By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent
Portage Terriers forward James McIsaac is having himself a tremendous year. He is a top-10 scorer in the MJHL, his Terriers are chasing a historic three-peat as league champions, and he’s also on the radar of scouts across North America.
The 17-year-old Winnipeg native was the lone MJHL representative at the recently-held CJHL Top Prospect’s Game in Cornwall, Ont. The yearly showcase pits the top draft-eligible junior A players head-to-head in front of fans and scouts from the NHL, WHL and colleges both north and south of the border.
Appearing in this contest is an opportunity to be seen alongside other draft-eligible peers, and for McIsaac, it was a memorable moment in his young hockey career.
“It was a great experience to play with some of the top-end players in the Canadian Junior Hockey League,” said McIsaac, who had 25 goals and 25 assists after 43 games this year for the Terriers. “I was able to play in a fast-paced game with some of the most skilled players in the CJHL.”
McIsaac knew of the event, which has featured many players who have gone on to be drafted and played in the NHL and earned many scholarships at NCAA schools. And when he was announced as one of this year’s participants, he knew it was a fantastic opportunity.
“I knew what the concept of the event was, but all I had was a wish to make the team,” he said. “And when I did, I was obviously very excited.”
Outside of the on-ice action, McIsaac was put through the paces with some testing, while also getting the opportunity to listen to speakers who have walked the path they are all currently on – making this more than just a chance to play with other draft-eligible players in front of scouts.
“After we dropped off our bags at the rink, we all met at the hotel for lunch, with both teams involved,” he said. “Then we had some guest speakers, former NHL players (Chad Kilger and Jesse Winchester) talked to us, and it was very interesting to hear what they had to say.”
Back at the arena, McIsaac and company were put through their paces, all under the watchful eyes of scouts in the stands.
“The next morning we had on-ice testing, where they tested our speed, stops and starts, turns, that sort of stuff,” said McIsaac. “I had never done something like that before, so that was pretty cool.”
After the game, the dressing room had many scouts coming and going, speaking to players right after they skated. And the MJHL’s representative was no exception.
“We all know there was going to be scouts and coaches in the stands, and before the game I tried not to let that stress me out,” said McIsaac. “After the game, a bunch came into the room, so that was exciting, especially since I talked to a couple of them.”
McIsaac says he would love the chance to play NCAA hockey following his junior A career, but also knows that taking part in the Top Prospect’s game opens the door for the potential to be drafted in the upcoming NHL draft.
“It’s been my dream to play NCAA hockey, but (being drafted) could also happen, and that would be a dream come true as well,” he said.