Late-blooming Toews lands NCAA hockey scholarship

The rap on Abbotsford hockey prospect Devon Toews was that was was supremely skilled, but too small to play the game at a high level.

The rap on Abbotsford hockey prospect Devon Toews was that was was supremely skilled, but too small to play the game at a high level.

But then puberty kicked in, and Toews’s growth – both physically and athletically – culminated earlier this week when he accepted a full-ride scholarship offer from the Quinnipiac University Bobcats, an NCAA Division 1 program in Hamden, Connecticut.

“It’s great,” enthused Toews, a 17-year-old defenceman. “They’re one of the top hockey schools in the States, and it’s a smaller school, which I like.”

Toews was a terrific bantam player – in 2008-09, he was a member of an Abbotsford Tier 1 Hawks squad that won the B.C. title and finished second at the Western Canadians.

The problem was, Toews stood just 5’2” at the time, and he was overlooked – no pun intended – in the Western Hockey League’s bantam draft.

But he had a huge growth spurt to 5’10” last summer, and put together a big season with the Fraser Valley Bruins. He led all B.C. Major Midget League defencemen in scoring with 37 points (12 goals, 25 assists) in 39 games.

That performance led to a spot with the B.C. Hockey League’s Surrey Eagles, and he drew the attention of Quinnipiac after posting 10 points in his first 18 junior A games.

Toews made a visit to Quinnipiac earlier this fall, and the Bobcats initially offered a scholarship that would have covered 90 per cent of his schooling costs. But Toews decided to hold out and see if another school might offer a full ride.

After Toews played in the top prospects game at the recent World Junior A Challenge in Langley, Quinnipiac upped their offer to 100 per cent last week. Toews gave a verbal commitment on Monday, and he’ll sign his letter of intent during the NCAA’s signing period in the spring.

He’ll likely play one more season with the Eagles before heading to the East Coast in the fall of 2013.

“All the time when you’re young, you’re getting preached to about the WHL,” Toews said. “Nobody really finds out about junior A until you see the WHL might not be the route for you. But during my second year of major midget, I decided I wanted to go the junior A route and see if I could get all of my schooling paid for, and work as hard as I can to make a team. It’s a great level of hockey.”

Toews is a product of the hockey academy at Yale Secondary. The program has sent plenty of prospects on to the WHL, but Toews represents their first NCAA Div. 1 full ride.

“He’s a late bloomer,” said Billy Wilms, a teacher at Yale and director of the hockey program. “He’s a very smooth skater, and he moves the puck exceptionally well.”