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David Pacan: Success Started in Cumberland

Special Thanks to Chris Messina

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David Pacan has developed into a steady two-way forward in the Ontario Hockey League with the Niagara Ice Dogs. He was selected by the team in the 14th round of the 2007 OHL Priority Selection, while the team was still playing out of Mississauga. From there, the product of the Ottawa Sting minor hockey association went on to play two seasons with the Cumberland Grads in the Central Canada Hockey League (2007-08 & 2008-09). His strong play with the Grads earned him a Div-1 scholarship in the NCAA with the University of Vermont Catamounts. After only one year in the Green Mountain State he packed his bags and headed to Niagara.
The 6-foot-3 center has been a welcomed addition up front for the Ice Dogs as he’s averaged nearly a-point-a-game (89 in 91 games) in his year-and-half with the team. “It’s been awesome, making the transition from College to the OHL. It’s been great. The guys have been great, everyone from the coaches to the owners. It’s just been a blast,” says the Ice Dogs overage forward.
The Ice Dogs have had strong teams the last couple of years and expectations are high again this season. The team features two players that were top 10 picks in the National Hockey League’s draft last June (Ryan Strome –New York Islanders and Dougie Hamilton-Boston Bruins). For Pacan and his teammates it offers a chance at redemption after a disappointing playoff exit last spring. Niagara was knocked out in the Eastern Conference final by the St. Michael’s Majors in 5 games. “We had a great team last year. We were that close to going to the OHL championship. I thought we had a great playoff, we just couldn’t close it at the end. This year we have pretty much the same team and hope to get farther than last year,” says Pacan.
The Former Grad remembers his time in Cumberland fondly as he was a member of a couple of competitive teams. Two of his former Grads teammates Eric O’Dell (St. John’s Ice Caps – affiliate of the Winnipeg Jets) and Jason Akeson (Adirondack Phantoms – affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers) are playing in the American Hockey League this season. “It was a great two years. We had great guys on the team, guys like Akeson and O’Dell. We had really good teams. It was a great time for me to develop my skills. I had a great time (in Cumberland),” recalls Pacan.
In those two seasons with the Grads, he suited up for 118 games, scored 34 goals and compiled 94 points. He credits the coaching he got in Cumberland, from his former coach Mark Grady (now head coach of the Smiths Falls Bears) and then assistant coach Paul Flindall (current Grads head coach) for his success. “Mark really focused on me being a better player. I was fortunate to have him as a coach. He never took it light with me. I loved everything that he taught me. Paulie was just a great guy to, I still talk with him and stay in touch, both guys you’ll remember forever,” says Pacan.
Pacan was a part of a couple of Grads teams that had a lot of regular season success, sometimes a rarity for city based teams in the CCHL. “The last two years I was there we had strong teams, we finished top 5 in the standing. We just couldn’t close it in the playoffs. We got knocked out in the first round both years. I wasn’t too happy about that, but you learn from your mistakes,” says Pacan.
While starring for Cumberland in his early junior hockey days he was recognized by pro scouts. The Chicago Blackhawks selected him in the 6th round of the NHL Entry draft in 2009, making him the first player to be drafted directly into the world’s greatest league as a member of the Grads. The organization has a list of alumni currently playing in the NHL such as Matt Bradley and Claude Giroux, but none were members of the organization when they were drafted.  “It was awesome. Guys like Grady and Paulie helped me out the two years I was there. I credit a lot of my success to them. Being the first player to get drafted out of there was a huge honour for me. It was an unbelievable experience,” recalls the Blackhawks prospect.
On draft day, the native of Ottawa knew that his name might get called, but he couldn’t sit around all day waiting for his name to be called. “My brother and I went mini-golfing. I just couldn’t sit in front of a computer to see if my name was going to come up or not. We went mini-golfing then I got the call and it was just excitement from there,” recalls Pacan.
Being a part of the Blackhawks organization, Pacan has had the opportunity to attend the organizations development camps in the summers since he’s been drafted, something he feels has helped his game. “They’ve been awesome. You get to play with guys that have played pro or are trying to play pro just like you. You learn a lot from them. You learn a lot from the older guys being in a pro development camp. It’s just awesome to bring back the confidence to this league,” says Pacan.
It’s been a long journey for Pacan that has taken a couple of different turns, but at this rate one of those turns could lead him to the NHL.

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