It’s been something of a roller coaster season for Danny Pion. The big left winger spent the first part of the campaign with one of the top teams in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHL) before being dealt to a squad near the bottom of the table. Now he plays for one of the best teams in the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL).
GM/Coach Martin Dagenais acquired the 19-year-old on Jan. 10 in a trade with the MJHL’s Dauphin Kings. It was a chance for the Gatineau resident to return home and Pion hit the ground running, tallying three goals and seven assists in his first 12 games with the Junior Senators, including a game-winner against the Nepean Raiders.
“When I got here I expected to play an offensive role and I started out scoring a lot of points, but I actually think I’ve played better since then,” Pion said. “The Junior Senators stress defense and you have to pay attention to that side of the ice if you want to stay in the lineup.”
As a result, Pion has earned a spot on the first penalty kill unit. His work ethic, anticipation and ability to win face-offs have paid dividends. Dagenais has also rewarded Pion’s efforts with occasional shifts on the power play. For regular shifts, the 6-2, 190-pounder usually skates with Ethan Manderville and either Conor Smart or Griffin McGregor.
“I have a big body and I like to hit and play in traffic,” Pion said. “For Ottawa the PK has really become my game and I’m proud to be on the ice for important situations. The coaches even use me to take important draws when we’re down two men.”
Pion began his junior career with the Nainamo Clippers of the British Columbia Hockey League in 2016 and was traded in mid-season to the Steinbach Pistons, a perennial favorite in the MJHL. In 43 matches over parts of two seasons, the 19-year-old posted 30 points for the Pistons. Earlier this season Steinbach sent him to the Dauphin Kings, where he had four goals and 12 assists in 12 games.
Despite his success for Dauphin, Pion knew in his heart that he wanted to play closer to home. Even though he was not all that familiar with the Junior Senators, Pion welcomed the chance to head back east.
“I’d heard a little bit about the Junior Senators and a few of my friends played here, then I heard about the Fred Page Cup and that was pretty exciting,” he said. “When I got here it didn’t take long to realize that this is a really good and talented team.”
Pion is working to finish high school and eventually plans to study part-time at Ottawa University, while he pursues a Division 1 hockey scholarship. Now, however, he is focused on winning the Bogart Cup. Thus far, Pion has been solid defensively and has pitched in with four assists over his first nine playoff matches.
“I really like the playoffs; it’s what everyone has been waiting for all year,” Pion said. “The games are tighter and more intense. Everything is harder. That’s’ why it’s such a great challenge.”