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Liam Peyton was out of major junior hockey options in Ontario when the phone rang.
It was the Charlottetown Islanders, looking to see if he was interested in coming east. He agreed and scored a goal in his first game in late November 2017.
He is now one of the team’s longest-serving members and was recently told he would be the Isles’ third overage player for the 2020-21 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season, joining expected locks Thomas Casey and Cedric Desruisseaux.
Peyton hasn’t forgotten how he ended up in Charlottetown.
“It’s not lost on me how special that opportunity was,” a grateful Peyton said. “Having that turn into a career here in Charlottetown is pretty special for me and is something I definitely don't ever take for granted. …
“It’s another thing that motivates me, to be honest with you. I remember getting that opportunity to come out east and continue a major junior career and kind of keep chasing that pro dream.”
Peyton is a big-bodied winger with speed. He has flown a bit under the radar at times while playing a depth role for most of his three seasons in P.E.I. But he has earned the respect of the fans, who have voted him the hardest-working player the past two seasons.
“That’s a big honour, especially playing for (this) team. … We take a lot of pride in our strong work ethic and always being a hard team to play against.”
Peyton hopes he can follow in the footsteps of the two guys who won the award before him: Pascal Aquin and Hunter Drew. Both were late bloomers who came into their own in their final two seasons of junior hockey before turning pro.
“It’s something I definitely strive towards,” he said, noting both helped him out as a young player and he hopes to do the same for the next generation of Islanders.
Charlottetown head coach and general manager Jim Hulton said Peyton adds an element the team was lacking on its roster.
“Size, toughness, veteran leadership and a guy that has improved every year,” he said. “We looked at the combination of what he brought, and we thought it was a commodity that we had to have in our lineup.”
Hulton believes there is untapped potential in the strapping young man.
“He’s a really, really conscious, good kid, but sometimes that hurt him as a hockey player because he wasn't overly confident in his own abilities. But we’ve seen that grow every year,” he said. “We saw flashes last year that (the offence) was starting to come.”
Peyton has seen quite a bit of the country during his childhood as his father, Paul, is a brigadier-general in the Canadian Armed Forces. The family, including Peyton’s mother, Tiffany, and older brother Mitchell, have called a few communities home as his father was deployed to different locations.
“I’ve been a military brat as well a hockey player growing up,” Peyton said.
He was born in St. Albert, Alta., and lived there until he was six. The family moved to Ottawa for a year and then to Kuwait for a year.
The family moved back to Ottawa for a few more years before heading back to St. Albert where Peyton played major peewee and minor bantam. They moved back to Ottawa, and Peyton was drafted 118th overall by the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers in 2016. But after a goal in four games spread over two seasons, he was put on waivers.
Coming to Atlantic Canada was a homecoming of sorts for Peyton. Paul is from Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., while Tiffany is from Halifax.
“It’s where our roots are,” he said.
With Paul heading to Iraq at the end of June, the family has moved from Orleans, Ont., to Bedford, N.S., to be closer to Tiffany’s parents.
Need to know
Who: Liam Peyton, a 20-year-old St. Albert, Alta., native who will be a part of the Charlottetown Islanders during the 2020-21 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League season.
Height, weight, position: Six-foot-one, 205-pound left-winger.
Tenure: Peyton has played three seasons with the Islanders. The only player on the roster when he made his debut on Nov. 28, 2017, who is still with Charlottetown is Thomas Casey.
Season GP G A Pts. PIM
2017-18 38 1 4 5 17
2018-19 59 9 4 13 44
2019-20 60 12 9 21 68
Did you know? Peyton was teammates with Mermaid native Matt Gordon and UPEI defenceman Matt Blaisdell with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL.
Peyton said: “I’m confident coming back. I’m really excited for a big season and hopefully just to be a leader and a big part of the team this year.”