At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, NHL scouts are already drooling at the potential of forward Justin Bailey. But while the big kid from Williamsville seems ticketed for the pros, the path he took to get to this point has had a few twists and turns.
After shoulder surgery limited his playing time in 2010-11 with the Buffalo Regals U16 team, Bailey decided to make a lateral move last season to further his development with the Long Island Royals U16. Yes, these are the same Royals that were coached by NHL Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine, and featured on the NHL Network’s “Making of a Royal” series. The move paid off, as Bailey thrived under LaFontaine’s guidance (Bailey also lived with LaFontaine), and the Royals went on to win the 2012 Tier 1 National Championship that was decided at the Northtown Center in Amherst. Bailey even scored twice and added an assist in the championship game.
In January, Bailey had made a verbal commitment to attend Michigan State beginning in 2014. It was expected that Bailey would spend this season with the USHL’s Indiana Ice before heading to East Lansing. The Ice had made Bailey their first choice (11th overall) in the 2011 USHL Futures Draft.
However, there was still another team in the mix to complicate matters. In May 2011, Bailey had been drafted in the seventh round of the Ontario Hockey League draft by the Kitchener Rangers.
After agonizing over the three teams this summer, Bailey decided to forego his scholarship to Michigan State and signed with Kitchener in July.
“The plan wasn’t to use college to help me with the OHL. After nationals, they asked me to come for a visit and I figured ‘Why not? It’s only an hour and a half from my house.’ After touring the city and rink, and watching some video, I just kind of had a gut feeling, and something in my head told me this was the right place for me,” explains Bailey. “Obviously this wasn’t something I decided on my own. I talked about a lot with my mom because it’s a life decision and I’d being giving up my scholarship to Michigan State. In the end, I truly believe this is the right path for me.”
It should come as no surprise that Bailey leaned on his mother for support throughout the decision-making process. Bailey’s parents separated when he was younger, and he was raised by his mother, Karen Buscaglia. The two are incredibly close.
“She’s done it all. I give 100 per cent credit to my mom for every success and achievement that I’ve had. She’s done things that a lot of single moms and single parents might not have been able to do when it comes to supporting me in hockey. She’s also kept my head level throughout everything.”
(Bailey’s father is former Buffalo Bills linebacker Carlton Bailey. Justin said he still speaks to his father by phone every few weeks.)
Bailey, who has been held off the scoresheet in his first two games with Kitchener, will get the chance to play in front of his mother on Saturday when he skates for Team McClanahan in the CCM/USA Hockey All-American Prospects Game at First Niagara Center. This comes on the heels of Bailey being identified by NHL Central Scouting as an A-list prospect on their preliminary list of players-to-watch this season.
As expected, Bailey is taking all the attention in stride.
“I don’t want to say it was a confidence booster, but it definitely gives you more motivation to keep pushing yourself harder. It means a lot, but it also doesn’t. It’s a beginning of the year list, and I’m more focused on what the list will look like at the end of the year.”
Height: 6-3 (191)
Weight: 195 (88)
Date of Birth: 7/1/95
Hometown: Williamsville, N.Y.
2012-13 Team: Kitchener Rangers (OHL)
- Member of the U.S. Under-18 Select Team at the 2012 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in Breclav, Czech Republic, and Piestany, Slovakia
- Tallied a goal and an assist in four games
- Played for the Long Island Royals of the Atlantic Youth Hockey League
- Recorded 21 goals and 13 assists in 22 games
- Won USA Hockey Youth Tier I 16 & Under National Championship
- Spent two games with the Indiana Ice of the United States Hockey League
- Scored one goal in two games
- Played for the Buffalo Regals of the Midwest Elite Hockey League
- Notched 13 goals and nine assists in 22 games
- Son of Carlton Bailey and Karen Buscaglia
- Father, Carlton, was a linebacker for the NFL’s Buffalo Bills (1988-92), New York Giants (1993-94) and Carolina Panthers (1995-97)
- Bailey’s coach with the Long Island Royals was Pat LaFontaine, who played 15 seasons in the NHL and is a member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame
|YEAR ||TEAM ||GP ||G ||A ||PTS ||PIM |
|2011-12 ||Long Island Royals ||22 ||21 ||13 ||34 ||52 |
| ||Indiana Ice (USHL) ||2 ||1 ||0 ||1 ||0 |
|2010-11 ||Buffalo Regals ||22 ||13 ||9 ||22 ||12 |