When the Melfort Mustangs included defenceman Lucas Ochitwa in their 2019-20 Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League line-up it wasn’t because they were expecting a huge offensive output from the 18-year-old Wadena, Sask., product.
Ochitwa, after all, had managed to score just four goals in 122 games over the last three seasons with the Swift Current Legionnaires of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. While the 5-foot-9, 190-pound Ochitwa had added 36 helpers during that span, being an offensive threat just wasn’t something he was supposed to be bringing to the table.
Through the first nine games of his Junior “A” career, however, that prognosis appears to be turned around as Ochitwa has been a sparkplug in helping Melfort jump into the early Sherwood Division lead.
On almost every other team Ochitwa’s two goals and four assists would be tops for a defenceman, yet with the Mustangs he is fourth in that category behind Jake Hobson, Alex Rondeau and Nolan Kadachuk.
Ochitwa’s fast start isn’t a complete surprise to the Mustangs as they used the No. 11 pick overall in the 2016 bantam draft to select him after Ochitwa had 10 goals and 15 assists in 29 games with the Humboldt Bantam AA Broncos. Those totals were impressive enough, but Ochitwa also brings a bit of an edge to his game as he has averaged over 50 minutes in penalties in each of his last four seasons and so far this year with the Mustangs he has collected 24 minutes.
Melfort’s team defence is among the best in the league early in the season and their offence is also near the top. It is thanks to a strong defensive core that the Mustangs are enjoying those results and with Ochitwa continuing to develop as the season progresses those numbers will only get better.