Forward Peter Reynolds has decided it’s time to return home to chase his hockey ambitions.
The 17-year-old forward from Fredericton hasn’t played for a team in his home province since he was a preteen, and was committed to continuing his development with Boston College of the NCAA after some Junior A experience out west.
Reynolds, however, has decided instead to venture home for the 2020-21 season, announcing on Monday that he will play for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. The uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic helped sway his mind.
“This will be the first time my family can watch me play since first year Pee Wee and not have it be online or involve a plane ride,” Reynolds said.
In what turned out to be a blessing in disguise, Reynolds’s 2019-20 season with the Chilliwack Chiefs of the BCHL came to an end on March 8 with a first-round playoff exit, allowing him to travel home safely for the off-season before COVID-19 took over and shut down the sporting world.
After long talks with his parents about the options he had ahead of him, and the growing importance of being with his siblings, Reynolds made the decision to stay put and give up his chance of going the NCAA route, something he had been planning since he was 12.
“A couple things influenced me – obviously this pandemic is pretty crazy,” Reynolds said. “As a family we feel safer with me being close to home. I didn’t want to be in B.C. or Massachusetts if something happened.
"It was a tough decision but such an amazing opportunity to play right in my backyard. I think we’ll have a super special group of guys that can put something special together in Saint John.“
The Sea Dogs decided to take a gamble at the 2019 QMJHL draft by selecting Reynolds 21st over all. He was the third-ranked skater entering selection day but was already committed to play out west with the Chiefs before heading south in 2021 as a Boston College recruit.
The centre with a left-handed shot had a successful campaign with Chilliwack. He led all BCHL 16-year-olds in scoring with 14 goals and 47 points in 53 games – good for third all-time for players his age behind only two first-round NHL draft picks of the Colorado Avalanche: Tyson Jost (selected 10th in 2016) and Alex Newhook (16th in 2019).
He was also one of 66 skaters, and just one of two forwards not in major junior, chosen to represent Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge
“I remember pre-season exhibition games thinking, ‘Holy, this will be a long year,“’ said Reynolds. “Eventually I got comfortable with the speed and size of everybody and did all right for a 16-year-old, but definitely a tough year mentally and physically.”
Reynolds, who is eligible for the 2021 NHL Draft, first left home when he was 12. He went to Boston for a season, living and playing at a prep school for kids his age, as well as dressing with kids two years older than him for the Middelsex Islanders, with the hope of opening a doorway to the NCAA.
He followed with three seasons boarding at Shattuck St. Mary’s School in Faribault, Minn., before joining Chilliwack in a league made up of numerous Canadians with NCAA aspirations.
“[School] was definitely more important to my parents. I just loved the hockey aspect. That’s what I was chasing,” Reynolds said. “I actually enjoyed the schooling at Shattuck, like a mini-college.”
Reynolds officially graduated from high school last week and has been at home trying to make the time go by until some normalcy returns to every day life. He says he’s been doing two workouts a day and trying to add some weight to his 5-foot-10, 170-pound frame, while adding: “hopefully the golf courses open up.”
“This is the longest I’ve probably been home in the last five years. It’s kind of more weird to be home.”