A Junior Hockey Journey Paved in Gold: SMCS Alumni

Two more names join an illustrious list of student-athletes to attend St. Michael’s College School (SMCS), play their sport at a high level, and earn a rare championship.

“Both of them had an incredible work ethic,” recalls David Lee ’94, Vice Principal at SMCS, who coached newly-minted Canadian World Junior Hockey gold medallists, Jamie Drysdale and Akil Thomas. “Despite their incredible ability and the attention they received, both were incredibly humble. You would never know that they were future NHL players.” Lee was among a trio of SMCS faculty who coached Drysdale and Thomas in hockey, while each was a student at the school in Grades 9 and 10.

Akil Thomas celebrates a win with his hockey team during his time at SMCS.

David Lee, (left top row), currently a Vice Principal at SMCS also coached Akil Thomas, (left middle row), who won gold with Team Canada’s World Junior team in 2019-20.

“Akil had a great sense of humour and was always smiling,” continues Lee. “Jamie was very quiet but you could tell that he loved playing the game. His eyes would light up when he was on the ice. Both were incredible competitors. I’ve had the privilege of coaching a number of young men who have made it to the NHL. These would be two of the best and certainly among my favourites.”

“I had the pleasure of coaching Akil as a Grade 9 and 10 student between 2014-16 and Jamie as a Grade 9 student between 2015-16,” says Daniel Blaik, Dean of Students at SMCS. “As elite athletes, the most striking feature about both boys was their humility and generosity with their teammates. I also had the privilege of teaching Jamie in Grade 9, and remember him to be a courteous, respectful, and conscientious student.”

Drysdale, who is among a handful of 17-year-old’s to ever play for Canada’s World Junior hockey team, continues a rise that has been laden with success since he was a young boy. Among his accomplishments, he’s been named GTHL (Greater Toronto Hockey League) Player of the Year, OHL All-Star Team member, and captain of Canada’s U18 Team in 2019, which claimed the silver medal at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. 

Akil Thomas receives a medal at a hockey game at SMCS when he was a student.

Akil Thomas was a student-athlete at St. Michael’s College School in 2014-15.

For his part, Thomas, who turned 20 in early 2020, is a draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings. He scored the game-winner --- ‘the golden goal’ --- against the Russian team, with just under four minutes left in regulation time in the World Junior championship final. Currently a centre for the Niagara Ice Dogs, Thomas played for SMCS and the St. Michael’s Buzzers (Junior A team that is part of the Ontario Junior Hockey League) in the 2015-16 season.

St. Michael’s College School’s celebrated athletics programme has produced a long list of high-calibre and/or professional athletes including over 200 alumni who have played or are currently playing in the NHL. 

Jamie Drysdale with his hockey teammates and teacher when he played for SMCS.

Jamie Drysdale (left) with his teammates and SMCS teacher and coach, Paul Ruta.

“They play so much hockey and have obviously moved onto much greater things, but I hope that playing at SMCS was fun,” adds Lee, referring to Drysdale and Thomas. “Both were part of championship teams and I hope that they had the chance to grow as players in ways that they might not have on other teams. I hope that we were able to reinforce that they should play the game with respect and honour. At the end of the day, no matter how far the game might take you, the only real goal is to help them grow into better young men.”

Akil Thomas is the second St. Michael’s College School alumnus to score a ‘golden goal’ for Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships.

Matthew Halischuk ’06, potted the gold medal winner in overtime at the tournament in 2008. Halischuk played for the St. Michael’s Majors and St. Michael’s Buzzers between 2004-06.