Change is Good For Whalers' Cody Payne
PLYMOUTH - Cody Payne came to Plymouth last season looking for a fresh start. Payne – acquired by the Whalers from Oshawa on Nov. 2 for a third round draft choice – received what he was looking for and went one better.
Payne was selected by the Boston Bruins in fifth round (145th overall) of the 2012 National Hockey League Entry Draft.
As the 2012 NHL Entry Draft moved into the later rounds, the Bruins were looking a player who plays hard with a certain amount of grit – similar traits to what Plymouth head coach Mike Vellucci likes to call Whaler Hockey.
Boston scouts were regulars at Compuware Arena last season and projected beyond Payne’s offensive numbers (5 goals and 6 assists in 60 games). They saw a player who can drop the gloves (11 majors) when needed and should improve offensively in his third year in the Ontario Hockey League.
“Payne didn’t have a lot of ice time this year, but we were fortunate enough to catch him when his teammates were gone to the World Juniors,” said Wayne Smith, Boston’s Director of Amateur Scouting at the Entry Draft. “We saw him play in a top two-line role, and he’s as tough as they come. There’s no question he can fight… and he showed us that there’s potential for him to be a National Hockey League player.”
Originally taken by Oshawa in the third round (58th overall) in the 2010 OHL Priority Selection, Payne wasn’t playing much for the Generals before coming to the Whalers last season. Although Payne grew up in Weston, FLA, he was friends with Tom Wilson and Matt Mistele from his time in Oshawa.
“It was nice to come to Plymouth,” he said. “Everyone here is so professional. The boys were nice when I came and the coaches were good, too. They turned me into a hockey player here – they gave me an opportunity the play. It’s paid off so far. I’m looking forward to having a real good year this year.”
When Rickard Rakell left last December to play for Sweden in the 2012 World Junior Championships, Payne was used in Rakell’s spot with on a forward line with Stefan Noesen and Garrett Meurs. The line played effectively, with Payne winning his share of face-offs, hard on the forecheck and not looking out of place.
The Bruins noticed.
“I played with mostly Noesen and Meurs and they’re real special,” Payne said. “Coach Vellucci gave me the opportunity. They gave me a lot of help and advice. I think I took that chance and it worked out well.”
Payne finished 146th overall in the Final NHL Central Scouting Rankings. The Bruins weren’t the only team interested in Payne.
“I think Cody's really turned the corner since coming over from Oshawa," Anaheim scout Jim Sandlak said during the 2012 playoffs. "Mike Vellucci does one heckuva good job with his players, whether it's de-programming them, or just getting them to play the style of hockey that the Whalers play. Cody's really impressed me of late as well."
Payne went into the Entry Draft with an open mind.
”I talked to some teams and I thought there was a chance I was going to get drafted,” he said. “I never really talked to Boston, so when I got drafted by the Bruins, it was a bit of a surprise. But then again, maybe it wasn’t a surprise, because if you look at their lineup, they have a bunch of players that I try to play like.”
Payne was invited to the Bruins Developmental Camp after the Entry Draft and by all accounts played well.
“Developmental camp was fun, and tough,” he said. “It was mostly older guys and I was one of the younger guys there. I was a sponge, taking in everything I could. I worked my hardest and (hopefully) opened so eyes. I know they’re happy with my performance, so I couldn’t ask for anything more."
Fast forward to the present and Payne worked out in Florida for six weeks before reporting to Plymouth a week early.
“It feels good to get back on the Compuware ice again,” Payne said. “It’s nice to be back. I worked hard this summer, but I feel like it’s going to pay off.”
Payne shares plenty of optimism with the rest of his teammates for the upcoming season.
“The team is shaping up to be really good again this year,” he said. “A lot of the boys expect big things. Everyone we look to try to win a championship – the bar’s not going to be very far down. We’re going to work hard this year and go as far as we can.”
Payne hopes to be just that – a pain – for the opposition in 2012-13.
TRAINING CAMP NOTES: After reporting to training camp next Wednesday to Compuware Arena for off-ice workouts, the Whalers will scrimmage next Thursday and Friday from 9-11 am and 2-4 pm. The scrimmages are free and open to the public and media. Rosters will be provided the days of the scrimmage.
The Whalers open the preseason against Windsor on Sat. Sept. 1 at 7 pm at Yack Arena.