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Cameron Lizotte: The unpredictable path to a Robertson Cup

Trying to predict any upcoming six month stretch in the OHL career of Cameron Lizotte would likely have proven to be a most daunting task.

Three different teams, two different positions, an Ontario Hockey League championship mixed in with a brief sequence away from the game, re-evaluating his love of hockey, have all been part of the path the 19 year-old Nickel Centre native has travelled over the course of four short years.

"I grew so much as a person, from my start in Peterborough as a rookie, to winning the Cup in Erie," Lizotte said recently. "It's been a great journey and I know it's not over yet. It's definitely been an "out of the ordinary" career."

From being a projected first rounder before even stopping on the ice at the junior level, to trying to find his way on a struggling team in Peterborough, and now relishing a Memorial Cup visit that came in part because of Lizotte's willingness to remain adaptable, switching from defence to forward midway through his most recent campaign, the well-spoken and introspective young man has found a way to go with the flow.

"You have to be ready for change, and that's something I was able to do well," stated Lizotte. That skill-set would be put to a very stiff test with the Otters, a team already poised for a deep run in the OHL playoffs prior to acquiring the veteran of 187 league games from the Barrie Colts back on January 9th, 2017.

"Our team (Erie) had so much depth," Lizotte noted. "Bringing me in was another piece of the puzzle. We were missing more toughness in the front end. I said I would do whatever it takes to help our team win and give our team the best opportunity."

"The transition wasn't easy at times, but I had great teammates, great coaches to support me. I trusted what he (coach Kris Knoblauch) said, I had confidence that I could do what he thought I could do. It was a fun transition - I got to hit guys a lot more on the forecheck, which was nice."

Like most championship runs, the road that Erie would travel included at least one or two near-misses along the way, including a game seven overtime win over the London Knights, clinching the second round series for the Otters.

"When we won that game, it was like we had won everything," Lizotte recalled. "In the back of our minds, we thought whoever won that series was going to win it all." But with an incredible 2016-2017 season now behind him, the youngest of three boys in the family must now look ahead, dealing with the uncertainty that seems to have been a trademark of every stage through which Lizotte has passed.

"They (Erie) have a lot of guys returning, six, I think, and we can only keep three," he said. "I would love to play my overage year there, but if not, I would be more than happy to fill a spot some place else. Whatever happens, happens, but I do want to play my overage year."

Very realistic in terms of his own self-assessment, Lizotte believes in a hockey resumé that he feels certain has something to offer. "My versatility and leadership, I would say," he suggested. "I've been a defenceman my whole life and would like to think that I am better as a defenceman, but with the limited number of overage spots, it's good to have that versatility."

"I have a lot of experience in the league, and I think that my peers would back me up that I've always been a "team" guy, I like to bring the guys together." Looking even further down the road, Lizotte is fully and completely grounded in his expectations.

"To play pro would be plan "A"," he said. "Realistically, I think it's possible that I will be going to school likely sooner rather than later. I would love to play pro, but in order to have that opportunity, I'll have to have a strong season. My hopes are there, but if not, I'm ready to go to school and follow my other passion."

It was a secondary love for the world of fashion design that temporarily derailed Lizotte from his hockey tracks, a hiatus that ultimately would lead to a trade from Peterborough to Barrie. "I'm still continuing with my fashion brand, selling everything I make," he said. "Once hockey is done, I hope to go back to school and take it to a whole new level."

More than anything, the past four years have provided Lizotte with a wide spectrum of exposure to the world of junior hockey, a scope of knowledge that he would gladly share with the next up and coming group of OHL wannabees.

"Don't be too hard on yourself, it's a long journey," he said. "There were months of my career where it didn't always go my way, and it's not going to. You have to face it and work through the adversity. You need to battle through and prevail."

In hockey, and even more importantly, in life.

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