Loubardias: Stone ready for big stage

Peter LoubardiasInternational Events0 Comments

There are some scenes you never forget.

One for me was following game five of the WHL’s Eastern Conference Final between the Calgary Hitmen and the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Memorial Cup hosting Wheat Kings had just suffered a fourth straight loss to the Hitmen, ending their hopes of going into the CHL’s premier event through the front door.

In the hallway were the two Stone brothers, victorious Michael of the Hitmen and Brandon’s Mark. I will never ever forget watching Michael consoling his little brother. It was tough to witness.

In Mark Stone that April eve, I saw a young man with pride and heart who hated to lose. The driving force behind what right now might be the Canadian Hockey League’s most impressive start to the seaaon. The 19-year-old draft pick of the Ottawa Senators is the WHL’s leading scorer with 54 points in 22 games.

In those 22 games, Stone has only been shutout once and features no less than 19 multi-point games. Phenomenal beginning. Stone is the reigning league player of the week coming off his third four-point game of the season Sunday night in Moose Jaw.

If you happened to attend the National Junior Team’s summer evaluation camp in Edmonton in August, the true coming out party was ready to be unleashed. The Winnipeg product was terrific, performing on a line with Columbus centre Ryan Johansen and Jonathan Huberdeau and more than held his own doing what he does so well, scoring. Stone is not the world’s best skater, but I see tremendous improvement in that part of his game, which has truly elevated him into a different stratosphere.

I will be shocked if Mark Stone doesn’t get an opportunity to show his skills to the world come Boxing Day in a Team Canada uniform. When he takes the ice that day against the Finns, I will be rooting him and thinking about that night in April of 2010.

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