Stittsville hockey players Lucas Prud’homme and Kyler LeBoutillier drafted to the OHL in the Priority Selection Draft

(Being best friends since age 4, Stittsville boys Lucas Prud’homme and Kyler LeBoutillier found themselves drafted in the OHL Priority Selection Draft on April 22, 2023. Prud’homme was drafted from the Renfrew Wolves to the Owen Sound Attack. LeBoutillier played for the Pembroke Lumber Kings and was drafted to the Barrie Colts. Photos: Kaitlyn LeBoutillier)

Any young competitive hockey player dreams of playing at the next level or “going all the way” and for many Canadian hockey players, getting drafted to the OHL is an important step. The 2023 OHL Priority Selection Draft took place over the weekend of April 21-23 and two players from Stittsville found their names being called.

Lucas Prud’homme was selected in the fifth round, 91st overall by the Owen Sound Attack, and Kyler LeBoutillier in the 12th round, 232nd overall by the Barrie Colts. Both boys grew up playing hockey in Stittsville and have played with or against each other for the past twelve years.

To understand the lengthy history between Kyler and Lucas’s time playing hockey in Stittsville, let me take you back to the beginning.

IP hockey is where most kids learn to skate, pass, and shoot, but for Kyler, in his first game, he learned how to take a hit. Picture four-year-old Kyler LeBoutillier finally getting ahold of the puck and immediately getting rammed head first into the boards. Not a great way to start your minor hockey career.

Unsurprisingly, Kyler’s father, Jon, was not all that impressed with the physicality. He made his way over to the bench and told the trainer to “get that kid off the ice right now and tell him he can’t do that.” Unbeknownst to Jon, it was “that kid’s” dad he was talking to, and who was that kid? No one other than Lucas Prud’homme.

So it wasn’t exactly a fast friendship between Kyler and Lucas. Except, maybe it was because Kyler got up off the ice and chased after the puck as if nothing happened.

Luckily, the four-year-old’s on-ice rivalry was short-lived, as soon, they would be on the same team. Once competitive youth hockey started in U9, both Kyler and Lucas would try out for the Ottawa Valley Silver Seven.

 (The Silver Seven U9 team were champions in the 2015 Youth Classic.)

“Trying out for silver seven, first year, I didn’t expect to make it and we ended up making it together, me and Lucas, and that was what made it really fun,” Kyler says when asked about the moment he realized his love for the sport.

The boys would continue to play together for most of their years in Silver Seven. Except for one year in the middle where Kyler, who often found himself on the bubble, ended up getting cut from the Silver Seven team he had been a part of so many times before. Many players would see this as a set back, or a sign that they weren’t good enough. While Kyler wasn’t thrilled he was no longer playing with his best friends on a highly competitive team, he saw it as an opportunity. “Getting cut from silver seven, I got to be one of the better players on a weaker team. It taught me how to lead a team in a sense and rely on teammates in a different way,” Kyler says.

 (The 2020 U13 Titans hockey team.)

In U13, Hockey Eastern Ontario introduces AAA hockey. After his years of being on the bubble at the end of tryouts and one instance of being cut, Kyler and his family were nervous heading into Titans AAA tryouts and admittedly a little surprised when he ultimately made the team. But when Kyler’s parents asked him if he was surprised he made the team, all the then twelve-year-old had to say was, “No, I worked my ass off!” That was when Kyler and his family realized the kind of player he would have to be in order to keep playing at a high level. He was never the biggest guy on the ice, or the fanciest stick handler who scored highlight-reel goals. Don’t get me wrong, he had and still has lots of talent, but what set him apart was his hustle and the “loose-canon” quality his first Titans coach saw in him.

 (Lucas Prud’homme poses for his 2020 AAA Silver Sevens Titans player photo.)

On the other hand, Lucas was a little more sure of himself in tryouts. He was always a leading scorer on the Silver Seven teams, helping the team secure championships. Both boys made the team and once again found themselves as teammates, working together to win championships.

Having played together all throughout minor hockey, the Silver Seven and Titans boys formed a bond unlike any other. Kyler would go to Lucas’s cottage to get thrown off a tube by his dad and Lucas would always be at Kyler’s house on snow days having Nerf battles or building snow forts.

Being able to grow up with the same group of friends might be a common experience for many kids, but doing it with a group of guys you go to battle with on the ice with day in and day out is a experience that is more unique. Lucas comments that it was a “great experience growing up together and growing up playing with a kid like (Kyler), it just makes your game that much better and your life that much more fun and entertaining. Being able to hold that friendship along the way is great. I mean, friendships don’t always work out but this has always been a good thing that we’ve had, so it’s nice to see how far we’ve come.”

Somewhere in the middle of their seasons, Covid-19 slowed things down. The boys only trained on-ice, at home, and many times, on the outdoor rink. Kyler, Lucas, and many other hockey players struggled with the time away from playing actual hockey games. They were competitive players by nature and missed competing at a high level. Compete level wasn’t the only thing they were missing though. Many boys love hockey because of the friendships they made along the way and as Kyler says, “with covid the social aspect of the game was gone, we were seperated. It made it a little harder to play and some of that love for the game went away a bit.” Lucas agrees in saying, “since everythings died down its been really nice having hockey going again and going back to public school again.” 

When things finally started their return to normal after Covid restrictions lessened, Kyler returned to the Titans team, however, this time it would be without Lucas. Following Ontario Public Health guidelines, Titans had a year of just on-ice training and no games. It was in this year Lucas took the opportunity to go to Boston to play hockey. 

“It was a nice place to go, I had a great time. What led to it was the Covid shut downs in Ontario. I just wanted a place to play hockey and be on the ice,” Lucas shares. “I ended up coming back because, I was there for two years and was at a private school before Boston and it was a long time without seeing the Stittsville guys like Kyler and my other friends from home. Coming back and going to Sacred Heart is so nice and ultimately, one of the deciding factors was seeing the boys again and creating those bonds that we had before (I left).” 

(In 2016, the boys had a blast at the Silver Sevens night at an Ottawa Senators game.)

In the two years Lucas was gone, Kyler trained with the Titans and then returned to playing the following year. Tryouts were still a little nerve-wracking, but he made the team with a little more confidence this time. Partway through his last season with the Titans, after playing competitive hockey for six years and always making the team as a defence, Kyler’s coaches moved him up to the wing.

Throughout the season he worked to learn to play forward and by the end, found himself on the first line, starting games, playing alongside his captain. After years of playing back as a defence, Kyler found a new role for himself, digging in the corners and backchecking hard. This proved to be a good use of his physical “loose-canon” style of playing. 

When asked about the transition from the blueline, Kyler jokes, “Well, I kinda wish I stayed on D because everyone needs a right-handed defenceman right now.” But ultimately said, “It was good to go to forward and try something new. I would definitely say that different parts of my game got better with making that transition. I developed better hands. It was a hard switch but I figured it out.” 

Both boys experienced a new kind of hockey coming out of Covid. Kyler was figuring out a new position while Lucas was figuring out playing in a different country. But one thing that never changed was the friendships hockey helped them form. Even when he was in Boston, Lucas would support his friends and former teammates. He’d come home at Christmas and American Thanksgiving and be sure to catch a few Titans games and cheer on his friends while he was back. 

When asked about playing hockey and how a hobby became a passion, both boys commented on the friendships they made along the way. Lucas said, “I definitely say I developed my passion and love for the game just with the friendships I made, like Kyler and all the guys I’ve met along my journey. So that really hold a special place.” That friendship is always obvious when they are playing on the ice together, but it is in their years apart and playing against each other that it becomes clear just how strong the bond hockey form really is. 

Despite being types of different players and definitely being different-sized players, one thing Kyler and Lucas have in common is their love for a big hit. Once contact hockey was introduced in AAA, the two boys found a way to use their physicality without getting penalties – although they both still spend their fair share of time in the box. Contact hockey changes the game as players can take on new roles on their team and learn to help their team get a win in a way other than scoring, not that either boy ever had trouble finding the back of the next.  

When asked about their favourite part of their game, Lucas and Kyler had similar answers. “I’d say my favourite part is probably my shot, I like to shoot the puck. Physicality definitely makes the game more fun,” Kyler comments. “My favorite part of the game is the physical aspect. I like hitting guys, it makes the game entertaining. My shot too, that’s definitely a strength of mine, I’ve always relied on it,” Lucas agrees.

Kyler and Lucas, alongside their love for big checks, found a way to tally points in their respective leagues during their finals season before the U18 Protected Draft. While in Boston for his final season, Lucas scored 48 goals and had 18 assist, racking up a total of 66 points in 46 games. For the Titans, Kyler put up 11 goals and five assists, amounting to 16 points in 25 games.

 (Lucas Prud’homme played wing for the Renfrew Wolves in the HEO U18AAA league when he returned from playing in Boston.)

Both boys had a strong season leading into their U18-protected draft years. Lucas made the decision to come home and play in the HEO U18AAA league but as a result of playing in Boston, he would not be draft eligible. However, he would end up trying out for the already stacked Renfrew Wolves team and making it as a second-line winger. Kyler, on the other hand, was drafted in the second round, by the Pembroke Lumber Kings. He would also make the roster as a winger.

And just like that, Kyler and Lucas were back to being opponents, playing against each other in the same league just like they had many times before. “Man, I love playing with Lucas but playing against him sucks. Always gotta keep your head up,” Kyler comments.  For Lucas, playing HEO U18AAA was a bit like a homecoming, getting to play at the Bell Sensplex again, playing with and against guys he’d known since Timbits hockey.

Both boys enjoyed their season in the U18AAA league. “I loved our league, it was so much fun. We got to see every team play every night and got to see everyone. I’m kinda sad it’s going away now,” Kyler says. “It was a great experience playing against older guys. Just getting to see the compete level they have. It’s a new switch playing with older guys, you develop new skills and are constantly reminded to keep your head up and keep up your physicality, especially as a younger guy you have to bring that to the game. I loved U18 and it was a great experience,” Lucas follows up. 

When it came time for the 2023 OHL Priority Selection draft, the feelings of the Prud’homme and LeBoutillier families respectively were different in the same way they had been all throughout minor hockey. Lucas had been invited to the draft combine, put up good numbers, and was projected to go within the top 100 picks. He had proved himself to be a good player and comments “I was more curious than nervous. Just seeing where I would end up and what opportunities might come my way.” 

Kyler, on the other hand, didn’t expect too much heading into the draft. He wasn’t really projected to be picked high and although he had attended the Sports Illustrated Pre-Draft Showcase, he didn’t make the all-star team and felt he might have lost out on his chance to get noticed. Yet, he still says, “I wouldn’t say I was nervous heading into the draft. I was ready to expect anything. You know, if it happens it happens, if not I’d keep grinding and try to find another way.” 

Yet the two small-town kids were selected in their respective rounds and will both have to chance to try and make their OHL teams. On his reaction to being drafted alongside on of his best friends, Lucas comments, “it’s so fun to see how players like me and Kyler have developed and see this reward for how hard we’ve worked.” Though the two 16-year-olds likely won’t hit the ice in the “O” this coming season, the boys are not going to stop putting in the work, preparing for the day that phone call comes. 

After getting drafted, Kyler travelled to Barrie to be introduced on-ice before the Colts’ playoff game six matchup against the North Bay Battalion. Regarding the experience of going to Barrie and seeing all the other draft picks, Kyler says, “I’m excited to go to camp and see what’s out there. To see all the guys who didn’t make it this year and see what it does take to make the OHL eventually.”

Talking about his own team, Owen Sound, Lucas comments “I haven’t gone to camp yet, Owen Sound doesn’t have camp. But based off talking with other draft picks and players it just seems really good there. Even seeing pictures of Owen Sound and the beach and all that seems really nice, so I’m looking forward to starting that new adventure and what the future holds.”

When asked about their plans for the upcoming season, Kyler says, “I have no clue where I’m playing but hopefully just getting lots of ice and having a lot of working out to do and getting ready for the OHL.” Lucas agrees in saying, “lots of training on and off the ice will lead you to be a better player so I’m looking forward to this summer to see how hard I can go and how much I can evolve as a player and a person.” The boys might not have solidified their plans for next season, but there is no doubt they will be working hard to claim a spot on an OHL roster.

That’s the interesting part about minor hockey. There is no exact roadmap or formula to make it to the NHL or even make it to the OHL. There are so many different options and routes to take, sometimes that involve going to the United States, being cut from a team and making another, being drafted first overall or last, but one thing it always involves is, in the words of Kyler LeBoutillier, “working your ass off.” All of the athletes this year, drafted or undrafted, put so much time and effort into their sport and for Lucas Prud’homme and Kyler LeBoutillier, it paid off. Congratulations to both boys and best of luck as they try to make their respective OHL rosters in the years to come!

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