Mickey Renaud won't have his name engraved on the J. Ross Robertson OHL Championship Trophy along with the rest of the Windsor Spitfires, but fellow Calgary Flames draft pick Greg Nemisz says he's a major factor in the team's run to the Memorial Cup.
"He's a big part of what we're doing this year," Nemisz said of the late Spitfires captain who died suddenly of a genetic heart condition last year. "We learned a lot from him, and we all still love him. This year, definitely, is dedicated to Mickey. We want to do our best."
Claiming the Ontario Hockey League title and a trip to Rimouski, Que., for the CHL championship, the Spitfires have made an incredible turnaround in Nemisz's time in Windsor.
"It's unbelievable. We came such a far way in the three years I've been with the Spitfires," said the Flames' first-round pick in last June's NHL draft. "To win it was exciting."
From the second-worst team in the loop two years ago to the best, the team has made huge strides.
Nemisz has made pretty remarkable jumps in performance since then, too.
Going from an 11-goal, 34-point player as a rookie, Nemisz posted 34 goals and 67 points as a sophomore.
While taking on an even bigger role at both ends of the ice this year, he improved his offensive numbers to 36 goals and 77 points.
"I've been hitting more this year, blocking shots and really committing to the defensive zone," Nemisz said.
With Renaud's death came a hole in leadership, and Nemisz is trying to help fill it.
"I'm not the most vocal guy in the room," he said. "But people listen when I talk."
Sometimes, nothing needs to be said. The Spitfires are united by one goal -- winning the Memorial Cup and dedicating the storybook ending to their late friend and leader.