Two hundred and 48 players had their names called at the 2017 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft.
Jordan Spence wasn’t one of them.
But the 19-year-old Cornwall native didn’t let that derail his plans to play in the league.
Three years later the Moncton Wildcats blue-liner not only has two years of major junior experience under his belt, but also the rookie of the year and top defencemen awards to boot.
“It was disappointing,” Spence said of being passed over at the draft. “(But) instead of me getting down and not doing anything, I wanted to just prove the other people wrong.”
The Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals selected the Charlottetown Bulk Carrier Pride product in the third round (40th overall) of 2017 Maritime Junior Hockey League draft. He exploded with 51 points in 50 games and was named the league’s rookie of the year.
“When I got drafted (by) the Summerside Capitals it was amazing. That’s really where it kind of started.”
The Wildcats selected him in the second round (20th overall) of the 2018 draft and he was named the league’s rookie of the year after recording 49 points, including 43 assists, in 68 games. The Los Angeles Kings selected him in the fourth round (95th overall) of the 2019 NHL draft.
Spence didn’t rest on his laurels and focused on what he needed to work on to become an impact player in his sophomore season in the Hub City.
“In order for me to play in the NHL and get to that next level, I really had to improve on my defensive game,” he said.
After a slower than expected start to the 2019-20 season, Spence hit his groove. He credited assistant coach Darryl Boyce, a Summerside native, for helping round out his game.
“I give kudos (to) him. It’s an unreal feeling (when you have) a coach that wants you to improve and he was doing that for me. Without him or my teammates, I couldn't win this trophy.”
The five-foot-10, 173-pound, right-shot blue-liner had nine goals and 43 assists for 52 points in 60 games this season. He helped lead Moncton (50-13-1-0) to top spot in the Eastern Conference when the season was halted due to the coronavirus (COVID-19 strain) pandemic.
Spence said the squad was built for a deep playoff run and it was a disappointing end to the campaign.
“It was really a special group,” he said, but “this is more than hockey.”
His name will now be on the Émile Bouchard Trophy as the league’s top defenceman. Other recent winners include Thomas Chabot and Samuel Girard. David Savard (2009-10) and Keith Yandle (2005-06) are the only other Wildcats to receive the recognition.
“It’s an honour,” Spence said, noting it was one of his pre-season goals. “There’s been some ups and downs throughout the season, but just getting that Twitter notification was an unreal feeling.”
Spence said he is working out at home in Cornwall and trying to add a couple of pounds for whenever the next season begins.
“I am really proud to be in Moncton with such a great organization,” he said.