The Hamilton Bulldogs have signed 16-year-old forward — and Hamilton, Ont. native — Mark Duarte to a standard player agreement.
Duarte spent last season with the Hamilton Kilty B’s, the Bulldogs’ Junior B affiliate, of the GOJHL where he registered 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points in 38 regular-season games. This performance earned him an invite to the GOJHL Future Stars game, where he was later named MVP for his team. Duarte tallied three goals and 10 points for the Kilty B’s in the playoffs before they were eliminated by the St. Catharines Falcons in game six of the second round.
Duarte grew up in the Hamilton area, playing for the Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs and the Hamilton Huskies in minor hockey. He put up 23 points in his final season for the Huskies before making the jump to Junior B.
“Growing up in Hamilton and always playing for the Hamilton Huskies and Hamilton Jr. Bulldogs and then getting drafted by my local team as well, I’m just really lucky to have this opportunity,” Duarte said.
When discussing his transition from Junior B to the OHL, Duarte stated that his main focus this offseason is getting stronger. Hoping to play a full season and avoid injury, he mentioned it is important to make sure he preserves his body and adjusts his playing style to the changes in the pace of the game.
“The Hamilton Kilty B’s really helped me learn how to play a different style, save my body, and all the little things that are going to help me jump to the OHL where the players are bigger, stronger, and faster,” he said.
The Hamilton Bulldogs have had many players in the past, such as MacKenzie Entwistle or Robert Thomas, who were able to fill whatever role was needed in important game situations on the ice. Duarte is confident he can be that type of player.
“I can score goals, I can set people up, I can fill any role they need. I’m a two-way, high-intensity kind of player,” he said.
Just like everyone else, hockey players are not perfect and there is always room for improvement. In discussing his weak spots and what he needs to work on before moving up to the OHL, Duarte mentioned his strength and resiliency.
“I can work on controlling my game more and learn how to play in different situations,” he said. “I had a couple of injuries last year as well, but I feel like I can really preserve my body for the whole season and control my game.”
Duarte is most looking forward to “being part of the family” here with the Bulldogs organization. However, his main goal for the season is one that is very common among hockey players everywhere: He wants to go all the way and bring the J. Ross Robertson Cup back to his hometown.
“I know the Hamilton Bulldogs have a world-class organization and they won the cup two years ago,” Duarte said. “I plan on helping them do that again soon.”