Aylmer hockey prodigy achieves draft dream
A local hockey stand-out has taken one step closer to realizing his hockey dream, after being selected in the fourth round of the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) 2020 Priority Selection draft. Selected by the Owen Sound Attack with the 76th overall pick, Aylmer’s own Cédricsson Okitundu feels like he’s on cloud nine, having actualized one of his long-time aspirations. “That was my goal, getting drafted,” he said in an interview with the Aylmer Bulletin.
Listed at five foot 10 and 185 pounds, Okitundu describes himself as a smooth-skating offensive defenseman with puck-moving abilities, who doesn’t hesitate to engage in nasty, physical play. Expecting to be picked at some point in the draft, Okitundu was sitting on his couch with his family when they heard the good news.
Having already spoken with Owen Sound’s General Manager Dale Degray, as well as some of his potential teammates, Okitundu feels extremely excited to potentially wear the Attack jersey. “They’ve been really great to me since the draft,” he said. “Some of their players texted me, reached out just to congratulate me. That was really cool. I had a couple of fans also telling me great things about the city, that it’s a hockey town. It’s not a huge rink, but it’s packed every night. So, that’s going to be something really special.” Okitundu found his love for hockey at around three years of age, when his stepfather, André DesRochers, took him skating at outdoor rinks in the winter. Once he turned four, he begged his parents to sign him up to play organized hockey.
An instant star, according to his mother Christelle Mulumba, Okitundu played minor hockey in Aylmer until Pee wee where he moved up to the AA ranks with the Outaouais Intrépide. Significantly talented for his age, Okitundu spent his initial minor hockey years playing up an age group at the highest level of competition. “He dominated from the beginning,” Mulumba said. “The second year he played, they moved him up … to play with the older kids. He always played with the 2003s.”
Consistently the youngest on the ice and excelling at the same time, Okitundu was aware from a young age that hockey could be his calling. “Playing with older guys and playing AAA my whole life, I felt that … I could possibly get somewhere in hockey, maybe play junior hockey and hopefully the NHL,” he told the Bulletin
From his first year of Pee wee until his first year of Bantam, Okitundu represented the Intrépide until he moved to Orleans, Ontario two years ago. During 2018-19, playing Bantam AAA for the Eastern Ontario Wild, Okitundu shined, putting up 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 22 regular season games. The following year, Okitundu enrolled in a well-reputed private school in Kitchener, Ontario – known for its hockey program – called Victus Academy. With former NHL player and coach Mike Ellis as the program’s Director of Hockey Operations, Okitundu felt like he was in good hands. So in the summer of 2019, Okitundu and his mother packed their suitcases and moved to Waterloo, Ontario, spending the year away from the rest of their family in Aylmer.
While studying and hitting the ice every day at school, Okitundu spent the season playing in Minor Midget AAA for the Waterloo Wolves. In 30 regular season games, Okitundu amassed 18 points (six goals, 12 assists) and followed up with another five points in 15 playoff appearances. While still technically enrolled at Victus Academy - taking online classes - the COVID-19 pandemic’s shut-down of schools has brought Okitundu and his mother back with the rest of their family in Aylmer. Looking back on all the work it took to get to where he is, Okitundu said he feels incredibly thankful for the support of his parents and siblings, notably his mother for joining him in Waterloo last year. He also expressed gratitude for friends, teammates and coaches for being by his side every step of the way, most importantly thanking his best friend and Wolves teammate Cole Pelley.
Aware of the future’s uncertainty, Okitundu said he isn’t taking what he’s earned to this point for granted and is focused on working hard and doing the necessary sacrifices to achieve his ultimate goal. “I’m going to do whatever I can to make it,” he said. Currently in grade 10, Okitundu noted that academic success is just as important to him as performing well on the ice, noting that hockey can’t be his only career option. “You can’t put all your eggs in one basket,” he said. “So, it’s a really big priority.”