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 local hockey talent to get the call from Hockey Canada. Also participating in the camp will be Barrie native Alec Belanger and recent Barrie Colts OHL draft picks Riley Piercey and Eric Russell.
A talented puck moving defenceman, Belanger was third-round pick (44th overall) of the Ottawa 67’s in this year’s OHL draft.
Piercey, who had 26 goals and 56 points in 59 games with Toronto Marlboros last season, was the 16th overall pick by Barrie. The six-foot-two, 186-pound power forward is a big body that can score, play a heavy game and can get moving when he hits open ice.
“Very proud and honoured to be selected for the U-17 team Canada camp in Calgary,” Piercey said on Twitter, after the announcement. “Congratulations to all the other players selected.”
Russell, who had 34-goals and 62 points, helped the Vaughan Kings reach the OHL Cup title game. The six-foot-one, 176-pound winger was Barrie’s third-round pick (56th overall) in the OHL draft.
“He’s a big, strong kid,” Colts general manager Jason Ford said of Russell. “He already has OHL size and close to an OHL shot, if not an OHL shot already.”
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.
Barrie resident Darrell Woodley, OHL director of central scouting, had a hand in selecting players invited to the development camp.
Photo: It’s been quite the last three months for Innisfil native James Hardie. The Barrie Colts triple-A minor midget forward was selected eighth overall in the OHL draft and now Hockey Canada has invited him to participate in Canada’s national under-17 development camp at Calgary. Aaron Bell/OHL Images photo