Junior Watch: Boyd Devereaux
By Meredith Martini, Correspondent
The Canadian World Junior team's 'Drive for Five' hit a few bumps in the 96-97 World Junior Tournament in Switzerland, such as tying the Americans in the round robin and struggling to win most of their games. In the final, gold-medal game versus the U.S., the two teams battled through a historic 0-0 tie until finally, someone scored - the Canadians' Boyd Devereaux notched what proved to be the winning goal.
Devereaux probably scored that goal so he could get back to a few of his multitude of other activities - Devereaux also plays guitar and drums, paints, and was the CHL's Scholastic Player of the Year for the 95-96 season. Oh yeah, hockey - he did manage to squeeze in enough hockey with the OHL's Kitchener Rangers to be picked sixth overall in the 1996 draft by the Edmonton Oilers.
Photo by Meredith Martini
"I like to keep busy," he says. No kidding.
Devereaux, who turned 19 on April 16, has definitely kept busy for the last few years, emerging as a dominating force for the Rangers and one of hockey's top prospects. Somewhat surprisingly, he almost didn't join the OHL, as most of the best hockey players emerging from his hometown of Seaforth, Ontario, including other members of the Oilers organization, have taken a different route to hockey success.
"There's a lot of personnel from Seaforth who are at Michigan State," explains Devereaux, mentioning present Oiler and nearby neighbor Rem Murray, as well as current Wolverine and Oilers draft pick Mike Watt. "I thought I was going to be next in line. I skipped out of the OHL draft to pursue the scholarship for next year, but I had a really good year that next year in [Junior] B and grew quite a bit, so I thought the OHL would be my best route and seems to be turning out all right so far."
Kitchener took Devereaux in the first round of the OHL draft and has been more than happy with him so far, as Devereaux had 20 goals and 58 points in a full season his rookie year. The 6', 178 lb. center has been even better this season, with 28 goals and 69 points despite playing 12 fewer games due to the juniors tournament and NHL training camp.
"There's no question Boyd Devereaux is our franchise player," says Kitchener head coach Geoff Ward. "He plays in all situations and plays extremely well. He's a team player first and foremost, I think that's what makes him a valuable asset in the dressing room and a guy that his teammates really look up to and follow."
Devereaux's on-ice ability is matched by his off-ice character; he's one player who will never have his coach wondering what he's up to away from the rink. Just because he's not going to Michigan doesn't mean he's not thinking about his education, although Devereaux does admit earning a top grade average and the scholastic award while playing a 66-game schedule wasn't at all easy.
"It's a much longer season than I'd experienced before," he says. "I think once you're into that groove it comes a little easier, but probably just coming into the league I wasn't quite accustomed to that. I had to go to the rink every day and get into that daily routine. I think we're lucky in Kitchener because we're right smack dab in the middle of things and don't have an extra amount of travel involved. I try to be in school as often as I could. I think the team policy that we had to be in school was a real big help...I just had great help from my teachers. So I put my nose to the stone and tried to do my best and things seemed to turn out all right."
Seaforth is less than two hours from Kitchener, so Devereaux had regular visits from his parents as well to help him make the adjustment to juniors. Starting in hockey at age five, Devereaux played in Seaforth nearly his entire minor career before opting to join the OHL.
"I think, not just the OHL but the CHL in general, the record speaks for itself. They develop more players than any other league in the world," he says. "They really go out of their way to fashion their game after the NHL game. I think that's what's most important, you could almost call it the university of hockey...just the schedule and everything all combined. I think they do a fantastic job and I'm really having a great time playing in this league."
Seaforth is Maple Leafs country and Devereaux was raised a Leafs fan, but his favorite player is a Red Wing, Steve Yzerman, due in large part to Yzerman scoring a hat trick in the first NHL game Devereaux attended. He was on a bus trip from Seaforth to see yet another player from the town, this time Dave McLlwain, and he wound up just plain being a Red Wing fan. "I really thought that was a fun team to watch and I really took a liking to them."
Although Devereaux's playing style is reminiscent of Yzerman's, he thinks of someone else he'd rather emulate. "[While] I think I'm a playmaking center for the most part, I really am conscious about my defensive responsibilities," he explains. "I think, for that reason...a Ron Francis, a player like that who's conscious at both ends of the ice and can do some damage in the offensive end...I really respect his style. At the same time I don't really pattern myself after one particular player."
Devereaux was ranked in the top five coming into the 1996 draft, so becoming a Red Wing or a Maple Leaf was pretty much out of the question. But the team that did pick him still wasn't what he expected. "I was surprised that I was picked up by Edmonton," he admits. "I had a pretty good feeling from the Capitals, from the meetings I had, things like that, and from the Islanders...so I thought I was going to go in that area but then things turned out as they did."
Things turned out that the Islanders, who had made no secret of intending to draft fellow OHLer Alexander Volchkov, didn't. As a result of his now-infamous meeting with Volchkov, Islanders GM Mike Milbury decided at the last minute to select J.P. Dumont instead, and the Capitals, who had all but told Devereaux to pack his bags for Washington, were more than happy to pick Volchkov. Suddenly all bets were off for Devereaux, and with the next pick, Dallas also passed on him. The Oilers, however, were more than glad to find him still available with the number six pick.
"I couldn't be happier that Edmonton picked me up," he says. "I was kind of surprised because I didn't talk to them a lot previous to the draft, but when they called my name I was just, couldn't be happier, to...be part of that team, that was really a special feeling."
The good vibes continued into training camp in Edmonton last summer. "I had a fantastic time up there," Devereaux gushes. "I was playing pretty well and they had cut down a lot of players, there were five or six of us [draftees] practicing with the team and in that way I kind of got to know the players really well...got into a couple exhibition games and that was a big thrill. Just the altogether experience...you can really sense the tradition of it around the Edmonton Oilers, in the dressing room and things like that."
But no one, including Devereaux, thought he was going anywhere this season but back to Kitchener and so he returned to the OHL. However, during the summer Devereaux also succeeded in making the Canadian national junior team, and it was off to Switzerland for Christmas.
"It's a great experience, not only making the team but playing in such a prestigious tournament," he says in awe. "It was a big thrill for me, playing with the best players in Canada, and something I'll never forget for sure. The gold medal is the highlight of my career so far."
But when you get right down to it, Devereaux willingly admits the tournament wasn't a totally perfect experience. "It was actually really nerve-wracking," he notes. "We didn't have a great round robin and things like that. We overcame one obstacle at a time and worked through it right to the gold medal, [but] you know there were a lot of times where I kind of thought 'holy cow', this kinda seems unreal, all the pressure and everything."
When Devereaux returned to Ontario he had a shorter than usual holiday break at home but so did much of Kitchener's personnel, as several players and coaches participated in the gold medal winning Team Ontario in the Under-17 tournament. With the dual championships in tow, the Rangers went on to win their division and earn a bye through the first round of playoffs. Devereaux's not surprised that both he and the rest of the team were better the second half of the season. "Coming back, I had increased confidence in my own play as a result of some of the things that happened over there and I just try to carry it into the season," he says. "I think it's just a confidence boost for anybody to play for Team Canada."
Ward also noticed Devereaux's newfound confidence, as well as his increasing leadership of the Rangers. "Boyd's got a real charisma about him as a player that I think draws people to him," explains Ward, "When you put all of those things into a package...he's a guy that you want on the ice in all situations. He is just about as much as you can get out of one player."
But then, Devereaux's just about as much as you can get out of one person, period. It's really too bad he didn't join the musically inclined Capitals, since the drummer/guitarist would have fit in quite well with the equally musical (and overachieving) Joé Juneau and his band, a prospect Devereaux thinks would have been fun.
Then again, the progressive music devotee isn't quite that serious about his musical future. "My dad was always really into the music and we always had guitars around," he says, explaining the origin of this hobby. "I took lessons for a couple of years on guitar, but what I really enjoy most is fooling around with my dad and having a good time. It's nice escape sometimes and the life I lead right now, to be able to sit down and just drum away and kinda lose myself in my thoughts."
In fact, Devereaux is a little embarrassed talking about his days in a band. Seems the band has gotten much better - since he left. "I used to play with a lot of my buddies in my earlier high school days before I moved to Kitchener and we sort of had a band going, and I was listening to them play this summer and they have just left me in the dust," he says a little sheepishly. "They've just gone on to be incredible at the instruments they play so - I get up there and play with them every once in a while but they are just so much beyond me now, since I haven't been able to practice all the time. It's still fun to play with them, we're all into music and we have a good time."
And when he has any other spare time - hard as it is to believe, he claims he actually does sleep on a regular basis - Devereaux also likes to do some painting. "I used to really enjoy art classes and stuff like that, I seemed to pick up on it as a youngster," he says. "If I ever get spare time, it's something I get excited about...nothing extra special, it's just something I like to do. If I have the time I like to start on something and hopefully see it through...but it's just a little hobby of mine."
Devereaux does emphasize he doesn't feel obligated to keep up with his hobbies. "It's not like 'oh no, I have to play guitar tonight' or something, it's not like a job or anything like that."
He does know what his job is - or was - getting Kitchener to the Memorial Cup. Unfortunately the Rangers went down to defeat at the hands of the Ottawa 67's (arguably the best team in juniors) in the semi-finals; but Devereaux held up his end of the bargain, with 15 points in 13 games in the playoffs, including three power-play goals and 11 assists. After Kitchener's playoff elimination, the Oilers sent Devereaux to the AHL's Hamilton Bulldogs to experience their playoff run.
"Each championship is special, the individual awards are nice but when it comes right down to it the championships stay in your mind, [like] the one I won in junior B and the gold medal game," says Devereaux, speaking prior to the Rangers' playoff demise. "The Memorial Cup would just be the cream of the cake or whatever, I think [the Cup is] the goal of the team is right now and I think that would be an incredible one to achieve."
OK, so Devereaux doesn't have his cliches straight yet. But give him a break - he probably doesn't have the time to remember them!
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