By Rowan McCarthy
After winning back to back CCHL championships with the Ottawa Junior Senators (OJS), James Taylor has committed to play Division I hockey at the University of Maine.
“I’m extremely honoured and proud to announce my commitment to play Division I hockey at the University of Maine,” said Taylor. “I would like to give a big thanks to all the previous organizations I’ve played for as well as the coaches and teammates who helped me along the way.”
Taylor’s road to Division I hockey started in 2019 when he was selected in the 6th round of the bantam protected draft by the Ottawa Junior Senators. Prior to his selection, Taylor had played AA hockey for the Ottawa Sting.
He would go on to play two seasons of U18 AAA hockey under coach Steven Malette.
In his first year of U18, it was evident that Taylor had massive potential, however, the finer points of his game needed refinement.
“[Taylor’s] hard work, especially with respect to improving his skating, started to pay huge dividends,” said Malette. “He became an impactful player on the ice helping lead the team to a 1st place overall finish in league standings.”
Though his second season was marred by the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, Taylor’s ability flourished on the ice.
“Opponents were unable to control his large frame and strength as he dominated puck battles both in the corners and in front of the net,” said Malette.
Due to his dominance, it was clear Taylor’s time at U18 was at an end. However, Malette would often ask Taylor to host seminars for younger U18 players holding him up as an example for them to follow.
Adjusting to life at the Junior A level is never simple. At 17 years old Taylor logged 46 games for the Ottawa Junior Senators (an accomplishment for a player that age). However, with only 2 goals and 7 assists, his impact was rarely felt on the scoreboard.
Taylor was always eager to apply feedback from his coaches and focus on playing hockey the right way. He adjusted to the fast paced hard hitting style of the CCHL and learned how to use his size to his advantage. He constantly worked to improve his game.
“While he was with us at OJS we watched him consistently improve his play while being a model teammate,” said former OJS head coach Kyle Makaric. “He worked tirelessly on the ice and in the gym. He played a big role in our success as a team.”
Through his hard work he developed into a reliable 200-foot player who was excellent on the draw. He became an impactful net front presence on the power play and an unstoppable force below the goal line seemingly able to drive pucks to the net at will. Makaric often deployed Taylor against the opponents top players knowing he would make their nights difficult.
These changes showed on the scoreboard. In 52 games, Taylor recorded 14 goals and 21 assists for a total of 35 points, nearly tripling the output from his rookie season in the CCHL.
On top of his individual success, Taylor played an integral role in the Ottawa Junior Senators’ 2021-22 (Estevan, Sask.) and 2022-23 (Portage la Prairie Man.) trips to the Centennial Cup. The big bodied forward logged heavy minutes and was counted on regularly to not only play against but to shut down the opposing team’s best players.
Current Ottawa Junior Senators General Manager Stuart Battrick coached Taylor in both years he played for the team. “It was a pleasure to watch him grow as an individual over the years, he’s a real testament to what can be accomplished when one dedicates themselves to the process, ” said Battrick. “I couldn’t be more proud of James who started as a AA player and worked his way through our system to attain his goal of a D1 commitment.”
Taylor will join former teammates Thomas Freel and Bodie Nobes at the University of Maine. Although Freel was a veteran during Taylor’s rookie season the two have walked a very similar path to the University of Maine. Freel also played AA hockey with the Ottawa Sting prior to his selection in the 8th round of the 2016 bantam protected draft.
The Ottawa Junior Senators are very proud of James, and look forward to seeing everything that he will accomplish moving forward.