Notre Dame Hounds (D)
The Notre Dame Hounds are one of the most improved teams in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League this year and newcomer Evan Werle has been a big factor in the turnaround.
The 17-year-old Langenburg, Sask., product has helped the Hounds lower their goals-against by more than 40 goals from a year ago while contributing nine goals and adding 13 assists in 49 games in his rookie campaign.
At 5-foot-8 and 180 pounds he isn’t built like your prototypical defenceman, but Werle has played in all key roles and as a result is a finalist for rookie of the year honours.
Still eligible to play at the Midget AAA level, Werle spent the last two seasons with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Notre Dame Argos and as a 15-year-old had four goals and 13 helpers in 42 games while last year he tallied nine goals and 18 assists in 41 games and helped the Argos capture the league championship. In nine playoff games, which also included an appearance in the Western Canadian regional championship, Werle had eight points on three goals and five assists.
An 11th-round selection of the Brandon Wheat Kings in the 2012 Western Hockey League bantam draft, Werle has a bright future and with three more years of junior eligibility remaining it will be exciting to watch him develop his skills even further.
For now, the Hounds are counting on him to take them deep into the playoffs and Werle appears to be ready to take on any role given him.
Flin Flon Bombers (D)
As is often the case with teams that have explosive offensive players the steady stay-at-home defensive gems get lost in the shuffle and that argument certainly can be made for Flin Flon Bomber rearguard Rob Cameron.
With the Bombers sharing the league lead in goals scored with the Melfort Mustangs entering the final weekend of the regular season it is easy to look at the stats and see those who have lit the lamp on a regular basis.
What doesn’t jump out at most, however, is a player like Cameron who has appeared in every Bomber game this year and was also a regular in 53 games during his rookie Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League campaign a year ago.
The 19-year-old Cameron has just one goal in those 100-plus games, but he has been a pillar on the blueline and will be leaned on even more when the playoffs bring out a different style of game.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound product of Saskatoon has never been a huge offensive threat, but he has been a consistent defender ever since cracking the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League line-up of the Saskatoon Blazers at the age of 15.
Cameron played in all 44 games during that rookie campaign and notched one goal and four assists and the following year, despite being limited to just 30 games, more than doubled that output with a goal and 10 helpers. In his final year with the Blazers he ramped it up even higher scoring five times and setting up 12 others while playing in all 44 regular-season tilts.
Drafted by the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings in the sixth round of the 2010 bantam draft, Cameron made a smooth transition to Flin Flon last year where he collected 13 assists and even though his output has declined this year (1-6-7) he has been a steady influence on the back-end.
With one more year of junior eligibility Cameron will certainly be a building block for next year, but for now he is focused on helping the Bombers finish as high as possible in the standings and go deep into the playoffs.
Weyburn Red Wings, G
If there was a most underrated player in the league award, it might be this guy. Red Wings goalie Jack Burgart has quietly gone about his business, among the league leaders in goaltending statistics. The Wings started slow this season, but are contending for the Viterra pennant, much in thanks to 19-year-old tender from Fort St. James, BC. He's lifting his record to above .500, his four shutout is tied for the league lead, and his .928% has him tied for 2nd among starting goalies.
Melfort Mustangs, F
As we hit the home stretch of the 2014-2015 regular season, it would take something out of this world for Melfort forward Travis Mayan to not hold on to the SJHL scoring crown. With 10 games remaining, Mayan had an 11 point cushion over Kindersley's Owen LaClare atop the leaderboard. The Rimbey, AB product will likely be flirting with the 80 point barrier when it's all said and done. The scary part for the league's other 11 teams? Mayan's eligible to return again next season.
Flin Flon Bombers, F
It would be fair to say... he's back. Bomber fans had likely written off any chance of seeing Brett Boehm in maroon again after he was traded to Yorkton in December 2013. Boehm led Yorkton to a Canalta Cup, Western Canada Cup, and RBC Cup trophies last spring, before joining Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA Division I) this season as a 20-year-old. His SJHL rights flipped back to Flin Flon in the off-season, and here he is. In his first 13 games back in Flin Flon, Boehm had points in... all of them, including a hat trick and a four assist game, for 21 points in 13 contests.