No Widgets found in the Sidebar

Ontario Hockey League players wear their name on the back of their sweater. It can be a cool thing. It can also be a burden at times.

Never more perhaps, than when your father is the general manager of your team. And when you constantly have to prove to some people you’re here because of what you can do on the ice not because of family connections.

Consider Nathan Staios proven.

The just-turned-21-year-old Hamilton Bulldog was named OHL defenceman of the year on Monday after a season in which he set a franchise record for points by a rearguard — and led the league in defence scoring — with 66 and quarterbacked one of the league’s best power-plays.

“It’s been easy with the group we have here in Hamilton and (with) my teammates,” he says.

His story is an intriguing one.

When he was eligible to be drafted into the league and seen as an elite prospect, his dad — Bulldogs’ president and GM Steve Staios — insisted he wouldn’t take him even if he was sitting right there when Hamilton’s turn came.

Hamilton Bulldog Nathan Staios has been named the Ontario Hockey League's top defenceman.

“I want my team to feel comfortable and feel like a family,” Staios-the-elder said back in the spring of 2017. “I don’t know if putting my son in that situation and putting his potential teammates in that situation is the right thing.”

So, he didn’t take him. Windsor did six picks later, No. 17 overall in the first round.

But two years later, dad sent five draft picks to the Spitfires to get the five-foot-ten, 180-pound rearguard. This space called it a high-risk move. Which it was.

Had it not gone well, it would’ve looked terrible. Especially when three of those picks were coveted second-round picks which are the best you can move in the OHL since trading first rounders isn’t allowed.

He was OK his first year here. He was better his second year. He was great this season. Clearly. Fantastic enough to be considered the best in the league and joining recent winners of the award including Evan Bouchard of the Edmonton Oilers, Mikhail Sergachev of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Aaro Ekblad of the Florida Panthers.

“I wasn’t really proving it to people on the outside,” Staios says. “It was more to my teammates.”

And to himself?

“A bit to myself. I was always confident that I knew I was a great player but just to prove to my teammates.”

In the end, the trade looks brilliant. Particularly since one of the two teams Hamilton could face in the final — Game 6 of the Western Conference final is Tuesday night in Flint — is Windsor, meaning the league’s top defenceman might have been playing against Hamilton had the deal not been made.

With one trophy on his mantel, he’s now looking for another as the Bulldogs prepare to host Game 1 of the league finals on Friday. A championship remains the bigger goal.

However, he still has to get back onto the ice. He remains day to day for the playoffs with the lingering effects of an injury he suffered in the second round against Mississauga when he was drilled from behind.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.