Voice of the ND Hounds
Entry No. 2 of this column is the last entry before shots are fired in earnest, as the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League drops the puck Sept. 12 in Humboldt. The pre-season offered a lot of offence, and a bunch of eyebrow-raising transactions, so if the regular season is anything like it, we’re in for one heck of a ride.
Here are my 10 things for Week 2.
1. Patter & Camrud Ready To Go – It seemed to me almost unthinkable, at the time of the Humboldt crash, that any of the survivors would be able to play right away this year; but Derek Patter and Brayden Camrud have proven me, and anyone else of that mind wrong. Both are 1998 birth year forwards, and wearing ‘A’s to start the campaign on Wednesday vs. Nipawin, providing some much-needed continuity to the club. Camrud, 20, was an all-star last season, and providing a nice blend of skill and sandpaper to the tune of 50 regular and post-season points in 66 contests. Patter, 20, started to blossom later in the season, playing a pivotal energy role.
2. Estevan’s Net Coup – The final measure the already-loaded Bruins needed to take midway through last year, in order to ensure a lengthy post-season run, was to add a proven, veteran goaltender. That move came in the form of the late November addition of the ’97-born Bo Didur, but it appears that head coach Chris Lewgood and company have elected to not wait as long this time around. They earned eyebrow-raises around the league this week by grabbing Jacob Anthony from the Nipawin Hawks, last year’s save percentage (.929) and goals-against average (1.94) king. The 19-year-old from Grand Prairie, AB also looks to have a defence corps in front of him that is similarly stacked to the Hawks’ group, one that was the backbone of their 2018 championship. Look for a very hot start from last year’s league runner up.
3. GrimmerGate – The hashtag was coined by the players of the British Columbia Hockey League’s West Kelowna Warriors this past week, as part of a mutiny in response to the constant hiring and firing of head coaches and general managers over the course of this past training camp. It was particularly centred around an eventually successful attempt to coax owner Kim Dobranski into rehiring the recently fired Geoff Grimwood, the same man who departed the Kindersley Klippers head coaching job after the conclusion of the 2017-18 campaign. The Warriors players refused to practice, and went on a hike instead, after Grimwood was released only 17 days into the job. Warriors ownership has since relented, and Grimwood, who was in Kindersley between 2015 and 2018, is back at the helm on the banks of beautiful Okanagan Lake. It isn’t exactly an SJHL story…but power to the people anyway!
4. Mighty Mighty Melville – With the exception of a late season charge, last year was not a fun one for the Melville Millionaires. If the pre-season is any indication, things seem to finally be turning around for head coach Devin Windle and his men. The Millionaires went a perfect 4-0 in the pre-season, scoring 21 goals over that span, with the Heino brothers Dayton and Ryan Heino in the forefront, and the enormously underrated veteran Colby Entz in net. Preseason may not mean everything, and the Millionaires are still awfully young, but it does not mean nothing, so you might as well get excited Millionaires fans!
5. Humboldt Keeps Adding – Head coach Nathan Oystrick and company keep making quality adds to a squad that obviously is still in transition. But the same has to be said of the other three clubs in their Global Ag Risk Solutions Division. Just this week, they brought in solid veteran defenders in Josh Patrician from Kindersley, and called on Estevan to fulfill their Dispersal Draft commitment, with the Bruins sending them 98-born defender Mark Edmands from their well-stocked shelf of blue liners. Smart moves by the Broncos to build a veteran defence corps (the group of 1998 birth years on the back end also includes former Yorkton Terrier Kyle Sargent), to play in front of the talented former Kamloops Blazers prospect Dane Dow in net, as the way to begin this unprecedented new era.
6. Out-Standen – Have to send a tip of the cap to last year’s Notre Dame starter and all-star Jacob Standen, who was absolutely brilliant for the Hounds before an injury derailed his campaign, and who has recovered and earned a spot with the Wilfrid Laurier University Golden Hawks of USports (my alma mater). The Albertan had a 2.55 goals-against-average and a .914 save percentage in 31 SJHL appearances in 2017-18, but had been among the league leaders in both categories all season. I know the guy well, and can tell you he has battled through a lot to get to his post-secondary commitment, so I am thrilled for him.
7. Humboldt Sell Out – Apparently the Humboldt-Nipawin game on Wednesday has been sold out so completely that even a regular SJHL media pass won’t get you in. According to a league communique, one needs to get a special pass from the Broncos’ media relations people in order to get in…I’ll be looking forward to seeing an SJHL game broadcast live on TSN.
8. A Legien of Talent in Yorkton – I’ve said it in a few places that I expect the 2018/19 Yorkton Terriers to be more than worth the price of admission. Long-time WHLer Jared Legien, who spent most of 2016-17 with the Terriers, is back in town as an overager, along with Brendan Klatt, a 20-year-old with over 200 games of WHL experience with the Edmonton Oil Kings and Moose Jaw Warriors. Those two will augment a group that already featured standout 99-born forwards Chantz Petruic (another former Moose Jaw Warrior), and Cody Bruchkowski, while Yorkton added another high-octane, experienced weapon in Colby Brandt, who they procured from Notre Dame in exchange for 99-born defender Austin Wieler in the off-season. They were smart to add defence-first, 6-4 and 220-pound bulldozer Ante Mustapicfrom Nipawin this week, to augment a corps that had its struggles last year.
9. Speaking of Nipawin… - I don’t believe a community that loves its team like Nipawin does will see too big of a rebuild after last year’s championship. However, the dealing of Anthony and Mustapic this week, to go with the loss of their Top 9 scorers from last year, has to mean that the Hawks have to at least be chalked up to ‘question-mark status’ at the beginning of this campaign. That all being said, they dealt Anthony out of a position of strength in net with 2017-18 SJHL Goaltender of the Year Declan Hobbs still there, all stars Jordan Simoneau and Jake Tremblay up front, and plenty of talent coming in the pipeline, not to mention the excellent coaching of Johnson.
10. Banking on Banker? – I’ll close this out with a nod to ND forward Noah Bankowski, whose hard work in the off-season translated into an excellent pre-season on the right wing of Jared Hamm and Marshall Wilton. Bankowski was in and out of the line-up last year, and was occasionally a healthy scratch, but instead of accepting it and being complacent, he put his head down, went to work, and was rewarded with five pre-season points, and what looks like a spot-on ND’s top line to start the campaign. Could not be happening for a better young man either.
(Follow Jamie on Twitter at @neugsie)