Ahead of the MJHL Showcase, here’s a brief look at each team as they come into the event.
Dauphin Kings – A nice four-game winning streak has one of the top teams in the west poised to make a solid showing at Seven Oaks. As a team, the Kings don’t give their opponents much in the way of goals. Dauphin has allowed the second fewest goals against in the MJHL. Scoring goals may have been a concern early but the team has turned it up potting 15 times over their last three games. They’re also the only team in the division to not have played double digit games, yet they sit one point out of first.
Player to keep an eye on: Gabriel Bugeaud – 3 goals, 4 assists in 8 games
Neepawa Titans – Grinding away, the Titan’s work ethic and determination have kept them in the fight almost every night and also allowed them to keep pace in the MGEU West Division. Don’t let the goals against numbers fool you, the Titans have very strong goaltending. While not possessing an explosive offense, they do have guys who can score, and it’s been a team effort when they’ve been successful. They have perhaps the tallest task at the Showcase facing two powerhouses in Steinbach and Winkler, but if they can keep together, they have a chance to really open some eyes across the league.
Player to keep an eye on: Mason Hartley – 6 goals, 5 assists in 11 games
Niverville Nighthawks – Major swings of late for the Nighthawks but a huge response to go out and win at home after giving up a combined 14 goals in two games, both losses to teams they’re chasing in the division. They have dynamic skill up front and as some of the new faces adjust to the Niverville way, they’ll become deeper and harder to play against. Sticking to the process will be something that will keep the Nighthawks successful going forward. The effort is always there but despite where they are now, they have to feel like their best hockey is still two steps away, which is a scary thing for the rest of the league.
Player to keep an eye on: Kaycee Coyle – 3 goals, 6 assists in 11 games
OCN Blizzard – October has been a grind for the most Northern MJHL team, yet they keep finding ways to pick up points and also not get too bogged down by losing a couple in a row. They are a very entertaining team. They may not have a whole lot of flash and dash, but they will grind teams down and pounce when they see a weakness. Loaded with young talent that is improving every week, the Blizzard look to have some solid building blocks in place for this year and beyond. They’ll be licking their lips at the upcoming games against a team they lost to in a shootout and a team they shutout in their own barn. OCN should and will be feeling confident.
Player to keep an eye on: Mathew Langdon – 3 goals, 3 assists in 10 games
Portage Terriers – A long and productive homestand came to an end as they banked 10 out of a possible 14 points between September 29th and October 20th. Wonder how long it took the team to get into the rhythm of packing the bus again after so much time between road games. Leaving the comfy comfiness of Stride Place, the Terriers managed to pick up a point against a desperate hockey club. Their top players have performed exceptionally while the rest of the lineup has picked things up as well. The storied franchise has high expectations and will look to keep building through the Showcase and into November when things will get tougher.
Player to keep an eye on: Gabriel Laflamme – 6 goals, 11 assists in 11 games
Selkirk Steelers – It’s been a tough stretch for Selkirk as they’ve picked up just two wins in the month. Those two wins though are against the top teams in the MGEU East and West divisions, respectfully. A hard-working club that pushes their opponent to be at their best, or else. The biggest area of concern is goal scoring. With 16 goals, they are the lowest-scoring team in the MJHL. They have strong goaltending but the guys in the big pads can only do so much. The Steelers have the pieces to get back into the fight for a playoff spot, but it has to start now. A strong Showcase could be the launching pad for a franchise starving for on-ice success.
Player to keep an eye on: Mathieu Catellier – 3 goals, 1 assist in 10 games
Steinbach Pistons – The defending MJHL champions are starting to chug with things starting to really click. Depth up and down the lineup paired with a veteran d-core and elite goaltending have Steinbach right near the top of the league again. Early in the season goals were hard to come by but this month, they’ve piled up impressive offensive numbers with several players finding their scoring touch. The penalty kill has been exceptional because it’s had to be given the Pistons lead the MJHL in times short-handed with 64 and the next closest team at 51. A wise man said, ‘you can’t score short-handed if you don’t take a penalty’, which is not the way you want to try and generate offense, but Steinbach does have 3 short-handed goals this year.
Player to keep an eye on: Leo Chambers – 4 goals, 11 assists in 11 games
Swan Valley Stampeders – It hasn’t been the best start for a club that game within just a few goals of heading back to the MJHL finals last year, but the good news is, there’s a lot of time left and they’re right there in the standings. Up front, they have elite talent and can score big-time goals and the goaltending has kept the team in many games while facing a large number of shots. The defense will continue to grow game-by-game but there are some hard lessons that have been learned. The team is better than their record and they’ll look to use the Showcase to build some confidence.
Player to keep an eye on: Callum Halls – 3 goals, 6 assists in 11 games
Virden Oil Capitals – Whatever the Oil Caps have been having for pre-game meal, I’m sure other teams would like to know. An otherworldly worldly amount of production as the Oil Caps have struck gold putting up these insane offensive numbers of late. What gets lost in the eye-popping back-to-back 10-goal games, is that all year long, they’ve been super stingy giving up goals. This level of offense will not be sustained, but defensive fundamentals and elite level goaltending can carry this team a far way especially when their top players are producing. Virden got all the way to the MJHL finals last year and there seems to be a hunger to not only get back but get over the hump. Their young players are taking center stage and primed to put on a heck of a show.
Player to keep an eye on: Josh Lehto – 6 goals, 13 assists in 11 games
Waywayseecappo Wolverines – Up and down the Wolverines go. Never getting too low or letting losses pile up but also having a hard time stringing wins together. The talent is there up and down the roster, it’s just a matter of getting the goal-scoring on the same page as the strong defense and goaltending. If they can put those two things together, they’ll be a scary team. It’s been a very, very busy month, and even after the Showcase, they still have three games to close out October. A tough schedule like that will bring a team together and even if they finish .500 heading into November, they may be better for it in the long run having faced such challenging games night after night for so long.
Player to keep an eye on: Neo Kiemeney – 7 goals, 6 assists in 12 games
Winkler Flyers – The undefeated Flyers keep rolling right along. Big, physical depth up front, strong defense, and one of the top goalie tandems in the country. They can bludgeon teams, or they can surgically pick teams apart until they take over and come away with the win. Being undefeated is a product of structure and everyone buying into what needs to be done nightly. The Showcase and the games that come after to close out the month are going to be telling for a Flyers club that despite their success to this point, still feel like they have something to prove. They’ll have circled a few teams on the calendar, and they’ll want to not only keep playing the way they have but elevate to make a real statement.
Player to keep an eye on: Jayce Legaarden – 2 goals, 7 assists in 8 games
Winnipeg Blues – It’s been a tough stretch for the Blues as they come into the Showcase having lost back-to-back games by a combined score of 12-4 but it’s not all dark, there are bright spots in the form of a few players having gotten off to a great start offensively while their goaltending has done all it can to keep the team in games while being heavily outshot most nights. The young players who will make up the core of the team for years to come are getting experience and while learning some hard lessons some nights, are going to see what they need to do to get better. The building blocks are there but it just may be a slow build to get back to where the team was a few years ago.
Player to keep an eye on: Carter Demelo – 3 goals, 4 assists in 9 games
Winnipeg Freeze – A very young team that works hard each and every night but just can’t seem to get over the hump to grab that first win of the year. They’ll keep games close but just don’t have the depth to be in for long against some of the heavy weights of the MJHL. There are pieces that show they can be elite producers at the MJHL level. The team will grow together and can look at some of the other now storied franchises around the MJHL that started out very rough only to become champions. It’s a long road filled with long nights of tough to watch outcomes but there is a path where the team can one day look back at these seasons as necessary, painful growth.
Player to keep an eye on: Matthew O’Sullivan – 3 goals, 4 assists in 9 games