ORONO, Maine — Playmaking center Blaine Byron, who led the Kemptville 73’s of the Central Canada (Junior A) Hockey League in scoring last season and is leading them again this year, has verbally committed to attend the University of Maine on a hockey scholarship next fall.
The 17-year-old Byron had 12 goals and 27 assists in 42 games a year ago and has three goals and nine assists in 10 games this season.
“He’s a great little hockey player,” said Kemptville director of player personnel and head scout Terry Nichols. “He’s dynamic. He’s a puck control guy. He’s more of a setup guy [than a goal scorer]. He’s great at protecting the puck. He’s smart and he understands the game.”
Nichols said it is rare for a 16-year-old to lead a team in scoring in the CCHL like Byron did a year ago.
He also pointed out that Byron is one of just two players from their league who is on the recently released NHL draft list meaning he could be drafted next June.
Byron said he visited the University of Maine during the summer and promptly made up his mind.
“It was the best fit for me school-wise,” said the 5-foot-11, 165-pound Byron, who was a teammate of current Maine freshman defenseman Ben Hutton at Kemptville last season before Hutton was traded to Nepean. “I really liked the coaching staff and [Hutton] had nothing but good to say about the school.”
“I have always been told to go with my gut feeling and that’s what I did,” added Byron.
He said he knows Maine gets great fan support and “I always wanted to play in that kind of atmosphere every game.”
He also said he wants to play in Hockey East, which he considers among the best league in the country.
Byron, a native of Manotick, Ontario, said he intends to work on all aspects of his game this season in preparing for his college career.
“I need to get bigger and I have to be physically and mentally stronger,” said Byron. “It’s a big jump. You have to be mentally strong for the ups and downs and physically strong for the battles in every game.”
His coming to Maine is contingent upon his acceptance into the institution and meeting NCAA eligibility requirements.