GMHA grad ecstatic as next step in hockey journey unfolds
By Mike Williscraft
In what has been a rollercoaster year for the Dunda family of Grimsby, 17-year-old Liam put them at the pinnacle of emotion Saturday.
Liam was drafted in the sixth round by the St. Louis Blues in the National Hockey League’s entry draft.
He knew there was a chance he would get selected and he had been in contact with the Blues throughout the last year. So, was he glued to his TV set anticipating hearing his name?
“My dad and I were outside loading up our second run to the dump. My phone started buzzing like crazy and then my agent called,” recalled Liam of the moment he heard he had been drafted.
“The best was my sister. She came running out of the house in pyjamas, arms waving in the air, screaming.”
For his older brother Riley, his ‘little’ brother’s good fortune meant a slap of reality.
“It’s official, I guess. He is better than me,” said Riley at the family’s kitchen table for all to hear.
“The way he can push to the net, if a team needs a game changing hit he can do that, too, He can change a game,” said Riley, with a caveat as only a brother can deliver.
“He has unreal puck control and that’s what I don’t get. How did you only score two goals in the whole season?” he asked of Liam.
Liam’s defence: “I must have set a record for goalposts this year. In one game against Sudbury I hit eight posts.”
His path to the Ontario Hockey League Owen Sound Attack – where he is currently loving every minute of being part of that organization – started with Grimsby Minor Hockey.
He moved to St. Catharines Falcons AAA for three years of minor atom and another year of pee wee. From there, it was back to back to Grimsby to put some fun back in the game.
“It was great to get to spend some time with my buddies again and we had a great year almost going undefeated in the regular season,” said Liam, who graduated from Central Public School and Grimsby Secondary School.
At 6’4’’ and 215 lbs, Liam has the prototypical frame for a power forward. Which is a good thing since NHL strongmen Brian Bickell and Milan Lucic are two players whose game he would like to emulate.
He said the Blues had followed him closely for a year and checked in to see how he thought his game was, how his training was going and where he thought his game needed to improve.
The draft was a focal point of the weekend and Liam and Riley did park themselves in front of the TV to watch the first two rounds on Friday night.
Liam wanted to see where his best friend, Mitch Marner went. That mystery was solved early on when the Toronto Maple Leafs made Marner the fourth selection overall.
“We became great friends when we played minor midget for the Don Mills Flyers,” noted Liam.
The road to positioning himself to be drafted has not been easy on the ice or off. In the last year, Liam was traded from the OHL’s Plymouth Whalers to Owen Sound, lived with two billet families, attended three high schools and managed to graduate from GSS as an Ontario Scholar.
“We are really proud of him. He has come through a lot,” said his mom, Linda.
And this is nothing to say of the family pulling together last year when Riley suffered a life-threatening stroke in May.
Later this week, Liam takes the next step of his dream to make the NHL as he attends the Blues developmental camp July 5-10. He is also hoping to attend a prospect camp in Traverse City, Mich. in September.
He expects to be back with the Attack for next season and improving his power game so he can get to the next level.