Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League

SJHL Players in the WHL Central Hub

By Rory McGouran

The SJHL has always been well represented in a wide manner across the hockey landscape, with players eventually moving on to new clubs across the globe. Whatever direction their career takes them in, they continue to promote the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League to the highest of standards for future generations to come.

With the WHL’s Return-to-Play bubbles now in action, or shortly commencing, this four-part series will take an in-depth look at the talent in the Western Hockey League that once suited up in an SJHL jersey.

WHL’s Central Division

The WHL’s Central Division features the five WHL clubs which call Alberta home. The Central Division consists of each team playing 24 regular season games with travel allowed within the province.
13 SJHL alumni are currently competing within the Central Division, with 8 of the 12 SJHL teams having representatives. The Estevan Bruins, Humboldt Broncos, Kindersley Klippers, and La Ronge Ice Wolves are the four teams with no past players currently in the WHL’s Central Division.

 Battlefords North Stars

The North Stars trio of representatives, the most among any SJHL team in the Central Division, have some continuity up in the WHL, as all three lineup as teammates for the Calgary Hitmen. Two of the three were loaned to the North Stars this season while the WHL was waiting for approval to return to play. The other’s stint was short-lived.

Time in Battlefords
Adam Kydd was the first that donned the black and silver star among the three representatives, slipping on the North Stars jersey for a one game call-up in 2018/19. The North Stars 60th overall draft pick in 2017 would make the jump to the WHL just one year later with a respectful 12-point season for the Hitmen as a rookie.

Connor Gabruch has spent time, although brief, with two SJHL organizations. After being drafted by the Weyburn Red Wings in 2016, he made the jump to the WHL as a 17-yr-old. Gabruch returned on loan to the North Stars this past season, where he put up 3 goals in 3 games.

Davidson, Saskatchewan’s own, Blake Allen, the brother of PA Raider defenseman Nolan Allan, was one of two loans for the North Stars this year that are currently up in the Central Division. He failed to register a point with Battlefords earlier this fall, but has made quick impact for the Hitmen since returning to the WHL.

Since returning to the WHL (as of March 19)
Allen and Gabruch have gotten off to a nice starts, each picking up 2 points in their first 5 games with the Hitmen. Kydd has also suited up for all five Hitmen games, where he has collected one assist. The Hitmen are currently 2-2-1 through 5 games.

Stats with Battlefords
F – Adam Kydd – 2018/19 – 1gp, 0g-0a-0pts, 0 PIMS – Drafted by Battlefords (60th overall in 2017)
F – Connor Gabruch – 2020/21 (LOAN) – 3gp, 3g-0a-0pts, 4 PIMS. Drafted by Weyburn (34th overall in 2016)
F – Blake Allan – 2020/21 (LOAN) – 1gp, 0g-0a-0pts, 0 PIMS.

Flin Flon Bombers

The lone Bombers’ representative in the WHL’s Central Division is a former draft pick of the northern Manitoba club.

Time in Flin Flon
Ashton Ferster was selected by Bombers’ Head Coach, Mike Regan and their scouting staff in the third round of the 2018 SJHL Bantam Draft. The 17-yr-old Shellbrook product got one game of action in the SJHL last season and has since played his first six career WHL games with the Medicine Hat Tigers this year. Time will tell if the young, 6’4 forward will stick in the WHL, or return to Flin Flon to wreak havoc in the SJHL.

Since returning to the WHL (as of March 19)
Ferster is six games into his WHL career and continues to search for his first career WHL point. The Tigers are 4-3 through 7 games since returning to play.

Stats with Flin Flon
F – Ashton Ferster – 2019/20 – 1gp, 0g-0a-0pts, 0 PIMS. Drafted by Flin Flon (28th overall in 2018)

Melfort Mustangs

The Melfort Mustangs are one of five SJHL teams with just one alumni in the WHL’s Central Division, joining Flin Flon, Yorkton, Nipawin, and Weyburn.

Time in Melfort
Melfort’s rep, Chase Pauls, was held off the scoresheet during his two games he suited up for the Mustangs to start the 2020/2021 campaign. Undrafted in both the WHL and SJHL, the 6’4 defenseman saw five games of action with the Lethbridge Hurricanes as a 16-yr-old rookie last year, where he scored his first career WHL goal.

Since returning to the WHL (as of March 19)
Pauls has been in the lineup of for three of Lethbridge’s five games so far this season. The 6’5 blue-liner has one assist through those three games.

Stats with Melfort
F – Chase Pauls – 2020/21 – 2gp, 0g-0a-0pts, 2 PIMS

Melville Millionaires

Melville brought in a handful of loans to their SJHL club to start the 2020/21 SJHL season. In time, the move may prove to be beneficial, allowing younger players to soak in the knowledge these WHL’ers possess. The two that are in the Central Division, we’re both part of that plan.

Time in Melville
Defenseman, Joe Arntsen, the Lethbridge Hurricane draft choice in 2018, couldn’t find the score sheet in six appearances with the Millionaires this year. However, he did help the team get off to a 4-2 start prior to the shutdown. Meanwhile, Arntsen’s goaltender in the WHL also joined the Mills to start the season. Bryan Thomson was a wall for the Mills, as expected, winning all three of his starts, while posting a 2.32 GAA and .925 SV%.

Since returning to the WHL (as of March 19)
Arntsen picked up his first WHL point of the season in his second game with the Hurricanes this year. Since returning to play, the Swift Current native has one assist in five contests.

Thomson has had a shaky start to the 2020/21 WHL season. He’s allowed 10 goals in two appearances with a .762 SV%

Stats with Melville
D – Joe Arntsen – 2020/21 (LOAN) – 6gp, 0g-0a-0pts, 4 PIMS
G – Bryan Thomson – 2020/21 (LOAN) – 3gp, 3-0-0-0, 2.32 GAA, .925 SV%

Nipawin Hawks

Nipawin Hawks’ faithful had plenty of time to see Jaxsen Wiebe, their lone rep in the Central Division, throughout a full season with the Hawks in 2018/19. The 22nd overall SJHL draft pick in 2017 then returned to the Hawks and provided consistent offence while waiting for the WHL’s return in 2020.

Time in Nipawin
Wiebe started his junior career with the Hawks after two seasons playing for his hometown Moose Jaw’s U18 AAA team. In his first year with Nipawin, Wiebe scored 13 goals and added 13 assists in 48 games. After posting 17 points for the Red Deer Rebels in his rookie season in 2019/20, he came back to the SJHL in 2020/21 where he added 5 points in 4 games.

Since Returning to WHL (as of March 19)
Once the WHL got approval, Wiebe headed back to over to Red Deer and has since collected 2 points (1g-1a) in 7 games this year.

Stats with Nipawin
F – Jaxsen Wiebe 2018/19, 2020/21 – 52gp, 15g-16a-31pts, 32 PIMS – Drafted by Nipawin (22nd overall in 2017)

Notre Dame Hounds

The Notre Dame Hounds can take plenty of pride in knowing their academic and athletic organization helped groom these two players since their bantam years at Athol Murray College.

Time in Notre Dame
Bryan Thomson, who we spoke about with the Melville Millionaires, got his first taste of SJHL hockey with the Notre Dame Hounds. Blink and you might have missed it, as it was only 20 minutes of action. However, he can say it was a perfect 20 minutes as he stopped all nine shots faced.

Red Deer’s Keaton Sorensen’s tenure with ND’s Jr. A club wasn’t much longer. The former SMAAAHL goal-scoring leader played three games with the Hounds in 2018/19 where he picked up one assist.

Since Returning to the WHL
Sorensen has skated in all seven games for his hometown team, Red Deer Rebels, adding one assist and four PIMS in the process.

Bryan Thompson – (See Melville)

Stats with Notre Dame
G – Bryan Thomson – 2017/18 – 20 min played in relief – 9 saves on 9 shots
F – Keaton Sorensen – 2018/19 – 3gp, 0g-1a-1pts, 0 PIMS

Weyburn Red Wings

The Weyburn Red Wings got one game out of their 3rd round draft pick from 2016 before he dashed to the WHL. When Connor Gabruch made his return, on loan to the SJHL, it wasn’t with the team that drafted him, but instead with the Battlefords North Stars.

Time in Weyburn
Gabruch was able to score his first career SJHL goal in his first career game in the SJHL. The lone game in 2017/18 was the last he’d play with the winged wheel of Weyburn.

Since returning to the WHL
Gabruch – (See Battlefords)

Stats with Weyburn
F – Connor Gabruch – 2017/18 – 1gp, 1g-0a-1pts, 0 PIMS – Drafted by Weyburn (34th overall in 2016)

Yorkton Terriers

What a start to the WHL season Yorkton native and Terrier loan, Brett Kemp is having. The fifth year WHL’er is second in points among all WHL skaters this season.

Time in Yorkton
His time was brief, but he made a show out of it. Kemp put up 10 points in 6 games in his short stint with the Terriers. It seemed to have got his juices flowing for a strong start to the WHL season once it resumed.

Since returning to the WHL
The Medicine Hat Tiger has been shot out of a cannon to start the 2020/21 WHL season. 11 points (3g, 8a) in 7 games has him just three points behind his teammate Cole Clayton for the league lead. His Tigers are off to a 4-3 start in the Central Division.

Stats with Yorkton
F – Brett Kemp – 2020/21 (LOAN) – 6gp, 3g-7a-10pts, 22 PIMS.

This four part series will continue, as up next we head south of the border to take an in depth look at the WHL’s US Division.