Like a lot of people, I was glued to my TV during the 2018 World Junior tournament. It’s some of the best hockey to watch during the year. These kids play with so much passion, skill, and guts, it’s exciting from start to finish.
And what a finish it was for Team Canada. It’s been just over a month since the team won the Gold medal. For some, it’s just one stop on their journey to bigger and better things in hockey. Some of these players have been tabbed as high-end prospects since their minor hockey days. Others have had to work harder to gain recognition.
That’s where Colton Point’s story starts.
When Team Canada’s selection camp was announced, many people asked, “Who is Colton Point?”
And when Team Canada’s final roster was named, many people were still asking, “Who is Colton Point?”
Not many people know about Colton’s story. I’ve been fortunate to work with Colton as a student for the past four years. The truth is, I asked myself the same question when I first found out about Colton from my cousin, Mathieu Shank.
Mathieu lives in North Bay. He comes from thick hockey roots himself. He played junior hockey in Sudbury/North Bay. After he graduated University, Mathieu had an opportunity to work with Hockey Canada for a few years on the business side in Montreal. The guy knows his stuff.
But, after many years traveling, he landed a job with the federal government in North Bay. Matthieu and his wife then started a family. Eventually, Mathieu was asked to help coach the North Bay Trappers Major Midget AAA team.
Let’s travel back in time for just a moment.
New Jersey Devils prospect and PRO Goaltending student Ken Appleby is also from North Bay. Many years back when I was the goalie coach for the Oshawa Generals, I drafted Kenny in the 2nd round. This pick turned out to be my best selection during my tenure with the club. In 2015, the Gens won the Memorial Cup and Ken was a key pillar during that run.
It has to be said he was the “North Bay Original” because I spent a lot of time driving to watch Kenny play. Little did I know back then that North Bay would fill the talent pipeline with some pretty incredible athletes.
It all started with Ken, then Colton, then Zach Roy (drafted by Hamilton in the OHL), and now 2019 OHL draft eligible goalie, Ben Gaudreau (keep an eye out for this name!)
The common thread here is Mathieu.
Okay, now we’re back to the story I started.
One night, we were having family dinner and I was raving about how good Kenny was and how good he’d be in the OHL. Mathieu sat quietly and then said, “Well, what if I knew of another goalie in North Bay completely off the radar?”
I said, “What do you mean?”
His response: “I’m coaching a kid right now that I think could be better.”
That’s a big, bold statement. I generally don’t like those types of things. But, he had my attention.
One week later I was in Toronto watching Mathieu’s team play the Central Ontario Wolves, which ironically was my childhood team I played for growing up during minor hockey.
I would love to tell you I watched Colton put on a magical performance and it was clear as a day that this kid would later go on to be an NHL draft pick and play for Team Canada at the World Juniors.
He wasn’t polished at all. My imagination ran, though. I saw potential. I saw a very large frame that could track pucks far ahead of the curve for his age. His skating/movement was an issue. The thing is, he hadn’t yet full grown into his body. To get to the level of control and precision he needed was about 2 or 3 years away. I later found out Colton was a good student in the classroom and he had an uncanny ability to retain information quickly and apply it right away.
There was something there.
The Central Ontario Wolves crushed Colton’s team that afternoon. Two things on that:
1) Colton’s body language told me a lot about who he was – calm, cool, and completely prepared for the next shot.
2) His path to success in hockey was going to be the long route. He understood that from Day 1.
You see, there are students you run into during a career that only see the short term. But then there are those who possess something special and deeper. They understand the process of becoming the player they wish to be and will work to become.
One of my good friends Eli Rassi was the goalie coach for the Carleton Place Jr. A Canadians in the CCHL. If you don’t know, they have been running the table in the league for the past four years. In that time, they have produced a great number of players and goalies who have moved on to play NCAA Division 1 and 3, and Canadian university hockey. They even have two NHL draft picks (defenceman Kelly Summers, 7th round pick by the Ottawa Senators in 2014, and Colton, 5th round pick to the Dallas Stars in 2015).
I reached out to Eli before the start of the 2015 season and spoke to him about Colton. Part of helping people along their path is by surrounding them with others who will understand and support them every step of the way. I knew Carleton Place had the winning culture already, but I also knew after speaking with Eli that Colton would be in the right environment for his development because the right people were there for him to lean on for support.
That season started out rocky, but so many good things happened for Colton’s development. He ended up playing for Team Canada East during the World Jr. “A” Challenge and the CJHL Prospects game – two events that attracted scouts from all major levels of the game, including the NHL.
And after watching Colton take home a gold medal, I thought about his journey in hockey so far. He went from “completely off the radar” to about as on the radar you can get to this point.
I don’t know what’s next for Colton, but I have a funny feeling he’ll continue to make some noise in the same ways he’s done up to this point. It just might take him a little longer to get there, but that’s okay.
Great things are worth waiting for – always.