BY MARK JANZEN
Geordie Wudrick may be taking the road less travelled towards a professional hockey career – going via the Canadian university route – but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to get there. And possibly even sooner than the skeptics may think.
When Wudrick was honoured with Hockey Now’s Minor Hockey Player of the Year award in 2005, it appeared the Abbotsford, B.C. forward was on the fast-track toward a distinguished hockey career.
That year, his first as a Bantam-aged player in 2004/05, he scored he scored 115 goals with Abbotsford, won that season’s U16 B.C. Best Ever Tournament and, shortly thereafter, was selected second overall in the 2005 WHL Bantam Draft by the Swift Current Broncos. Only Colten Teubert was picked ahead of him by the Regina Pats.
“That was a really good year for me,” Wudrick said. “Looking back on things, that was the most exciting year of hockey for me. A lot of [great] things happened that year, including winning that award…which was the biggest highlight in my minor hockey career…and then getting drafted high in the Bantam draft.”
After that, Wudrick played a season at Notre Dame College in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League, where scored 14 goals and added 16 assists in 42 games with the Hounds. Following that, he joined Swift Current for the next three and half years before he was traded to Kelowna for the final year and a half of his junior hockey career. And by the end of his five full seasons in the junior ranks, he had amassed 138 goals – including 43 in his final year, 2010/11, alone – 95 assists and 388 penalty minutes in 349 games.
But following his Junior career, Wudrick was unable to land an NHL contract. While he was drafted by Los Angeles 88th overall in the 2008 NHL Draft, he was never able to stick with the Kings and, despite attending Buffalo’s development camp this past summer, was still unable to mine a professional deal at hockey’s highest level. So, he decided to take his game across the Atlantic Ocean.
That idea landed him in Germany’s second division with Starbulls Rosenheim.
Although he did manage three goals and six assists in 14 games this past fall, by December, the smarts in Wudrick got the better of him.
With a potential university scholarship awaiting him back in Canada – thanks to his five years at the Major Junior level and the subsequent scholarship program – Wudrick returned to North America in January to join the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds, who are currently the No. 1-ranked team in the CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) and the reigning national champions.
“I thought it was too good of a deal not to take the scholarship opportunity,” said Wudrick, who has two goals and four assists in 12 games with UNB.
While for some, the CIS is a last-stop shop for competitive hockey, for many, and this is where Wudrick falls, it’s just a different step towards a professional career.
“I think guys are starting to see people have success out of the CIS and especially here at UNB. It’s a really good level of hockey, especially out here in Atlantic Canada [and] I don’t think it gets enough credit.”
With the likes of the Washington Capitals Joel Ward (University of Prince Edward Island), the Montreal Canadiens Mathieu Darche and, most recently, and most relevant to Wudrick, the Toronto Maple Leafs Darryl Boyce (UNB) as poster boys for professional success after the CIS, Wudrick is confident he is still very much on the road to the pros.
“I think [my time in Germnay] made my desire stronger to want to get back and be in the fold with an NHL team,” Wudrick said. “I still have that desire and determination to still one day live your dream and play in the NHL.”
Varsity Reds coach Gardiner MacDougall added: “He’s got a big upside potential for us. He’s a great person. He’s bought into everything we’re trying to do. He’s a high-profile player. As a player, [the CIS] gives him a little longer to develop and build-up his confidence level. It also allows him to get a university degree. There are some exciting things ahead of him.”
And for the business-studying Wudrick, who has always been academically-inclined – he had to postpone this interview for a few hours to make sure he completed his necessary studying – for now, UNB is a perfect fit.
And you never know where his path might take the once superstar of Abbotsford, next.
From December 2011 to July 2012, Hockey Now features past recipients of our Minor Hockey Player Achievement Award, leading up to the announcement of our next winner, in July.
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