FLIN FLON BOMBERS
A lot of attention has been directed at the Flin Flon Bombers this year and rightfully so.
A trio of players – Vincent Nardone, Caleb Moretz and Chrystopher Collin have all committed to NCAA Division 1 schools; Brandson Hein is lighting it up leading the league in goals and points; Calvon Boots is among the top defencemen in the league; Pierce Diamond has worked his way into the conversation of being one of the elite netminders; Flin Flon, as a team, leads the league in goals scored and also sports the best goal differential – both by comfortable margins.
Lost in all of that somewhat is the Bombers 20-year-old captain Nate Hooper.
The third-year Winnipeg product is the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s top playmaker with 26 assists in 24 games and the 6-foot-2, 185-pound centre is just three points back of his teammate Hein for the overall lead in the individual scoring race.
Hooper has been held off the scoresheet just once in the last 12 games and in that span he has racked up an astonishing 26 points, including three games where he registered four points each. While all of those numbers are impressive, the one thing that stands out more than anything is his durability. Since joining the Bombers in the fall of 2016, Hooper has missed just five games and those all came in a two-week stretch leading up to Christmas that year. Since then he has played in every Flin Flon game and at his current pace will shatter his personal bests of 20-36-56 set last year, if not by the holiday break next month then early in the new year. He has already eclipsed the 29 points he put up in the 53 games he played as a rookie two seasons ago.
Prior to joining the Bombers as an 18-year-old Hooper spent three seasons playing midget hockey in his hometown of Winnipeg. His first two years at that level were with the Sharks, a city-level club, and in a combined 70 games he registered 73 points. His final season of midget hockey was with the Midget AAA Thrashers and after scoring 19 times and setting up 38 more in 43 games he was selected as a first-team all-star for the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League.
The Bombers are in a three-way battle for top spot in the Sherwood Division and a nine-team fight for first place overall. Hooper’s leadership, durability, playmaking and overall skill level will go a long way in keeping them in both races and he might just be the deciding factor in putting them over the top.