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Hard work helps Bailey grab the spotlight

by Aaron Bell

Joshua Bailey scored seven goals and 26 points as a rookie in Owen Sound, but took a giant step forward last season, scoring 22 goals and 61 points in 69 games.
Josh Bailey knows hard work can take you a long way in the game of hockey, and he doesn’t have to look any further than Windsor Spitfires coach Bob Boughner for proof.

Bailey is a gifted player with great wheels and outstanding vision on the ice, but Boughner made a career out of hard work and says that it’s Bailey’s determination that will take him to the next level.

“Josh has got that goal (of being drafted), but he’s very focused on not just being a drafted player,” Boughner told the Windsor Star. “I’ve played with a lot of talented guys and he’s got that high-end skill. He’s got the talent to be a top-six forward for (an NHL) team.”

Bailey was a first-round OHL pick of the Owen Sound Attack in 2005, but was shipped to Windsor midway through last season for veteran goalie Anthony Guadagnolo. Owen Sound was looking to make a run at the league championship while Bailey was happy to get the opportunity to play more after stepping out of the shadows of first-round NHL draft picks Bobby Ryan and Trevor Lewis.

”I think everyone in the league realizes he’s a great player, but last year he played behind Ryan and Lewis and he was overshadowed,” Boughner said. “He came here and put up points, but we were rebuilding. This year’s the first time he’s starting to get respect.”

Bailey scored seven goals and 26 points as a rookie in Owen Sound, but took a giant step forward last season, scoring 22 goals and 61 points in 69 games.

He already has seven goals and 20 assists in 22 games this season and consistently is one of the best players on the ice. The Bowmanville, Ontario native started this season with a 14-game point-scoring streak and has been held off the score sheet just four times in 22 games.

In their preliminary rankings released last week, McKeen’s ranked Bailey as the 10th-best prospect for this summer’s NHL Entry Draft in Ottawa. Bailey said he doesn’t pay much attention to the rankings, but admits that he feels the pressure of being in his draft year.

“I guess so – a bit,” Bailey said. “But the past couple of years I’ve put pressure on myself to perform. That’s what you’re here for, you’ve got to play hockey and play the best you can. That’s what I’m trying to do.”

The Spitfires have been one of the biggest surprises in the OHL during the first quarter of the season. After finishing with just 18 wins and out of the playoffs a year ago, they have turned their program around. They already have 13 wins in 22 games and are in first place in the West Division. The Spitfires stormed out of the gate with five straight wins to start the year and Bailey said that helped build their confidence after a tough 2006-07 season.

“We want to come in first place like any other team,” Bailey said. “That’s our first priority and there’s a lot of motivation for us. We’re a lot older. We’ve got a lot of guys back and we picked up a few key guys over the off-season. Our coaching has been great, too, and all of those things have kind of come together and the guys are really gelling well.”

Boughner is in his second season behind the Spitfires’ bench after purchasing the team with fellow NHL alumnus Warren Rychel in 2006. Between them, they piled up 2,800 penalty minutes in the NHL and have instilled an outstanding work ethic into their squad.

“We’re not the kind of team to set up and trap,” Bailey said. “We just keep going all out for a full 60 minutes and we just have to keep the same game plan. Any team can beat any team in this league. We can’t come out sluggish.”

It’s no surprise Bailey has thrived while playing for Boughner. He is willing to go to the high-traffic areas and uses his 6-foot, 200-pound frame to create room. He worked hard in the summer to get stronger and said the results already are showing.

“I think it’s made a big difference,” said Bailey, who will play in the CHL’s Canada-Russia Series later this month. “Hard work over the summer pays off. You might not think that when you’re at the gym for a couple of hours every day – it kind of wears on you a little bit. But it’s all worth it when you get to camp and start performing well. It all pays off in the end and I think it’s paid off pretty well so far.”

Despite the high praise from his coaches and scouts, Bailey is determined to improve his already impressive two-way game. He says the added strength has helped him compete against older players in the OHL.

“I want to be a little more physical,” said Bailey, who played in the OHL All-Star Game last January. “When you get a little bit bigger, I feel more comfortable going into the corners and throwing my weight around. When you’re bigger, you’re stronger, you’re faster, you have a lot more confidence when you’re going in against a guy bigger than you or the same size.”

Bailey picked up a pair of assists in a 5-1 win in Barrie over the Colts that ended Windsor’s six-game losing streak on the weekend. He said it was important that the team broke out of its recent funk.

“As the games have gone on, we’ve started to expect (to win) now,” Bailey said. “If we go into a game and don’t get two points we look at it as a failure. We’ve got a lot of confidence in ourselves and we’ve been working really hard.”


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