Coming from the little city of Peterborough, Ontario, I have grown up watching and idolizing players that played for the hometown team.
You may or may not have heard of the organization before, but the Peterborough Petes are one of the, if not the most historic, junior teams in Canada. Founded in the late 1950's, the Petes have been a factory for NHL players.
They pump out more players then any other franchise in the world: Steve Yzerman, Bob Gainey, Larry Murphy, Steve Larmer, Chris Pronger, and more recently Eric and Jordan Staal (just to name a few).
The puck doesn't stop at the players either. Legendary coaches like Scotty Bowman, Roger Neilson, and Mike Keenan all got their start in this humble little town. Even though many players go through this organization to the big leagues, it still makes me very happy to see the next batch strike gold.
One player in particular is Zack Kassian, recently drafted thirteenth overall in this recent entry draft to the Buffalo Sabres. Zack had a particularly hard road to travel and it makes me very happy to see him overcome it to make the most of the opportunity given to him.
Zack was born in LaSalle, Ontario just near Windsor. At the young age of 12 he lost his dad to a heart condition. When Kassian was growing up he relied on his older brother Mike, who was always there for him. Mike kept Zack out of trouble, driving him to all his games, and was a pivotal part in raising him. If you were to ask him who his idol was without a doubt the first name out of his mouth would be his brother Mike.
Zack Kassian finally caught his break in 2007 when he was drafted fourth overall in the OHL Priority Selection to the Peterborough Petes. Appearing in 58 games in his rookies campaign, Zack had a less then stellar season, only tallying 9 goals and 21 assists.
What may have seemed like a bust turned right around the next season. After the offseason he came into camp with a new life. Storming out of the gates, Zack reached his previous season totals before a third of the season even finished. In that season he managed to triple his previous years totals and assert himself as a premier power forward in the league. He even became one of the toughest, meanest players in the league (you may recall when Kassian knocked John Tavares out of a prospects game).
These gained attributes propelled him to one of the top prospects in the league and eventually a great pickup for the Buffalo Sabres.
Congratulations Zack, nobody deserves it more than you.