By Tim Morris
With the playoff push underway, first-year Ottawa Junior Senators forward Max Bush is one of the players the team is counting on.
Bush, made the big leap up from the CCHL2 Ottawa West Golden Knights this season, and as expected there was an adjustment period. But, now some 40 games into the season, Bush no longer feels like a rookie.
“I had never played top level hockey,” said the 18-year-old Bush, a native of Ontario who has been playing organized hockey since he was eight. “I knew I had to be a lot better to be able to compete here.”
“Making the jump from Junior B to A was big,” he added. “Marty (GM & Head Coach Dagenais) told me to focus on the defensive end. He told me the points would come in time so I took care of defense first.”
While Ottawa’s bench boss had Bush playing on the penalty skill unit as his first-year forward went through his learning curve, Bush gradually earned more ice time because of the intangibles, and has posted four goals and three assists on the season.
“I’m not the biggest or fastest,” Bush pointed out. “I play scrappy, I finish my hit, I go in the corner getting the puck. It’s the biggest part of the game.”
It’s the little things like that that make a difference in a game and a player that any coach would value.
“The players on our team know that we don’t look at points. We want guys that play the right way, and Max does that every night. He’ll be with us for another two years, that’s for sure. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s one of our leaders in his overage year”, said Dagenais.
What surprised Bush the most about the jump from B to A was how smart all the players are. He expected the players to be bigger, faster and stronger, but what impressed him was the “intelligence” of all the players, how quick they are to make decisions on the ice. Keeping up with everyone was a challenge.
“It took a little while to find my confidence,” he explained. “Now, I find that I’m holding the puck for a longer time. Instead of rushing the play and dumping the puck into the corner, I’m making the pass or taking the shot when it’s there.”
Having caught up with the speed of the game, Bush is now proactive, thinking less and being more aggressive, being more involved in the offense.
While he was finding his game, Bush received a lot of help from his new teammates.
“I like our team,” he said. “I’m creating bonds and friendships on the team. It’s a good group and that has been a big help.”
Bush joined a franchise that has won the last two Bogart and Fred Page Cups. He is looking forward to being a member of another Junior Senators championship team.
“I can see us going deep in the playoffs,” said Bush.
The pressure of the playoffs will not be too much for the youngster to handle. That’s because Bush is also a member of the Canadian National Ball Hockey Team and has competed internationally in the summer with the team in Slovakia and Finland.
Bush pointed out that there are many similarities between ice hockey and ball hockey that is played on-foot on non-ice surfaces such as indoor gyms or outdoor parks.
“The offensive and defensive set ups are the same,” he remarked.
And, there are differences.
“It’s hard to transition (defense to offense) and you run at all times,” Bush said.
For now, Bush’s focus is on skating and helping Ottawa win.