by Tyler King
He might be the only Prince Edward Islander to ever suit up for the Oil Barons, and defenceman Brett Doiron has quickly settled in after being the final trade target of general manager Curtis Hunt in the 2014-15 season.
Acquired from the Grande Prairie Storm in the final deal of the January 10th trading deadline, Doiron added needed depth to the MOB’s defensive corps as it inches closer to its hosting duties at the Western Canada Cup.
The St. Ann’s, PEI native had already racked up 92 penalty minutes with the Storm before heading to Fort McMurray, and is continuing to establish himself as one of the league’s rougher rearguards.
But the challenge of transitioning to a new team in just his first season playing almost the whole way across the country was one he embraced.
“I’ve found it fairly easy,” said Doiron of his adjustment to the Oil Barons. “It’s a very, very good organization, very good history, and it’s just a really easy environment to put yourself in and become part of the group.”
The move was not an expected one, with Doiron a key recruit by Grande Prairie coach Kevin Higo from the school Higo himself used to coach, Rothesay-Netherwood Prep School in New Brunswick.
“I was kind of in shock when I first got the call,” said Doiron of January 10th. “We thought all the deals were done for the day, and I had literally just stepped in the door, and [Higo] said there was an offer, and I feel I’d be a fool if I didn’t take it.”
But Higo, with his prior experience as a player and coach with the Oil Barons, knew he wasn’t jettisoning Doiron to an environment where he wouldn’t thrive.
“With his history here, he wouldn’t send me to a place where I wouldn’t be comfortable, and that wouldn’t treat me well, and obviously with the Western Canada Cup, having the chance to play during that is also a huge opportunity,” said Doiron. “It was a real shock, but a real pleasant surprise.”
It was also a pleasant surprise for forward Mitch Vanderlaan. The team’s alternate captain was not only a teammate of Doiron’s at Rothesay-Netherwood, but the two were roommates for two years.
“It’s always good to know someone going into a new place,” Doiron noted, “and it’s really good to see him again and be around him, because he’s really a guy who can up everyone’s game, and push everybody else, as well as pushing himself to his own limits.”
Doiron has quickly embraced Curtis Hunt’s coaching influence, with a clear role set out for the 18-year old d-man to try to fill.
“He wants me to be more of a gritty-type player, making it difficult for the other team’s forwards down in our end, and just making them think twice about going in the corners or being around our net,” Doiron explained. “That’s a role I’m comfortable playing, and he really helps me pinpoint certain areas of my game to be as effective as I can be out there.”
With Hunt’s history as a former pro defenceman, that pinpointing has already paid dividends in the young defenceman’s development.
“Even just the most simple things, like keeping your eyes up when you’re playing one-on-one, especially with skilled guys who can turn you inside out,” he said. “Just a simple thing like that, he’ll drive it into you and make sure you remember it every single day, every time you’re out on the ice.”
“It’s such a small change to my game, but it’s made a huge difference in how I see the ice and how I see my own play.”
As that development continues for the first-year defenceman, there’s little denying that Doiron’s style of play will suit him very well to become a future fan favourite at the Casman Centre.
After all, what Barons fan doesn’t love a defenceman that other teams’ forwards despise?
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