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Windsor’s Gervais carries the true Spirit of being an OHL prospect


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Windsor’s Sebastien Gervais is a great example for any prospect that aspires to play in the Ontario Hockey League.

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No matter where you are selected, you have the chance to make it and the 16-year-old Gervais, who is a Windsor Jr. Spitfires Zone AAA product, showed that after being taken in the 12th round of the 2021 OHL Draft with the 224th pick overall.

“When he came to camp, we didn’t have him as a guy to make the team at 16,” Spirit head coach Chris Lazary said. “He just had such a good camp. Every time he went out, he kept giving us reasons to write his name down.”

Truth be told, Gervais’ dream of making the OHL this season nearly ended before he ever got to camp when he could not get across the border in Detroit.

“We went from Windsor, but no one could confirm (his travel papers), there,” Gervais said. “There wasn’t a high enough person, so they had to say no.”

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With COVID-19 restrictions still in effect, Gervais and his dad Andre faced a near two-hour drive to get to Sarnia with no guarantee the result would be any better.

“He (dad Andre) asked me, ‘Is it even worth it,?’” Gervais said. “I still laugh about it.”

The plan was for Gervais to spend 48 hours in camp and keep his NCAA eligibility intact.

“He only had clothes for two days,” Lazary said. “They literally thought they were just coming for two days to find out what it was like in the OHL.”

But the more Lazary and general manager Dave Drinkill watched Gervais, the more they liked him.

“There was one shift where he took a big hit and I looked at (Drinkill) and said, ‘Now we’ll see what he has,’” Lazary said. “In that shift, he got up and tracked the kid down and gave him a clean hit to say, ‘I’ll show you.’”

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Gervais was in shock when he got the word.

“The coach talked to me before our last (scrimmage) game and said I had a pretty good chance of making it,” Gervais said. “Even that shocked me a little. Being a 12th-round pick, it’s kind of scary going into there and trying to have a good experience. It made my day. It felt unreal.”

He’s delivered beyond expectations for the Spirit since getting the news. Heading into Thursday’s game against the Windsor Spitfires at the WFCU Centre, the 6-foot, 165-pound Gervais sat ninth in OHL rookie scoring among 2005-born players.

In his last nine games prior Thursday, Gervais had five goals and 10 points. That included his first OHL hat-trick on Jan. 30, which at 16 years, nine months and 19 days made him the youngest players in Spirit franchise history to accomplish the feat. It broke the previous mark set by NHL first-round pick Cole Perfetti at 17 years, two months and eight days.

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“At first, I just thought, even if I didn’t play a lot, I would improve and get better next year,” Gervais said. “I wasn’t worried about minutes, it was just being up there.

“I think (the offensive burst) is just the players around me. People say I’ve got somewhat of a brain and I just try to work and make the right play. Either my linemates finish it off or get me an opportunity.”

Potentially the steal of the 2021 OHL Draft, Drinkill isn’t about to gloat about the pick.

“We never saw him play last year,” Drinkill said of the COVID-19 closures. “(Assistant general manager) Brian Prout did an amazing job digging around his connections in Windsor. (Gervais) was captain of his minor team and he’s a great kid.

“It’s a pretty cool story and it’s certainly made me look good and the whole scouting staff and coaching staff.”

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Even if the Jr. Spitfires not had their season wiped out last year by the pandemic, Gervais isn’t sure he would have gone any higher in the draft.

“Going into last year, I wouldn’t say I was one of the top players,” said Gervais, who is the nephew of former Spitfires Stephane Gervais. “I had a hard time believing it was true when I woke up the next morning (after making the team). It’s really, really weird, but it just came so quick and I was shocked for the next couple days.”

On a building Saginaw squad, club officials can only wonder what Gervais will be in a few years with a chance to fill out and get experience under his belt in the coming seasons.

“If he keeps on this trajectory, the sky’s the limit,” Drinkill said. “He’s just growing in confidence in this league and knows he belongs.”

jpparker@postmedia.com

twitter.com/winstarparker

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