Zayde Wisdom picked up his phone on Monday, it was Dan Marr from NHL Central Scouting. He asked if Zayde could meet at the Ford Performance Centre in Toronto to discuss some things about the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.
When the 18-year-old arrived at the arena on Tuesday, he was not there for a meeting about the draft, rather to be awarded the E.J McGuire Award of Excellence, an honour annually awarded to a draft-eligible player “who best exemplifies commitment to excellence through strength of character, competitiveness and athleticism.”
Marr was there to hand him the award and was also joined by NHL veteran and OHL alumnus, Wayne Simmonds.
“It was a huge surprise to me, I don’t even know what was going through my mind when I found out I had won it,” said Wisdom, who was not expecting it. “Just even receiving the award was amazing and it being a surprise made it even better.”
Having Wayne Simmonds on hand for the presentation made the award even more special for Wisdom, who has long looked up to Simmonds as a person and a player. As he has found his way through hockey, the Buffalo Sabres forward has been a mentor at every step of the way.
“I met him when I was young and he’s always been an idol for me,” said Wisdom about Simmonds. “Getting the award from him left me speechless, it was just huge. He’s a guy I try to play like, having him give it to me made it ten times better than it already was.”
Although it is an individual award, the Frontenacs forward knows that he would not have been able to earn it without the help of his teammates. A skilled player himself, he spoke about how he gets a major boost from his teammates, who are constantly battling, pushing him to be better. “It’s a milestone in my career, and something I’ll always remember, but the job is far from done. I have to stay humble, keep working with my teammates and on myself.”
While the award was a career milestone, Wisdom’s next big moment could be right around the corner. He is ranked 54th in NHL Central Scouting’s final ranking of North American skaters for the 2020 NHL Draft scheduled for October 6-7.
Having won the award last week and the draft fast approaching, Wisdom has been feeling a rollercoaster of emotions. “Nerves have been going through my mind, but I’m mostly excited. I don’t know if anything can top the feeling of getting that award, but I think the NHL draft could probably do that.”
Due to COVID-19, this year’s draft is being held virtually, but it has not put a damper on Wisdom’s mood, as he looks forward to watching alongside his family.
These are exciting times for Wisdom, but he is eager to get back to Kingston to start the season. As he enters his third OHL campaign, he is aiming to be more of a leader, “I’m excited about meeting the younger guys and taking them under my wing. I hope I can be a leader to those guys like I had when I came into the league with Ryan Cranford, Jakob Brahaney and Jason Robertson.”
For 18-year-old Zayde Wisdom, getting recognition for his hard work and dedication is an honour, but it is a moment in his young career. He will not take his foot off the gas, not with more awards, not with more wins, not with being drafted, not until as he says: “The job is done.”