Haliburton County Huskies forward Patrick Saini is focused and keeping his skates firmly on the ground after impressive play this season put him on the radar of several top-tier NCAA hockey programs.

The 18-year-old Toronto native is enjoying a breakout season in the OJHL, putting up 24 points in 20 games for the blue and white. He’s earned a spot on the Huskies’ top line, and is often rolled out in powerplay and penalty kill situations.

He has been referred to as “Mr. Dependable” by coach Ryan Ramsay, who said he can always rely on Saini to make a difference.

Saini admitted he’s come a long way since playing AA in the city. After developing with the Ted Reeve Thunder during his early years, he made the jump to AAA with the North York Rangers as a 15-year-old, suiting up in 33 games in 2018/19 and registering 33 points. His play earned him a spot with the Rangers at that year’s OHL Cup.

Heading into that competition, he was excited to share the ice with top NHL prospects Shane Wright, Brandt Clarke and Zachary Dean. He was named as one of ‘50 Players to Watch’ at the tournament by Prospect Pipeline.

“That was definitely an eye-opener to what hockey is like at the highest level. It was really cool to be a part of that. It was a big deal. There were lots of fans there, and scouts. I really enjoyed it,” Saini said.

Shortly after, following the 2019 OHL Priority Draft, Saini received a surprise call from Barclay Branch, then general manager of the Flint Firebirds.

“They selected me in the ninth round, which was pretty cool. I had never been drafted into anything before that, so there was definitely some emotion there. A proud moment, for sure,” Saini said.

While the prospect of playing at the OHL level was tantalizing, Saini has always dreamed of playing NCAA hockey. With his father, a university professor, instilling in him from a young age the importance of education, Saini has his sights set on achieving his goal. He has talked to several schools, but is yet to make a firm commitment. Saini said he plans to study law wherever he ends up.

There’s much he hopes to accomplish before then, though. With the Huskies currently sitting second in the East Division, Saini said the team is focused on making the playoffs and being competitive once there.

“Rest of the season, I just want to lead by example. I always try to be the hardest working kid on the ice … and it really resonates when you see a guy giving everything he has. We have a great team, but we just need to take things one game at a time and keep our focus,” Saini said. “If we do all the little things right, I think it can be a really good year for us.”