Michael Korol (LW)
On a team that has failed to find its consistency all year, the Humboldt Broncos do have one thing that has been consistent – Michael Korol
The 18-year-old has played in every game since arriving in Humboldt just over a year ago and through 26 games this season the 5-foot-11, 180-pound centre has three goals and six assists. Korol dressed in all 56 regular-season games last year totalling nine goals and 17 helpers and he also saw action in four post-season matches, but was held off the scoresheet.
Born in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, but raised in Saskatoon, Korol has been a model of consistency wherever he played.
As a 15-year-old, Korol played in all 44 regular-season games for the Moose Jaw Generals of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. The following year he suited up for just 27 games with the Battlefords Stars of the SMAAAHL, but his point production shot up from two as a Midget AAA rookie to 12 as a sophomore. Korol also had a long run in the post-season with the Stars playing in 10 games and registering a goal and one assist.
Korol was an elite player in his minor hockey days having attended the Western Elite Bantam Development camp so his skill level has been recognized for some time. The Broncos will be looking for that skill to continue to improve as they continue to battle for one of the final playoff spots going into the second half of the season.
As an alternate captain with the Broncos this season his leadership will also be counted on making him an attractive package for the team to build around.
Brandon Lesko (RW)
Flin Flon Bombers
He could still be playing midget hockey, but for Brandon Lesko the jump to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Flin Flon Bombers appears to have been a smooth one.
The 17-year-old product from Hafford, Sask., has appeared in all 25 games the Bombers have played this season and with two goals and seven assists is contributing to a club that is on the cusp of putting together a strong finish to what has been a somewhat average start to the current campaign.
Lesko, a 6-foot-0, 185-pound winger, played the last two years with the Battlefords Stars of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League where last season he helped the club reach the league final before losing to the Regina Pat Canadians.
Lesko played in every regular-season game for the Stars a year ago and had 21 goals and 33 assists. He also saw action in all 14 post-season contests contributing four goals.
As a 15-year-old in 2013-14, Lesko had nine goals and 17 assists in 41 games with the Stars while also playing for Team Saskatchewan at the Western Canadian under-16 championship.
His play first got noticed at the bantam level when with the Battlefords Barons he scored 26 goals and added 23 assists in 26 regular-season games and nine goals and 11 helpers in nine playoff contests during his final year.
The Calgary Hitmen took a flier on him selecting him with the 216th pick in the annual Western Hockey League bantam draft that year and this past fall he attended the Hitmen camp before relocating to Flin Flon.
With three more years of junior eligibility remaining the Bombers would certainly like to have him in their fold, but regardless of where he plays Lesko looks like he has a bright future in the game. Despite his age, his size and abilities are certainly keeping him in the Bomber line-up on a nightly basis this year.
Carson Welke (LW)
The Yorkton Terriers didn’t have to go far to replenish the talent pool and in fact they got twice as much bang for their buck when twins McKenzie and Carson Welke joined their hometown squad at the tender age of 16.
Carson Welke has enjoyed the better success early in his Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League career having notched four goals and 16 assists in 21 games to lead the team in scoring.
Carson Welke, who is listed at 5-foot-10 and 170 pounds, has followed a similar path as his brother to get to the SJHL.
Last year the smooth-skating left winger had six goals and 20 assists in 40 games with the Yorkton Maulers of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League in addition to dressing up for Team Saskatchewan at the Canada Winter Games in Prince George, B.C. Carson had one assist in seven games at the Winter Games.
Prior to his lone season at the Midget AAA level, Carson had two successful years with the Bantam AA Terriers culminating with a provincial championship in 2014. During that dream season Carson had 27 goals and 37 assists in 30 regular-season games while adding 14 goals and nine helpers in nine playoff contests.
That production got him noticed by the Western Hockey League as the Regina Pats selected him 145th overall in the bantam draft.
While the Terriers are struggling somewhat early this year, the future is very bright and with Carson, and his brother McKenzie, in the fold the dark days should soon be behind them. Both could potentially play another four years with the Terriers and that certainly is a nice cornerstone to build a team around.
Brandon Wells (G)
Goaltenders are the final line of defence and good goaltending generally means teams will be successful. The Melville Millionaires will certainly vouch for that analysis as they are 6-4-0-1 since Brandon Wells arrived on the scene last month.
Wells, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound 18-year-old from Spirit River, Alta., has a 3.27 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage in his 11 appearances as he has started in every game since moving east from British Columbia prior to Tuesday’s match against the La Ronge Icewolves. The only real blemish on Wells’s record is when he was pulled midway through a game against Humboldt only to watch his teammates rally for a win behind Josh Bykowski.
Wells spent the last two seasons at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in B.C. where he had a 2.65 GAA and .897 save percentage in 37 games with the midget team last year along with a 2.80 GAA and .878 save percentage in 19 games in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League.
As a freshman at OHA, Wells was spectacular in posting a 1.69 GAA and .934 save percentage in 15 games at the midget level.
The Millionaires struggled out of the gate losing their first nine games and while goaltending can’t be the sole blame for the poor start, the team appears to have turned a corner with the arrival of Wells. Melville has a rich history of producing strong netminders and so far Wells looks to fit that mould perfectly.
Tyran Brown (RW)
Weyburn Red Wings
It’s hard to imagine that 17-year-old Tyran Brown has yet to grow into his body, but when the 6-foot-5, 219-pound winger does then he could be fairly intimidating for opposing teams.
As it stands right now, Brown is off to a fabulous start in his Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League career as he has collected five goals and set up five others in 17 games for his hometown Weyburn Red Wings.
Brown made the jump to the SJHL this year after a successful campaign last season with the Regina Pat Canadians of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League.
In his second season of Midget AAA hockey, his first with Regina after a rookie campaign with the Notre Dame Hounds in 2013-14, Brown had 19 goals and 14 assists in 44 regular-season games with the Pat Canadians. It was in the playoffs where he really rose to the top, however, as he had eight goals and one assist in helping Regina win the league title and then in seven games at the Telus Cup national tournament, Brown had two goals and one assist as the Pat Canadians had to settle for a bronze-medal finish.
His lone campaign in Notre Dame saw him record 11-11-22 totals in 44 regular-season games and all of that came on the heels of a Bantam AA stint with the Estevan Bruins.
Three things are evident in looking at Brown’s stats: One, he is reliable as he failed to miss a single game in two years of Midget AAA hockey; Two, he steadily improved once he adapted to the level of play at a higher level; Three, his size and strength will only make him tougher to play against as he matures and utilizes his physical attributes.
The Weyburn Red Wings have made a dramatic climb in the SJHL standings this season and Brown has played a significant role in that turnaround. With three more years of junior eligibility remaining, the Red Wings definitely have a building block in place.
Toby Shattler (LW)
La Ronge Ice Wolves
Another bruising specimen patrols the wing for the La Ronge Ice Wolves as Toby Shattler is not afraid to get his 6-foot-2, 210-pound frame dirty.
Shattler, a 19-year-old from Fort McMurray, Alta., has almost eclipsed his points total from his inaugural SJHL campaign last year through the first 20 games this year. Shattler, who was acquired in a June, 2014, trade with the Grand Prairie Storm of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (future considerations went the other way), had five goals and eight assists in 52 games with the Ice Wolves a year ago, but this season he has posted 3-6-9 totals in helping La Ronge show dramatic signs of improvement.
And, while Shattler continues to make in-roads on the scoresheet with his offensive abilities, he also keeps things honest with his physical play. Last year Shattler accumulated 103 minutes in penalties and so far this year he has been assessed 40 minutes in penalties.
Shattler came to the Ice Wolves after one year in Grand Prairie where he racked up 95 minutes in penalties to go with six goals and nine assists in 54 games. Prior to joining the junior ranks he had two seasons of midget hockey in Fort Saskatchewan, Alta., where as a 15-year-old he scored 13 times and set up six others to go with 155 minutes in penalties at the minor midget level and then followed that up with 10-13-23 totals in 33 games with the Midget AAA Fort Saskatchewan entry. His performance with the Midget AAA Rangers garnered him a two-game tryout with Grand Prairie and even though he was held off the scoresheet that audition did set the stage for his move to the higher level the following year.
La Ronge is looking to get back into the SJHL playoffs for the first time in four years and with players like Shattler it looks like they are moving in the right direction.
Carson Pickett (C)
Kindersley might just be the place for Carson Pickett’s junior hockey career to take off.
The 19-year-old centre from Gem, Alta., spent last year bouncing around the Alberta Junior Hockey League, first with the Drumheller Dragons and then later with the Whitecourt Wolverines. In the off-season, the 5-foot-11, 180-pound Pickett was initially dealt to the Battlefords North Stars before finally ending up in Kindersley.
So far, that move appears to be working out as Pickett has three goals and four assists in his first 13 games in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
Even in his minor hockey days Pickett moved around a lot. He played Bantam AAA hockey in Medicine Hat where he scored 23 goals and set up 13 others in 33 games and then the following year toiled with Brooks at the Midget AA level where he averaged a point-per-game with 17-11-28 totals in 28 contests.
From there he spent two seasons with the Southeast Athletic Club and in 49 games of Midget AAA hockey Pickett scored 17 times and assisted on 12 more. Then came last year where Pickett had a goal and nine helpers with Drumheller and just two assists in seven matches with Whitecourt.
Perseverance and desire have certainly been a strong point in Pickett’s career and those traits will undoubtedly carry him farther along his hockey path. The Klippers obviously noticed this too and together it might just be where everything finally lines up.
Kaelan Holt (RW)
It is a big year for the Estevan Bruins as they get ready to host the 2016 Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup in April.
Having some homegrown talent on the club only adds to the excitement.
The Bruins appear to have bolstered the right side with the inclusion of 18-year-old right winger Kaelan Holt. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound Holt has an impressive resume and so far that pedigree has followed him to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League as the Estevan product has three goals and four assists in his first 12 games with the Bruins.
Holt came to the Bruins after a stellar three years of midget hockey where he spent the first two seasons at the Midget AA level and lit the Southern Saskatchewan Midget Hockey League on fire.
As a 15-year-old Holt had a modest 11 goals and 19 assists in 34 games with the Estevan entry before leading the league the following campaign with 38-29-67 totals. That production garnered the attention of the Battlefords Stars of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League where last year he notched 22 goals and set up 27 others in 42 games. He also had four goals and one assist in 14 playoff games to help the Stars reach the league final.
There is a lot of pressure playing in your hometown, and especially in such a significant year as what the Bruins are experiencing, but Holt appears to have settled in nicely and will certainly help his new club try to attain all of its goals. Past experience shows that Holt definitely has the ability to be a major contributor, which makes for an even more exciting season in Estevan.
Kalem Zary (RW)
He hasn’t flown too far from the nest during his hockey career, but Kalem Zary is spreading his wings and taking flight with his hometown Melfort Mustangs.
The 18-year-old rookie winger has fit in nicely with the defending Canalta Cup champions having collected three goals and three assists in his first 12 games at the junior level.
This solid start should not come as much of a surprise as the 5-foot-10, 165-pound Zary finished his time with the Tisdale Trojans of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League last spring as the third leading scorer overall with 31 goals and 47 assists in 42 games. Zary also added four goals and eight helpers in Tisdale’s eight playoff games.
Zary’s performance last year as a 17-year-old came out of nowhere as he had just five goals and six helpers in 38 games the previous season. In fact, Zary had spent his first year of midget hockey playing “AA” with North East and even then there were no signs of his offensive abilities as he posted modest 11-21-32 totals in 22 games.
His sharp improvement last year showed that once at a certain level he can be a threat in all situations. His quick start this year takes that even further as it appears he has gained a level of confidence that should make him a solid player for the next two-plus seasons.
Brett Harasymuk (RW)
Two seasons ago Brett Harasymuk won the most penalized player award for the South Saskatchewan Midget Hockey League when was assessed 157 penalty minutes in just 32 games with the Melville Midget AA Millionaires.
Not the most noteworthy award to be presented, but what makes that more impressive is that the 5-foot-11, 186-pound winger from Yorkton also netted 15 goals and set up 23 others while also playing in nine games with the Ochapowace Thunder of the Prairie Junior Hockey League where he scored four times and set up three others.
Those exploits, along with a two-game stint with the Yorkton Harvest of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League, all took place when he was just 16 years old and in his final year of midget hockey last season Harasymuk enjoyed a lot more stability when he recorded 19-18-37 totals in 42 games with the Prince Albert Mintos.
Now 18 years old, Harasymuk is fitting in just nicely with the Nipawin Hawks and in his first nine games at the junior level has collected a goal and four assists to help the Hawks be among the league leaders in almost every category.
Harasymuk has proven at every level he brings a number of intangibles to the game and the Nipawin Hawks will only benefit from his play as he begins what promises to be a very successful junior career.
Battlefords North Stars (D)
As an 18-year-old in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, Connor Sych is slowly breaking away from being a stay-at-home defenceman – in more ways than one.
With the exception of his 16-year-old season being spent with the Saskatoon Contacts of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League the towering North Battleford product has spent the remainder of his career in his hometown progressing through the ranks to where he is now one of the leaders of the Battlefords North Stars.
The steady diet of home cooking has helped the 6-foot-4, 185-pound rearguard blossom and his improved play has not gone unnoticed as he is committed to attend St. Lawrence University for the 2017-18 season.
Sych, who was drafted 198th overall by the Edmonton Oil Kings in the 2012 Western Hockey League bantam draft, opted to stay closer to home and that route has paid off handsomely.
As a 15-year-old, Sych played 22 games with the Battlefords Midget AA squad and scored three goals and added seven assists while accumulating 66 minutes in penalties. Sych also saw action with the Midget AAA Battlefords club that year and also got a taste of the SJHL appearing in one game with the North Stars.
The following year he left the nest so to speak and played in all 44 games for the Contacts contributing two goals and nine assists while picking up 72 minutes in penalties.
That performance got the attention of his hometown North Stars who last year added him to their roster and in 46 games Sych had 4-7-11 totals to go with 80 minutes in penalties.
Sych has spread his wings considerably this year having already surpassed last season’s totals scoring four times and setting up eight others in just 10 games.
Sych’s huge presence has helped the North Stars get off to a quick start and with the better part of two more years left in his hometown before he heads off to college, the Battlefords will only continue to benefit from his improved play both offensively and as a leader on the blueline.
Notre Dame Hounds (LW)
The path of progression was clear when Rhett Kingston made the move from his hometown of Okotoks, Alta., to Wilcox, Sask., as a 13-year-old.
The soon-to-be 18-year-old (his birthday is in November) first suited up with the Hounds as a Bantam AA player and followed that up with a season at the Bantam AAA level where he notched 21 goals and 10 assists in 28 games.
When Kingston was 15 he moved up to the Midget AAA Notre Hounds and in two seasons played in 84 games scoring 58 goals and setting up 23 others including a 36-goal campaign last year.
Those offensive numbers got him called up to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League Hounds late last year where he had a goal and two assists in four regular-season games and then added one goal in 10 playoff games when Notre Dame advanced to the league final.
The late-season audition appears to have benefitted the 5-foot-11, 185-pound winger greatly as Kingston has notched two goals and set up four others in the Hounds first seven games. For an offensively-starved team like Notre Dame, Kingston’s touch around the net will be looked upon throughout the season as the Hounds look to make a return trip to the league final and possibly take that next step to a Canalta Cup championship.
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.