By David Fleet
A former Brandon Township resident has moved one step closer to the NHL.
Ben Gleason, 18, was invited and participated in the Combine at First Niagara Center and the Harbor Center May 30-June 3 in downtown Buffalo, NY. The annual event provides NHL teams the opportunity for 20-minute, 1-on-1 interviews with the top hockey prospects. Gleason was selected to attend the Combine as one of 120 of the top NHL prospects worldwide.
The Combine features no skating, rather several days of rigorous testing for stamina, flexibility necessary for professional hockey.
“It was the hardest thing I’ve done so far in my career,” said Gleason. “There were 10 NHL teams that were interested in me and the interviews went very well. I finished in the top 40 percent of all the skaters that attended the Combine.”
Gleason could not disclose which teams were interested.
At 6-foot and 178-pounds, was drafted by the London Knights as the 36th draft pick overall in the second round of Ontario Hockey League’s 2014 Priority Selection. The OHL is part of the Canadian Hockey League—a development hockey league with 60 teams in nine Canadian provinces and five American states. Many players move on to the National Hockey League after playing in the OHL. In late April 2014 Gleason joined the Knights in London, about two hours from Ortonville, where he resided with a billet family while attending the Blyth Academy. He graduated high school this spring. On Oct. 7, 2015 Gleason was acquired and traded to the Hamilton Bulldogs. This past season he played in 64 games with 7 goals and 25 assists. The Bulldogs did not make the playoffs.
“I’m a year or so away from the NHL but it’s a step in the right direction,” said Gleason.
“I went from 5 minutes per game with London to 25 minutes a game with Hamilton. It was a change, but in the right direction for me.”
Gleason’s path in professional hockey has been very positive so far.
On Sept. 24, 2015, Gleason was among 42 of the 2016 NHL draft-eligible players that participated in the 2015 CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects game at the First Niagara Centre in Buffalo, NY. Each year the top U.S. players who are eligible for the upcoming NHL entry draft are selected for the competition.
According to USA Hockey, 26 players that participated in the contest last year went on to be chosen in the 2015 NHL entry draft, including seven first-round selections.
“It was an honor to play on Team USA in Buffalo, said Gleason. “All the NHL teams were represented at the game.”
In 2014 Gleason, as a Brandon High School sophomore, was considered one of the top defenseman on a U18 Detroit Honeybaked travel team stocked with talent.