Adam Wilson (RW)
Flin Flon Bombers
The Flin Flon Bombers are an explosive team offensively, but they also have cultivated a line-up with some depth and one of those players that is rising to the top in the post-season is Adam Wilson.
The 6-foot-4, 210-pound winger has netted a pair of goals and added another pair of assists in 10 playoff games to help the Bombers reach the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League championship series for the first time since 1993.
The 19-year-old Edmonton product only scored three times in 44 games during the regular season, but his production in the post-season has been as surprising as the Bomber team having gone through two of the three divisional winners to this point setting up the possibility of sweeping all three divisional champs as they take on the Melfort Mustangs for the Canalta Cup.
Prior to joining Flin Flon, Wilson had played a season with the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Bonneyville Pontiacs where he scored three goals and collected four assists in 39 games. The stat that stands out from that season, however, is he picked up 88 minutes in penalties during those games and this year with the Bombers he also brought a sandpaper quality to his game as he was assessed 70 minutes during the regular season and has another 19 in the playoffs.
Before making the jump to Junior “A”, Wilson honed his skills with the Knights of Columbus Pats in the Alberta Midget Hockey League. In 58 games over two seasons with the Pats the rugged winger netted 12 goals and assisted on 16 others while once again showing his grit with 74 minutes in penalties.
Wilson is eligible to return to the Bombers for one more season next year, but for now his focus will be to continue to provide strong secondary support for a Flin Flon team that is just four wins away from a league title and a berth in the Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup in Estevan at the end of the month.
Wyatt Hinson (RW)
A year ago Wyatt Hinson was watching the Melfort Mustangs advance to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League final after his Nipawin Hawks suffered a disappointing five-game setback to the eventual Canalta Cup champions in the semi-finals.
What a difference a year makes!
Hinson’s playing rights were first traded to the Kindersley Klippers last June before he landed in Melfort for the 2015-16 campaign and now the recently-turned 20 year-old has a chance to experience a league title of his own as he gets ready to help the Mustangs defend their championship in the league final against the Flin Flon Bombers.
The 5-foot-10, 190-pound winger, who hails from Debden, has dressed for just seven of the 11 post-season games played by the Mustangs, but he has made his presence felt scoring four times and racking up 30 minutes in penalties.
Those numbers follow a pattern as Hinson only had four goals all season to go with 131 penalty minutes in 51 games. Last year with the Hawks, Hinson appeared in 38 games and scored three times while setting up seven others, but before graduating to the SJHL he had a reputation of being able to dent the twine while toiling with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Tisdale Trojans.
As a 16-year-old in 2012-13, Hinson registered 17 goals and 18 assists in 43 games with the Trojans and the following year he bumped those numbers up considerably collecting 25 goals and 17 assists in just 36 games played.
The Mustangs were once again one of the top offensive teams in the league this year, but it is players like Hinson who aren’t afraid to get dirty in the trenches that have given Melfort a chance to go for back-to-back titles.
Hinson’s blue-collar work ethic could be a deciding factor against the Bombers and with one year of junior eligibility remaining he will undoubtedly be a factor once again next year.
Curtis Roach (D)
Flin Flon Bombers
The Flin Flon Bombers are thankful that the Western Hockey League’s Prince Albert Raiders didn’t have room on their blueline for Curtis Roach because in a year-and-a-half in northern Manitoba the 18-year-old from Saskatoon has settled in nicely and helped solidify the backend.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Roach played in 50 games for the Bombers this year registering two goals and 24 assists. He also accumulated 48 minutes in penalties which attests to his being able to keep opposing players honest while in the Flin Flon zone.
Roach got in seven games with the Raiders last year before being sent to Flin Flon for the remainder of the season. In 20 games with the Bombers as a 17-year-old he collected one goal and four assists and then added another pair of helpers in seven post-season games.
Prior to making the jump to the junior level, Roach played with the Saskatoon Contacts of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League where he had two goals and 26 assists in 44 regular-season games before being held off the scoresheet in three playoff matches.
Roach’s steady play this year helped the Bombers challenge for the Sherwood Division title during a stretch late in the regular season, but his experience has been invaluable in the post-season as Flin Flon rebounded to take a quarter-final match-up against the Viterra Division champion Weyburn Red Wings in five games.
Roach will be leaned on even further in the semi-finals when the Bombers square off against the No. 1 seed from the Battlefords. With what he has learned already in Flin Flon his development will only heighten and with two more years of junior eligibility remaining he could be a cornerstone for the Bombers for some time.
Jake Gerbner (C)
He is one of a handful of players who has moved from the United States to play junior hockey in Nipawin and the recently turned 19-year-old Jake Gerbner has taken full advantage of the opportunity.
In his first full season with the Hawks, the 5-foot-10, 162-pound forward from Haverton, PA, had seven goals and 18 assists in 48 games. Gerbner has stepped up his play to another level in the playoffs, however, as he had a goal and three assists in Nipawin’s six-game triumph over the Estevan Bruins in quarter-final play and he will be looked upon to continue providing strong secondary scoring as the Hawks square off against the defending league champion Melfort Mustangs for the second straight year in the semi-final round.
Prior to moving to Nipawin, Gerbner spent the last three years playing in the Philadelphia Junior Flyers program. When he was 15 years old he played 37 games with the under-16 squad and during that time collected 12 goals and added 17 assists. The following year he had another 35 games with the under-16 Flyers where he posted 9-21-30 totals, but he also got in 18 games with St. Joseph Prep School where he had 13 goals and nine helpers.
Last year Gerbner moved up to the Flyers’ under-18 team and in 30 games he collected 10 goals and nine assists.
Gerbner isn’t the largest player on the ice, but his strong contributions as a secondary scorer make him that much more noticeable. With two more years of eligibility at the junior level he has a chance to continue developing as a player while also being a solid contributor both on and off the ice.
Donavon Lumb (RW)
Weyburn Red wings
Growing up in Weyburn, Donavon Lumb has witnessed the highs and lows of the Red Wings as a fan.
In his three full seasons with his hometown club he has experienced those same emotions as a player and the 19-year-old Lumb has been a big reason for the Red Wings’ return to the upper echelon of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League helping them capture the Viterra Division championship during the regular season.
The 6-foot, 195-pound winger played in all but one of the Red Wings’ games this year scoring six times and setting up 13 others. Those totals matched his output from a season ago when Lumb collected 10 goals and nine assists in 53 contests.
Lumb first got a taste of SJHL hockey when he was 16 years old as he appeared in one game during the 2012-13 campaign, but his success with the Yorkton Harvest of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League (17-6-23 in 44 games) that year garnered him some attention and the following season he cracked the Red Wings’ line-up to play in 49 games- registering nine goals and five assists.
Lumb’s first year of midget hockey showed everyone that he was a prolific scorer as well as a gifted playmaker as he amassed 54 points on 29 goals and 25 assists in just 36 games with the Weyburn Midget AA Red Wings. Lumb followed that up with an even more impressive performance in the playoffs notching nine goals and nine assists in just 10 games.
It has been a long process for the Red Wings to return to the top of the SJHL and Lumb has been a big part of it. With one more year of junior eligibility remaining he will likely be a key figure in the continued growth of his hometown team, but for now he has what he hopes to be a lengthy run in the upcoming playoffs.
Braydon Buziak (C)
Battlefords North Stars
Winning a regular-season pennant takes a full complement of players and while his numbers don’t jump off the page like some of his teammates, Braydon Buziak certainly has had a hand in the Battlefords North Stars’ success so far this season.
Buziak, who just turned 18 in January, played in 55 games for the North Stars this year collecting six goals and setting up 13 others. Still eligible to be playing midget hockey, the 6-foot, 180-pound centre also racked up 62 minutes in penalties showing he isn’t afraid to get in the dirty areas despite his tender age.
The homegrown product actually got his first taste of Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League action last year with the Kindersley Klippers when he appeared in two contests and recorded one assist. Buziak spent the remainder of last season with the Battlefords Stars of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League where he registered seven goals and 11 assists in 43 regular-season games before tallying four goals and four assists in 13 playoff games as the Stars fell just short of a provincial title losing to the Regina Pat Canadians in the league final.
In his first year of midget hockey, during the 2013-14 campaign, Buziak spent the majority of the season at the Midget AA level where he lit up the league with 24 goals and 15 assists in 32 games. He also got to experience Midget AAA hockey that season when he saw action in six games with the Stars picking up one assist during that audition.
The North Stars needed all hands on board to finish first in the regular season and they will need that same commitment in the playoffs if they hope to win a Canalta Cup championship. Buziak will play a big role in any success the team has and with three more years of junior eligibility remaining he looks to be a cornerstone for the future.
Sam Binfet (RW)
Sam Binfet has seen his hockey career develop while playing in the three western provinces, but with his freshman season in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League almost in the books it looks like he has found a home in the heartland while playing with the Kindersley Klippers.
The 18-year-old Binfet grew up in Calgary and played his minor hockey in that city. As a 14-year-old he registered a point-per-game with the Calgary Bantam AA Blackhawks netting 14 goals and setting up 14 others in 28 games.
The 5-foot-9, 165-pound winger then almost duplicated that feat the following year putting up 10-19-29 totals in 30 games with the minor midget Blackhawks. After being an affiliate player with the Calgary Buffaloes of the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League in 2013-14, Binfet took his show on the road and spent last year with the Okanagan Rockets of the BC Midget Hockey League. In 38 games with the Rockets Binfet tallied 19 times and assisted on 13 more.
That set the stage for another move with this one bringing him to the SJHL
A rookie-of-the-week selection earlier this year, Binfet has collected eight goals and added eight assists in 48 games heading into the final week of the regular season.
Binfet should provide solid secondary scoring for the Klippers in the post-season and with one year under his belt he will likely be a bigger contributor next year and the year after.
Jake Fletcher (LW)
A lot has been said about the scoring depth on the Estevan Bruins, but one player that has been overlooked in most of those discussions is 18-year-old Jake Fletcher.
The product of Surrey, B.C., has quietly collected 10 goals and added 11 assists in 42 games with the Bruins this year, but the 5-foot-10, 176-pound winger has brought another intangible to the team as evidenced by his 99 minutes in penalties.
His time with Estevan isn’t his first taste of Junior “A” hockey as last season he got into seven games with the Trail Smoke Eaters of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League and during that brief audition he notched one goal and set up two others. Fletcher spent the rest of last of season toiling with the Delta Ice Hawks of the Pacific Junior Hockey League and in 39 games amassed 32 points on 13 goals and 19 assists.
Prior to playing for the Ice Hawks, Fletcher spent a year at the Delta Hockey Academy and in 27 games at the midget level he netted 13 goals and assisted on 22 others in just 27 games.
Fletcher has represented British Columbia at the under-16 Western Canada Challenge Cup and he is also a former ninth-round selection of the Medicine Hat Tigers in the 2012 Western Hockey League bantam draft. While he never saw any action with the Tigers he did get in one game with the Swift Current Broncos this year, but was held off the scoresheet.
While Fletcher might get lost in the offensive numbers being put up by his Estevan teammates, but he will surely have a significant role when the Bruins begin the playoffs and work their way towards being the host team of the 2016 Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup. And, with two more years of junior eligibility remaining he could be a cornerstone for the future.
Evan Plotnik (G)
Growing up in southern California, Evan Plotnik’s exposure to hockey was surprisingly early, but he is just now getting to experience the game at its finest as he serves as a back-up netminder to the defending Canalta Cup champion Melfort Mustangs.
The 18-year-old from Capistrano Beach first donned the pads when he was nine when the regular netminder for his team never showed for a game. He fell in love with the position from that moment on and spent a number of years playing in development leagues before joining the San Diego Gulls in an under-18 league last season.
The 6-foot, 162-pound Plotnik only appeared in six regular-season games with the Gulls (1.87 goals-against average and .915 save percentage) so he knew he would have to head north if he wanted to continue with his development.
Plotnik attended the spring camp of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League’s Merritt Centennials in 2015 and was back in the B.C. interior last fall trying to land a spot with the club. A bevy of netminders pushed him out, however, and after a brief try-out with the Nanaimo Clippers where he had one relief appearance in an exhibition game, Plotnik moved east to Melfort where he has been more than capable behind No. 1 goalie Richard Palmer.
Plotnik has appeared in 17 games with the Mustangs posting a 2.37 GAA and .909 save percentage and he also has a pair of shutouts included in his 9-4-0-1 record.
As the Mustangs look to defend their championship Plotnik will likely be on the bench more than he is on the ice, but he will be ready if called upon and the experience gained this year should prepare him for more work next year, and even the year after, as Melfort already looks to put pieces in place for the future.
Grant Baetsen (RW)
The Nipawin Hawks have attracted a number of players from south of the border and among the half-dozen Americans on the current roster is 18-year-old winger Grant Baetsen.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Baetsen has enjoyed a strong freshman campaign in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League recording seven goals and 11 assists in 47 games. His play has helped the Hawks challenge for the Sherwood Division title all year and it also gives the club some depth as they head into the post-season looking to improve on their semi-final finish from a year ago.
The product of Grand Rapids, Mich., has been honing his skills in developmental leagues for a number of years. Last season he played in 60 games with Iowa in an elite under-18 league and scored 17 goals while setting up 22 others and he also got one game in with Wichita Falls of the North American Hockey League where he was held off the scoresheet.
Prior to his stint with Iowa, Baetsen spent three years with the Oakland Junior program where he played in Bantam AAA, under-16 and under-18 circuits. In 102 games over those three years, Baetsen collected 18 goals and 17 assists to show that he is both dependable and skilled.
Every team requires solid role players and Baetsen appears to understand his with the Hawks. With two more years of junior eligibility remaining that role could change significantly, but for now he is doing his part to help Nipawin get back to the league final for the first time in 15 years.
Chance Longjohn (C)
Notre Dame Hounds
Notre Dame College has for years developed players through the various levels of hockey with the final stop usually being the Hounds of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
Chance Longjohn is the latest to come under that umbrella.
A product of Maskwacis, Alta., the 19-year-old forward has called Wilcox, Sask., home for the past four years and in his rookie SJHL season has enjoyed a great deal of success.
Through 49 games Longjohn has accumulated 11 goals and 13 assists to go along with 54 minutes in penalties and his performance has the Hounds comfortably in a playoff position with less than three weeks left on the regular schedule.
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Longjohn first arrived in southern Saskatchewan as a 15-year-old when he played in 34 games for the Notre Dame bantam Hounds. Longjohn immediately showed his offensive skills by averaging more than a point-per-game with 19 goals and 20 assists.
The following year Longjohn helped the Notre Dame Argos capture the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League championship when he appeared in 43 games and collected 3 goals and 21 assists. Longjohn also contributed a goal and two helpers in 12 playoff games that season.
Last year Longjohn once again appeared in 43 games, this time for the Midget AAA Hounds, registering six goals and 14 assists and that set the stage for his move to Junior “A”, which has been a relatively smooth transition.
Having just turned 19 in early February, Longjohn still has two years of junior eligibility remaining and with his continued development should be a key figure on the team for the forseeable future.
Layne Young (LW)
Battlefords North Stars
It should be no surprise that the Battlefords North Stars have run away with the Finning Division title this year especially when they have a number of talented rookies led by 18-year-old Layne Young.
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound winger from Frenchman Butte, Sask., has been one of the dominant freshmen this season having racked up 65 points on 21 goals and 44 assists through 50 games with the North Stars.
Young’s pedigree is impressive, going all the way back to when he was playing bantam hockey with the Battleford Stars.
As a 14-year-old Young scored 20 goals and 24 assists in just 24 games with the Stars, but it was in the playoffs where he really shone as he collected five goals and seven helpers in just five matches.
That performance still wasn’t good enough to get him into Midget AAA hockey so as a 15-year-old he played Midget AA with the Midwest Red Wings of the Centre-Four Hockey League and all he did was score 23 goals in 22 regular-season games.
The Midget AAA Battlefords Stars rewarded him the following year with a roster spot and in 44 games Young had a modest 11 goals and 16 assists, but that set the table for last year when he tore up the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League with 31 goals and 32 assists in 43 contests.
Young has been a consistent offensive threat all season and one of the league’s top playmakers in his first tour of the SJHL. He will get serious consideration for rookie-of-the-year accolades and with two more years of junior eligibility remaining will be a cornerstone for the North Stars in the future. He should also play a huge role in what the Battlefords hope is a deep run this spring in the SJHL post-season.
Logan Schatz (C)
When the Humboldt Broncos brought Logan Schatz up for a look as a 16-year-old they knew they had something special.
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound centre from Allan, Sask., collected three assists in his one game audition during the 2013-14 campaign and when training camp broke last year the Broncos knew playing Junior “A” was the best place for him to continue developing.
As a rookie, Schatz managed five goals and 14 assists in 41 games with Humboldt in 2014-15, but this year he has taken off leading the struggling Broncos in scoring having registered nine goals and 35 helpers in 47 contests.
The 18-year-old Schatz has always been a gifted playmaker. In his final year of bantam hockey Schatz tallied 16 goals and 31 assists in just 21 games with the Sask. Valley Vipers of the Saskatchewan Bantam AAA Hockey League and in the playoffs he was lights out collecting seven goals and nine assists in just six post-season tilts.
That performance got him noticed by the Western Hockey League as Schatz was selected in the ninth round of the annual bantam draft by the Kootenay Ice, but Schatz would spend the next two seasons with the Beardy’s Blackhawks of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League where he scored 26 times and set up 48 others in 87 games.
The Broncos are in danger of missing the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League playoffs for the first time in recent memory, but with young stars like Schatz coming into their own, the future certainly has a bright tinge to it.
Rylee Zimmer (C)
Flin Flon Bombers
The Flin Flon Bombers are loaded with plenty of offensive skill in the likes of Alex Smith, Brandon Switzer and Joel Kocur, but a recent addition to the team is providing a nice secondary threat for the surging Manitoba entry in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
Rylee Zimmer came to the Bombers in early December via the trade route and since landing in Flin Flon the 18-year-old forward from Russell, Man., has collected six goals and set up 10 others in just 21 games.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Zimmer has displayed his talents in a number of places over the last five seasons, but he appears to have found a home in northern Manitoba.
In his final year of bantam hockey Zimmer toiled with the Notre Dame bantams where he registered 15 goals and 15 assists in 35 games. Zimmer also got five games in with the Notre Dame Argos of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League where he tallied two goals and two assists in his brief audition.
The Regina Pats of the Western Hockey League liked what they saw and took Zimmer in the fifth round of the 2012 bantam draft and after one full season with the Argos where Zimmer had 19 points in 32 games he cracked the Pats’ line-up as a 16-year-old.
Zimmer didn’t register a point in 44 games with the Pats during that season and the following year after just five games in Regina he was sent to Waywayseecappo of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. Zimmer rediscovered his scoring touch with the Wolverines as he averaged more than a point per game last year collecting 10 goals and 26 assists in 34 matches.
That performance got him a spot on the MJHL all-rookie team, but after notching one goal and 11 assists in 14 games with Waywayseecappo this year he was dealt to Flin Flon for Landon Gross and since then has settled in nicely in his new surroundings.
Successful teams need secondary scoring so it is no coincidence that the Bombers have yet to lose a handful of games since Zimmer’s arrival. With his scoring touch back he will only make Flin Flon better down the stretch and with two more years of junior eligibility he could be a mainstay for the foreseeable future.
Shane Sherban (F)
The Yorkton Terriers are one of the youngest teams in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and part of their “youth movement” is 17-year-old winger Shane Sherban.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound product of Lanigan, Sask., has enjoyed a very successful rookie campaign with the rebuilding Terriers scoring nine goals and assisting on 14 others in 38 games.
While playing with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blazers last year, Sherban got his first taste of Junior “A” hockey when he played in a pair of games with the Terriers and tallied one goal. Sherban finished the year with the Blazers by notching nine goals and setting up seven others and that set the stage for his move to Yorkton on a permanent basis.
Sherban cut his teeth playing Bantam “AA” with the Humboldt Broncos and in two years with that club he scored 21 goals and assisted on 16 others in 42 regular-season games. Sherban caught fire in the 2012-13 bantam playoffs notching six goals and eight helpers in nine games and that performance caught the eye of the Blazers, who included him on their roster when he was 15 years old.
During that rookie Midget AAA campaign, Sherban scored three goals and set up seven others in 43 games giving him the experience he needed to surpass those totals with ease the following year and to also get some traction for the move to the SJHL as a 17-year-old.
Sherban, along with the Welke twins Carson and McKenzie, are building blocks for the Terriers’ future. Two years removed from winning an RBC Cup championship, the Terriers are developing players for a return to the top in the not-so-distant future and Sherban is sure to be a part of it.
Jake Tesarowski (D)
At 18 years of age, Jake Tesarowski has experienced just about everything.
The 5-foot-10, 181-pound defenceman has won a provincial championship, been involved in a trade and played for three different junior teams in two provinces.
It appears, however, that the Regina product has found a home with the Melville Millionaires.
Tesarowski played his minor hockey in Regina and during his final year at the bantam level he split the season playing Bantam “AA” and Midget “AA” registering 37 points in 62 games.
Tesarowski didn’t make the grade to move up to Midget AAA in his first year of midget eligibility so he returned to the Regina Wild and in 42 games collected nine goals and 21 assists with the Midget “AA” club.
That performance got him promoted to the Pat Canadians the next season and in 39 games he notched two goals and added 10 assists while also getting his first taste of Junior “A” playing one game with the Estevan Bruins.
In his final season of Midget AAA last year, Tesarowski busted loose scoring 10 goals and adding 37 assists in 44 regular-season games helping the Pat Canadians capture the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League championship. Tesarowski continued to lead the club at the Telus Cup as he picked up two goals and eight assists in seven games as the Pat Canadians won the bronze medal at the national tournament.
Tesarowski also saw action in three more games with Estevan last year, but at the beginning of this season he was in British Columbia playing with the West Kelowna Warriors. That stop, which lasted six games and saw him register a goal and an assist, ended on Oct. 2 when Melville shipped goaltender Trevor Martin to the Warriors in exchange for the promising defenceman.
In 32 games with the Millionaires, Tesarowski has three goals and seven assists and with Melville unloading a number of veteran players at the trading deadline it looks like they are building for the future. Tesarowski looks to figure prominently in those plans.
Cole Woodliffe (C)
Weyburn Red Wings
At 18 years of age Cole Woodliffe is in his third season of junior hockey and while he has played in three different leagues during that time he appears to have found a home with the Weyburn Red Wings.
The 6-foot-2, 182-pound centre from Vernon, B.C., has assumed a role with his new team, but past history indicates when given the opportunity he can be an offensive threat.
Woodliffe has dressed in 32 games for the Viterra Divison-leading Red Wings this year and in that span has collected three goals and nine assists. Last year, as a 17-year-old playing for the Summerland Steam of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League Woodliffe averaged a point-per-game with 22 goals and 26 assists in 48 contests. Woodliffe also had a solid playoff with the Steam scoring four times and setting up five others in 13 matches.
His time with Weyburn isn’t his first experience at the Junior “A” level as last season he also dressed for seven games with the West Kelowna Warriors of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League where he registered just one goal with the Okanagan franchise.
Woodliffe got his first taste of junior hockey as a 16-year-old when he played in nine games with the North Okanagan Knights of the KIJHL and in that brief tour he collected three goals and one assist.
Woodliffe could be a key factor as the Red Wings make a push for first-place overall. His size and strength will help in the tough playoff rounds and with two more years of junior hockey remaining Weyburn has someone they can watch grow and flourish. Past history indicates it is all just a matter of time.
Trevor Bush (D)
La Ronge Ice Wolves
It was a transaction that went largely unnoticed.
Trevor Bush arrived in La Ronge in the fall after spending 23 games with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last year. While the 6-foot-2, 195 pound defenceman from Guelph, Ont., has not been a major offensive threat with just four goals and four assists in 37 games, he has been steady on the Ice Wolves’ blueline.
La Ronge, which went on a 14-game point streak before Christmas, remains in the top four for fewest goals allowed, a reflection of Bush’s contributions to the blueline.
Prior to playing in Drummondville last season Bush saw action in 46 games with Ridley College in Ontario and there he has his most productive season scoring eight times and setting up seven others.
As a 15-year-old in 2012-13, Bush played 39 games with the Guelph minor midget team and amassed 3-4-7 totals during that campaign.
With two more years of junior hockey eligibility remaining Bush could be a cornerstone on the Ice Wolves’ blueline for some time. He will certainly be looked upon to help the Ice Wolves reach the SJHL post-season for the first time in four years and so far it looks like that is a real possibility.
Tanner Thompson (LW)
Role players are a key ingredient to every hockey team and 18-year-old Tanner Thompson looks to have settled into his role with the Kindersley Klippers nicely.
The Klippers knew that the 6-foot, 190-pound winger from Lethbridge could score as was the case last year when he netted 19 goals in 34 games at the Midget AAA level in Alberta. Thompson, however, also brought a sandpaper element to the team and both of those characteristics are evident in his rookie year of junior hockey.
Through 35 games with the Klippers, Thompson has posted four goals and added six assists while also picking up 60 minutes in penalties. Those numbers aren’t earth-shattering by any means, but as a role player they are valuable.
Signs of Thompson’s abilities first appeared in his final year of bantam hockey when as a 14-year-old he scored 25 goals and set up 34 others in 33 games. He also racked up 54 minutes in penalties showing he could play the game several ways.
The next couple of years are sketchy as statistics weren’t available, but when he resurfaced in Midget AAA hockey last year, Thompson once again proved he can play a 200-foot game.
The Klippers are in a battle for playoff seeding heading into the stretch run of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s regular season and it is players like Thompson that will make a difference.
With two more years of junior eligibility remaining the rugged forward will only improve and the Klippers will be the beneficiaries.
Josh Rieger (D)
That is a coach’s expectation of every player and 19-year-old defenceman Josh Rieger is a model of that characteristic.
The 6-foot, 180-pound Regina product has yet to miss a regular-season game in his almost two complete seasons with the Estevan Bruins and prior to moving up to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League he dressed for every contest in two-plus years with the Regina Pat Canadians of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League.
Add to that reliability factor some offensive abilities and grit and the Bruins have a player that is looked to in many different situations.
Rieger progressed through the Regina minor hockey system and when he was 15-years-old split the season between the Regina Wild of the South Saskatchewan Midget AA Hockey League and the Pat Canadians. Rieger averaged a point-per-game with the Wild (4-23-27 in 27 games) with the Wild before registering a goal and four helpers in 18 games at the higher Midget AAA level.
Rieger then played a bigger role with the Pat Canadians the following season scoring five times and setting up nine others and in his final year of midget hockey collected two goals and 28 assists. He also racked up 138 minutes of penalties in his 106 regular-season Midget AAA games.
In his rookie SJHL season last year, Rieger had six goals and five assists to go with 69 penalty minutes and this year, in just 37 games, he has already surpassed those totals with four goals and 10 assists while collecting 68 minutes in penalties.
The Bruins are in the midst of a big season as hosts of the Crescent Point Energy Western Canada Cup in April and Rieger is expected to play a key role heading down the stretch. Past history certainly indicates he will be there showing up every step of the way.
Teal Sobkowicz (LW)
All Teal Sobkowicz has ever done is be a part of a winning organization.
The 19-year-old winger from Outlook, Sask., is in his second season with the Melfort Mustangs and it looks like he is poised to continue with that tradition.
The 6-foot-1, 175-pound Sobkowicz graduated from the midget ranks after having captained the Prince Albert Mintos to the 2014 Telus Cup national championship. In his first season with the Mustangs last year he was part of the Canalta Cup championship squad that moved on to the Western Canada Cup in Fort McMurray, Alta., before eventually seeing his season come to an end in the RBC Cup semifinals played in Portage, Man.
Sobkowicz brings with him leadership skills and a determination to improve every game.
As a 16-year-old, he made the Minto line-up and posted 7-3-10 totals in 44 games. The following year, after being named the Mintos’ captain, he blossomed to record 21 goals and 24 assists in 42 contests. He then had a pair of goals in eight playoff games, but when Prince Albert hosted the Western Regional qualifier he took his game to another level notching two goals and two assists in four games. At the Telus Cup event he had three more goals in seven games as the Mintos won the national title in that tournament’s longest game – 118 minutes and 36 seconds of end-to-end action.
Sobkowicz joined a Mustangs team last year that was loaded with talent so while adjusting to the new league and different role he managed seven goals and five assists in 50 regular-season games. Sobkowicz had four more points in 14 playoff games and added a goal and one helper at the Western Canada Cup.
This year he has taken on more responsibility and responded as he has in the past by surpassing last year’s totals with eight goals and 10 assists in his first 31 games.
The Mustangs appear ready to make another deep run in the post-season and Sobkowicz will undoubtedly play a big part of any team success.
Kritian Stead (G)
His first foray into the Junior “A” world wasn’t very memorable, but Kristian Stead has proved that perseverance does indeed pay off.
The 19-year-old netminder from Merritt, B.C., got into one game with his hometown Merritt Centennials of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League last year and in that game he was shelled posting a 7.49 goals-against average and a miniscule .778 save percentage.
That result didn’t rock his confidence, however, as he was solid with his regular team playing in 40 regular-season games and 11 more in the playoffs with the 100 Mile Wranglers of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. During the heavy workload with the Wranglers, the 6-foot-2, 182-pound Stead posted a 3.00 GAA and .916 save percentage in the regular season and upped those numbers to 2.20 and .943 in the post-season.
The Nipawin Hawks took notice of Stead’s performance and in looking for a replacement for Joe O’Brien, a workhorse of their own, landed him for this season and in 24 appearances so far in his rookie Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League campaign, Stead has been brilliant posting a 2.72 GAA and 90.6 save percentage.
Stead, a roster reserve for the Centennials for the past two years, also played his final year of midget eligibility with the Wranglers prior to last season and in 31 regular-season contests had a 3.45 GAA and .897 save percentage.
His heavy workload over the past two years has prepared him well for his debut in Nipawin and Stead, along with another newcomer in Michael Barabash, will be depended upon heavily to help the Hawks take the next step – an appearance in the league final and possibly a Canalta Cup championship.
Conor MacLean (RW)
Notre Dame Hounds
The word inspiration comes to mind when talking about Notre Dame Hound forward Conor MacLean.
The 17-year-old product of Wilcox, Sask., has dealt with diabetes all of his life and despite being inflicted by the dreadful disease has managed to progress up the ladder to enjoy a solid hockey career. And, the best is yet to come!
MacLean, at just 5-foot-8 and 155 pounds, is in his first Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League season and through his first 22 games has collected seven goals and added nine assists. MacLean has been recognized for his efforts as he was recently named SJHL rookie of the week in addition to being part of a feature story (along with teammate Kaleb Dahlgren) on CTV Regina to acknowledge November as juvenile diabetes month.
Having grown up in the shadows of Athol Murray College, MacLean played his minor hockey in Wilcox and prior to joining the Hounds this year he progressed through the system to get to this level.
In his final year of bantam hockey, MacLean played with the Bantam Hounds in the South Saskatchewan Midget AA Hockey League and scored five goals and set up four others in 27 games.
The following year he toiled with the Midget AA Hounds and notched 24 goals and 20 assists in 31 games while adding three goals and five assists in eight playoff games. As a 16-year-old, MacLean moved up to the Midget AAA Hounds and in 42 games posted 15-16-31 totals. He also had three goals and four assists in six playoff games along with getting his first taste of Junior “A” action playing in one game with the SJHL Hounds.
That set the stage for this year and his climb can only continue as he has three more years of junior eligibility remaining after this season.
MacLean - along with his teammate Dahlgren – is a true inspiration and the Hounds are benefitting from their dedication, perseverance and talent. MacLean is shaping up to be a building block for the future.
Taryn Kotchorek (G)
Battlefords North Stars
For those players who think there is a blueprint to success in hockey all they have to do is look at Battlefords North Stars’ rookie netminder Taryn Kotchorek and discover that anything can happen at any time.
Never having played a game at the Midget AAA level, Kotchorek literally came out of nowhere this year to earn the back-up role to Ryan Rewerts and since making his first Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League start in the North Stars’ fourth game of the season has never looked back.
The homegrown North Battleford product leads the entire league with a 1.94 goals-against average in 14 appearances and with an 8-0-1-1 record and two shutouts is among the best in save percentage at 92.4 percent.
The diminutive Kotchorek, he stands just 5-foot-8 and weighs only 140 pounds, has already once been named SaskTel goaltender of the week and with the way he and his team are playing it will not be surprising if the 18-year-old is acknowledged even more during the season.
Prior to his walk-on with the North Stars, Kotchorek spent three years with the Battlefords Barons in the Centre-Four Hockey League Midget AA loop where his best season was as a 16-year-old when he had an 11-4-1 mark that included four shutouts. Last year he was 8-11-3 with another pair of shutouts and finished his midget career with a 1-2-0 mark in a quick appearance in the post-season.
The Battlefords North Stars are the No. 1 team in the SJHL at the moment and in order to get to that lofty level you have to have solid netminding. The North Stars appear to have that in spades and with two more years of junior eligibility Kotchorek could be a cornerstone for the foreseeable future.
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.