By Kirk Luedeke
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. — One of the benefits of being a late-round draft selection is the lack of pressure that high picks face in their development.
For Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds forward Mitch Dempsey, he’s taking the challenge of one day making the Boston Bruins roster head on with a physical brand of hockey and some underrated talent. The penultimate selection in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft was a bit of a surprise given the significant amount of missed time in his second OHL season, but the 18-year-old is excited about proving the team was right to take a chance on him, even in the seventh round.
“It’s everything you dream of and I can’t thank the Bruins organization enough for giving me the opportunity to come here and show them what I can do,” Dempsey told New England Hockey Journal. “It was tough last year having the injuries and not being able to play that much but the opportunity presented itself this year and I’m just going to do everything I can to prove my potential and go from there.”
Dempsey, the 11th overall selection in the 2011 OHL Priority Selection (draft) by the Plymouth Whalers, also happens to be Bruins assistant GM Don Sweeney’s nephew. But if there was a bit of family influence and familiarity with the pick, the left winger wants to put that talk to rest by breaking out in his third season of major junior.
Skating with the rest of the B’s rookies in South Florida gave him a taste of where he could eventually be, and after battling through some admitted nerves in his first game against Tampa Bay, Dempsey settled in well against the Florida Panthers on the tourney’s second day.
“Even a guy like Dempsey, who was a (seventh round) pick,” said Providence head coach Bruce Cassidy, “his game today compared to yesterday was so much better. Sometimes, that’s what you get – the inconsistency factors with young guys – and I think some guys were nervous yesterday as well.”
Dempsey said that he doesn’t go looking for fights normally, but he was ready to take on Panthers defenseman Mackenzie Weegar after he finished a check on the defenseman and received a slash across the ankle for his effort. Dempsey tried to get Weegar to engage, but the defenseman wanted no part of any scrap. In hindsight, that was probably the right choice.
Possessing a 6-foot-3, 210-pound frame and a powerful skating stride, Dempsey has yet to put together the offensive production given the expectations that came with being a high OHL pick, but the potential for more goals and points is there. As was the case with Cody Payne (since traded to Dallas a year ago), this could be the time for Dempsey to break through and grab a bigger role in the Soo.
Until then, he’ll learn what he can and is proud for having had the chance to wear his first Bruins sweater in game action.
“The guys have been great here and at the development camp,” he said. “It’s a good group of guys, and it’s given me a lot of confidence going into the new season.”