Flin Flon Bombers (C)
It appears that Nick Shumlanski’s introduction to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League at the end of last season more than prepared him for a full-time roster spot with the Flin Flon Bombers this year.
When Shumlanski’s midget season was done with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Beardy’s Blackhawks in the spring, the then 17-year-old centre played in six games with the Bombers and tallied one goal and set up two others. The 5-foot-7, 160-pound centre also appeared in a pair of playoff games, but was held off the scoresheet, but he showed he was ready to make the jump to the next level.
Now 18 years old, Shumlanski has matched his totals already scoring once and setting up two others in the Bombers’ first five games of the 2015-16 campaign and it appears he is ready to help Flin Flon get back on track and challenge the frontrunners for the Sherwood Division title.
Shumlanski has always been able to find the back of the net as he had 17 points in 24 games with the North East Wolfpack in his final season of Bantam AA hockey and then in two years with Beardy’s he recorded 27 goals and 57 assists in 87 regular-season contests.
A product of Tisdale it looks like Shumlanski has found a home in Flin Flon and with more experience at the Junior “A” he level could turn out to be a very productive player for years to come.
Humboldt Broncos (RW)
He might just be the smallest player in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League this year and he also is quite possibly the first ever Nunavut-born player to compete in the league, but Daniel McKitrick brings with him a wealth of scoring prowess as the 18-year-old forward is leading the Humboldt Broncos with his offensive touch.
McKitrick, who was acquired from the Thunder Bay North Stars of the Superior International Junior Hockey League in June, was born in Coral Harbour, Nunavut, before moving to Thunder Bay where he played all of his minor hockey.
In his final year of Bantam AAA hockey, the 5-foot-6, 147-pound McKitrick had 66 points in 82 games and then continued to keep opposing teams on their toes at the minor midget level when he tallied 23 goals and 29 assists in 50 games. McKitrick only played in 16 games with the Thunder Bay Midget AAA squad as a 16-year-old, but he had four goals and five helpers during that time. Forgoing his final year of midget eligibility, McKitrick had 33 points in 50 regular-season games and nine more points – including seven goals – in eight post-season contests with the North Stars last year as a 17-year-old before being moved out west to Humboldt where it appears he has settled in nicely in his Prairie surroundings.
The Broncos lost plenty of firepower from last year’s squad, but McKitrick looks ready to help fill in some of the void. His smallish stature might seem like a detriment to some, but it certainly appears like he plays much bigger as he has never had fewer than 50 penalty minutes in any one season.
It has been quite a road for McKitrick to get to the SJHL, but if his quick start is any indication then fans around the league are in for a treat.
Yorkton Terriers (C)
To say the last 18 months has been hectic for 16-year-old McKenzie Welke would be an understatement.
Along with his twin brother Carson, Welke has helped the Yorkton Bantam AA Terriers win a provincial championship in 2014, was almost a point-per-game rookie with the Yorkton Maulers of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League in 2014-15 and now is a member of his hometown Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Yorkton Terriers.
Throw in an appearance at the Canada Winter Games in February and an audition at the Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blades’ rookie camp this fall and you get the picture.
McKenzie, who won’t turn 17 until just after the New Year, is a 5-foot-10, 165-pound forward with plenty of skill.
During the provincial bantam championship season he scored 31 times and set up 31 others in 30 regular-season games and then followed that up with 6-9-15 totals in nine playoff games. At the Western Canada Bantam AAA championship in Kelowna, McKenzie had one goal and one assist in four games.
Last year with the Maulers, McKenzie had 16 goals and 16 assists in 40 regular-season games while also contributing two goals and an assist in seven games with Team Saskatchewan at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George, B.C.
McKenzie got his SJHL career off to a flying start setting up his brother for the Terriers’ first goal on home ice this season and then notching his own later in the same game.
The Terriers, who are looking to rebound from a disappointing 2014-15 campaign where they finished dead last, will be looking to McKenzie, and his brother Carson, to help turn their fortunes around.
Melville Millionaires (F)
Having a nose for the net is a rare skill and the Melville Millionaires will be looking for Tyler Kreklewich to sniff out the opposition’s goal on a consistent basis this year.
The homegrown Melville product is entering his first full season with the Millionaires after bouncing around the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League the last three years before landing with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League squad mid-way through the last campaign.
Kreklewich, who had 35 points in 22 games, including 20 goals, in his final year of bantam hockey in Melville, began his Midget AAA career with the Saskatoon Blazers as a 15-year-old. The 6-foot, 165-pound right winger had just five goals and two assists in 40 games that year and as a result found himself with the Yorkton Harvest a year later. In 41 games that season he had 11-14-25 totals, but again found himself on the move for his final year of Midget AAA hockey. With the Tisdale Trojans he found his groove as in just 20 games he was the runaway scoring leader with 15 goals and 25 assists before being summoned to the Millionaires.
In 27 games at the SJHL level Kreklewich had seven goals and nine assists while being held off the scoresheet in three post-season games. Kreklewich, who won’t turn 18 until November, is also scoreless to start this year as the Millionaires have failed to pick up a point in their first three starts.
In order for the Millionaires to once again challenge for the Viterra Division championship they will need a strong season from Kreklewich. Past history shows that once he adapts to a new level of hockey he can produce; time will tell if that trend continues.
Weyburn Red Wings (D)
If the Weyburn Red Wings are to take the next step and make a deep run in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoffs it is certain that Mike Eskra will play a big role in that continued improvement.
The 18-year-old Regina product is in his second season on the Red Wings’ blueline and is coming off a rookie campaign that saw him collect three goals and 16 assists in 47 games. To start his sophomore year the 5-foot-11, 185-pound Eskra had a goal and four helpers in Weyburn’s home-and-home sweep of the Yorkton Terriers on opening weekend.
Eskra came to the Red Wings after an impressive stint with the Regina Pat Canadians of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League where he played in all 88 regular-season games over a two-year span and tallied 11 goals and 35 assists.
Eskra was selected in the fifth round of the 2012 Western Hockey League’s bantam draft by the Vancouver Giants, but he appears to have found a home in Weyburn as he first saw action with the club in 2013-14 as a 16-year-old when he played in three games and registered one assist.
While he has great offensive capabilities from the back end, Eskra also brings a bit of sand-paper quality to his game as can be attested by the 122 minutes in penalties he accumulated with the Pat Canadians and the 76 penalty minutes he amassed as a 17-year-old freshman last year in the SJHL.
Eskra is certain to be a leader with the Red Wings and will undoubtedly be among the league’s elite blueliners this year.
La Ronge Ice Wolves (D)
If there was ever a story of perseverance then La Ronge Ice Wolves’ defenceman Bryce Fiske epitomizes it.
In the 2012 Western Hockey League’s bantam draft, Fiske was among the last players chosen when the Tri-City Americans used the 219th pick to select the homegrown La Ronge product.
Far from being discouraged the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Fiske cracked the line-up of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Tisdale Trojans while still 14 years old (his birthday isn’t until November) and in 38 games at that level scored five times and set up 10 others while spending 60 minutes in the penalty box.
The following year was a bit of a roller coaster for Fiske as he ended up in Prince Albert playing five games with the Mintos before finding his way to Beardy’s to play in 17 games of Midget AA hockey where he averaged a point per game scoring six goals and adding 11 assists.
He did get a look from his hometown Ice Wolves during that tumultuous year, however, and in a pair of contests registered one assist. That audition set the stage for his rookie campaign last year where he played in 52 games and had 2-5-7 totals to go with 67 minutes in penalties.
The Ice Wolves are looking to end a four-year drought from the SJHL playoffs this year and it is expected that Fiske will be relied upon heavily to help the club achieve that goal. Not yet 18 years of age, Fiske will be a key figure in La Ronge tightening up play in their own end while also providing some improved offensive numbers and with that should come increased team success.