Judson gets taste of Memorial Cup experience

FORT FRANCES—Emo: Home of Luke Judson.
The sign leading into the village on Highway 11/71 west of Fort Frances doesn’t read like that now, but if Luke Judson continues on the path he’s on, it may soon say just that.
Judson spent the last couple of weeks taking in all the Memorial Cup had to offer as a spare for the OHL’s Belleville Bulls, and certainly enjoyed practising and preparing alongside teammates and Canadian junior standouts Shawn Matthias and P.K. Subban.
“Guys like that can teach you a lot,” the 17-year-old said in a telephone interview after a team practice the day before his Bulls were trounced 9-0 in the semi-finals by the host Kitchener Rangers.
“They’ve been in the league for a while and they know what kinds of things will help you develop and improve,” he noted.
Judson spent most of the winter with the Thunder Bay Bearcats in the Superior International Junior Hockey League, registering 18 goals and 20 assists in just 37 regular-season games in his first year in the league.
“I learned to play with the bigger, stronger guys at the start of the year and it was an adjustment,” admitted Judson. “But I think you learn how to compete with them in the corners and once you start winning some battles, it just gets easier as the year goes on.”
Judson followed up his strong regular-season effort by scoring four goals (two of which were game-winners) and assisting on two others in eight playoff games with the Bearcats while racking up 34 minutes in penalties.
Judson prides himself on being a physical presence, so penalties inevitably are part of his game.
“I try to get in the corners and muck it out, and just get to the net hard and get some crash-and-bang goals,” he said matter-of-factly. “I’m maybe not the prettiest hockey player, but I try to get the job done any way I can.”
Judson has had a hockey season similar to what a Stanley Cup finalist would endure going late into May—and is looking forward to recharging the batteries a bit once he gets home to Emo.
“It’s been a long year, and I think I’ll maybe take a couple weeks’ break and then just get right back to work [training],” he noted.
“I need to finish my school out in Fort Frances, which will be the third school I’ve been in this semester with Thunder Bay and Belleville so it’s tough, but every player has to deal with it.”
Judson also had a cup of coffee with the Bulls during the OHL’s regular season, netting four points in the 10 games he appeared in.
“It’s a whole different level of hockey to adapt to but I think, for the most part, I showed that I can compete in this league and hopefully they realize that for next year,” he remarked.
It would appear as though Judson is being considered for a roster spot for next season, especially considering the Bulls kept him around to soak up some much-needed experience during their Memorial Cup run.
“I’m hoping to [make it],” said Judson. “It all depends on if I work hard throughout the summer and keep in good shape and come to [training] camp ready to make an impact.
“Always something to build on and improve on, and I’m just going to try to continue to get better for next year,” he added. “That’s my goal.”
Judson plans to spend June and July in the Emo area working on his conditioning in the gym, then expects to go to Thunder Bay in August to train with Jeff and Gary Ricciardi, as well as get some ice time in preparation for the season.
“He [Jeff] was great for me last summer,” noted Judson. “He played pro in Chicago’s farm system and in Europe, and he knows all the ins and outs.”
The Ricciardi’s Core Hockey Camp is highly-respected, with NHL pros like the Staals, Patrick Sharp, Taylor Pyatt, and Alex Auld using it in previous years to prepare for the rigours of a pro hockey season.
Rest assured, Judson will be in good hands as he prepares to take the next step.
And if all goes well, maybe that sign leading into Emo will be due for an addition sooner rather than later.
(Fort Frances Times)