Scotiabank Prospect Profile - Bujold & Smith
It was after an away game against the Kemptville 73's in November when Colton Smith and Ben Bujold realized they were going to have a lot of fun playing together in Kanata.
The Lasers were at the Robert Hartley Sports Complex, a rink East of Ottawa in Hawkesbury that serves as a neutral battleground for teams in the Hockey Eastern Ontario U18 AAA league.
Twenty games into the season, the chemistry between the two rookies had begun to flourish. They were playing on the same line together and on the powerplay.
They had a man advantage early in the game. Smith fed Bujold who sent it back to defenceman Kayden Beaudoin at the point. He put it past the Kemptville goaltender and the Kanata Lasers took an early lead.
Just four minutes later, Bujold put one on the tape of Smith's stick in front of the net and it was a 2-0 game. Bujold, the centreman, would finish the game with two goals and two more assists. His winger, Smith, picked up another goal and two more helpers in a 7-1 thrashing of the 73's.
"We would have a ten second conversation in the corner out there," said Bujold. "[Smith] would tell me where he was putting the puck. It was pretty funny."
That connection would become all too familiar for opposing goaltenders as the year went on.
Smith finished the year with 25 goals and 47 points in 41 games and Bujold ended up with 37 assists and 55 points in 43 games. They placed second and fourth in league rookie scoring respectively as the Lasers finished first in their division.
In their first season playing together, the two 16-year-olds developed a close connection that will continue to grow in London with the season set to begin in February. But they ended up on the same team almost entirely by chance.
In May 2019, Colton's dad, D.J., signed a three-year contract to become head coach of the Ottawa Senators after spending four years as an assistant coach to Mike Babcock in Toronto. Prior to that, he had coached the Oshawa Generals to a Memorial Cup championship in 2015 and was an assistant on the Windsor Spitfires team that won back to back Memorial Cups in 2009 and 2010.
Colton had spent his major bantam season in Michigan, playing for the Belle Tire 14U team. Before that, he played his minor hockey for the Sun County Panthers association near Windsor. With his OHL draft year ahead, the family saw it fit that he played in Kanata, where he could learn under the guidance of his dad.
"He taught me that effort and having my teammates back was more important than scoring goals," said Colton.
D.J. was there alongside Colton in April when the Knights picked him with the 25th pick in the 2020 OHL Priority Selection. Colton remembers seeing Ben being selected six picks earlier and the relief he felt when he found out when he would take the next step in his career alongside his linemate.
The draft being held virtually this summer produced a bit of an anticlimax for Bujold. Sitting with his family, he had the draft board up on the television while he scrolled through comments on his phone.
"Someone had quicker WiFi than me and they commented 'Ben Bujold to London' before it came up on the screen," he explained. It didn't take anything away from the moment, though. "I would probably say it was the best day of my life."
The Richmond, Ont. native had spent the previous three seasons in the Upper Canada Cyclones association before he was selected by the Lasers in the 2019 CCHL Bantam Draft.
Having been called up to the team for a playoff game the year before, he was more familiar with the team and decided to help ease the transition for Smith. He was the first guy to approach him at tryouts and it didn't take long for them to strike up a friendship. The rest is history, as they say.
When their season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lasers had four wins in four playoff games and had a game scheduled the day they got the news their year was over. Bujold explained how the Lasers still wanted to honour a classic playoff tradition.
"The group chat was firing up and the boys wanted to dye their hair blonde. I wasn't feeling it because I got a little orange in my hair," he said. Nothing ever materialized, but he insists his linemate would've followed through. "I guarantee Smitty would've done it. He really wanted to."
Even during the lockdown, the pair continued to do everything together. In June, both of them were invited to Hockey Canada's U17 Development Camp which was held virtually. They also got back on the ice with Tony Greco, who ran a 4-on-4 league consisting of OHLers Connor Lockhart, Graeme and Brandt Clarke and fellow Knight and ex-Laser, Stuart Rolofs.
While they wait for the OHL season to kick off, Bujold has joined the Renfrew Timberwolves of the Central Canadian Hockey League and Smith will play for the London Nationals. He will be living with the owner of the team, Paul Duarte.
Asked whether or not they had spoken to coach Dale Hunter about playing on the same line together in London, they both agreed to leave the decision up to him.
"No we'll let him pick that," said Bujold, laughing.
"He's pretty good at what he does," said Smith.
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