Joel Grzybowski, G
Batlefords North Stars
The Battlefords North Stars were already set between the pipes with veteran Taryn Kotchorek returning for another season, but 17-year-old Joel Grzybowski made it tough for the coaching staff not to give him his fair share of starts. Grzybowski hasn’t disappointed as the Hafford, Sask., native had a 20-4-0-1 record in his first 25 starts including five shutouts and a 1.73 goals-against average that was second only to Kotchorek’s 1.67. An 11th-round pick of the Saskatoon Blades in the 2014 WHL bantam draft, Grzybowski could get a look at that level in the future, but for now he is focused on extending the North Stars’ season as far as possible and his stellar freshman campaign has helped put them in a position to do just that.
Tyler Heidt, D
Joining a two-time defending league championship club can be daunting, but Tyler Heidt appears to have taken that opportunity and ran with it. Heidt, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound defenceman from Saskatoon, had seven goals and 13 assists in his first 50 games earning him more responsibilities as the Mustangs tried to hold off the Melville Millionaires for the final playoff spot. While the Mustangs adjusted to a different role other than being a frontrunner, Heidt has settled in nicely and looks to be a cornerstone for years to come.
Josh McDougall, D
The Nipawin Hawks are one of the top defensive teams in the league and Josh McDougall has played a big part in that success. The 18-year-old Prince Albert product appeared in 50 of the first 55 games and in addition to shoring up the Nipawin defence, the 5-foot-10, 173-pound McDougall also contributed eight goals and 21 assists, tops among all first-year blueliners. McDougall got his first taste of Nipawin hockey two years ago when he was 16 years old and while he never registered a point in four games he was someone the team kept an eye on. After two seasons with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Tisdale Trojans, where he never missed a game and helped them get to within one win of a league title last spring, he was ready to make the jump to the Hawks and with him in the line-up Nipawin has been in a season-long battle with the Flin Flon Bombers for the Sherwood Division title.
Ben Allen, F
Battlefords North Stars
It only took a player development fee to get Ben Allen out of Fort McMurray and the return on that small investment has been overwhelming. Allen had played in just four games with the Fort McMurray Oil Barons when his rights were moved to the Battlefords North Stars in mid-October and all the 19-year-old did was add to an already potent offence with 19 goals and 26 assists in his first 44 games in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. The 5-foot-9, 165-pound winger from Allen, Texas, has been instrumental in helping the North Stars capture both the Olympic Building Division title and the overall point’s race in the regular season.
Notre Dame Hounds
The Notre Dame Hounds knew exactly what they were getting when they included Adam Dawe in their starting line-up as a 17-year-old to start the 2016-17 SJHL regular season. The Gander, Nfdl., product had already been in Wilcox for two seasons playing Midget AAA hockey with the Hounds and having notched 86 points in 79 games the SJHL Hounds were confident he was ready to take it to another level. He did that and then some having recorded 61 points in 50 games this year in addition to being the only player from the SJHL selected to compete at the CJHL’s Top Prospects Game in January. The 5-foot-8, 160-pound Dawe, who has already committed to attend the University of Maine next season, was a runaway leader in rookie scoring having almost 20 more points than his nearest rival. Dawe, who turned 18 in January, was also a member of Team West at the World Junior “A” Challenge.
Michael McChesney, F
The third member of the all-rookie forward unit also comes from outside the Saskatchewan borders as 19-year-old Michael McChesney moved just north of his home in Dickinson, N.D., to enjoy a stellar freshman season with the Estevan Bruins. The 5-foot-8, 175-pound centre has contributed 19 goals and 20 assists through 52 games to help the Bruins capture the Viterra Division banner and enter the post-season as the No. 3 seed. McChesney’s offensive abilities were fairly predictable as he had 66 points in just 24 games with Dickinson High School a year ago. Having just turned 19 a month ago, McChesney still has two years of junior eligibility remaining in addition to what the Bruins hope is an extended spring this year.