Grad earns high marks

SHANE ROSS

, Last Updated: 8:47 AM ET

PEMBROKE -- Success in hockey is all about capitalizing on your opportunities.

David Pacan's came last January when two of his teammates with the CJHL's Cumberland Grads, Eric O'Dell and Jason Akeson, left to play in the OHL.

Grads coach Mark Grady tapped Pacan on the shoulder and told him he was the new No. 1 centre.

"His ice time was elevated, and he ran with it," said Grady.

A year later, Pacan, who is eligible for the NHL draft this year, has gone from off the radar to No. 60 on NHL's Central Scouting list of North American skaters.

The 6-foot-2, 172-pounder was on the scouts' radar yesterday in Pembroke, where the top prospects from the CJHL played their counterparts from the OJHL's Central Division.

This season, he has 43 points in 42 games (13G-30A).

"Obviously, (the NHL draft) is on my mind but I try to keep it in the back because I want to focus on winning the league with Cumberland and going to the RBC Cup," the 17-year-old said.

Pacan, the son of a Polish immigrant who has never skated, is proof that if you work hard and continue to improve it'll get noticed, said Michel Charron, an NHL scout who helps formulate the Central Scouting rankings.

"We ask ourselves, if he improved that much in one year, how will he be in three or four years?" said Charron.

SCOUTS WATCHING

Scouts have been taking more of an interest in the 11-team CJHL since it has become the preferred option for players like Pacan who hope to take the U.S. college route to the NHL.

The Ottawa native was drafted by the OHL's Niagara IceDogs two years ago, but joined Cumberland instead so he could retain his U.S. college eligibility.

The Sir Robert Borden High School senior is entertaining a handful of offers from U.S. colleges, including St. Lawrence, Providence and Vermont.

Nine of the players in yesterday's prospects game have already committed to U.S. colleges, but it didn't stop NCAA scouts such as Brendan Whittet from driving the seven hours from Dartmouth College to check out the rest.

After all, he brought Jody O'Neil of the Smiths Falls Bears to the Ivy League school last year. He is now the team's starting goalie, as a freshman.

"This league's been pretty good to us," he said.

There is a long list of NHLers who cut their teeth in the CJHL before moving to the OHL or NCAA, perhaps most notably Steve Yzerman of the Nepean Raiders before he went on to the Peterborough Petes and, of course, the Red Wings.

So it's no surprise Pacan names Stevie Y as his favourite player.

"He was a great captain and I try to model myself after him," he said. "And it's pretty cool that he played in this league."


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