The Battlefords North Stars have been the regular-season champions in each of the last two seasons for good reason – they consistently have players step in to fill vacancies left behind from players who have moved on.
Enter MacGregor Sinclair.
The 19-year-old forward is in his second full season with the North Stars and after occupying more of a supportive role with the defending Canalta Cup champions last year, the Irma, Alta., product has moved up to a more prominent spot on the roster and he has taken the reigns and run with them.
Through the Battlefords’ first 15 games this year, the 5-foot-10, 175-pound Sinclair has potted nine goals and added 12 assists; that is one point shy of his entire output during his rookie campaign in 2016-17 when he had 6-16-22 totals in 50 games.
Included in those totals this season are five power-play goals and three game-winning tallies. Consistency has also been evident as Sinclair was on a five-game point-scoring streak – three goals and seven assists – when that run came to a halt last weekend when the North Stars were blanked 1-0 by the Weyburn Red Wings.
Prior to joining the North Stars, Sinclair spent two seasons with the Lloydminster Bobcats of the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League and in 45 games during that time he registered 10 goals and added seven assists. Sinclair was a force in the post-season in his final year with the Bobcats as he notched three goals and added a pair of assists to help Lloydminster capture a provincial championship. At the national Telus Cup event Sinclair registered one assist in seven games.
The North Stars are looking to successfully defend their league title and for Sinclair that would be three straight seasons being on a championship team. There is a lot of work that has to be done in order for that to occur, but Sinclair looks poised to make a significant contribution to fulfilling that goal.
Patience is always a key when bringing in first-year players to the league and for the Flin Flon Bombers that trait will undoubtedly pay off with Dawson McKenzie.
The 18-year-old winger from Winnipeg was held off the scoresheet in his first four games with the Bombers, but with three points – all assists – in his last two outings, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound McKenzie appears to have settled into his new environment.
McKenzie, who now has 2-8-10 totals in 19 games this season, has a strong background both as a leader and a producer.
Last season, his second with the Winnipeg Thrashers of the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League, McKenzie was an alternate captain and after notching 20 goals and adding 34 assists in 41 games he was rewarded for his efforts by being named to the first all-star team.
That performance followed a just as impressive first year with the Thrashers when he scored 15 goals and set up 36 more in 43 games. In 10 playoff games over the two seasons with the Thrashers, McKenzie also showed he plays well under pressure as he had 11 points in those games.
McKenzie also got a brief look from the Winnipeg Blues of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League during his final year with the Thrashers, but with no points in three games he was not brought back - opening the door for his move to Flin Flon.
The Bombers have been SJHL finalists in each of the last two years and should McKenzie continue to settle in, his skill level will certainly make them a threat to go deep in the post-season once again. With two more years of junior eligibility remaining after this year, McKenzie could very well be a cornerstone for the team for quite some time.
With the likes of Davis Jones, Joe O'Brien and Kristian Stead coming through the Nipawin Hawks' goaltending stable in years past, the team started this season with newcomers at the position, and while rookie Jake Anthony got off to a terrific start to the season, there's no question it was a big shot in the arm when the club received Declan Hobbs back from the WHL. The Hawks are among the league leaders, and Hobbs is 6-1-0 since returning, while allowing just 15 goals in those seven starts (2.15 GAA).
Second year Weyburn forward Ben Hiltz has seen his production sky rocket early in the season. Hiltz played as a 17-year-old with the Wings last season, putting up 4-goals and 8-points while playing in 43-games. At roughly the quarter-pole of his sophomore season, Hiltz was leading the Red Wings with 9-goals and 21-points, which had him just outside the top five in the entire league for the scoring race. In October alone, Hiltz had points in 9 of 10 games he played in, while the Red Wings went 9-1-0-0 during the month as a team.
When Yorkton Terrier goalie Nolan Maier takes part in the World Under-17 Hockey Championship in Northern B.C. in early November, he should be sufficiently warmed up! In a start in Battlefords on October 27th, Maier played the full 60 minutes in a 5-1 loss, but his save percentage was still over .930% in the contest, stopping 67 of the 72 shots he faced. The 2001-born goalie had a big year in "AAA" Midget last season with the Yorkton Maulers, and started this season in the WHL with the Saskatoon Blades. The Under-17's are in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John from November 5th to 11th.