by Brandon Sudeyko (@intheoradio)
This 1998 born forward is use to winning, and winning big. His Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs teams have won two gold medals, a silver medal and an OHF Championship. Personally, Brandon’s trophy case also contains an OMHA MVP award, scoring titles and an OHF MVP award. Last season Saigeon played up with the 97 Hamilton Jr Bulldogs and winning wasn’t an easy task for the team. Despite the Wins-Loss record, Brandon was a stand out on the team; his drive and desire to win was contagious and the Jr Bulldogs adopted a saying relative to the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs, ‘the never say die dogs’. Saigeon may not have been a dominant force in the SCTA last season but he got enough seasoning to be considered a top 10 player heading into his Minor Midget season. Like many players playing up a year, there was a lot of discussion about the 1998 born forward,
‘I heard some of the talk. It hasn’t changed anything really. It’s great to hear such positive things being said about you but there is still so much I have to learn that I cannot be satisfied with where I am now. I want to be consistent so I can play a strong game, every game.’
Family is big to the Brandon and all of his hockey decisions have involved what is best for him and his family. That was one of the factors in deciding to play up with the Minor Midget’s,
‘My family and I talked a lot about it and it came down to the experience. We thought it would be a good experience to play a year up. The guys were bigger, stronger and faster which pushed me to play my best. I really enjoyed the experience and it was worth it. This season will be different than last.’
Knowing what it takes to play at your best in this age group is definitely an advantage to Brandon. There is practically no learning curve or adjustments that he needs to make. And that knowledge comes in handy with the big year looming.
‘This year, my second year, it will definitely be better than my first go around. I have really been training hard. I played in a Summer Pro League with some NHL and OHL players and that was big for me. I am always looking to improve my game. I now know what to expect in a Minor Midget year and will be better prepared for it. So there won’t be any distractions and I can concentrate on my game.’
Even thought he was a year younger than his peers, Brandon never strayed away from his game. And this year he will be able to put it on display at will. Off the ice, there isn’t much difference to Saigeon as what you see off the ice,
‘Off the ice I am pretty quiet and hardworking, whether it is the gym, practices or school. I make sure I maintain my 85% average in school. I enjoy the training for hockey on and off the ice. Being physically fit is a big part of my game. The game gets faster at every level and I want to keep improving my skills and my conditioning. Playing up last year helped me see what it takes to be successful. I think it is important that a team leader leads by example on the ice and supports his teammates off the ice.
Being considered one of the best 42 players in his age group nationwide, and one of the top 10 players in the Ontario region puts Saigeon in a different category of player. Even though there are many forwards who may be slightly faster, or stronger, or who is better at scoring, it is hard pressed to find the complete package that Brandon possesses,
‘I am very competitive and want to do whatever it takes to win every time. I’m never satisfied with my game and always want to get better. I can adapt to whatever style of game is being played in front of me. I’m versatile and can play a rough, physical game or I can just use my skill in a fast pace game. I like to consider myself a big game player and I enjoy the challenge of having the puck on my stick in the last minute of a close game.’
When asked to take a look at his game, Brandon came up with three areas where he feels he is strong at, but is quick to point out that there is still work to do and focusing on any weakened areas is a must through the season.
‘There are three strong areas to my game: skating ability, offensive mind and a fast shot. My skating coach Kelly Reed has really improved my stride and quickness. I shoot a lot of pucks every day so my shot is always improving. I don’t mind the physical aspect of the game but my real strength is putting the puck in the net. One of my hidden assets is my leadership qualities. This season is very important to the team as a whole, and I want to be one of those guys who can bring the team together and help the team get better every single game. I really want to improve my game all over especially having an explosive start. I played up in the summer pro league and noticed how they have such fast starts and really quick acceleration. That is what I want to improve this season.’
When playing up a year you have to heavily weigh the pros and cons. You don’t want to hurt yourself developmentally or defeat yourself mentally because you are unable to be the player you could be at the level with your peers. Consulting with his family helped Brandon determine the pros and cons of hisfirst year at the Minor Midget level,
‘I think the biggest advantage of playing up is that it prepared me for my Minor Midget year. Our team had a chance to play in many of the big tournaments. I think it prepared me mentally playing against the older players and it helped developed my game. I enjoyed playing against Oakville. They had a great team. I realized that you have to go all out on every shift to be able to compete. I can’t really think of any disadvantages about playing up. It really helped me improved as a hockey player.’
Of course Brandon was one of 42 selected to take part in the All State All Canadians Mentorship camp and he got his own moment in the spotlight, scoring on a penalty shot. The experience is said to be like none other and it is something that the young forward will never forget.
‘The camp was amazing. It was great to be picked as one of the top 42 players in Canada. There are a lot of good players especially in Ontario and I was really honoured to be selected. They did everything for us at the camp. They provided equipment, sticks, hotel rooms and meals. We took part in trips to the hockey hall of fame and a Blue Jay game and had different seminars from motivational speakers to Sports psychologists. Referee Kerry Fraser and Brian Williams from CBC also spoke to us. Gary Roberts and his staff did the nutrition and off-ice training and the NHLPA ran the one ice practices with NHL players and Coaches. We had about 4-5 hours of training everyday which was great for our conditioning to prepare for the game. The game itself was the best part; I don't think I've ever played in front of so many fans. The game was close and pretty fast paced. I had a penalty shot in the third to tie up the game. I was shooting on a great goalie so I did my best to make the shot count and luckily that gave our team a boost. Jason Spezza was really fun to play for as a main coach and we had Skinner and Del Zotto as assistants. Training and playing with the best players in Canada was an overall great experience for all of us.’