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Durzi perseveres, aims to prove Maple Leafs right

Defenseman prospect was second-round pick one year after going undrafted

by Dave McCarthy / NHL.com Correspondent

TORONTO -- Sean Durzi knew there was a chance he wouldn't get selected at the 2017 NHL Draft.

The 19-year-old defenseman's name was never called, but he didn't dwell. He instead used it as a learning experience.

"When I didn't get picked, it's an eye opener," Durzi said. "I believe I should have been picked and obviously it didn't go my way, but you learn from it."

What he learned was he needed to work harder, which he did while attending development camps for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers, and New York Islanders mini camp in 2017.

One year later, Durzi was selected in the second round (No. 52) of the 2018 NHL Draft by the Maple Leafs, the team he idolized growing up in Mississauga, Ontario, about 20 minutes from Toronto.

The work he put in after not getting drafted the year before indeed paid off.

"I went to a few camps and you realize what it takes to be a professional," Durzi said. "It's just everything; it was something that I thought I'd take upon myself and take the initiative on it and really went out and studied what it takes.

"It's a mindset I've had my whole life. If you have that mentality to learn and get better every day, you really pick up on a lot of things. The small things I've learned on and off the ice make a difference."

Durzi (6-foot, 195 pounds) played for Owen Sound of the Ontario Hockey League last season and finished eighth in scoring among OHL defensemen with 49 points (15 goals, 34 assists) in 40 games. He had 21 points (five goals, 16 assists) on the power play.

"The type of player I am is someone who runs my game off my hockey IQ," Durzi said. "It's something I've had for a long time and as my skills develop, I think I'm only going to get better. I'm more of an offensive guy, a guy who can run the power play."

Durzi has long since gotten past the disappointment of not being selected in 2017, and he is not using being overlooked last year as motivation. His focus this offseason is improving his play without the puck.

"It's not so much proving teams wrong, it was proving the people who believe in me right. I think that's a much better way to think of things," Durzi said. "Definitely, decision making away from the puck [I need to improve]. I think that's something you get with experience. It's something I'm continually working on. If I really work at that and use my mindset and hockey sense and can add that physicality aspect to my game, I think it will only make me a better player.

"I have a lot of work to do this offseason. Getting drafted is just the beginning."

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