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Ian Clark's On Hockey: Dudek made the right choice
Former Pinkerton Academy of Derry player J.D. Dudek of Auburn, a recent graduate of Kimball Union Academy in Plainfield, is a candidate for selection in this weekend's NHL Draft. (COURTESY)
An 18-year-old Auburn resident, former Pinkerton Academy of Derry student, recent graduate of Kimball Union Academy in Plainfield and son of Plymouth State University football legend Joe Dudek, J.D. is a candidate for selection when the NHL conducts its annual draft today and Saturday in Philadelphia.
Not bad for someone who didn’t even begin playing hockey until age 8 and was less than impressed when he did.
J.D.’s mother, Jodi, is largely responsible for his success in hockey, Joe said.
“We wanted our kids to pick their own sports. The hockey path is a totally different path,” Joe said. “I give my wife all the credit. She’s always been able to get J.D. on the right teams with the right coaches that have challenged him and given him the coaching he needed to get to the next level. We’re very happy with the path he’s taken, and we’re looking forward to the next step.”
After playing at Pinkerton Academy and winning the 2012 NHIAA state championship with fellow Boston College-bound Auburn native Zach Sanford (who was drafted in the second round by the Washington Capitals in last year’s draft), Dudek opted to play his final two years with Kimball Union. As a senior this past season, he totaled nine goals and 35 assists in 25 games.
“It would have been much different if I never had Coach Whitehead at Kimball Union,” Dudek said. “He taught me some great hockey traits that will be with me forever. He’s had numerous accomplishments at the college level. It’s cool how he holds us to a professional standard and treats us like pros and prepared us for college careers and something after for the lucky ones.”
“I’ve coached a lot of elite players, and he’s right up there with the best,” Whitehead said. “He’s got tremendous poise with the puck and elite-level skill. He’s very calm in traffic. Those are qualities that are unusual, to be honest. I’ve coached a lot of players that went on to play in the NHL, and not all of them had poise. He has great vision and a high level of hockey sense and can make plays under pressure. That’s what separates him from a lot of other good players.”
Whitehead pointed to the NEPSCAC championship game against Dexter, in which Dudek shut down Ryan Donato, son of former Boston Bruin and Manchester Monarch Ted Donato and the 56th-ranked prospect heading into the draft.
“I’m excited for J.D. He’s got a lot of potential to grow.”
“It’s not in my mind at this point,” he said. “It’s an honor to be drafted by any team, so I just hope it goes the way I want it to.”
“It’s a tough time as a parent because we want to see J.D. fulfill his dreams, but we know he’s done everything he can to fulfill his dreams,” Joe Dudek said. “We’re looking forward to going down to Philadelphia and being there when, hopefully, his name is called.”
Initial indications were that the Los Angeles Kings would name a new head coach for the Manchester Monarchs before the draft, but sources within the organization said that is unlikely to happen.