December 20, 2009

Seward, Winchester have high hopes

by Gavin Faretra

Mike Seward (right) against Catholic Memorial (photo: John Walker/Wicked Local)

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in the December 2009 issue of New England Hockey Journal.

With the playoffs a little over a month away, Winchester High School standout Mike Seward skated off the ice last Jan. 31 and knew his shoulder was in bad shape.

The next day, his doctor confirmed what he dreaded the most: His season was over. Seward was relegated to watching as his team fought tooth and nail for one of the wild-card spots in the Super 8 tournament.

On Feb. 23, the Sachems suited up for a Super 8 play-in game against Springfield Cathedral with a spot in the final eight on the line – and so did Seward.

Nearly a month after injuring his shoulder, the junior returned in a big way, scoring the game-winning goal in a 3-2 overtime win and putting the public school into Massachusetts’s elite state hockey playoff for just the third time in history.

“Nothing can compare to playing in the Super 8,” said Seward, who is the only Massachusetts public high school player to appear on NHL Central Scouting’s draft list. A ‘C’-listing. “My team was pretty excited to have me back, but I was just happy that I could help us get in. That really meant a lot to me.”

Seward and the Sachems went on to beat eventual state champion Catholic Memorial and Central Catholic before falling to Burlington – a team they beat twice in the regular season – in the semifinals. And, while the sting of falling short certainly left Seward disappointed, it’s only raised the senior center’s expectations for this season.

“I hope to go back and I think we can get there if we work hard enough,” Seward said. “We lost our two top senior ‘D’ and we lost some forwards too, but we have some young ‘D’ coming up and we have two solid forward lines, too, so I think we’ll be fine.”

Through his first three seasons at Winchester, Seward has put up 41 goals and 25 assists. He led the team with 21 goals in just 17 games last year, leading the Sachems to a 19-5-1 record.

He was named Middlesex League All-League, and to the Boston Globe All-Scholastic Super and the Boston Herald All-Scholastic “dream teams.” He was also selected the Middlesex League coaches’ MVP.

“Mike is surely to be the next Winchester High School player to play Division 1 hockey,” said Winchester coach John Messuri, who has sent three players – defensemen Pat Aufiero (Boston University) and Dan Spang (BU), and forward Rugo Santini (Brown) – to that level over the past decade. “Mike is the type of player who leads by example on and off the ice. He is very quiet and humble. And his grades make him a lock for the Ivy League.”

Academically, Seward holds a 4.14 grade-point average and is a member of the French and the Principal’s High Honors National Honor Societies. He’s also a winner of the French Scholar Department, Sciences Scholar, Mathematics Scholar and Holy Cross Book awards.

“As a father of three, I now have an idea of what I want my kids to be in high school,” Messuri said.

His mix of on-ice and off-ice acumen may make him a perfect candidate for the Ivy League, but Seward isn’t ready to commit just yet.

“I’ll consider (any college), but I’m really trying to get into an Ivy League school because it would fit me academically and for hockey,” Seward said. “I’m going to play juniors next year, but haven’t decided where or for what team.

“A lot of the Ivy League schools want me to play (juniors). I think the average Division 1 college freshman is 20½-years-old and I’m only 17,” he continued. “I think they’d like to see me play against a higher level of competition, too, since I play in public school now.”

The decision to remain in the Winchester public school system was an easy one for Seward. Growing up and playing for the town’s youth program, he said he never considered the prep school route, opting instead to remain with his friends and teammates he’d grown up playing with since he strapped on the skates for the first time at the age of 2, and accompanied to invitational tournaments in places like Montreal, Toronto and Edmonton, plus a national tournament in Michigan.

“I was always fixed on going to Winchester,” said Seward, who also played in a Select 16 national development camp in Rochester, N.Y., in 2007. “We have a great coach (Messuri) and Winchester’s also one of the best public schools, academically and hockey-wise, around.”

At 6-foot-1, 195 pounds, Seward certainly has a frame to build on as he gets older. He has a quick burst and a lethal shot, making him a viable candidate for any Division 1 program. But he’s the first to admit he’s still got a lot to learn.

“I’m still not consistent enough every night, every game,” Seward said. “I’d like to work on keeping my intensity level up this season and become as complete a hockey player as I can be.”

One thing’s for sure: After what he went through last winter, no one is about to question his toughness.

Gavin Faretra can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.