PITTSBURGH The numbers werent going to do Cody Payne justice at any level of junior hockey.
The 6-foot-2, 201-pound winger clearly has the ideal size for a power forward in training, but didnt get much of an opportunity to show off his skills playing as a bottom-six forward for the OHLs Plymouth Whalers. The numbers werent breathtaking at all as some scouts watched him struggle to earn more than two or three shifts a game for the Whalers.
But Bruins scouts saw Payne get more of a chance in December when some of his teammates went off to the World Junior tournament.
The 18-year-old skated in a top-six role for Plymouth in a handful of games, and the Bruins saw what they liked: a power forward prospect capable of fighting, protecting the puck and using his size and toughness to create offensive chances. They selected him in the fifth round.
Payne was born in Great Britain, but he came to idolize Bs power forward Nathan Horton while growing up in Florida and watching the Panthers play.
"Theres definitely a player and a certain style that screams out Bruins. Player-wise, Nathan Horton, I grew up watching him here in Florida and he was one of my favorite players and he went to Boston, said Payne. He had that year with eight fights and it was a real good year. Thats something that was pretty inspirational.
"When I think of the Boston Bruins I think of, you know, a hardworking club and grinding hard and fighting and shooting pucks and hitting and a hard forecheck and stuff like that. I mean . . . it sounds like a good fit to me."
Payne started out playing roller hockey in Florida before moving into the junior hockey ranks in Canada as he continued to improve, and the Bruins are banking on that upward trend to improve given his natural athletic gifts.
Hes heard plenty of Tyler Seguin stories given that hes playing for the Bs prospects junior team in Plymouth, and hes also hoping that perhaps he could one day play with the Boston phenom if he puts in enough hard work.
Hes diligently worked to be more effective in a third line role at the OHL level while stuck behind other players, and knows he must improve as a raw prospect known for his hitting, fighting at grittiness at this point in his young career.
Im definitely working on my skating . . . thats one thing. Thats a big thing. Im trying to get faster in order to beat guys wide and stuff like that. Im really working on and developing my hands and my shot and using more of my hands and my shot in games, said Payne. So Im trying to improve game-like situations and using the skill that I do have.