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    • Weekend Preview

    • 02/04/2016, 8:45am CST , By Dave Leaderhouse
    • North Stars put first piece of playoff puzzle in place; numerous races still remain entering final month of regular schedule
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    SPOTLIGHT ON OUR YOUNG GUNS

    Logan Schatz (C)
    Humboldt Broncos

    When the Humboldt Broncos brought Logan Schatz up for a look as a 16-year-old they knew they had something special.
    The 5-foot-9, 170-pound centre from Allan, Sask., collected three assists in his one game audition during the 2013-14 campaign and when training camp broke last year the Broncos knew playing Junior “A” was the best place for him to continue developing.
    As a rookie, Schatz managed five goals and 14 assists in 41 games with Humboldt in 2014-15, but this year he has taken off leading the struggling Broncos in scoring having registered nine goals and 35 helpers in 47 contests.
    The 18-year-old Schatz has always been a gifted playmaker. In his final year of bantam hockey Schatz tallied 16 goals and 31 assists in just 21 games with the Sask. Valley Vipers of the Saskatchewan Bantam AAA Hockey League and in the playoffs he was lights out collecting seven goals and nine assists in just six post-season tilts.
    That performance got him noticed by the Western Hockey League as Schatz was selected in the ninth round of the annual bantam draft by the Kootenay Ice, but Schatz would spend the next two seasons with the Beardy’s Blackhawks of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League where he scored 26 times and set up 48 others in 87 games.
    The Broncos are in danger of missing the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoffs for the first time in recent memory, but with young stars like Schatz coming into their own, the future certainly has a bright tinge to it.

    Rylee Zimmer (C)
    Flin Flon Bombers

    The Flin Flon Bombers are loaded with plenty of offensive skill in the likes of Alex Smith, Brandon Switzer and Joel Kocur, but a recent addition to the team is providing a nice secondary threat for the surging Manitoba entry in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
    Rylee Zimmer came to the Bombers in early December via the trade route and since landing in Flin Flon the 18-year-old forward from Russell, Man., has collected six goals and set up 10 others in just 21 games.
    The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Zimmer has displayed his talents in a number of places over the last five seasons, but he appears to have found a home in northern Manitoba.
    In his final year of bantam hockey Zimmer toiled with the Notre Dame bantams where he registered 15 goals and 15 assists in 35 games. Zimmer also got five games in with the Notre Dame Argos of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League where he tallied two goals and two assists in his brief audition.
    The Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League liked what they saw and took Zimmer in the fifth round of the 2012 bantam draft and after one full season with the Argos where Zimmer had 19 points in 32 games he cracked the Pats’ line-up as a 16-year-old.
    Zimmer didn’t register a point in 44 games with the Pats during that season and the following year after just five games in Regina he was sent to Waywayseecappo of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. Zimmer rediscovered his scoring touch with the Wolverines as he averaged more than a point per game last year collecting 10 goals and 26 assists in 34 matches.
    That performance got him a spot on the MJHL all-rookie team, but after notching one goal and 11 assists in 14 games with Waywayseecappo this year he was dealt to Flin Flon for Landon Gross and since then has settled in nicely in his new surroundings.
    Successful teams need secondary scoring so it is no coincidence that the Bombers have yet to lose a handful of games since Zimmer’s arrival. With his scoring touch back he will only make Flin Flon better down the stretch and with two more years of junior eligibility he could be a mainstay for the foreseeable future.

    FACES IN THE GLASS

    Daniel Wapple (G)
    Estevan Bruins


    It likely wasn't an easy decision for Estevan Coach/GM Chris Lewgood to waive a proven SJHL 20-year-old goalie in Tyler Fuhr at the trade deadline, but the Western Canada Cup hosts were looking to upgrade the position, with a team GAA of over 3.50 on the season.  20-year-old Daniel Wapple had been looking for work since November, after spending parts of four seasons with four WHL teams (Moose Jaw, Medicine Hat, Regina, Vancouver).  He played 56 games with the Pats last season, going 29-14-4-6, but as an overager was moved to the Vancouver Giants early this season.  Five games in to his tenure in Estevan, Wapple appears to be finding his groove, and that's a good sign for the black and gold as they prepare for a playoff run ahead of the Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup.

    Alex Smith (F)
    Flin Flon Bombers


    January was a special month for Flin Flon Bombers' forward Alex Smith.  The 20-year-old had points in all 11 games he played in, for a total of 9-goals and 24-points.  The month, which included eight multi-point games, vaulted him into sole possession of top spot in the SJHL's scoring race at month's end, finishing the month with 72 points (26g-46a), two more than defending champ Travis Mayan of Melfort.  The month of January was capped off by an NCAA Division I scholarship for Smith.  The Edmonton product will join the Michigan Tech University in the fall, after turning heads in his 20-year-old season.  Smith was quick to point out that his first priority if finishing his junior career with an Canalta Cup Championship with the Bombers, and his line along with Brandon Switzer and Joel Kocur will be a huge part of how far Flin Flon goes this March/April.  The trio has combined for exactly half of the Bombers' goals so far this season.

    Chris Van Os-Shaw (F)
    Humboldt Broncos


    The Humboldt Broncos aren't out of the playoff picture by any stretch, but regardless how they finish, fans should be excited about what the future holds.  Not only did they come out of the trade deadline one of, if not the youngest team in the league, but some of the returns they received in dealing away their vets are already paying off huge.  The Broncos moved 20-year-old forward Jarret Fontaine to the Weyburn Red Wings, and the young man they got in return has to be exceeding expectations in the early going.  Chris Van Os-Shaw had multi-point games in his first four contests as a Bronco, totalling 10 points (5g-5a) in those four games, including a hat trick and four points in his home debut against Melfort.

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