by Rory McGouran
Team Player to Watch – Rylan McNinch
2001 Fwd- Ryland McNinch has the evidence that the offensive side of his game is there to be tapped with 41 points in 43 games his final year of U18 AAA hockey. However, it’s his attention to detail away from the puck that has earned the trust of North Stars Head Coach, Brayden Klimosko. The 19-year-old, second-year veteran will now be leaned on as one of the leaders on a young North Stars’ team. It was a strong start to the season with 2 points in his first 3 games.
“He’s a guy that we can put up and down our line-up and in all situations. He can play center, wing, power-play, and penalty kill. He’s a guy that if you tell him something, he’s gonna listen and do exactly what you ask. The guys respect him in the room, an all around team player, and a guy that does it all for us.” – North Stars’ Head Coach and GM, Brayden Klimosko
2020/21 Stats – 3gp, 1g-1a-2p, 2 PIMs
RBC Forward to Watch – Jaxson Steele
A mid-season acquisition last year to bolster the roster for an attempt at back to back championships, the 20-year-old Calgary native did not disappoint. After being acquired from the BCHL’s Prince George Spruce Kings, Steele has been a point-per-game player in the SJHL, and a consistent threat to opposition teams. With 25 points in 24 games, followed three points in the North Stars’ three playoff games prior to the COVID-19 shutdown, and two points in two games to start this season, it’s clear #19 will be the focal point of the Battleford’s attack in 2021.
“One of our top guys from last year that we got to return. High end forward that can score. We’ve put him at centre this year and we feel he’s been able to contribute a lot on the defensive side as well as on the offensive attack. He’s looked really good there.”
2020/21 Stats – 2gp, 1g-1a-2p, 14 PIMs
Mayfair Diagnostics Defenseman to Watch – Timon Prexler
Battlefords has notoriously deployed a stable crop of d-men over the past two seasons, leading them to an SJHL Championship in 2019. Through success comes turnover, and now second-year North Star, Timon Prexler will be tasked with spearheading the new group of blue-liners. Prexler is the lone returning defenseman on the North Stars’ roster, and just one of three with Jr. A experience. Prexler’s 7 goals in 38 games last season (all even-strength) shows he has a knack for finding the back of the net.
“We feel confident in all of his abilities. A returning d-man that we trust. He’s shown he can score some goals last year and we hope that he can chip-in offensively in a similar way this year. I feel like when we start up again and move through the rest of the season, he’s going to show that he’s one of the top d-man in the league.”
2020/21 Stats – 3gp, 0g-1a-1p, 18 PIMs
SaskTel Goalie to Watch – Kristian Lyon
After fighting his way through a crowded North Stars crease last season, Lyon was ready to take control of the reigns in 2020. However, snowstorms and COVID-19 related cancelations has held the 20-year-old net-minder to just one start before the season came to a halt. Based on his performance in 2019/20, (8-1-0-0, 2.33, .933) North Stars’ fans have to be confident in their goaltender. With a rather young squad set in the line-up, Lyon may be called upon to steal some games for the black and silver.
“Kristian, we feel, can be as good as any goalie in the league, he just hasn’t had the chance to play much. He’s played one game so far and hopefully he gets hot in the second half because we’re probably going to have to lean on him a bit.”
2020/21 Stats: 0-1-0-0, 87 min, 6 GA, 4.12 GAA, .893 SV%
Direct West Rookie to Watch – Jake Southgate
Playing for his home-town team must be a dream come true for the 18-year old rookie whose spent his entire hockey career inside the Battleford’s minor hockey system. The Battlefords North Stars are now reaping the rewards with Southgate poised to be in the running for Rookie of the Year once the season resumes. He got his first taste of SJHL competition last year, when he suited up for 3 games. His first full SJHL season this year was off to a good start with 2 points in his first 3 games
“We have a great group of rookies, but the local, Jake Southgate, I feel he can potentially be a Div 1 calibre hockey player. He’s been one of our best forwards we’ve had so far to start the season.”
2020/21 Stats- 3gp, 1g-1a-2p, 2 PIMs