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COLE HARBOUR - As he drew in two defenders and dished the puck up through centre ice, Jared McIsaac took a late hit near the opposing team’s bench.

Where players on the bench normally duck out of the way, the Cape Breton West Islanders stood on their feet and leaned in. As the officials looked up ice towards the action, a few extra niceties were doled out on the 15-year-old Cole Harbour Wolfpack defenceman.

It’s the kind of extra attention he’s come to expect – and thrive on.

“It’s an honour,” the Truro native said afterwards. “Because they think that highly of me, they’re going to take runs at me.”

It’s been a recurring theme all season – tardy hits, sneaky sticks and sharp elbows – every time he touches the puck. But opposing players are an afterthought on the long list of people taking notice of Jared McIsaac this season.

In 29 major midget games so far, McIsaac has 14 goals and 20 assists. His progression from last season, when he played as an underager, has scouts’ heads turning.

One of those heads belongs to Al Rankin, HockeyProspect.com’s director of scouting for Atlantic Canada. He first noticed McIsaac when he showed up early for a midget game in Halifax. The bantams were still on the ice, and he saw a lanky kid with a booming shot and heightened hockey sense. This season, in McIsaac’s Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft year, Rankin was one of many scouts watching closely out of the gate.

“Every time I went to Cole Harbour Place at the start of this season, there would be about a dozen scouts and a few GMs there watching,” Rankin said. “I was really impressed with how mature his toolset was. He was a lot stronger on his skates, and he still had this incredible shot.”

Rankin describes the quiet young man as a well-rounded defender with great instincts on both sides of the puck. He pegged him as far and away the best 15-year-old player in Atlantic Canada.

McIsaac doesn’t mind the attention.

“I just have to play the way I play. It’s not what they, the scouts, think. It’s what the teams think at the end of the day at the (draft) table.”

According to HockeyProspect.com, McIsaac is ranked second overall heading into June’s draft. The only player above him is Benoit-Olivier Groulx, son of the 2015 Canadian world junior bench boss, Benoit Groulx.

“I’m not paying much attention to (the rankings),” McIsaac said. “Groulx is a great player, but obviously at the end of the day I want to be number one and I’m going to play my best to be there.”

While he now calls Dartmouth home, McIsaac’s roots will always be in Truro where his family members are major figures in the sports community. He moved after peewee to get better exposure and to attend Maritime Varsity Academy. The athletics-focused independent school has him on the ice three days a week, on top of four days with the Wolfpack. He also spends upwards of seven days per week in the gym with trainer Kris Andrews at Push Fitness.

With all the hard work, his end goal isn’t just to be taken first in the QMJHL draft, but “to go to bigger and better places.”

For now, he gets to work towards his dream in the same rink Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon once dreamed in.

“It’s something to live up to,” McIsaac said, glancing up at Crosby’s banner in the rafters. “You look at them and hear about them, and you want to get where they are. I’m going to do my best to go to that next level.”

 

Where players on the bench normally duck out of the way, the Cape Breton West Islanders stood on their feet and leaned in. As the officials looked up ice towards the action, a few extra niceties were doled out on the 15-year-old Cole Harbour Wolfpack defenceman.

It’s the kind of extra attention he’s come to expect – and thrive on.

“It’s an honour,” the Truro native said afterwards. “Because they think that highly of me, they’re going to take runs at me.”

It’s been a recurring theme all season – tardy hits, sneaky sticks and sharp elbows – every time he touches the puck. But opposing players are an afterthought on the long list of people taking notice of Jared McIsaac this season.

In 29 major midget games so far, McIsaac has 14 goals and 20 assists. His progression from last season, when he played as an underager, has scouts’ heads turning.

One of those heads belongs to Al Rankin, HockeyProspect.com’s director of scouting for Atlantic Canada. He first noticed McIsaac when he showed up early for a midget game in Halifax. The bantams were still on the ice, and he saw a lanky kid with a booming shot and heightened hockey sense. This season, in McIsaac’s Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft year, Rankin was one of many scouts watching closely out of the gate.

“Every time I went to Cole Harbour Place at the start of this season, there would be about a dozen scouts and a few GMs there watching,” Rankin said. “I was really impressed with how mature his toolset was. He was a lot stronger on his skates, and he still had this incredible shot.”

Rankin describes the quiet young man as a well-rounded defender with great instincts on both sides of the puck. He pegged him as far and away the best 15-year-old player in Atlantic Canada.

McIsaac doesn’t mind the attention.

“I just have to play the way I play. It’s not what they, the scouts, think. It’s what the teams think at the end of the day at the (draft) table.”

According to HockeyProspect.com, McIsaac is ranked second overall heading into June’s draft. The only player above him is Benoit-Olivier Groulx, son of the 2015 Canadian world junior bench boss, Benoit Groulx.

“I’m not paying much attention to (the rankings),” McIsaac said. “Groulx is a great player, but obviously at the end of the day I want to be number one and I’m going to play my best to be there.”

While he now calls Dartmouth home, McIsaac’s roots will always be in Truro where his family members are major figures in the sports community. He moved after peewee to get better exposure and to attend Maritime Varsity Academy. The athletics-focused independent school has him on the ice three days a week, on top of four days with the Wolfpack. He also spends upwards of seven days per week in the gym with trainer Kris Andrews at Push Fitness.

With all the hard work, his end goal isn’t just to be taken first in the QMJHL draft, but “to go to bigger and better places.”

For now, he gets to work towards his dream in the same rink Sidney Crosby and Nathan MacKinnon once dreamed in.

“It’s something to live up to,” McIsaac said, glancing up at Crosby’s banner in the rafters. “You look at them and hear about them, and you want to get where they are. I’m going to do my best to go to that next level.”

 

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