From the Stands: Cam Hillis settling in

Aaron Bell/OHL Images

By Paul Osborne, Guelph Mercury

When Cam Hillis didn’t report to the Guelph Storm in the fall of 2016 the team was  tremendously disappointed.  Taken in the second round of the OHL draft that year, Hillis was seen as a hallmark centre that could help the Storm for the next several years.  But as disappointed as they were last year, they were just as surprised this summer when he announced he was now going to report to the team this fall.

They are glad he did.

Two weekends ago he busted through the shock most first year players face when they step into the OHL, by registering a two goal, two assist effort in Erie, then following that up with the winning goal in a 4-0 win over London. That goal showed up off his tremendous hands and hockey season as he toe-dragged the puck free of a defenceman in the slot before rifling the puck home.

“He’s played extremely well and I think a lot of people are noticing that,” said coach George Burnett. “He’s been rewarded for his hard work with some production. I know he was down on himself (early) but it certainly wasn’t from a lack of effort. Through his tenacity and determination you see some of the quality plays he’s made as well as his ability to finish. It’s fun to see first year kids come in and play with that kind of confidence. It’s fun to see kids have success that are working as hard as he is and as determined as he is to be a difference maker.”

Hillis, who attended a private high school last season, is happy to be settling in.

“It’s taken a few games to get adjusted to the pace and everything,” he said, “but now that I’ve had that kind of game (getting four points) I’m not thinking too much anymore and that’s a good sign.”

The adjustment to the OHL is extremely difficult. Some players never quite find the flow and confidence they need to be successful, but for Hillis, having a breakout weekend meant that a lot of the emotional baggage could be left behind.

“If you’re thinking too much out there you’re second guessing yourself and you don’t want to be doing that,” said the native of Enniskillen, northeast of Oshawa. “You want to be cognizant of what you’re doing but at the same time you want to be flowing with the game.”

Some young players, who had always been the best players on their teams growing up, get discouraged during their rookie seasons, but not Hillis.

“Not frustrated because I was getting chances and that was the important thing to take out of that. If I wasn’t it would be a different story but I knew it was going to come and I’d break the goose egg at one point.”

Burnett likes the fact Hillis is more than just flash and dash.

“He’s a smart guy and we have to watch his energy because he goes so hard all the time,” said the coach.

“I’m a player that plays well when I have confidence, I mean everyone does, but when I have confidence I’m a different player out there,” admitted Hillis who also set up the Storm’s tying goal with a gorgeous pass in their 3-2 overtime win over Flint this past Saturday. “I’m able to see plays better and it just kind of flows off my stick.”

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