His stay in LaRonge will be brief, but Braden Oleksyn certainly has left his mark on the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
Oleksyn, who will turn 17 on Feb. 22, had accomplished everything he could at the Midget AAA level so when he failed to make the Western Hockey League’s Calgary Hitmen as a 16-year-old, he joined the Ice Wolves to further develop his skills.
“I felt I would play more minutes down here and develop,” says Oleksyn. “I just felt it was better to develop in junior.”
The Saskatoon product has previous experience of moving up a level as he was just 14 years old when he first joined the Beardy’s Blackhawks of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League.
While still eligible to play bantam hockey, Oleksyn posted 19 goals and added 22 assists for the Blackhawks. That performance got him noticed by the Hitmen who took him in the third round of the 2011 WHL bantam draft, behind Jake Virtanen and Josh Thrower, both of whom cracked the Calgary line-up this year as 16 year olds.
The next year, when Oleksyn was a veteran at 15 years of age, he tallied 19 goals and 43 assists in just 39 games and those results prompted him to make the move to a higher level.
“I like playing up there (LaRonge),” says Oleksyn. “It’s been good so far. It’s been good hockey and good coaching and I’m playing against stronger guys. It’s a faster game.”
Oleksyn appears to have fit in nicely as he has 11 goals and 17 assists in 50 games along with 31 penalty minutes. While the 5-foot-10, 185-pound winger has adjusted to the level of play on the ice, he has also gained some valuable experience off the ice as he prepares for his next step on the hockey ladder.
“It’s a little tougher to balance junior hockey and school,” admits Oleksyn, a Grade 11 student. “You have to manage your time better.”
“I’ve thought about the college route, but I always wanted to play in the ‘Dub’,” adds Oleksyn. “It’s a route I always wanted to take.”
The Saskatoon product hopes his stay in LaRonge will be extended beyond the regular season as the Ice Wolves are fighting for their playoff lives. With just two games remaining on the regular schedule they are deadlocked with the Melfort Mustangs for the final playoff berth in the North Division. Oleksyn says keeping the game simple is all the team has to do.
“We don’t need to do anything special,” says Oleksyn. “When we win, we keep it simple.”
It would be a treat to see what Oleksyn could do with four more years in the SJHL, but the Hitmen will certainly enjoy what he brings to the table.
Tag(s): Spotlight Young Guns