga Steelheads first-round pick has been invited by Hockey Canada to participate in Canada’s national under-17 development camp in Calgary. Aaron Bell/OHL Images photo