Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League

The future of the SJHL is here, and it could be changing for the better

16-year-old Riley Ashe in a home game versus the Flin Flon Bombers, back on Nov. 25 (Photo courtesy/Broad Leaf Media, Facebook)


(Article submitted by Ben Tompkins/NortheastNow)

Two of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s (SJHL) youngest and most talented players have already caught major attention from some of the best programs outside the nation.

Melfort Mustangs forward Riley Ashe and Humboldt Broncos defencemen Carsten Kayter are both just 16 years old and have already made their mark on each organization and the league as a whole.

Typically, players range from ages 17-20 as they look to build confidence and increase their experience, searching for the next step in their hockey careers. This year, however, Ashe and Kayter have already planned out where they’re going next so soon after breaking into the SJHL ranks.

Both have committed to playing NCAA Division I hockey, at some point down the road, for the University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks, who are part of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.

“I feel this can open some doors up for the future of the SJHL and players in Saskatchewan, to be able to look at this as an avenue to further develop not only their hockey but more importantly their educational needs,” explained Mustangs head coach Trevor Blevins. “And, to be able to combine that with quality programs and quality schools, is quite a feather in the cap of the league.”

Kayter announced his commitment back in early October, while Ashe announced his earlier this month.

The two northeast players have now completed the first half of the SJHL season, just reaching the 30-game mark of their junior careers.

Currently, Ashe is tops in rookie scoring and assists with 25 points and 20 helpers through 31 games, while Kayter is fifth in rookie scoring with 20 points (the best among rookie blueliners) through 30 games.

“By coming through our league first, I think it’s a win-win for not only the SJHL programs but also young players, that at 16 years old, can play in our league and contribute,” added Blevins.

Ashe and Kayter both cracked the opening-day lineups for their respective squads, as Ashe was the Mustangs’ first-round selection (10th overall), while Kayter was selected in the fourth round (47th overall).

Some players bounce back and forth between Canadian Major Junior teams and some just hope an NCAA Division III offer comes their way, as their time in the league nears an end, due to their eligibility.

This wasn’t the case for these two gentlemen, however, as Broncos’ head coach Scott Barney told northeastNOW he believes they are just the beginning of a ‘new wave of players’.

“Various teams have 16-year-olds and I think it’s good for the league. It just builds the number of schools coming in to watch, and when they come in to watch certain players, they also get to watch at least another 19 players from each team, so another 38 players get noticed that same night,” said Barney.

“The more and more young guys, especially the higher-end guys we have, it’s good for the league… I think you’re gonna see a lot more of the ’06’ crop, getting commitments.”

Something can also be said about these two being born and raised in Saskatchewan, both hailing from Warman, as they’re able to stay closer to home, while still chasing their dreams and having quite a bit of success at it.

The duo actually played together for the Warman Wildcats U15 AA team, back in the day, each making the U16 Sask First Top 30 in 2021.

Barney mentioned it’s great to have the ability to develop local talent, without holding them back.

“Here in Humboldt, our number one thing is moving guys on to the next level, obviously winning comes second in the whole part of the process, and the more guys we can move up and on, it’s better for our program and recruiting the next guys.”

And after looking at it all, one thing can be said for sure, these guys are some exciting talents in the league, just three months into their junior careers.

They also have to be cherished, as their SJHL days will likely be limited, as nothing is guaranteed past this season, as Saskatchewan and Canada aren’t the only ones who value their skills.

So, should the second half of this season be their last (likely a memorable one to come), let’s make sure they get every opportunity in the book in 2023, as they’ve more than taken advantage of every single game in 2022.

The future of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, which develops local talent and showcases some of the best Junior A teams in the country is here, and the brightest days and players are still to come.