In many ways, Michael Misa is like any other Grade 9 student. Walking the halls of Oakville Trafalgar High School, Misa is focused on achieving good grades; he anticipates hanging out with friends; and he loves playing sports.
When Misa steps on the ice, however, it’s clear he’s not like his peers. Here, Michael Misa is exceptional. Hockey Canada and the Canadian Hockey League confirmed this fact when they granted the 15-year-old Oakville, Ont., product exceptional status to enter the Ontario Hockey League a year early. According to the CHL, “exceptional player status is granted to a player whose qualities not only on the ice, but as a person, deem the player deserving of the rare privilege of participating … at an early age.”
Misa is set to be selected first over all by the Saginaw Spirit when the OHL draft begins on Friday.
For the past several seasons, Misa has grown accustomed to competing against players a year older than him as a member of the Greater Toronto Hockey League’s Mississauga Senators. It was the thought of watching his teammates enter the OHL next season that sparked Misa to apply for exceptional status in the first place.
“I’ve played up my whole life with the 2006 age group, and I thought that when they went to the OHL next year, I wanted to go with them,” Misa said. “It’s one of the best leagues in Canada and I think it will be great developmentally for me.”
Gaining exceptional status was no sure thing. Past stars have been denied including 2019 NHL first overall pick Jack Hughes. In fact, prior to Misa, only five players had been granted early entrance to the OHL including NHL all-stars Connor McDavid, John Tavares, and Aaron Ekblad, and probable first overall pick in this year’s NHL draft, Shane Wright.
“I just want to be the best player I can be every time I’m on the ice,” Misa said of joining this group. “I don’t really like to compare myself to those players, I just want to continue getting better, and focus on my own game.”
While he remains humble off the ice, Misa’s on-ice play speaks for itself. At the recent OHL Cup, which featured the top teams from across Ontario, Misa paced his Mississauga Senators to a title. In the process, he broke McDavid’s tournament scoring record, compiling 20 points in seven games and became only the third underage player ever to be named OHL Cup most valuable player.
According to Mississauga Senators head coach Chris Stevenson, it’s Misa’s ability to elevate his game under pressure and against older competition, as seen at the OHL Cup that will enable him to replicate his success at the next level.
“Although it’s on a much bigger stage, I think it’s something he’s used to and prepared for,” Stevenson said. “The bigger the moment, the better he plays. … I believe his mental toughness will serve him well making the jump to the OHL.”
Misa knows the challenges that await him as a 15-year-old playing against 20-year-olds in the OHL. He got to watch the process first hand this year as his brother, Luke, who has a November birthday, played his first OHL games as a 15-year-old for the Mississauga Steelheads.
“It was a huge adjustment for him, everything is the next level and you need to be ready the second you get to camp,” Misa explained, relaying his brother’s experience. “He keeps telling me it’s going to be great, and that I’m not going to be able to wait to get started.”
For Misa, the support of his family and friends is unwavering, and it’s something he’s leaned on recently, and will continue to rely on next season as he prepares to move away from home.
“Considering it’s been a dream of mine to go to the OHL, I’m excited,” Misa said. “It’s a bit nerve-racking to leave home at such a young age, but I think I’m ready for it and it’s something I’m not alone in. I have a really great support system. At first, it was all overwhelming, but now I’m just staying focused on hockey and getting better.”
It’s this growth mindset that has Misa poised for success.
“I just want to learn and be known as a coachable player. I’m going to take all of the feedback from my coaches and older players that I can get,” Misa said. “The OHL is all about development, and I hope to just improve as a player on the ice, and a person off the ice.”
Whether he achieves the stardom of McDavid or Tavares, only time will tell. For now, Misa is excited to get his first OHL season under way and show that he belongs.
“I just want to make the biggest impact I can,” he said.
When the 2022-23 OHL campaign commences this fall, Michael Misa will be the youngest player in the league. His age, however, will quickly be overshadowed by Misa’s talent, an undeniable trait mature beyond his years.