Darby brothers look forward to potential future in Portland

As the 2023 WHL Prospects Draft began last week, the Darby family watched anxiously, unsure when 14-year-old Griffin would be selected. His older brother, Hudson, was selected by Portland in the fifth round of the 2021 draft and wondered if his sibling would get the chance to join him in the Rose City.

Their father, Regan, was a former third-round pick of the Spokane Chiefs in 1995 and went on to play three years in the league with the Chiefs, Tri-City Americans, Red Deer Rebels and Prince Albert Raiders.

The WHL draft process was nothing new to the family, but the nerves arrived just the same. Five picks passed by, then 10, then 15, until finally, Portland was on the clock at #17. Winterhawks Assistant to the General Manager and Director of Scouting Mike Coflin appeared on the live stream to make things official: Griffin Darby would be a Winterhawk.

“It was awesome. I didn’t really know what was gonna happen in the draft that day, but I’m just super excited to go play for Portland with my brother, honestly,” said Griffin. “The coaching staff, the whole organization’s awesome, so I’m really excited.”

Griffin and Hudson played apart for much of their youth careers, separated by their two-year age gap in the Swift Current minor hockey system. They finally sported the same jersey last season when Griffin was called up to the U18 Swift Current Legionnaires – where Hudson served as captain – for a six-game stint, but joining the same Major Junior organization offers the first genuine opportunity to become teammates.

“Growing up in Swift Current, we have the Broncos here and it’s always been our dream to play in the WHL for whatever team that would have been,” said Hudson. “To get to share that with my brother, both those (draft) experiences have been awesome. I’m super excited that our paths are gonna cross and there’s a future hopefully for both of us to play a few more years together before whatever happens after that.”

The Darby brothers were open-minded about their WHL destinations, but throughout the process, Griffin knew where he wanted to be.

“I was hoping (Portland would draft me). They showed a little interest but honestly, anything can happen with the draft so I was just kind of hoping they would take me,” he said.

Off the ice, the brothers share similar hobbies, enjoying summertime trips to Lake Diefenbaker in southern Saskatchewan for fishing, wake-surfing and more when they can get away from the rink. But on the ice, they thrive in different roles.

Hudson is a 6-foot-1, 165-pound two-way forward who was described as “a competitive forward who wins his share of battles and has demonstrated an ability to finish” by Coflin when he was drafted back in December 2021. His brother offered a similar assessment.

“(Hudson’s) IQ is off the charts, he sees the ice really well. Plays a good 200-foot game, competes really hard and is just determined to get better every day. He’s good on the penalty kill, looks for guys on the power play and he’s got a pretty good shot, so that helps him out too,” said Griffin of his older brother.

Hudson Darby skates in a preseason game against Everett. (Photo: Chris Mast)
Hudson Darby skates in a preseason game against Everett. (Photo: Chris Mast)

At the other end of the ice, Griffin is a creative defenseman who is reliable in all three zones. Coflin’s post-draft report notes Griffin’s ability to deliver in any situation, saying he “has a great combination of size, skating and creativity” and “can play hard against the best players as well as push the play as we like Winterhawks defensemen to do.”

“I think (Griffin) is a really good defenseman who plays both sides of the game,” said Hudson when asked about Griffin’s game. “He’s a smooth skater and uses his edge work and turns to escape forecheckers. Not a guy who will skate through a whole team, but he makes a good first pass out of his zone. He has some offensive abilities to get up in the play and create some offense on that side too.”

Their dueling positions could be beneficial as the pair prepare for Neely Cup Training Camp in just a few months. But perhaps the greatest asset to both players is Hudson’s wisdom gained from last year’s training camp and his subsequent seven-game run in Portland.

“A lot of 1-on-1 in the summer for sure, it’s awesome because we can push each other and (I can) give (Griffin) a little insight for what to expect at training camp and just get him in the right shape. Our dad’s there to help us too, he’s been through it all so he’s a good mentor for us, but if we can help each other out too, that’ll give us the extra step,” said Hudson.

Griffin Darby skates with the U15 Swift Current Broncos.
Griffin Darby skates with the U15 Swift Current Broncos.

For now, though, the Darby family has time to soak in the moment – one that’s been coming ever since Hudson and Griffin hit the ice in their backyard rink as kids.

“I’ve been playing mini-sticks ever since I could walk, but I think I first started skating on my third birthday and just kind of fell in love from that,” said Hudson. “When Griffin was born, just being in a hockey family, he’s going to take that in and love it too. So it’s kind of always been a thing for us and it’s fun now that we get to talk about it and go through things together.”

The Winterhawks trust Riverside Payments for all of their credit card processing as the team’s official credit card processors.

More News
2023 NHL Draft Profile | Jan Špunar
2 days ago
Former Winterhawks Adin Hill, Jamie Kompon representing Portland in Stanley Cup Final
1 week ago
2023 NHL Draft Preview: Winterhawks to keep an eye on
1 week ago
Five Winterhawks alumni earn medals at IIHF World Championships
2 weeks ago
Hawks in the Community: May 2023
2 weeks ago
'I play big in big games': Get to know Morgan Stickney
4 weeks ago