The Nipawin Hawks have been somewhat of a goaltending factory in recent years and rookie Ross Hawryluk appears to be the latest product.
The 18-year-old Lloydminster, Alta., native has appeared in eight of the Hawks’ 10 games since the Christmas break picking up points in six of those ultra-important contests and improving his overall record to 13-5-0-3.
At 6-foot-4 and 197 pounds it is not surprising that Hawryluk has one of the league’s top save percentages at .923 and his goals-against average is 2.47, again amongst the league leaders.
A fifth-round pick of the Spokane Chiefs in the 2016 Western Hockey League bantam draft, Hawryluk found his way to Nipawin after a brilliant final midget season that saw him put up numbers that almost mirror what he has posted so far with the Hawks. Hawryluk appeared in 21 games last year with the Fort Saskatchewan Rangers of the Alberta Midget AAA Hockey League where his save percentage was .923 and his GAA was 2.52.
That was a huge turnaround from the previous year when he saw action in 15 games with his hometown Lloydminster Midget AAA Bobcats. Hawryluk struggled somewhat that season registering a .853 save percentage to go with an inflated 5.31 GAA.
The blip in his otherwise solid career could be attested to a small sample size of games when he was a 15-year-old, but credit has to be given when due as he showed his resiliency with a strong bounce-back campaign in Fort Saskatchewan and has continued to shine at the Junior “A” level.
In fact, his play this year has impressed many as he was the lone Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League player to compete at the recent Canadian Junior Hockey League Top Prospects Game in Hamilton, Ont., and in that contest he was perfect in stopping all 10 shots he faced in helping Team West to a 6-4 decision over Team East.
Nipawin, which has had the likes of Declan Hobbs, Jake Anthony, Kristian Stead, Joe O’Brien and Davis Jones hold down the back end in recent years, will be counting on Hawryluk heavily down the stretch as they try and chase down a top-four spot and home-ice advantage in the opening round of the playoffs. While winning a third straight regular-season pennant appears out of reach, the Hawks look to be ready to be a threat in the post-season and Hawryluk will certainly play a big role in their success.