Estevan Bruins (C)
The Estevan Bruins have something extra to strive for now that they are the official hosts of the 2016 Western Canada Cup and one of their building blocks for that championship is sure to be forward Lynden Pastachak.
While not giving up on this season, the Bruins will be counting on the 18-year-old Pastachak both now and in future seasons.
The Bienfait product is in his second year with the Bruins and already has reached a career high in points as the 6-foot, 165-pound centre has 16 points in 24 games. Last year Pastachak had 12 points in 36 games with the Bruins although he did appear to find his range in the post-season when he recorded four goals and an assist in 10 matches.
Prior to joining the Bruins, Pastachak toiled with the Yorkton Harvest for two seasons in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Pastachak showed great offensive skills during his time in Yorkton scoring 16 goals and setting up 15 others as a 15-year-old and the next season he nearly doubled all those categories as he had 29 goals and 29 assists in 42 games. That strong final year of Midget AAA garnered Pastachak second-team all-star status.
While he might be a bit slight he certainly has an edge to his game as Pastachak accumulated 93 penalty minutes while in Yorkton and so far in 62 games in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League he has amassed 89 minutes in penalties.
Pastachak was recently listed as one of eight SJHL players to be invited to try out for the Canada West squad that will compete at the World Junior “A” Challenge in Kindersley later this month. That recognition is well deserved and the Bruins will be counting on him now and well into the future to continue leading with his improved play.
Yorkton Terriers (D)
It is a rare occasion when a player by-passes one level and climbs a couple of rungs on the hockey ladder, but Regan Seiferling is proof that it can indeed happen.
With just eight games of Midget AAA experience over two years, Seiferling has made a rather smooth transition from Midget AA to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League as the 17-year-old has secured a spot on the Yorkton Terriers’ blueline.
A native of Moose Jaw, the 6-foot-2, 160-pound Seiferling has three goals and eight assists in his first 24 games of junior hockey – totals he barely surpassed while playing Midget AA in Moose Jaw the last two seasons.
As a 15-year-old in the 2012-13 campaign Seiferling dressed in 33 games for the Midget Warriors scoring five times and setting up 10 others. He also saw action in four contests with the Midget AAA Moose Jaw Generals collecting one assist.
The following season he scored another five goals while assisting on 19 more in 35 games and once again dressed for four contests with the Generals matching his point total with a single assist.
Even in his final year of bantam hockey in 2011-12 he wasn’t a real threat offensively as he had just 11 points in 22 games, but it is obvious his game has adjusted to the level in which he is playing at as he has become a big contributor with the defending RBC Cup champions.
The Terriers’ backend was heavily depleted after capturing the national championship last spring and that opened the door for Seiferling – a door that has not slammed in his face.
With three more years of junior eligibility remaining, and some filling in to do from a physical perspective, Seiferling looks to be a player the Terriers can build around and if he continues to make leaps up the ladder at his current pace then it should be a good arrangement for both player and team.
Notre Dame Hounds (D)
The Notre Dame Hounds appear to have a defenceman who is the complete package.
Spencer Trapp, a soon-to-be 19 year-old (his birthday is Nov. 24), is big, strong and productive. And, he has a mean streak!
The White City, Sask. product is in his second season with the SJHL version of the Hounds and his six goals and five assists in the first 22 games are one of the reasons why Notre Dame is the most improved club this year.
At 6-foot-0 and 190 pounds, Trapp is a huge presence on the Notre Dame blueline and throw in his 72 minutes in penalties so far this year he also commands a lot of space in front of the Hounds’ goal.
One more attribute that can’t be overlooked is Trapp is durable as he has yet to miss a game in his SJHL career having played all 56 regular-season contests last year and nine more in the playoffs in addition to the full slate so far this campaign.
Trapp has been in Wilcox for five seasons now having first donned the red and white jerseys in 2010-11 as a 15-year-old playing Midget AA. Trapp played in 18 games that first season scoring once and adding seven assists before moving up to the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League the next year. In his rookie season of Midget AAA Trapp played in 43 games and scored three times while setting up 11 others while the next year he bumped those totals to 7-24-31, also in 43 games. His physical play was also evident at the lower level as he had 102 minutes in penalties in his 86 regular-season games.
Trapp got his first taste of junior hockey when he was 17, but he was held off the scoresheet in his one game with the Hounds. The stage was set, however, for him to make a permanent move last year where he continued to show his complete-game package by scoring four times, adding 26 assists and collecting 30 minutes in penalties.
Trapp still has one more year of junior eligibility remaining and his continued improvement at both ends of the rink gives Notre Dame a very good building block to continue making a move up in the standings.
A recent tweet received by the league indicates it will also be Trapp’s last with the Hounds as he has signed a letter of intent to play with the College of the Holy Cross for 2015-16. This is certainly a birthday he will never forget.
Flin Flon Bombers (RW)
Having just turned 19 on Nov. 20, Brandon Switzer has already seen a good chunk of Western Canada, but it looks like he might have found a home with the Flin Flon Bombers.
The Brandon, Man., native was recently acquired from the Whitecourt Wolverines of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and in his first three games with the Bombers collected three goals and added two assists.
The 5-foot-10, 170-pound right winger has had no trouble finding the back of the net wherever he has played.
As a 15-year-old Switzer cracked the line-up of the Brandon Midget AAA Wheat Kings and in 43 games scored eight times and set up seven others. The following year he was named an alternate captain and he responded with 18 goals and 18 assists in just 33 games. In his final season of Midget AAA, Switzer was dominant scoring 23 times and assisting on 38 others in 43 games. He also had five goals and five assists in seven playoff games to set the table for a move to the junior level.
Having played a pair of games with the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s OCN Blizzard and one more with the Neepawa Natives while toiling with the Wheat Kings, he found his rights heading to Whitecourt for the 2013-14 season. In 55 games last year with the Wolverines, Switzer recorded 12 goals and 14 assists to go with 101 penalty minutes. Switzer was off and running this year in Whitecourt scoring nine times and setting up 12 others in 22 games before Flin Flon head coach and general manager Mike Reagan pulled off a deal that sent Erik Pedersen, who was also averaging nearly a point a game, heading west in exchange for the productive Switzer.
Switzer’s arrival has coincided with Flin Flon going on a bit of a tear and with his past history Switzer should be able to bolster the Bomber offence for the remainder of this year and one more of year of junior eligibility next season.
Battlefords North Stars (C)
Despite being undersized, Jake McMillen is a durable centre. And, he can score!
Standing 6-foot-0, but weighing in at just 150 pounds, McMillen has missed just a handful of games in his two full seasons with the Battlefords North Stars. The 19-year-old product from Carievale, Sask. has proven that one does not have to be a hulking specimen to accumulate points, but rather just use your skills to get your name on the scoresheet.
McMillen first joined the North Stars in the fall of 2012 as a 17-year-old and in 53 games as a rookie scored 14 goals and added 16 assists. In his sophomore campaign, McMillen matched his point total from the previous season only this time he found the back of the net 17 times himself and set up 13 others.
So far this year, McMillen has three goals and three assists in 10 games, but his talents should help him surpass his previous career best with relative ease.
Prior to joining the North Stars, McMillen played in 26 games with the Yorkton Harvest of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League where he netted 13 goals and collected 10 assists during the 2011-12 campaign.
McMillen also had 13 goals in his one season with the Midget AA Estevan Bruins when as a 15-year-old he played in 38 games and amassed a total of 33 points (13-20-33).
McMillen has had to rely on his skill wherever he has played and that pattern will certainly continue for the remainder of this campaign and next year when he completes his junior eligibility.
La Ronge Ice Wolves (RW)
Two years ago, when Jared Blaquiere was just 16 years old, he was one of the final cuts from the Prince Albert Mintos of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. What made that so disheartening was that it denied him the chance to play with his older brother Joel, who had already secured a spot on the club.
The younger Blaquiere then went back to Midget AA and played with the West Central Red Wings and last year made the jump to the Mintos even though his older sibling had graduated from the midget ranks and failed to secure a spot in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
Fast forward to 2014-15 and both Blaquieres have moved up to the SJHL and finally they are playing together, this time with the LaRonge Ice Wolves.
One major accomplishment separates the two, however. While Joel Blaquiere helped the Mintos reach the league final in his one season in Prince Albert (they lost a heart-breaking 3-1 decision to the Saskatoon Contacts in the decisive game), Jared was instrumental in helping the Mintos capture that franchise’s third Telus Cup in nine seasons when Prince Albert won a thrilling triple-overtime contest last spring in Moose Jaw.
Jared Blaquiere, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound right winger from Edam, Sask., has caught on at the new level having scored three times and set up three others in 11 games with the Ice Wolves this year.
Jared Blaquiere played in every game with the Mintos last season scoring eight times and adding 13 assists in 44 regular-season games and another two goals and five helpers in 11 championship games, which included four in the western regional event held in Prince Albert and seven more at the Telus Cup in Moose Jaw.
When Jared Blaquiere was sent back to Midget AA in 2012 he did not throw in the towel, but instead finished second in team scoring (behind Reed Delainey who is now with the Battlefords North Stars) with the Red Wings when he picked up 16 goals and 20 assists.
Jared Blaquiere has proven he is a winner and a determined young man who can only make the Ice Wolves a better team. With two more years of junior eligibility remaining after this season it will be interesting to see how far he progresses in his development and contribution to the team.
Kindersley Klippers (RW)
The final piece to a long-ago trade is paying huge dividends for the Kindersley Klippers.
Devin Case was the future considerations in a Jan. 10, 2013, deal between the Klippers and Grand Prairie Storm and since arriving in Saskatchewan the 5-foot-8, 160-pound right winger has felt right at home.
The 20-year-old product from Yellowknife, NWT, arrived in Kindersley prior to the start of the 2013-14 campaign and in 44 games with the Klippers last year scored 10 goals and set up 14 others. This year Case is leading the team in scoring in the early stages of the regular season having notched three goals and setting up five others in the first six games.
This isn’t Case’s first taste of SJHL action as he played a pair of games with the Notre Dame Hounds in 2011-12 while also toiling with the Notre Dame Argos of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Case first came to Notre Dame as a 16-year-old when he scored two goals in two games with the Argos and in his one full season of Midget AAA action he netted 15 goals and collected 36 assists in 43 games.
His first year of junior hockey saw him head west to Grand Prairie where he played a full 56-game slate with the Grand Prairie Storm, but after posting just 5-8-13 totals he was deemed expendable to complete the earlier deal that saw Brett Printz move from Kindersley to northern Alberta.
Case brings plenty of experience and leadership to a Klippers squad that is looking to move deeper into the playoffs next spring. His quick start to his final year of junior eligibility is certain to be what the team was looking for.
Melfort Mustangs (F)
His name definitely stands out and it also looks like his play is being noticed as Dawven Berggren is off to a great start in his second season with the Melfort Mustangs.
The 5-foot-11, 165-pound rearguard is halfway to equalling his total point production from his rookie campaign and the season is just 10 games old for the much-improved Mustangs.
The 19-year-old product from Saskatoon has six assists in the early stages of his sophomore season while last year he tallied one goal and 11 helpers in 45 matches. The former ninth-round bantam draft pick of the Western Hockey League’s Red Deer Rebels never has been a player to put up big numbers, but his defensive play has always been consistent which is a big reason why he has always succeeded at every level he plays at.
Prior to joining the Mustangs last year, Berggren spent two seasons with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Tisdale Trojans where he scored three times and added 22 assists in 70 games over that span. Berggren also played 10 games at the Midget AAA level as a 15-year-old when he collected one assist with the Saskatoon Contacts.
With another full season of eligibility remaining after this year, Berggren will undoubtedly continue to improve and provide the Mustangs with a solid stay-at-home presence, a trait that is often overlooked, but very valuable to dictate team success.
Weyburn Red Wings (C)
Ian Parker is someone who can’t be easily missed.
Standing at 6-foot-7 and weighing in at 207 pounds the rookie centre for the Weyburn Red Wings is an imposing figure and from his early start in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League he is also someone who should help the Red Wings put the puck in the opposition’s net.
The 18-year-old centre from Saskatoon has two goals and two assists in his first five games in the SJHL in addition to collecting six penalty minutes which follows his form from his one season in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League.
Last year, while playing with the Saskatoon Contacts, Parker had nine goals and eight assists in 42 games, but he also provided some grit to the line-up as he registered 75 minutes in penalties.
Prior to playing with the Contacts, Parker toiled with a team in Seattle and this past summer was selected in the 11th round of the United States Hockey League draft by the Des Moines Buccaneers.
Weyburn is certainly happy he decided to remain in Saskatchewan and with two more seasons of junior eligibility remaining after this year he most certainly should continue to grow both in size and in skill development.
Humboldt Broncos (D)
If the early returns are any indication, Connor Swystun has adjusted nicely to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
The 18-year-old Saskatoon product is in his second season with the Humboldt Broncos and after registering just one assist in 50 games during his rookie campaign a year ago the 5-foot-10, 170-pound defenceman has already tripled that output after just five games in the 2014-15 season having scored once and set up two others.
His quick start should not be too surprising as Swystun had a goal and three assists in 10 playoff games last spring and prior to joining the Broncos was a consistent threat in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League.
Swystun got his first taste of Midget AAA as a 14-year-old when he played three games with the Saskatoon Blazers. While he was held off the scoresheet in that audition it did give him experience for the next two seasons when he tallied three goals and five assists in 27 games as a 15-year-old and then followed that up with 3-13-16 totals in 44 games during his sophomore campaign.
Swystun has already attended a number of Western Hockey League training camps with the Saskatoon Blades and with two more years of junior eligibility remaining after this season he should be able to continue to move forward in his career and be an anchor on the blueline.
Nipawin Hawks (RW)
As a rookie winger, Keegan Kjargaard brings a lot to the table for the Nipawin Hawks.
The 18-year-old Prince Albert product is coming off a national championship season as he was instrumental in helping the Mintos capture the Telus Cup title last April in Moose Jaw. Kjargaard also starred in the classroom as he was a finalist for an Esso Scholarship presented during the Western Regional tournament played in Prince Albert prior to the national event.
At 5-foot-9 and 167 pounds Kjargaard brings to the Hawks a lot of speed and tenacity around the puck. In 43 regular-season games with the Mintos last year Kjargaard had 14 goals and 28 assists while adding three assists in four Western Regional tilts and two goals and two helpers in the gruelling week-long Telus Cup tournament.
Those numbers were a huge improvement from his rookie campaign with the Mintos in 2012-13 where he netted just four goals and added six assists in the same amount of regular-season games.
Kjargaard got his first taste of Junior “A” hockey last season when he scored once in two appearances with the Hawks and while he has just one assist in his first two games this year, Nipawin has a player who will show up every night and once he gets accustomed to the level of play he should be someone that is counted on in many key situations.
Melville Millionaires (RW)
If Reed Murray picks up where his season ended last year the Melville Millionaires should have no worries about putting the puck in the net.
The 20-year-old Calgary native had five goals in Melville’s playoff run to the league final last spring and while that might not sound like much it was nearly half of what he scored in the regular season in a quarter as many games.
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound winger had five goals and three assists in the 12 Millionaire playoff contests while in 51 regular-season games he notched 13 tallies and set up 19 others in his first tour of the SJHL.
Murray had previously played a dozen Junior “A” games when he suited up for the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Calgary Canucks in 2012-13, but he spent most of that year playing Junior “B” in his hometown before relocating to Saskatchewan as a 19-year-old.
In his final year of midget eligibility in 2011-12 Murray toiled with the Calgary Buffaloes of the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League and in 34 games recorded nine goals and nine assists. He also got in three games with the AJHL’s Canmore Eagles, but was held off the scoresheet.
Already having recorded a pair of assists in Melville’s first two games this year, Murray is expected to put up some good numbers and the Millionaires will be looking to him to provide some valuable leadership as well as he tries to help that franchise win its first championship in his final year at the junior level.