Sean Durzi excelling with Storm after ‘wild’ trade from Maple Leafs

Guelph Storm's Sean Durzi joins the Memorial Cup panel to discuss what's allowed him to lead the tournament in scoring to this point.

HALIFAX — Sean Durzi has undergone a wide range of emotions so far this year.

It was nine days into January when he received an unexpected phone call telling him he had been traded from the Owen Sound Attack to the Guelph Storm in an Ontario Hockey League blockbuster deal that included forwards Nick Suzuki and Zach Roberts.

And then just a few weeks later, another call. This time it was to reveal his NHL rights had been dealt from the Toronto Maple Leafs — a team the Mississauga, Ont., native grew up cheering for — to the Los Angeles Kings along with Carl Grundstrom and a first-round pick.

The return? Jake Muzzin.

“That was wild,” Durzi said Thursday at the Memorial Cup. “It was almost … I didn’t know what to expect. It was my first time going through it and getting traded at the NHL level is completely different than it is at the OHL level.”

One of the first calls he made after the deal was to Suzuki, who had been traded last summer to the Montreal Canadiens for ex-captain Max Pacioretty.

Durzi and Suzuki started their friendship during the first year in the OHL when they were on the same team at training camp and have been close friends ever since.

“He went through it and he called me when he got traded,” Durzi said. “Kind of just talked about what it was like. I couldn’t do anything, I can’t control anything.

“To know that a team wants you that bad, to have you in such a big trade. Jake Muzzin is a guy that I grew up watching and to see him go the other way for myself is almost surreal at times.”

The Storm’s right-handed defenceman has been excelling at this year’s Canadian major junior championship. He leads the tournament in scoring with seven points entering Guelph’s semifinal against the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies on Friday night.

The offensive defenceman has two goals, including one on the power play, to go along with five assists and a plus-five rating. That’s an average of 2.33 points per game.

Guelph coach George Burnett said Durzi’s play at the tournament has been terrific.

“He’s creating offence, he’s worked hard from behind when he’s up the ice,” Burnett said. “He’s a leader from the back end, not just creating offence. He’s a good person.”

Durzi had 27 points in 24 games during the OHL playoffs as the Storm went on an improbable run which included seven wins during elimination games before eventually defeating Ottawa in the final.

A high ankle sprain limited him to 40 regular season games last year with Owen Sound while a separated shoulder kept him out of the lineup for all but 35 regular season games this year.

Burnett said the Storm were aware of Durzi’s injury issues before acquiring him. A reoccurrence of the shoulder injury took place shortly before he arrived in Guelph and Burnett said there was some talk of surgery but is thankful it wasn’t needed.

With the Storm’s season on the line Friday, Burnett is optimistic the blueliner’s strong play will continue.

“We hope he has the best two games of the year coming up,” Burnett said.

Durzi said being drafted by the Maple Leafs in the second round of the 2018 NHL Draft was a huge accomplishment and dream come true.

He said going to Toronto’s training camp last fall was a lot of fun. But he also realizes his trade to the Kings is part of the hockey business.

“My goal is to play in the NHL and whether it’s in LA or Toronto, it doesn’t matter,” Durzi said. “I want to get there and I’m going to do whatever it takes to get there.”

Los Angeles signed the six-foot, 187-pounder to an entry-level contract on April 1 and flew him down to get rehab on injuries earlier this year.

He said signing his first pro deal has given him more confidence which has in turn helped his play.

But Durzi said there’s still a lot to learn and improve on.

“It’s funny because every time you achieve something in this sport, it feels like the work is just getting started.

“It’s true, the work is just getting started now.”

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