Jonah Devereaux is hoping he has finally found a home.
The 19-year-old Fort Erie native suited up for three teams in two leagues the last three years until arriving in Pelham late last season.
Devereaux quickly fit in with the Panthers, who were in dire need of both offence and experience, something the veteran forward was able to provide over the final 14 games of the regular season and into the playoffs.
Devereaux is now being counted on as a centrepiece for the Panthers for the upcoming Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League season.
“It definitely exciting,” he said. “I like the pressure of being kind of the guy. Hopefully I can step up and do what they want me to do and do what’s best for the team.”
Pelham coach Chris Johnstone has big plans for Devereaux.
“We’ve asked a leadership role of him so I think he’s taken to that approach quite nicely,” Johnstone said. “This team will go how he goes and how Devin Sanders goes. We’ve got some real other good players in that room but those two are our engine. He knows that and he knows we’re expecting a lot from him and I think that will be very good for him. I think he’s highly motivated.”
Devereaux began his junior career with the Thorold Blackhawks in 2018, where he collected 22 points in 47 games. He then moved to the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League where he played for both the Espanola Express and Timmins Rock.
But being so far away from home and dealing with celiac disease proved to be too much.
“I was having trouble finding somewhere to live so I ended up coming home. I enjoyed my 14 games here so I decided to come back. That made it easier,” he said.
Devereaux was diagnosed in Grade 10 and is now able to manage his disease, which sees him unable to eat anything containing gluten.
“It’s not too bad to figure out but it’s hard to teach someone that doesn’t understand. It’s not their fault. It’s a process to get where it needs to be.”
His mother generally prepares gluten-free pasta for him before games and he carries gluten-free protein bars for snacks.
“I just bring my own stuff. I don’t want to put it on other people to worry about my food and do it myself,” he said.
If he does eat gluten, the outcome can be painful.
“I get stomach pains, headaches, I can’t focus and can’t stay awake. I just have to sleep,” he said.
With his diet issues under control, Devereaux is looking forward to a strong season.
“I was excited when they told us we were starting. I’m fired up. I just want to get the season started and see what we can do,” he said. “We have lot of potential. Some of the younger guys, when I came it was a pretty young team, but now you can see how much confidence that have after they got that first year out of the way.”
Johnstone sees Devereaux as a key piece of the offence.
“His game is goal scoring,” Johnstone said. “He’ll play hard in our end and do those kind of things but he’s a guy who will get a lot of leeway to be creative as he can because we need him putting the puck into the net. Let the goal scorer be a goal scorer.”
The Panthers have had plenty of ice at their disposal and have also been busy doing off-ice team building activities.
“We’re structuring certain drills in how we want to impact playing in a game. Everybody is just playing and being creative. I’m just looking for spirit, work ethic and commitment,” Johnstone said. “The key is to keep them busy and engaged.”
The GOJHL has set a tentative start date of Dec. 2, pending government approval.
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