Hope springs eternal for young hockey players looking to play on any some sort of high level team.

Hope also springs eternal for Yellowknife to produce some young hockey stud who goes on to do something big. Steven Hodges was the one who got our tongues wagging about how he was going to be the first born-and-raised Yellowknifer to lace it up in the National Hockey League since Greg Vaydik thanks to being drafted by the Florida Panthers. It almost worked but injuries derailed him. It’s a shame because he was on track.

This season, there are several young players who are playing either junior or post-secondary hockey and while professional hockey is still far away for some – if that’s what they want to do and there are some who do.

Let’s break it down and see who’s doing what:

Zach Zorn is at Concordia University in Montreal after three fine seasons with the Merritt Centennials of the B.C. Hockey League. For most players, this is how it goes – play junior and hope for a call to college or university hockey. Zorn had his sights set on playing American college hockey but the NCAA Clearinghouse, which determines eligibility for athletes, was the hurdle he couldn’t clear.

Still, Zorn has a great shot to make some noise with a very good hockey program, one which went to the U Sports national championship last season. He has five years of eligibility and he knows what he wants to do. Zorn wants to go pro if he can, the National Hockey League being his no. 1 choice but he’s looking outside the box as well. Europe is a wonderful option because there are plenty of teams looking for quality players and some of those leagues pay pretty well.

Next up is Jack Works, who signed with the Okotoks Oilers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League this season. This was a situation Works had been hoping for because he knew the team’s head coach, Tyler Deis, before he even went to training camp. Works had played for his spring teams and knew what he was getting himself into. In turn, Deis knew exactly what type of player he was getting in Works.

It certainly helped that Works spent four years at the Edge School in Calgary, one of those academies that focuses on hockey but also on education. It’s the same sort of place where players such as Ethan Anstey is at in Shawnigan Lake, B.C., at the Shawnigan Lake School, Connor Fleming, most recently with the Yale Hockey Academy in Abbostford, B.C., and Jonah Bevington, who played with the Okanagan Hockey Acadeny in Edmonton last season.

Works is another player who has a good future ahead of him and I admit I was surprised he didn’t get drafted by a Western Hockey League team. I’m also surprised Anstey and Liam Tereposky didn’t get picked by any team. Works is in a good situation, though, and the AJHL is a very solid league.

As you read about in Wednesday’s Yellowknifer, Sam Schofield is now a member of the Swift Current Broncos of the Western Hockey League after signing his agreement on Aug. 30. He won’t be with the team to start the season as he’ll play major midget AAA in Vancouver but he’s on the list and can be called up at any time. He also gets the benefits of being signed by a WHL team in that hes’ already earned one year of scholarship money if he decides to go the university route once his junior days are done.

Much has been made about how Schofield isn’t the biggest player in terms of size; I like to joke about how he’s not hard to spot because almost everyone he plays against is at least half a foot taller than he is. Size, though, doesn’t matter in this case because he’s earned his spot. I spoke with Gary Aubin, Swift Current’s director of player personnel, on Wednesday and he told me that everyone got behind him during training camp because they wanted him to succeed and he was fun to watch.

Consider this: Schofield wasn’t drafted by the Broncos but he was protected by the team after training camp last season, meaning no other team could invite him to try out or even talk to him without permission. The Broncos have a completely new coaching staff and scouting operation for this season, meaning they hadn’t seen him before. They thought enough of him to sign him not having seen him play before. He obviously has something and I’m willing to wager Schofield will be playing a game or six this season with the Broncos.

On the girls side, Deanne Whenham is at Lindenwood University-Belleville in Illinois to play hockey. She, too, played at a hockey academy – Banff Hockey Academy in Alberta – for the past two seasons and obviously showed Lindenwood that he has what it takes. Her coach, Kat Hannah, certainly thinks so, saying that she takes care of the corners and the front of the net, does an excellent job communicating and supporting the play and battles especially hard in the defensive zone.

This is a good situation for Whenham because it’s a small university and that means she will have more than a decent shot at doing well. Don’t forget – she’s also a pretty good golfer and she’ll be playing with that team once hockey is done. When it comes time for the Canada Winter Games, you’ll see the difference playing collegiate hockey makes in her game.

I know some of you have told me Abby Webster is a Hay River player but I consider her Yellowknifer as well because she spent two years at St. Pat’s. So there. Webster is lining up with Olds College in Calgary for this season. She caught the eye of the school after playing with the Northern Capitals, a B.C. female midget AAA team, and it’s not hard to see why.

Webster has size – 5 ft. 10 in. – and always manages to get herself into the right spot to make a play. I got a real good look at her during the Canada Winter Games camp in Yellowknife last month and she should figure in on the team’s top line for Red Deer. Her coach at Olds, Chris Leeming, said pretty much the same thing about Webster, noting her ability to create time and space for her teammates. Just like Whenham, collegiate hockey will make her a lot better come Games time.

There are several others who are playing down south in AAA or AA and I’m not ignoring you at all. I’m sure I’ll be hearing about your exploits because your parents are all awesome.

I know they are because not one of these players would be where they are without them.

James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.