Yorkton Terriers (C)
To say the last 18 months has been hectic for 16-year-old McKenzie Welke would be an understatement.
Along with his twin brother Carson, Welke has helped the Yorkton Bantam AA Terriers win a provincial championship in 2014, was almost a point-per-game rookie with the Yorkton Maulers of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League in 2014-15 and now is a member of his hometown Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Yorkton Terriers.
Throw in an appearance at the Canada Winter Games in February and an audition at the Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blades’ rookie camp this fall and you get the picture.
McKenzie, who won’t turn 17 until just after the New Year, is a 5-foot-10, 165-pound forward with plenty of skill.
During the provincial bantam championship season he scored 31 times and set up 31 others in 30 regular-season games and then followed that up with 6-9-15 totals in nine playoff games. At the Western Canada Bantam AAA championship in Kelowna, McKenzie had one goal and one assist in four games.
Last year with the Maulers, McKenzie had 16 goals and 16 assists in 40 regular-season games while also contributing two goals and an assist in seven games with Team Saskatchewan at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George, B.C.
McKenzie got his SJHL career off to a flying start setting up his brother for the Terriers’ first goal on home ice this season and then notching his own later in the same game.
The Terriers, who are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2014-15 campaign where they finished dead last, will be looking to McKenzie, and his brother Carson, to help turn their fortunes around.
Melville Millionaires (F)
Having a nose for the net is a rare skill and the Melville Millionaires will be looking for Tyler Kreklewich to sniff out the opposition’s goal on a consistent basis this year.
The homegrown Melville product is entering his first full season with the Millionaires after bouncing around the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League the last three years before landing with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League squad mid-way through the last campaign.
Kreklewich, who had 35 points in 22 games, including 20 goals, in his final year of bantam hockey in Melville, began his Midget AAA career with the Saskatoon Blazers as a 15-year-old. The 6-foot, 165-pound right winger had just five goals and two assists in 40 games that year and as a result found himself with the Yorkton Harvest a year later. In 41 games that season he had 11-14-25 totals, but again found himself on the move for his final year of Midget AAA hockey. With the Tisdale Trojans he found his groove as in just 20 games he was the runaway scoring leader with 15 goals and 25 assists before being summoned to the Millionaires.
In 27 games at the SJHL level Kreklewich had seven goals and nine assists while being held off the scoresheet in three post-season games. Kreklewich, who won’t turn 18 until November, is also scoreless to start this year as the Millionaires have failed to pick up a point in their first three starts.
In order for the Millionaires to once again challenge for the Viterra Division championship they will need a strong season from Kreklewich. Past history shows that once he adapts to a new level of hockey he can produce; time will tell if that trend continues.
Weyburn Red Wings, G
There's not an overabundance of experience at the goaltending position in the SJHL that season, but in Weyburn there's certainly an exception. Jack Burgart returns for his 20-year-old season and figures to be in the running for top goalie from an outsider's pre-season rankings. In his first season, Burgart took a backseat, for the most part, to fellow rookie phenom Rylan Parenteau, but took the reigns full time a year ago, posting five shutouts to go along with a 19-18-3 record, 2.39 GAA and .926%. The 6 foot 5 native of Fort St. James, BC picked up 3 wins and an overtime loss in his first four starts of this season.
Kindersley Klippers, F
Dexter Bricker's junior hockey career has been a wild ride, spanning two leagues, three WHL teams, two Junior 'A' provices, and now a third team in the SJHL. Bricker AP'd with the Red Deer Rebels as a 16-year-old, before finding a full-time home in the SJHL with Nipawin at 17. He started the following year with the WHL's Regina Pats, but when he was re-assigned to the SJHL, it was to Nipawin's rival in Melfort, as he was acquired in the trade that brought Carter Berg to Melfort at the 2013 trade deadline. Last season he started things off in Lethbridge (WHL), before rejoining the Mustangs for their run to the Canalta Cup. His rights were then moved to Camrose of the AJHL, completing the Luc Lemire trade this past off-season, but returned to his home province, with the Klippers, and he's made an immediate impact offensively with a young team.
La Ronge Ice Wolves, F
Much like a year ago, the Sherwood Division appears to be incredibly strong, with Nipawin and defending champion Melfort out to blazing starts out of the gate. That makes it tough on the rest of the field, but the La Ronge Ice Wolves are off to a .500 start through five games, and the Blaquiere boys are leading the charge. Joel, a 20-year-old, and Jared, 19, are in La Ronge for a second straight season, and Joel's tied for the team-lead with 8 points (4g-4a) in just four games, while Jared's not far off the pace. The brothers come from Edam, SK, and played their 'AAA' Midget with the P.A. Mintos, where Jared helped them to a Telus Cup National Championship in 2013-2014.