Former Juan de Fuca bantam T1 Grizzlies head coach Jason Mohr vividly remembers the first time View Royal product Payton Mount caught his attention.
It was a fall 2015 exhibition game against Cowichan and Mohr decided to give his second-year players a rest while testing the mettle of his young guns, which included Mount.
“We beat them 8-0 and he had five goals and probably two assists. I couldn’t even believe it … I was in awe just watching this kid play,” Mohr said.
Mount, a forward, was recently taken by the Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds in the first round (19th overall) of the league’s annual bantam draft, a result that was anything but surprising for Mohr, who praised his former player’s work ethic and commitment.
“Throughout the season, whenever you needed those big goals, he got them for you,” he continued. “When he would come down one on one, he’s looking for a place to score. Most players are just looking to get a shot off on net at that age. He’s picking a spot in the net where he’s going to snipe it.”
Mount helped the Grizzlies to a regular season title and a playoff runner-up finish in 2015-16 before taking his talents to the Lower Mainland and the Delta Hockey Academy.
“I think (JDF minor hockey) helped me improve every year. I think I got better every year that I played and it just helped me for this season that I just had, where I think I did pretty well,” Mount said.
He put up 30 goals and 37 assists in 30 regular season games in Delta, adding seven points in five playoff games.
He was in Philadelphia playing for the Western Canada squad in the U15 World Selects Invitational when he received a text from his dad that he’d been taken by Seattle.
“It was very exciting to get drafted by Seattle. (It’s) definitely one of (my) dreams come true to play at the junior level. That’s just one step of making it all the way to the NHL,” he said, adding that he’s happy to have a chance to remain fairly close to home.
The pros might seem like a lofty goal, but Mohr wouldn’t dismiss the possibility for his former star centre.
“It’s always a tough call, because you have to see him at the next level first … but I always said that (he’s) the first kid I’ve coached that could actually make it to the NHL,” he said.
Mount credits Mohr with teaching him a solid 200-foot game and teaching him the physical side of the game, with bantam being the first year that players are introduced to hitting.
At 15, Mount won’t be eligible for a full-time position with the Thunderbirds next season because of his age. Instead, he’ll be eligible to join the big club for a handful of games while continuing to develop with Delta. The Thunderbirds’ camp will likely take place towards the end of August.
“I just hope to showcase myself as best as possible. Show them that I’m a team player that works hard,” he said.