From nearly last to nearly first -Thu., Jan 19, 2017 | By Scott Radley, News (Hamilton Jr Bulldogs)

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From nearly last to nearly first -Thu., Jan 19, 2017 | By Scott Radley
Submitted By Dianne Skirving on Saturday, January 21, 2017
He hasn't forgotten that Saturday morning, sitting in the basement of his Stoney Creek home with his dad watching the Ontario Hockey League draft on his phone. Waiting — hoping — he might hear his name called. Teammate after teammate from his powerhouse minor midget team was selected. Future Hamilton Bulldog Brandon Saigeon, future Peterborough Pete Matthew Timms, future Flint Firebird Nick Caamano and on and on. But not him. He was happy for them all, but still ….

Brendan D'Agostino had great numbers with the Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs. He was third in scoring on a team that would eventually see 14 players chosen. He'd fired the overtime winner a few years earlier to win the all-Ontario championship. He was a good player. Yet his teammates kept popping up on the board and he was still waiting.

Simply put, he had a size problem. He could score all the goals and collect all the assists he wanted, but at a slim five-foot-eight, he could do nothing about his stature. So he waited, and waited, and waited.

A couple hours into the process, he couldn't be bothered anymore. Ten rounds of frustration were all he could take. He shut off the phone and went outside to shoot hoops with a neighbour.

An hour or so later his game was interrupted.

"My mom came outside and told me I got drafted by North Bay," he says.

The Battalion had taken him in the 14th round of a 15-round draft. Two hundred and seventy three players had already been chosen. Heck, he wasn't even the first D'Agostino taken. But he was taken. That's something.

It turns out the family had relatives up north who were willing to billet him. So he moved up there as a 16-year-old to take his best shot.

"I knew deep down in my heart I could compete with bigger guys," D'Agostino says.

Trouble is, the number of guys who crack an OHL lineup — let alone become a factor in the league — from that spot in the draft can be counted on one hand of one careless butcher. As a result, it wasn't a shock when he didn't make the Battalion roster as a rookie.

The team sent him to the provincial Jr. A Powassan Voodoo. Don't worry, he'd never heard of the place either. It's a tiny town of 3,300 south of North Bay. He played well but ran into a brick wall with the OHL team again the next fall. Once more there was no room for him.

Then 13 games into last season, he landed with the Jr. B Thorold Blackhawks. Suddenly, the old Brendan D'Agostino reappeared. In 29 games he collected 32 points. That bolstered his shaken confidence.

When the puck dropped on this season he started tearing up the league. He scored five points in his third game. Then three the next night. Followed by two, then three, three, four, two and four. The game he didn't get multiple points became the rarity.

Only six times all season has he not found the scoresheet. When he was traded from a rebuilding Thorold team to a contending Chatham Maroons squad two weeks ago, he just kept going.

He's now second in league scoring at nearly two points a game, despite being just 18 in a league that's usually dominated by 20 year olds.

Oh, and he's grown. Now five-foot-eleven, he's getting interest from American universities that are interested in giving him a scholarship. Which he plans to take, though he's not sure where, yet.

He still watches his buddies in the OHL — seven have played in the league — but swears he doesn't wish things had gone differently. He insists he's not even disappointed he hadn't had that growth spurt a year or two sooner. Not anymore. If he had, things wouldn't be playing out as they are.

"I have a lot of faith in God," he says. "I know everything happened for a reason."

[email protected]

905-526-2440 | @radleyatthespec

Spectator columnist Scott Radley hosts The Scott Radley Show weeknights from 7-9 on 900CHML


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