You’ll have to excuse Danny Wicks if he seems a little distracted at his high school grad tonight at the Convention Centre in downtown St. John’s.
After all, there’s a far more pressing engagement on his calender a few days across the street at Mile One Centre.
“I can’t say I’m really into my grad right now, I’m more focused on the Telus Cup,” says the St. John’s Pennecon Privateers’ forward, whose team opens the national major midget championships Monday night against the Halifax Titans.
Wicks, a product of the Mount Pearl Minor Hockey Association, is one of nine returnees from last year’s bronze medal-winning unit.
And Wicks returned in a big way.
“Danny has really come into his own this year,” coach Wally Bray says. “He filled out a bit and really stepped up to be a leader.”
Last summer was Wicks’ second working with local trainer Brian Power.
“When I started coming into major midget, I realized I had to bulk up if I wanted to go anywhere with this,” says the five-foot-nine Wicks, who has grown from a slight 140 pounds two seasons ago to a sturdy 165 pounds.
“It’s been about strengthening the muscles in my legs and working on conditioning.
“It has really helped me in the battles in the corners.”
The results speak for themselves, as Wicks emerged as the provincial major midget league’s top scorer with 34 goals and 37 assists in 30 games, eclipsing teammate Marcus Power, seen by many as the team’s go-to guy in the absence of phenom Zach O’Brien, who wrapped up a brilliant major midget career with St. John’s last season.
Wicks acknowledges the work he’s put in off the ice has made a big difference in his game, but humbly admits, “playing on a line with Marcus Power all year certainly helps.”
“We always know where each other is, and we’re really clicking lately, especially at Atlantics,” Wicks says of the tournament where the pair finished 1-2 in scoring with linemate Justin O’Reilly rounding out the top five.
Bray, who moved both his big guns around through the season before settling on this line combination, says the boys have great chemistry.
“They’re feeding off each other and the two of them really want to go out as winners.”
Following a 2009-10 campaign that saw him score at a two-per-game pace, Wicks was drafted by the Maritime Junior A Hockey League’s Amherst Ramblers.
“I went up there, but they said they wanted me to go home and play the Telus Cup and come back next year,” says Wicks, whose rights were eventually dealt to the Weeks Crushers.
But the MJAHL isn’t the only option on the table for next year. Earlier this season, Wicks, who was overlooked by Quebec Major Junior Hockey League teams in that league’s draft the last two years, was contacted by Lewiston Maineiacs general manager Roger Shannon.
“They said they wanted to sign me as a free agent, so I jumped on it and signed,” says Wicks, who will attend Lewiston’s training camp in August.
For now, his focus isn’t on the road ahead or even trying to figure out to pin a corsage on his prom date. Danny Wicks wants to go out on top, or at least close to it.
“Last year, we proved Newfoundland can compete at a national level. We had Zach and we knew he could carry us. But this year, we’re deeper and we’re a battling team.
“This year we’ve got something else to prove, that hard work can do it too.”