Brandon Lesko, F
Flin Flon Bombers
by Dave Leaderhouse
The Flin Flon Bombers are in the hunt for a second straight trip to the league finals, and a possible Canalta Cup championship, and they are doing so thanks to a very deep bench.
Brandon Lesko is part of that depth and the second-year winger from Hafford, Sask., moved up the chart this year after nearly doubling his output from his rookie campaign when he collected 23 goals and 26 assists in 50 games during the 2016-17 regular season. As a freshman, the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Lesko notched 8-18-26 totals.
In the playoffs it looks like the just-turned 19-year-old is ready to be more of a threat as well as Lesko had just one goal in 14 post-season tilts a year ago while this time around he already has a pair of tallies in the first two games against the Notre Dame Hounds.
Lesko got his first taste of Junior “A” hockey when he was in his second year of midget hockey as he was called up for one game with the Bombers during the 2014-15 season. While he never registered a point he was on the team’s radar and after a 54-point season with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Battlefords Stars he was ready to make the jump to the next level as a 17-year-old.
Lesko’s performance in junior is following that of what happened at the midget level as he more than doubled his output from his first season with the Stars when he had 9-17-26 totals as a 15-year-old before improving dramatically to where he had the 54 points on 21 goals and 33 helpers.
Lesko, who was a 10th-round pick of the Calgary Hitmen in the 2013 Western Hockey League bantam draft thanks largely to a 66-point output in 50 games with the Battlefords Bantam AA squad, has also made a pair of elite teams during his development. In 2013, Lesko represented Saskatchewan at the under-16 championship while this past winter he was part of Team West that competed at the World Junior “A” Challenge.
The Bombers have one of the most potent offences in the league and Lesko is playing a bigger role in that production each and every game. With two more years of junior eligibility remaining he figures to be an even bigger part of the Bombers’ future.
Curtis Meager, G
by Dave Leaderhouse
Coming out of Midget AAA hockey there was no goaltender with a more attractive resume than Curtis Meger.
The 18-year-old Regina product had won almost everything imaginable in his two seasons with the Pat Canadians: top goaltender as a rookie in 2014-15; first-team all-star in his first season and second-team all-star the following year; best goals-against average two years in a row (1.91 the first year and 1.68 last season); best save percentage (.934) as a freshman.
All of that added up to a bronze-medal finish at the 2015 Telus Cup national midget championship and a chance to make the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders at the start of the 2016-17 campaign.
Armed with a pair of veteran netminders already, the Raiders reassigned Meger to the Estevan Bruins in early October and all the 6-foot-1, 172-pound Meger did was win 14 of his 22 appearances with two of those being shutouts.
Meger finished his first season of junior hockey with a 3.18 goals-against average and .905 save percentage and while Nathan Alalouf has gotten the nod early in the post-season, Meger is more than ready and capable to jump in if the opportunity arises.
Prior to this year, Meger’s junior experience consisted of 18 minutes of work with the Bruins as a 16-year-old in 2014-15 and some exhibition and emergency back-up action with the Raiders. He has now firmly let it be known he is ready to play at the junior level and with two more years of junior eligibility remaining he will undoubtedly only get better and given additional responsibilities.
Dylan McCabe, D
Weyburn Red Wings
by Dave Leaderhouse
It has been quite a week for Weyburn Red Wing defenceman Dylan McCabe.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Regina product scored his first-ever Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League goal in a 3-2 loss to the Notre Dame Hounds on Wednesday and on Saturday he will celebrate his 18th birthday.
McCabe has developed into a steady and reliable rearguard, despite being eligible to still be playing midget hockey. McCabe has dressed for 43 of Weyburn’s 56 games and in addition to his one goal he has also contributed nine assists.
McCabe got a brief taste of Weyburn hockey last year playing in one game as a 16-year-old, but he spent the rest of the season with the Prince Albert Mintos of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League where he registered four goals and 20 assists in 44 games.
As a 15-year-old, McCabe spent the year playing Midget AA hockey with the Regina Vics where in 38 games he had two goals and nine helpers. McCabe also got into a pair of SMAAAHL games with the Regina Pat Canadians that season, but was held off the scoresheet.
The Red Wings have been in a season-long battle for playoff positioning and the experience McCabe has gained will be invaluable to his development. With three more years of junior eligibility remaining, McCabe will undoubtedly use that experience to become a leader for the team for years to come.
Brayden Camrud, F
by Dave Leaderhouse
Despite not playing in more than a month early in the season, Brayden Camrud has turned in a solid freshman campaign with the Humboldt Broncos.
The 18-year-old Saskatoon product has four goals and 22 assists in just 40 games as he was not in the line-up for most of October and the early part of November and at 5-foot-9 and 167 pounds, Camrud has also shown plenty of grit having collected 61 minutes in penalties.
Camrud came to the Broncos after two seasons with the Saskatoon Blazers of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Last year, Camrud averaged almost a point-per-game collecting 17 goals and 23 assists in 41 contests while in his first year with the Blazers he had 12-9-21 totals in 28 games. Camrud also moved up to the Junior “B” level for a stretch after the 2014-15 season seeing action in one regular-season tilt and three playoff games with the Saskatoon Royals of the Prairie Junior Hockey League.
The Broncos have rebounded from missing the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade to being in the middle of the pack this time around. Camrud has played a part in the turnaround and he should be a key member of the club for the next two seasons as Humboldt continues to build its way back to the upper echelon of the league.
Chaz Smedsrud, F
Notre Dame Hounds
by Dave Leaderhouse
It was obvious that Chaz Smedsrud had outgrown the quality of hockey back home in Luverne, Minn.
Prior to joining the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Notre Dame Hounds this season, the 18-year-old pretty much had his way in the high school league he played in as over the course of four years and 98 games the 6-foot-1, 190-pound winger amassed a staggering 129 goals and 187 assists. Smedsrud even supplemented his time with Luverne High School the last two seasons by also playing with a Great Plains team and in 38 games with that club he tallied six goals and 11 helpers.
Those kinds of stats certainly weren’t expected when Smedsrud moved north to Wilcox, but even still he put up some pretty decent numbers in his freshman season in the SJHL. Despite missing close to a month early in the season, Smedsrud finished the regular campaign with 15 goals and 18 assists in 45 games and he will undoubtedly be looked upon to provide some solid secondary scoring as the Hounds begin their chase for the Canalta Cup with a Wild Card match-up against the Melfort Mustangs.
With the Hounds boasting strong offensive talent in the likes of Ben Duperreault and Adam Dawe, Smedsrud still found himself playing in all situations as he collected four goals on the power play and another while playing shorthanded.
Selected in the 26th round of the United States Hockey League’s 2015 draft by Sioux Falls, Smedsrud opted to come to the SJHL and the Hounds certainly have benefitted from that decision. With two more years of junior eligibility remaining Smedsrud’s all-around skill level will be something the Hounds can utilize and build around.
Jared Legien, F
by Dave Leaderhouse
The Western Hockey League’s Kootenay Ice no longer had a place for Jared Legien in their line-up, but the Yorkton Terriers did and Legien responded by running away with the team scoring race and helping the Terriers finish sixth overall in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s regular season.
Two years ago the Terriers had a brief glimpse at what Legien could do when the then 16-year-old dressed for one game and recorded a goal and an assist. Legien, however, split the remainder of that season with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Moose Jaw Generals and Kootenay and last season he was with the Ice for the whole year where he recorded four goals and four assists in 69 games.
The 6-foot-1, 194-pound winger from Pilot Butte, Sask., returned to Kootenay this year, but by early October he was on his way to Yorkton where he notched 30 goals and 26 assists in 51 games. Legien, who was 17 points clear of the next highest producer in the Terrier line-up, had seven game-winning goals to go with six on the power play and another while playing shorthanded.
While his numbers weren’t spectacular in the WHL it was evident he had a huge offensive upside from his time in Moose Jaw. In 72 games over in the SMAAAHL, Legien had 23 goals and 22 assists and he also collected three points in five games when Moose Jaw hosted the Telus Cup national midget championship in 2014.
Prior to joining the Generals, Legien had a spectacular season with the Prairie Storm bantam squad where he registered 40 goals and 26 assists in just 26 games and he added another nine points in six Midget AA games to get the attention of WHL scouts. Kootenay then used their first-round pick, the ninth overall, to select Legien.
With all of that experience the Terriers will be looking to Legien to continue putting up solid numbers in the post-season, beginning with a match-up against the Estevan Bruins in the quarter-final round. With two more years of junior eligibility remaining he certainly could be a cornerstone for the future.
Justen Close, G
by Dave Leaderhouse
It has been quite a homecoming for Kindersley product Justen Close.
After two seasons away playing for the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Tisdale Trojans, Close has returned to the mid-west in fine style having helped the Kindersley Klippers in a season-long battle to claim a Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoff spot.
The 18-year-old Close has appeared in 29 games for the Klippers and during the stretch run when Kindersley has pulled away from Melville and Melfort to all but lock up a coveted playoff spot, the 5-foot-10, 160-pounder has been used almost exclusively and will likely see plenty of more action as the season winds down and the playoffs begin.
Close has a modest 12-10-0-2 record this year, but he is among the leaders in save percentage at .916 and goals-against average at 2.81. Close also has five shutouts to sit tied for second in that category, one behind Nipawin’s Kristian Stead.
While away in Tisdale, Close developed into one of the top up-and-coming netminders in the province and the experience he gained with the Trojans will only benefit the Klippers, not just this year, but possibly for two more seasons.
Close was spectacular in his final season of midget hockey having posted a 1.96 GAA and .931 save percentage in the regular season and his 2.40 GAA and .911 save percentage in the playoffs helped lead the Trojans to within one victory of a league championship (Tisdale lost in the fifth and deciding game against the Notre Dame Hounds).
All of that was a significant improvement from his rookie year in Tisdale when Close earned second-team all-star honours with a 2.09 GAA and .919 save percentage in 22 appearances.
This season marks the first time in several years that Close has played in his hometown as prior to going to Tisdale he spent a season with the Unity Lazers of the Centre Four Hockey League Midget AA Division and again he showed his abilities by recording a 1.79 GAA in 17 games.
The Klippers have had a steady diet of premiere netminders in recent years – Evan Weninger comes to mind – and Close looks like he is going to be a great part of that tradition for years to come.
Boedy Donald, F
by Dave Leaderhouse
Being a journeyman in hockey can have several meanings; there is the one that describes a player that falls somewhere between being a fringe player and a superstar and there is another that indicates he is well travelled.
Boedy Donald fits the bill on both of those descriptions.
At just 18 years of age, Donald already has more than 100 games experience in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and following a mid-season trade he is now with his third club in the past year.
The 6-foot-1, 194-pound Star City product is currently with the Melfort Mustangs and his experience will be leaned on heavily as the two-time defending champs make a final-week push to get into the playoffs.
Donald, who was acquired from the Nipawin Hawks on Nov. 30 in exchange for a pair of third-round draft picks, has two assists in 25 games with the Mustangs, but he has also added some size and grit with 54 minutes of penalties having been accumulated while with Melfort.
In 21 games with the Hawks, Donald had one goal and 35 minutes in penalties and all of that was preceeded by two seasons with the Kindersley Klippers where he dressed for 81 games and had a goal and eight assists.
Donald made the jump to Junior “A” as a 16-year-old after spending just one season with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Yorkton Harvest and since then has developed into a steady and durable rearguard.
With two more seasons of eligibility remaining, Donald will not only continue to improve, but will provide invaluable experience and guidance to his younger teammates.
Alex Maticic, F
by Dave Leaderhouse
The Melville Millionaires knew coming into the 2016-17 season that it was going to be a learning process as they try to rebound from missing out on the playoffs last spring.
While they still remain alive in their chase for a coveted post-season berth, one of the many things they have learned is that they have plenty of young talent making the future very bright.
One of those young players is 18-year-old Alex Maticic, a 5-foot-9, 180-pound winger from Thunder Bay, Ont.
It has been a wild ride for Maticic to get to Melville as in the past 12 months his rights have belonged to three different teams in three different leagues.
Last year Maticic posted 21 goals and 23 assists in 54 games with English River of the Superior International Junior Hockey League and he followed that up by adding six goals and six helpers in nine playoff games. Then he was on the move to the Whitecourt Wolverines of the Alberta Junior Hockey League, but before he even dressed in a single game with that squad he was acquired by the Millionaires for a player development fee.
Maticic hasn’t disappointed the new regime in Melville as through 45 games he tallied five times and assisted on 12 others and gained invaluable experience going forward.
It isn’t the first time Maticic has played in Saskatchewan as he was an alternate captain with the Thunder Bay Midget AAA team that represented Northern Ontario at the 2014 western regional Telus Cup event held in Prince Albert. Maticic had 48 points in 61 games with Thunder Bay that year and while his club didn’t advance to the national championship it got him noticed for the move to junior hockey the following year when he began his two-year run with English River.
Maticic has shown in the past he has leadership skills and offensive capabilities and with a year under his belt in Melville he will only make the Millionaires a better team going forward and that might still include a surprising charge to the playoffs this year.
Brayden Dunn, F
La Ronge Ice Wolves
by Dave Leaderhouse
To say it has been a frustrating season in La Ronge would be a huge understatement, but out of the dust has come some promising young talent and one of those players the Ice Wolves will be looking toward in the future is Brayden Dunn.
A former fourth-round pick of the Victoria Cougars in the 2013 Western Hockey League bantam draft, Dunn has put up some impressive numbers on a team that has struggled through a tumultuous season that has included three different coaches behind the bench.
Acquired from the Whitecourt Wolverines in mid-October, along with netminder Aaron McKay, Dunn has posted 7-11-18 totals in 36 games. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound winger from Calgary has been used in all situations with five of his 18 points having come on the power-play.
Prior to his move to northern Saskatchewan, Dunn had played 10 games this year with Whitecourt, four more last year with the Wolverines and six with the Calgary Canucks where in 20 games of previous junior hockey experience he had managed just one goal and one assist.
His adjustment to the junior level might have taken a bit of time, but now that he has caught on with the Ice Wolves they have something to look forward to as Dunn finished his midget career with the Calgary North Stars last year in exceptional style having scored seven goals and set up six others in just seven playoff games. He also had 14-25-39 totals in 30 regular-season contests showing he has the ability to be an offensive contributor once he has adjusted to the level of play.
That was never more evident in his final year of bantam hockey when he registered 53 points in 33 games with the Calgary North Star Sabres and then in the playoffs he added 16 more points in 12 post-season tilts. At the Alberta Cup that year, Dunn lit it up even more scoring six times and assisting on four others in just five games.
While the Ice Wolves have had a season to forget, they do have reasons to be excited about the future and Dunn certainly is one of those.
Michael Grant, F
by Dave Leaderhouse
The Nipawin Hawks must have seen something in forward Michael Grant that others didn’t because when they swung a trade with the Grand Prairie Storm last summer the deal went right under the radar.
The 19-year-old Lethbridge product had just one goal and seven assists in 53 games with the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Storm, but with the Hawks, Grant has blossomed into a bonafide sniper having registered 21 goals and 14 assists through his first 45 games in the SJHL.
The 6-foot, 186-pound Grant has played in all situations with the Hawks having scored six times on the power play and adding another shorthanded, but during one week in mid-January he exploded for five goals and three assists in three games to help launch the Hawks into what has turned out to be a 12-game winning streak and get Nipawin back in the chase for a Sherwood Division banner.
Grant had showed some of his scoring prowess in his final year of midget hockey back home with the Lethbridge Midget AAA Hurricanes as he collected 13 goals and 13 assists in 34 regular-season games and added three goals and one helper in six playoff tilts. Prior to that, however, his biggest offensive output was a nine-point campaign at the minor midget level as a 15-year-old.
The Hawks paid a big price in sending forward Zac McNeil to Grand Prairie in exchange for Grant and Devan Reed (who has since landed in Camrose of the AJHL), but the returns have been more than favourable as Nipawin looks to clear that last hurdle and return to the SJHL championship final for the first time since 2001 (they were eliminated by eventual champion Melfort Mustangs in the semifinals in each of the last two years).
Nipawin has been a defence-first team as they have allowed the fewest goals against among the 12 SJHL entries, but the addition of Grant has also moved them into the top third for goals scored and that extra punch will be pivotal when the post-season begins.
And, with another year of junior eligibility remaining, Grant will only get better from the experience and confidence he has gained this season.
Xavier Labelle, D
by Dave Leaderhouse
A year ago the Humboldt Broncos allowed by far the most goals against and as a result missed out on the playoffs for the first time in more than a decade.
The team knew they had to shore up defensively if they wanted to have a chance to get back in the post-season and it has been a 17-year-old rookie blueliner that has been instrumental in helping turn the team’s defensive fortunes around.
Xavier Labelle, who didn’t turn 17 until two months into the season, is just one of a handful of players to have dressed for every game and when the dust settles on the regular season in three weeks time the Broncos will have shaved off 60-plus goals against and will indeed be back in the thick of the chase for a Canalta Cup championship.
Labelle, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound product from Saskatoon, has been more than steady in his own end while also chipping in with a goal and seven assists on the offensive side of the game. With 57 minutes in penalties he has also let opposing teams know he plays with a bit of an edge, which can often at times lead to more space in front of his own goal.
Prior to joining the Broncos, Labelle was a mainstay with the Saskatoon Contacts of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League for two seasons culminating with a trip to the Telus Cup tournament last year. In 83 regular-season games with the Contacts, Labelle had six goals and 15 assists and he also collected one helper in five games at the national midget tournament last spring.
The Broncos were quick out of the gate this season, but have since leveled off as they prepare for their run to the playoffs. With the play of Labelle, and a whole host of first-year players, the team will only get better with the experience and with three more years of junior eligibility remaining Labelle will certainly be a building block firmly in place.
Jordan McCausland, F
Flin Flon Bombers
by Dave Leaderhouse
Zach Goberis, F
by Dave Leaderhouse
Dayton Heino, F
by Dave Leaderhouse
The Melville Millionaires are battling for their playoff lives entering the final month of the regular schedule, but with one of the youngest line-ups in the league, the team is gaining plenty of experience for the future.
Icing a team with as many as a dozen first-year players in the line-up one can expect there to be numerous challenges, but Dayton Heino has consistently showed up in his rookie campaign to offer plenty of promise for the stretch run and beyond.
The 18-year-old Minnedosa, Man., product has appeared in all but one of the Millionaires’ games this season scoring six times and setting up nine others. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound forward has also accumulated 49 minutes in penalties to add a little bit of grit to his game.
Prior to joining the Millionaires, Heino spent three years with the Yellowhead Chiefs of the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League. There, too, he was very dependable missing just three regular-season games during that time.
Heino consistently improved each year with the Chiefs as he went from recording just eight points as a 15 -year-old to 26 the following season to averaging a point-per-game (21-23-44) in his final year. Heino also showed last year that he is ready to play when the games really matter as he had five goals in 10 playoff games.
With two more years of junior eligibility remaining, and Heino’s past history of steadily improving every season, the Millionaires look to have a solid core in place and Heino will undoubtedly be a big part of it both during the stretch run this year and in the future.
Derek Patter, F
La Ronge Ice Wolves
by Dave Leaderhouse
It hasn’t been a season to remember for the La Ronge Ice Wolves, but despite the struggles Derek Patter has emerged as a bonafide junior hockey player.
The 18-year-old Patter, who hails from Edmonton, has registered 10 goals and nine assists in 45 games with the Ice Wolves and although he has been on a bit of a slump of late – just one point in his last four games – he has shown that he is ready to play each and every night.
The 5-foot-10, 180-pound Patter joined the Ice Wolves after three solid seasons of midget hockey in the Alberta capital. Last year, Patter had 15 points in 34 games with the Southside Athletic Midget AAA club and he also got into two Junior “A” games with the Olds Grizzlies of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
As a 16-year-old, Patter scorched the Alberta Midget AA Hockey League with 45 points in 27 games and in his first season of midget hockey he put up 7-7-14 totals in 36 games at the minor midget level.
Patter also knows what it takes to be a winner as he was part of the SSAC Lions’ team that captured the Alberta bantam championship when he was 14 years old.There have been three different coaches with the Ice Wolves this year and players have come and gone, but Patter has been a constant and with what he has learned from this season La Ronge certainly looks like they have a key piece in place for the next two years.
Jaxon Joseph, F
by Dave Leaderhouse
Matt Vernon, G
by Dave Leaderhouse
Jacob Arsenault, D
Notre Dame Hounds
by Dave Leaderhouse
At 15 years of age Jacob Arsenault moved almost entirely across the country to further his hockey and education careers and in the three years he has been in Notre Dame he has moved steadily up the ladder to where he is now a mainstay with the Junior “A” Hounds – and he is just 17 years old.
When the 6-foot-1, 190-pound defenceman first left his home in Richmond, PEI, he spent a season with the Midget “A” Hounds and notched three goals and five assists in 35 games. Last year he moved up to Midget “AAA” and improved on those numbers by recording four goals and 14 helpers in 39 games with the Notre Dame Argos.
The rugged rearguard also got into five regular-season contests and four playoff games with the Junior “A” Hounds last season and although he never registered a point, he did make an impression leading to his securing a spot this year with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League entry.
Arsenault has once again adapted to the higher level of competition as through 30 games he has five goals and eight assists, but his play has also been highlighted by providing some grit to the Hounds’ line-up as his team-leading 75 minutes in penalties will attest to. In fact, Arsenault has provided an edge to every team he has played with in Notre Dame as he accumulated 85 minutes in penalties while with the Midget “A” squad two years ago and last season he had 99 penalty minutes with the Argos.
His play in Saskatchewan has not gone unnoticed in his home province as the Summerside Capitals selected Arsenault in the fifth round of last summer’s Maritime Hockey League draft, but Arsenault, who hasn’t played in PEI since he was a member of the Western Maroons at the Bantam AAA level in 2013-14 (3-13-16, 40 pim), has remained with the program that has developed his skills at a higher level for three seasons.
With aspirations of playing NCAA Division 1 hockey and pursuing a career in business, Arsenault is looking to continue developing while in Notre Dame and with three more years of junior eligibility remaining after this season he appears to be on the right track to satisfy those goals.
Kyle Bosch, F
by Dave Leaderhouse
It took some time for Kyle Bosch to get on the scoresheet in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, but the just-turned 18-year-old winger has settled in nicely with his hometown Kindersley Klippers.
Bosch, whose birthday is Jan. 12, appeared in seven regular-season games and two more in the post-season last year without registering a point and he began this year going pointless in his first 10 games before notching three goals and six assists since then.
Prior to joining the Klippers, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound Bosch spent two seasons with the Saskatoon Blazers of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. Last season he recorded 15 goals and 10 assists in 42 games while as a 15-year-old Bosch collected two goals and 12 helpers in 41 contests. Bosch, who was a sixth-round pick of the Western Hockey League’s Kamloops Blazers in 2014, also appeared in seven games with Team Saskatchewan at the Canada Winter Games that year where he recorded one assist at that event.
Bosch came out of bantam hockey as a more-than-a-point-per-game player having notched 15 goals and 20 assists in 30 games with the West Central Wheat Kings. He also had six points in four playoff games that season so he has proven that he can produce in the important games.
Being the youngest player on a Klippers team that is battling for a playoff spot, Bosch will only learn from the experience and should be a cornerstone for the franchise for years to come.
Erik Olson, D
Weyburn Red Wings
In early November the Weyburn Red Wings made a trade with the Grand Prairie Storm of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and at the time there wasn’t too much made of the deal: a player development fee heading west in exchange for a hulking 19-year-old defenceman.
Almost two months later that deal is looking pretty good for the Red Wings as Erik Olson has settled in nicely having scored twice and set up two others in 14 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League games.
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Olson has added more size to a Red Wing backend that already had an average of over six feet and 200 pounds among the seven other incumbent defencemen.
The product of Delta, B.C., had played in 11 games with the Storm prior to the trade registering just one assist and with just one other Junior “A” game of experience (last year with the BCHL’s Langley Rivermen) prior to his stint in Grand Prairie, Olson came to Weyburn as somewhat of an unknown. That appears to have changed.
Olson came up through the minor hockey ranks and when he was done his midget hockey he played two seasons in the Pacific International Junior Hockey League, first with the Delta Ice Hawks and then last year with the Abbotsford Pilots. His time with the Ice Hawks didn’t see him register a point, but in Abbotsford, Olson showed his promise by scoring nine times and setting up 12 others in 42 games. He also added four points in five playoff games to set the stage for his move to the next level.
Now that he has found a home in southeastern Saskatchewan, Olson looks to continue with his improvement and is a welcome addition to a Red Wing team that is in a battle for playoff positioning as the second half of the season gets under way.
Joel Grzybowski, G
Battlefords North Stars
It is said that good goaltending often wins championships and the Battlefords North Stars have to be feeling pretty good with the tandem they have as they enter the second half of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League regular season with a commanding lead in both the Finning Division and overall races.
Already armed with 19-year-old veteran Taryn Kotchorek, the North Stars added 17-year-old Joel Grzybowski to the fold this year and all the rookie has done is lead the league in goals-against average with 1.73 and shutouts with four.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound Grzybowski, who hails from Hafford, Sask., spent the last two seasons with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blazers where he continually improved his skills playing in 24 games the first year and 33 last season. He knocked more than half-a-goal per game off his stats last year when he posted a 2.63 GAA compared to the 3.26 GAA he recorded as a 15-year-old.
An 11th-round pick of the Saskatoon Blades in the 2014 Western Hockey League bantam draft, Grzybowski, came out of the bantam ranks after two solid seasons with the Sask. Valley Vipers in addition to being a member of Team Saskatchewan at the Canada Winter Games in 2014.
Grzybowski had a brief audition with the North Stars last year when he appeared in one game and allowed just two goals on 23 shots, but that glimpse hardly indicated what the club was going to get from him this year.
With three more years of junior hockey eligibility remaining the North Stars look to be in good hands between the pipes and with the success he and the team are enjoying this year that only adds to the confidence and experience he is gaining moving forward.
Kenzie Arnold, F
The Nipawin Hawks are a young team this year, but the youngest of the bunch is 17-year-old Kenzie Arnold.
The 5-foot-11, 166-pound forward from Dodsland, Sask., has played in just 21 games so far, but with one goal and two assists to his credit he is getting his feet nice and wet at the Junior “A” level.
Arnold got his first taste of hockey at the SJHL level last year when he appeared in one game with the Hawks and although he didn’t register a point he offered a glimpse of the future. Arnold spent the rest of last year with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Battlefords Stars where in 44 regular-season games he collected six goals and added 11 assists.
In his first year of midget hockey, during the 2014-15 campaign, Arnold notched 12 goals and 16 assists in 32 games with the Unity Blazers of the Centre-Four Hockey League while also getting into seven games with the Midget AAA Stars where he registered one goal and two assists during that stopover.
Arnold came into the midget ranks as a point-per-game player while with the West Central Bantam Wheat Kings as he had 31 points in 31 regular-season games before turning it up another notch with seven points in four post-season tilts.
The Hawks have a solid nucleus of young talent and Arnold will be an even more valuable asset in the future. With his continued development, and at least three more years of junior hockey remaining, Arnold is spending this year learning the ropes and will undoubtedly be leaned on more as his career progresses.
Dawson Atamanchuk, F
There is a lot to be said about the saying, ‘never give up on your dreams.’
Dawson Atamanchuk certainly could be a poster boy for that age-old adage as the 19-year-old forward for the Humboldt Broncos is finally seeing the rewards after years of hard work and perseverance. Atamanchuk never made a Midget AAA squad and when he had no takers for a Junior “A” career he decided to hone his craft with the Delisle Chiefs of the Prairie Junior Hockey League.
All he did in his first season with that club was score 27 goals and add 43 assists in 37 games and in the process capture league rookie-of-the-year honours.
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Atamanchuk did get into two games with his hometown Broncos last year and although he never registered a point, he must have been put in the club’s memory bank because when he started this year in Delisle with seven goals and seven assists in seven games, the Broncos wasted no time in bringing him back home.
Atamanchuk has since played 20 games with Humboldt and collected four goals and five assists in that span. He notched his first Junior “A” goal in just his second contest back home and added two assists in his third game. He has since cooled off a bit, but so has the entire team as the Broncos busted out of the gate with eight wins in their first nine starts only to have fallen 15 points off the Finning Division lead held by the Battlefords North Stars.
Atamanchuk’s scoring prowess shouldn’t come as a surprise as prior to going to Delisle he had 33 points in 19 games with the Midget AA Humboldt Broncos in 2014-15. What is surprising is that he was never given a shot at a higher level until now as he has finally found a home with the Broncos.
With the likes of Chris Van Os-Shaw, Erik Gardiner and Trevor Posch sparking the Bronco offence, Atamanchuk should certainly provide a solid secondary punch to bolster an already dynamic line-up.
Tucker Scantlebury, F
It has been a tough year for the Melville Millionaires finding the back of the net as they begin the second half of the season having scored the second fewest goals (79) so not surprisingly none of the players are among the leaders in any offensive category.
Tucker Scantlebury, however, is holding his own in his rookie Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League campaign as the just-turned 18-year-old (Nov. 23) is second in team scoring with six goals and eight assists in 28 games.
Scantlebury, a 6-foot, 170-pound winger from Foxwarren, Man., also has 63 minutes in penalties to add a bit of grit to his game.
A second-team all-star last year in the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League, Scantlebury has shown in the past that he can put up some impressive numbers, while also putting other teams on notice with his physical play.
With the Yellowhead Chiefs last year, Scantlebury had 22 goals and 22 assists in 43 games and the previous season, also with the Chiefs, he tallied 16 goals and set up 23 others in 41 tilts. Each year he had over 100 minutes in penalties with 106 last season and 107 the year before.
In his rookie season with the Chiefs as a 15-year-old, Scantlebury had just three goals in 41 games, but again he let it be known when he was out on the ice as he accumulated 32 minutes in penalties.
The Millionaires could be classed as being in a rebuilding stage as it is the first year in more than a decade with a new coach behind the bench, but with Scantlebury in the fold they have a nice building block in place. And, he could be around for another two seasons if he utilizes all of his junior eligibility.
Curtis Peck, F
La Ronge Ice Wolves
A trade last June brought Curtis Peck to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and it looks like the 19-year-old from Sturgeon County, Alta., has found a new home.
Peck, a 6-foot, 200-pound centre who was acquired from the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Drayton Valley Thunder as part of a deal that saw Braden Jakubowski go the other way, has three goals and 11 assists while being just one of a handful of players to appear in every Ice Wolves game this season.
Peck had just one goal and one assist in 42 games with the Thunder last year, but prior to starting his junior career he was more than able to put up some numbers at the midget level.
In his final year of midget hockey, Peck appeared in 34 games with the CAC Edmonton Midget AAA Canadians where he scored 12 times and set up 14 more. As a 16-year-old he toiled with the St. Albert Midget AA Crusaders and in 29 games had 30 goals and 40 assists while in his first year of midget hockey he posted 20-25-45 totals in 32 games with the St. Albert Minor Midget Flyers. He also got into four games with the Midget AA Crusaders as 15-year-old and he showed his promise in that brief audition scoring twice and setting up another.
Peck has consistently improved every year he has climbed the hockey ladder and having survived a turbulent start to his time in La Ronge where the Ice Wolves have already made a coaching change, he has once again shown that given the opportunity he will be a steady performer.
The Ice Wolves are staring up at the rest of the SJHL entering the second half of the season, but if Peck’s play can follow his previous pattern it is a certainty he will do his best to help the team close the gap as they battle for a playoff spot. That only adds to the intrigue of what he can do for the rest of his junior career.
Tyler Heidt, F
When the Melfort Mustangs captured their second straight Canalta Cup title last spring they knew that going forward they were going to have re-stock the cupboards as a number of players from those championship teams were moving on from the Junior “A” ranks.
One of the players who has stepped in to fill a void up front is Saskatoon product Tyler Heidt. The 5-foo-11, 180-pound Heidt, who just turned 18 on Nov. 7, has chipped in with two goals and three assists in his first 24 games with the Mustangs while also accumulating 26 minutes in penalties.
Heidt came to the Mustangs after two successful years with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Saskatoon Contacts. Last season, in 40 games, Heidt scored nine goals and added 15 assists on a team that failed to qualify for the post-season, but because the Contacts were the host team for the Telus Cup western regional qualifier his season was extended. Heidt took advantage of that situation and after the Contacts emerged victorious from the qualifier he then added a goal and two assists in five games at the Telus Cup national tournament.
His rookie season with the Contacts in 2014-15, when he was 16 years old, saw him play in all 44 regular-season contests and tally two goals and nine assists.
While his offensive production hasn’t been off the charts he brings a lot more to the rink every day and with two more years of junior hockey remaining after this season, Heidt will likely become a key role player for a club that tries to rebuild for another run at junior hockey glory.
Shane Sherban, F
It is hard to miss Shane Sherban out on the ice.
At 6-foot-4 and 217 pounds the 18-year-old winger is what has become known as a big-body presence.
Nicely into his second full season with the Yorkton Terriers, the Lanigan product has had a bit of a slow start this year scoring three times and setting up three others in 20 games, but his performance last year gives the Terriers confidence of what he is capable of doing. In 53 games as a 17-year-old, on a team that had numerous midget-aged players in the line-up, Sherban scored 10 times and set up 15 others.
Sherban actually got his first taste of Junior “A” hockey when he was 16 years old when he scored once in a two-game audition with the Terriers. Sherban had spent the rest of that season with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blazers and in 35 games with that club had nine goals and seven assists.
Sherban was also with the Blazers in his first season of midget hockey and in 43 games scored three times and assisted on seven more. Prior to moving to Saskatoon for those two seasons, the hulking winger toiled with the Humboldt Broncos of the Saskatchewan Bantam AA Hockey League and in 24 games had nine goals and seven helpers.
The Terriers are still a very young team and with one year of experience together are showing huge signs of improvement. While his numbers have dipped slightly, his role with the team is growing. He certainly creates a lot of space when he is out on the ice.
Michael McChesney, F
When the Estevan Bruins broke camp last spring after hosting the Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup they knew they were going to need to find some players that could put the puck in the net.
They had, after all, just gone winless in the event and were losing eight of their nine top scorers from 2015-16. They were facing a major rebuild and a lot of people prior to this season thought the Bruins might be in for some long nights.
They have had some long nights, but most of them have been as a result of the Bruins being able to light the lamp more than anyone else in the league and one of the new faces on the club that has been a big part of the turnaround is 18-year-old forward Michael McChesney.
The Dickinson, ND, product has tallied 12 times and set up 15 others in playing in all of the first 27 games and at 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds he has also provided some grit by collecting 36 minutes in penalties. Of the league-leading 124 goals the Bruins have scored, McChesney has been involved in almost a quarter of those.
Estevan head coach and general manager Chris Lewgood says that McChesney was “hands down” the best player in the North Dakota high school league last season and with 35 goals and 31 assists in just 24 games it is no wonder he gets such high praise from his new boss. McChesney also played in eight games with the North Dakota under-18 squad and there too he had little trouble finding the back of the net picking up five goals and eight assists.
The Bruins have surprised everyone by going 19-7-0-1 in their first 27 games to soar to the top of the Viterra Division standings. Included in that record is a current four-game winning streak in which McChesney has contributed four goals and two helpers. His value was never more evident than when Estevan went into the Battlefords and with the club down by a goal with just under four minutes to play, McChesney scored twice and set up another to stop the North Stars’ winning streak at 13 games.
McChesney still has two years of junior eligibility remaining and if the remainder of his time in the SJHL follows the current script then the Bruins and their fans have a lot to be excited about. He also has his SAT completed so hockey is now his main focus and that makes him even more dangerous.
Nate Hooper, F
Flin Flon Bombers
Call it adjusting to a new league or getting comfortable in new surroundings, but it appears that Nate Hooper appears to have done just that as the 18-year-old centre has found his groove with the Flin Flon Bombers.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Winnipeg product had just five assists in his first 18 games in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, but in the last six contests he has more than doubled that with points in each game, including his first-ever SJHL marker. His improved production has also coincided with the Bombers winning five of their last six, including the last four, to move past the Nipawin Hawks and back into first place in the Sherwood Division standings.
Hooper, who now has a goal and 11 assists on the season, came to the Bombers after a stellar lone campaign in the Manitoba Midget Hockey League.
While with the Winnipeg Thrashers last season Hooper notched 19 goals and set up 38 others in 43 regular-season games and then in six playoff tilts he added another eight points on two goals and six helpers. He also got into one Junior “A” game when he suited up for the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Selkirk Steelers and from that experience he notched his first goal at that level.
Hooper was named a first-team all-star for his performance with the Thrashers, but oddly it was his only season at the Midget AAA level as he spent his first two years of midget hockey playing with the Winnipeg Sharks of the Winnipeg city hockey league.
In his first year with the Sharks, Hooper put up 13-14-27 totals in 36 regular-season games and in seven post-season contests he added six more goals and set up six others in helping the club claim the city championship. His performance in his second year with the Sharks was even more impressive as he had 25 goals and 21 assists in 34 regular-season tilts, but in the playoffs he turned it up another level registering 11 goals and 10 assists in just eight games.
Hopper has the offensive skills to be a dominant player and if his recent success with the Bombers is any indication, Flin Flon may have just unearthed a weapon that can take them back to the Canalta Cup final.
Andrew McCann, D
His suitcase has plenty of moving tags on it, but 19-year-old defenceman Andrew McCann is enjoying his best start to a season in this his second go-around with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Kindersley Klippers.
The 6-foot-2, 180-pound McCann has four goals and four assists in 19 games, which is almost better than any other numbers he has put up at various other levels and he still has two thirds of a season remaining.
The Calgary product began last season with Kindersley and in nine games had four assists with the Klippers beforeNovember 30 trade saw him change addresses where he finished the season with two goals and five helpers in 28 games with the Humboldt Broncos. He has since made his way back to Kindersley and so far he appears to be right at home in west-central Saskatchewan.
Changing addresses is nothing new for McCann. Prior to joining the SJHL he played for four different teams in three different leagues over the span of three seasons.
In 2014-15, his final year of midget eligibility, McCann split the season with the Heritage Junior Hockey League’s (Junior B) Strathmore Wheatland Kings and the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Fort McMurray Oil Kings. With Strathmore, McCann played in 21 games and collected one goal and 12 helpers, but he also added some feistiness by sitting out 71 minutes in penalties. In Fort McMurray, McCann saw action in another 17 games registering one assist.
As a 16-year-old, McCann played in 35 games with the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks and despite his young age he tallied six goals and set up five others while once again providing some grit with 50 minutes in penalties.
That move to Junior “A” was even more impressive considering he spent his first year of midget hockey playing minor midget with CRAA Gold in Calgary and in 29 games had six goals and 10 helpers with another 61 minutes in penalties. He never even played Midget AAA hockey as he went right from minor midget to Junior “A”.
McCann has plenty of experience in his short career and he likely hopes that Kindersley will be a permanent address for a couple of seasons. Despite all of the upheavals he has been a consistent performer wherever he has landed and so far it appears he has fit in nicely with the Klippers once again.
Cole Kirkup, F
Notre Dame Hounds
The Notre Dame Hounds have plenty of young talent in their line-up this season, but none are younger than Cole Kirkup.
The Souris, Man., product won’t be 17 until Dec. 12 and in his first season in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League he has shown he belongs scoring twice and setting up three others in 19 games.
The 5-foot-10, 175-pound winger has been in Wilcox for a couple of years spending the past two seasons with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Notre Dame Hounds. In his first year with the Hounds Kirkup had eight goals and 17 assists in 41 games while last season he tallied eight more times and set up 19 others as he dressed in all 44 regular-season contests and served as one of the alternate captains.
Kirkup also had a strong post-season last spring as he registered six goals and six assists in 13 matches to help the Hounds capture the provincial title. Notre Dame was then eliminated in the regional qualifier in Saskatoon.
Prior to moving to Saskatchewan, Kirkup played with the Southwest Cougars of the Manitoba Bantam AAA Hockey League and in 32 games he averaged almost a point per game scoring 14 times and assisting on 15 others.
Kirkup is one of four 1999-born players on the Hounds’ roster and despite having the latest birthday of the four he has proven to be a solid addition to the team. Kirkup and the other trio – Jacob Arsenault, Adam Dawe and Ahmed Ally – could all be with the club another three years, but with Dawe already committed to the University of Maine in the future it certainly isn’t a stretch to see the rest move on as well. For now, Kirkup will continue to add some depth to a Hounds team that is quietly putting together a very solid season.
Josh McDougall, F
Two years ago the Nipawin Hawks took a look into the future when they called up 16-year-old winger Josh McDougall for four games and while he didn’t register a point during that appearance he was someone they remembered.
Now 18 years old, the Prince Albert product has secured a spot on the Hawks’ roster and in 12 games with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League club he has collected a pair of goals and set up five others.
When McDougall was first summoned by the Hawks during the 2014-15 campaign he was in his rookie season with the Tisdale Trojans of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. The 5-foot-10, 173-pound McDougall registered just four goals and 18 assists during that year, but it was a prelude of better things to come as he nearly doubled that output last year scoring 18 times and setting up 25 others and in the process was named a SMAAAHL first-team all-star.
McDougall also played a key role in the Trojans’ playoff run where he tallied five times and assisted on six more in helping Tisdale come to within one win of a league championship (they lost 5-3 in the fifth and deciding game to the Notre Hounds).
In his first year of midget hockey, McDougall never even made a Midget AAA squad although he did get in five games with his hometown Mintos. McDougall, instead, toiled with the Midget AA Raiders and in 32 games scored six times and set up 15 more.
The Hawks have been to the league semi-finals in each of the last two years only to fall to the eventual Canalta Cup champion Melfort Mustangs on both occasions. With the addition of a player like McDougall maybe this is their year to take the next step. So far his contributions have been valuable as Nipawin has moved into the upper echelon and are challenging for both the Sherwood Division and overall titles.
What makes the addition of McDougall even better is that he still has two more years of junior hockey remaining after this season so the future is looking pretty good in Nipawin.
Chris Van Os-Shaw, F
Last year the Humboldt Broncos realized fairly early that they were going to be needing to get some building blocks in place for the future as a decade-long run of playoff appearances was about to come to an end.
At the trade deadline in January they did just that when they pulled the trigger on a deal that sent 20-year-old Jarrett Fontaine to the Weyburn Red Wings in exchange for then 18-year-old winger Chris Van Os-Shaw.
The 6-foot-3, 206-pound Regina product had scored just six goals and added four assists in 24 games with the defence-first Red Wings, but once he got to Humboldt his offensive abilities came to light as he finished the year by adding 10 more goals and 12 helpers in just 16 games with the Broncos.
That performance created some optimism for the Broncos heading into this year and Van Os-Shaw has picked up right where he left off tallying 12 times and setting 13 others in his first 17 games to help Humboldt be the frontrunners in both the overall and Finning Division standings since opening day.
Van Os-Shaw’s road to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League had a number of curves in it, but wherever he played he put up some impressive numbers. He didn’t make a Midget AAA squad until his final year of midget eligibility and in 42 games with the Prince Albert Mintos he posted 17 goals and 18 assists to go along with 54 minutes in penalties. Prior to that he spent a season with the Midget AA Regina Vics where once again he was a catalyst, notching 21 goals and 20 helpers in just 33 games.
The Broncos have been the most explosive team offensively to start this year and Van Os-Shaw has been a big reason for that as he has been at or near the top of the individual scoring race the entire campaign.
With one more year of junior hockey remaining after this season, Van Os-Shaw has plenty of hockey left in him, but right now he is focusing on helping the Broncos to go from worst to first and his early exploits have done a lot to make that a reality.
Landon Walters, F
Weyburn Red Wings
He got a taste of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League last year and while his first go-around with the Weyburn Red Wings was short, Landon Walters is making the most of his latest opportunity.
The 19-year-old Regina product appeared in 11 games with Weyburn a year ago and after collecting just two assists during that time he was reassigned to the Regina Capitals of the Prairie Junior Hockey League where he tallied eight goals and 14 assists in 21 contests.
That production, along with another five points in 10 post-season games, gave the 5-foot-10, 166-pound forward some much-needed confidence and that has come through early this year as Walters has registered three goals and six assists in 19 games with the Red Wings.
Prior to last year, Walters played for three different teams during his midget eligibility spending the first season with the Midget AA Regina Wild (6-11-17 in 26 games) and he followed that up with a year with the Midget AA Regina Rangers (14-8-22 in 35 games). His final season of midget hockey, however, saw him crack the line-up of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Regina Pat Canadians where he had seven goals and nine assists in 34 regular-season games and then added one goal in six post-season tilts to help the Pat Canadians capture the provincial title. Walters then dressed for all seven games at the Telus Cup and picked up one assist as the Pat Canadians battled to a bronze-medal finish.
The Red Wings returned to the upper echelon last year when they won the Viterra Division title and with the addition of Walters to the line-up they are hoping they have more depth up front to take another step.
Levi Kleiboer, D
Battlefords North Stars
Past history indicates he isn’t going to score many goals, but he is going to set up his share- in addition to helping keep the opposition away from his net. So far, early in his sophomore Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season, Levi Kleiboer has done just that and even a bit more with the Battlefords North Stars.
The 18-year-old Kleiboer, who hails from Martensville, Sask., has already scored more goals this season than he did in any of the last three years and his defensive play is a big reason why the North Stars have reclaimed their perch atop the overall standings with a current eight-game winning streak.
Kleiboer, who stands 6-feet and weighs in at just 160 pounds, has three goals and 11 assists in 21 games with the Battlefords this year after registering one goal and 20 assists in 39 games last season as a rookie in the SJHL.
Kleiboer actually got a taste of the SJHL as a 16-year-old when he was called up for three games and collected one assist during that brief audition. The remainder of that season was spent with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Beardy’s Blackhawks where he dressed for 28 games and registered one goal and 10 helpers. Kleiboer cracked the Beardy’s line-up as a 15-year-old and in 34 games he collected one goal and added two assists.
The North Stars, who ran away with the Finning Division and overall points title last season, were slow out of the gate this year as they adjusted to new coach Nate Bedford and some other new faces. The year of experience and familiarity with the league, however, helped Kleiboer explode out of the gate and the team benefitted from his improved play.
With two more years of junior eligibility remaining after this year, the North Stars look to be solid on the back end well into the future and with Kleiboer’s continued improved play they appear to be ready to make another run at a league championship and finish off what they couldn’t quite do last year.
Zachary Gladu, F
La Ronge Ice Wolves
He has never been prone to produce much offensively, but 18-year-old Zachary Gladu has been a nice surprise for the offensively-starved La Ronge Ice Wolves.
The Golden Prairie, Alta., product, who has not scored more than four times in a season since his minor-midget days back in southern Alberta, has four goals in his first 14 games with the Ice Wolves this year and he has also brought an edge to his game by accumulating 29 minutes in penalties.
The 6-foot-1, 207-pound sophomore winger failed to score in 20 games with the Ice Wolves last year and in 13 matches with the Kindersley Klippers before being dealt to La Ronge in January, for Chase Daniels, he had just one goal and two helpers.
In his final year of midget hockey before moving east to Saskatchewan he had 4-6-10 totals in 33 games with the SEAC Tigers of the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League. It was as a 15-year-old while playing minor midget hockey that Gladu had the most success statistically when he registered 17 goals and seven assists to go along with 80 penalty minutes.
The Ice Wolves have struggled out of the gate, but when they turn things around that should only help Gladu to put up bigger numbers. While his offensive output might not turn heads, his size and ability will certainly get other team’s attention.
Mathieu Jallabert, F
That appears to be the best way to describe Melville Millionaire rookie Mathieu Jallabert.
Despite being just 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds he has, in the past at least, been able to find the back of the net while also bringing some grit to his game.
Jallabert, who will turn 19 on November 10, has three goals and three assists in his first 13 games in the SJHL and he has also picked up 23 minutes in penalties to continue with a trend that has followed him during his entire career.
Prior to joining the Millionaires, Jallabert spent two seasons with the Oceanside Generals of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. The Nanaimo native appeared in 38 games with the Generals last year and had 18 goals, 28 assists and 158 penalty minutes while the year before with the Generals he produced 15-25-40 totals to go with 69 minutes in penalties in 35 games.
Even when he was playing midget hockey with the North Island Silvertips his blueprint was followed. He had three goals and 11 assists, along with 113 penalty minutes, as a 16-year-old and one year prior to that he produced 2-4-6 totals and, yes, he even sat out 53 minutes in the penalty box.
The Millionaires are in a new era with a new coach and numerous new faces. Jallabert looks to be someone that can bring plenty of excitement to the Melville fans, not just this year, but next year as well.
Tanner Zentner, F
After back-to-back Canalta Cup championships it was expected the Melfort Mustangs would have to begin restocking the cupboards at some point and they have done just that with the addition of Tanner Zentner to the forward units.
From looking at his past statistical history Zentner isn’t expected to put up Travis Mayan or Justin Boyer numbers, but the Red Deer, Alta., product should be a strong addition up the middle.
The 6-foot-3, 192-pound centre has just two assists in his first 11 games with the Mustangs, but his physical presence is apparent as he already has 14 minutes in penalties while he adjusts to playing at the higher level.
The 18-year-old Zentner spent last year with the Red Deer Chiefs of the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League and in 32 games he had seven goals and 12 assists. He took his game to another level in the playoffs, however, as he tallied a pair of markers and set up three more in just six post-season matches.
Zentner progressed through the Red Deer minor hockey system and prior to playing for the Midget AAA Chiefs he spent time with the minor Midget AAA Chiefs and before that was on Bantam AA and Bantam AAA squads. In his first year of minor midget hockey he collected six points on two goals and four assists, but his play got him into one game with the Midget AAA Chiefs the following year to set the stage for the move-up for his final year of midget eligibility.
Tyler Baier, D
The Yorkton Terriers have been gifted in the past with solid players patrolling their blueline and the emergence of Tyler Baier keeps that trend intact.
The second-year rearguard from Macklin, Sask., already has three goals and three assists in his first 10 games with the Terriers this year after accumulating 10-19-29 totals in 56 games during his rookie SJHL campaign with Yorkton last season.
The 19-year-old Baier had a successful final midget campaign before joining the Terriers as he appeared in all 44 regular-season games with the Battlefords Stars of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League in 2014-15. The 5-foot-11, 174-pound Baier produced 4-16-20 totals during the regular season with the Stars and then added a goal and one helper in 13 playoff matches as the Battlefords came within one win of capturing the league crown.
Baier also got his first taste of Junior “A” hockey during that final midget season as he dressed in two games with the Terriers and registered one assist.
Prior to playing for the Stars, Baier toiled with the Unity Lazers of the Midget AA Centre-Four Hockey League and in 30 games with the Lazers, Baier had eight goals and 18 assists.
In addition to his offensive capabilities, Baier brings a bit of an edge to his game as he had 66 minutes in penalties last year as a rookie with the Terriers and that followed up on a season that saw him sit in the penalty box for 117 minutes with the Stars. Even with the Lazers, Baier had 81 minutes of penalties.
While he doesn’t get the attention of the Norris twins who were with the Terriers a couple of years ago, or even that of teammate Regan Seiferling who presently leads Yorkton in scoring, Baier is making a name for himself and he has other teams taking notice of what he brings to the rink.
Tyler Hengen, D
When the Estevan Bruins started restocking their cupboard after the large turnover that resulted from hosting last spring’s Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup they only had to look in their own backyard to land a bluechip prospect to patrol their blueline.
Tyler Hengen, a 19-year-old Estevan product, looks like he has found a home with the Bruins as the 5-foot-11, 161-pound rearguard has exploded out of the gates scoring twice and setting up six others in eight games to start the 2016-17 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season.
Hengen appeared in a pair of games for the Bruins last year, but he spent the rest of the campaign playing Junior “B” hockey with the Pilot Butte Storm of the Prairie Junior Hockey League. In 38 regular-season games with the Storm, Hengen amassed one goal and 15 assists while in five playoff tilts he contributed one assist.
Prior to joining the Storm, Hengen had two years of Midget AA hockey with the Estevan Apex Bruins and one season with the Moose Jaw Generals of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. With the Midget AA Bruins, Hengen had four goals and 38 assists in 70 games over two seasons while with Moose Jaw he collected one goal and five helpers in 41 contests.
Not normally known for his offensive abilities Hengen has been a pleasant surprise this year with the Junior “A” Bruins and if he continues at his current pace he will set career marks in every category while also helping fill in a huge hole on the Bruins’ blueline.
Cory Thomas, D
Flin Flon Bombers
Cory Thomas played in just over half of his team’s games last year, but he did enough to earn a couple of distinguishable honours.
The 6-foot-5, 210-pound defenceman for the Flin Flon Bombers was the lone Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League player to be selected for the Canadian Junior Hockey League’s Top Prospects Game in Surrey, B.C. last January and he was also named to the SJHL all-rookie team, all of this despite registering just two goals and three assists in 36 games. Thomas, a native of St. Brieux, Sask., did, however, appear in 15 playoff games where he collected a goal and two assists to help the Bombers reach the Canalta Cup final.
Thomas, who has appeared in eight games with the Bombers so far this year registering one assist, had spent the previous two seasons with the Tisdale Trojans of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League where he collected three goals and 17 assists in 75 games.
In his final year of Bantam AA hockey, Thomas toiled with the North East Wolfpack and he also got into six games with the Trojans as a 14-year-old. His performance that season got him drafted 169th overall by the Tri-City Americans of the Western Hockey League in that league’s annual selection process of bantam-aged talent.
The Bombers are expected to be a serious contender to challenge for the Canalta Cup this year and with the steady and dependable Thomas patrolling the blueline, their backend should be in good hands.
Drayton ThunderChief, F
It appears that the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League suits Drayton ThunderChief just fine.
The 18-year-old winger from Stand Off, Alta., has three goals in his first four games with the Kindersley Klippers and that is already more than what he had in 24 games at the Midget AAA level last year while playing with the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Alberta Major Midget Hockey League when he tallied just twice.
ThunderChief, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 195 pounds, has also accumulated 10 minutes in penalties which falls into line with his past history of being a physical presence at every level he has played at.
In addition to playing major midget hockey in Lethbridge last season, where he finished with 2-3-5 totals to go with 57 minutes in penalties, ThunderChief also got into four games with the Western Hockey League’s Lethbridge Hurricanes where he registered a pair of assists during his brief audition.
ThunderChief was an affiliate player with the Midget AAA Hurricanes as a 16-year-old and in his first season of midget hockey he appeared in 33 games for the Lethbridge Minor Midget Hurricanes where he tallied four goals, 10 assists and 55 minutes in penalties.
His final year of bantam hockey was his most productive from a statistical viewpoint as he had 14 goals and 17 assists in 27 games with the Lethbridge Raiders.
ThunderChief is one of many new faces in Kindersley this year, but if he continues to find the back of the net and provide some physicality up front he could be a player that fans, and opposing teams, will keep an eye on.
Colby Brandt, F
Notre Dame Hounds
It is quite possible that Colby Brandt has already accomplished something that no one else can lay claim to.
The 18-year-old from Regina is a rookie centre with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Notre Dame Hounds. He not only scored a goal in his final game at the Midget AAA level last spring – a 5-3 loss to the Notre Dame Hounds in the deciding game of the championship final – but he then tallied in his first game at the Junior A level, this time with Notre Dame in an opening night 5-3 setback to the Humboldt Broncos.
The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Brandt has just the one goal, to go along with two assists, so far in seven games with the Hounds, but he has the potential to add plenty more.
Brandt finished last year with 24 goals and 20 assists in 43 games with the Tisdale Trojans and he also added seven goals and set up 10 others in 14 playoff games leading the Trojans to within one win of a provincial championship.
Prior to joining Tisdale, Brandt spent his 16-year-old season with the Midget AA Regina Rangers where in 38 games he amassed 38 goals and 26 assists. He also dressed for a pair of games with the Midget AAA Regina Pat Canadians that season and had one goal during that brief stint.
The Hounds are coming off a season where they scored the second fewest goals overall, but the addition of Brandt could play a part in changing that as he adjusts to the new league and level of play. They already have moved into the middle of the pack early this season and should only get better as newcomers like Brandt make greater contributions.
Devon Becker, D
Weyburn Red Wings
The Weyburn Red Wings had the stingiest defence in the SJHL last year and they added another piece to their blueline brigade this season with the inclusion of Devon Becker to their roster.
The 6-foot-2, 201-pound product of Langley, B.C., will complement a backend that already features Mike Eskra and Jeremy Lagler and with one goal and one assist in his first three games in the SJHL it also looks like he will be able to add offensively as well.
The 19-year-old Becker comes to Weyburn after spending the past two seasons playing in the Pacific Junior Hockey League with the Abbottsford Pilots. Becker appeared in 41 games last year with the Pilots and amassed 35 points on two goals and 33 helpers. The previous season he had 24 points in 33 games including five goals and 19 assists.
Prior to joining Abbottsford, Becker spent a number of years in the Program of Excellence in B.C. and in 2013-14 as a 16-year-old he was involved in three different programs – under-18, varsity and prep. He played in 73 games that year and totalled 59 points on 14 goals and 44 assists.
Becker was also in the under-16 Program of Excellence as a 15-year-old so he has been playing at the elite level for some time.
The Red Wings have a gifted backend and Becker’s addition should only make them stronger.
Owen Lamb, F
Battlefords North Stars
The Battlefords North Stars have had great success recently in bringing in homegrown talent and Owen Lamb looks to be like the latest to make huge contributions while staying in his hometown.
Lamb, an 18-year-old winger, already has a goal and an assist in his first three games this season and the 5-foot-9, 182-pounder has a history of finding the net no matter what level he plays at.
Last year with the Midget AAA Battlefords Stars, Lamb collected 12 goals and 26 assists in 43 games and the previous season he played a huge role in helping the Stars reach the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League championship final as he dressed in all 44 regular-season games and 14 playoff tilts registering a combined 10 goals and 14 assists.
Prior to making the jump to Midget AAA, Lamb had one season with the Battlefords Barons of the Centre-Four Hockey League where he notched 13 goals and 28 assists in 32 games.
One thing that stands out with Lamb’s career is that at every level he has played he has gotten an early audition at the next level. While with the Midget AA Barons he was called up for six games with the Stars and he collected two goals during that stretch. Last year while with the Midget AAA Stars he was brought up to the SJHL’s North Stars for one regular season game and six more in the post-season and although he failed to register a point, he obviously made the Junior “A” team take notice.
Lamb will undoubtedly have some growing pains playing at the higher level, but his past experience shows he can contribute when given the opportunity.