Since ditching the NCAA and his commitment to Boston College, Brandon Shea has added several pages to his youth hockey passport, including a stop in Moncton, at least three separate stints with the Quebec Remparts, and, in somewhat of a junior hockey rarity, will change leagues after having been claimed by the Windsor Spitfires this week.
Shea, born in Marshfield, Mass., was originally a first round pick by the Wildcats in the 2011 QMJHL draft, picked ahead of future NHL prospects Laurent Dauphin, Adam Erne, and Vincent Dunn. To say Shea didn't pan out in the Q would be an understatement, as he left midway through his first season, dissatisfied with his ice-time. As he'd spent some time in major junior, he'd burned his amateur status and was eventually picked up by the Quebec Remparts that summer for a second chance.
Through two seasons and various leaves of absences and healthy scratches, the former first round hopeful recorded 37 games and just four goals with the Remparts and nine points, going minus-11 and burning any chance he may have had at being an NHL selection. The Spitfires, though, still reeling from their 2012 sanctions for improper player benefits, see some potential in Shea missed by other teams. This is adding a first round talent, free of charge! As one of the top 15 year olds in the Atlantic just three years ago, there's obviously some untapped potential, but it will be up to Warren Rychel and the Spits to unlock it:
“We're looking forward to seeing Brandon in Spitfires training camp in late August, where he should challenge for a spot on our hockey club,” Rychel said. “This is an opportunity for a fresh start for a player who has been very highly-touted in the past.”
Shea, at 6'2", 210 pounds, is sort of the player that Rychel looks for. Win or lose, Windsor have had a reputation as being one of the most physical teams in the OHL.
“I'm a big power forward,” [Shea] said. “I like to think of myself as a two-way power forward.”
Shea says he's ready to put a frustrating recent past behind him.
“When I first went to the Q, I had high expectations for myself,” Shea said. “But you can't live in the past. I'm looking at this as a new start. All that stuff is behind me now. I have to look ahead. I've been training five times a week. With a bunch of pro guys here. Hopefully, I will be in great shape when camp starts. I'm pretty confident I can come in and have an impact. I'm almost 19 now, an older guy in this league.”
It's a tall order for a player that NHL Coach of the Year Patrick Roy once described as having a "lack of passion", but Shea's tale is somewhat of a reminder that the NCAA's amateurism rules need a tweak. It was obvious that things weren't working out for a 16-year-old Shea in Moncton, whether it was a cultural, linguistic, or distance barrier. Because of that half season, Shea's spent the better part of two years being ripped up and spat out by the junior hockey machine, unable to return home to play high-level hockey with the Eagles.
Shea, a 1995-born player, still has one more year of junior eligibility before he'd have to make a roster as an overage player, so this is essentially a last chance afforded to him by the hockey Gods to make something out of the promise he showed as a young teenager. We'll see how it goes.
UPDATE: This article originally reported Shea was a Boston University recruit. That has since been corrected.