WHL Next Generation is a 22-part series highlighting a handful of the future stars of the Western Hockey League. From first-round bantam draft picks to later-blooming selections, get to know the names of players set to establish themselves as the newest crop of exciting talent to grace the WHL. From August 1 through September 11, get the inside scoop on the incoming crew of 16-year-olds.
He’s only been there for a couple of weeks, but Jaydon Dureau has already fallen in love with the city of Portland.
From the moment the White City, Sask. product heard his name called by the Portland Winterhawks in the eighth round, 163rd overall at the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft, he knew he was going to enjoy every minute he spends in the City of Roses.
“When I got the news – I was watching on my computer – it was pretty exciting,” Dureau said. “Out of all the WHL teams, you could be playing in just a small area like Regina or a great big city on the west coast with beautiful weather like Portland.”
Now that he’s had the chance to spend some time in the city during his first two training camps with the Winterhawks, Dureau’s mind hasn’t changed one bit.
“Just the atmosphere. Being in a new area, a lot different from a place like Regina – which is close to home for me. It’s a really fun city to be in and there’s a lot more exposure. The environment’s really fun,” he said.
It’s been a good start to the 2017 season for the 5-foot-11, 162-pound prospect.
While he hasn’t notched any goals through two WHL Pre-Season games with the Winterhawks, Dureau said he’s pleased with how he’s played in training camp so far.
“I’m really enjoying it. It’s a lot of fun,” he said, adding that he’s always focused on improving some key aspects of his game as he aims to crack the Hawks’ roster this year.
“I think that my skating is a heavy factor in my play. I think I could improve it a little bit more. I think skill-wise, I should improve my shot and have a quicker release.”
He also noted that he wants to continue to build his strength after putting on 12 pounds of mass over the off-season, due in part to the workout routines he’s been doing with his father, who works with a SWAT team.
While he continues to improve some of the fundamental aspects of his game, Dureau will also be looking to keep the momentum going from a strong rookie campaign with the Saskatoon Blazers of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League last season.
“I was very happy with how I played through the whole change that year with going two months in and our whole coaching staff left the team and we had to get new coaches,” he said.
The mid-season coaching change didn’t seem to hinder the Blazers, as they made a run to the second round of playoffs despite the switch.
“It was a really difficult situation for the team and for us to come back and be even better than we were, I was really happy with our play.”
It also turned out to be a good change for Dureau, personally, as the rookie put up some impressive numbers after the switch.
In 40 games with the Blazers last year, the then-15-year-old forward netted 22 goals and 11 assists, and that was despite the fact that the team underwent a coaching staff change mid-way through the season.
“There was a lot of confidence coming into camp. Just knowing that may have helped mid-way through the season but now that means nothing and I just have to make sure that I do even better than last year.
In addition to his play with the Blazers last season, Dureau had the chance to test his skills against the best young hockey players in Western Canada as a member of Team Saskatchewan at the U16 Western Canada Challenge Cup last October.
— Portland Winterhawks (@pdxwinterhawks) 4 October 2016
“I loved every second of it,” he said.
Despite all the development he’s packed into the past year, Dureau knows that he’s far from a lock to make the Winterhawks out of camp.
With the addition of former NCAA star Kieffer Bellows and a bunch of returning forwards from last season, there won’t be many spots open for a 16-year-old left winger.
Still, Dureau said he’s determined to make the most of the opportunity to show his skills to the Hawks’ coaching staff.
“My goal since I was in Atom, I always wanted to make the WHL and I wanted to focus on a hockey career. If it doesn’t work out but I put my best foot forward and I gave it my all, then I’ll be satisfied with myself,” he said. “Then hopefully throughout the year I’ll be able to come visit the city and the environment and hopefully get on that AP roster for the Winterhawks.”