February 28, 2015
By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent
Building a championship team in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League takes some good drafting, some key acquisitions … and local talent. With those auto-protect spots, teams have the option annually to lock up to two young stars and make sure they play for the hometown team. And often times, those players can make a huge difference.
And for the Swan Valley Stampeders, the future looks bright indeed with a pair of local players who have come through the minor hockey system to take on important roles with the junior A team this season.
Tristan Langan, who with his late birthday is barely 16 years old, has already put up 10 goals to go along with 12 assists this year, for an average of .4 points a game. Though he’s the youngest player in the entire MJHL, the 6’0, 170 pound forward is eighth in team scoring.
The other local rookie this year is Cody Ellingson. He’s battled through some injuries, but is also scoring at a pace of .4 points per game. The 18 year old, who like Langan hails from Swan River and also has a December birthday, has four goals to goal along with eight assists this season.
Langan, who had 45 points in 44 games last year with the Parkland Rangers (including 17 goals), has made a smooth adjustment from midget to junior A.
“It’s been fine this year,” said Langan. “The biggest difference has been the size and speed of the players. This is way faster.”
Ellingson also had a strong year with the Rangers last year, scoring 24 goals and 43 points in 44 games, while also scoring his first-ever MJHL goal as an AP with the Stampeders in six games played. He’s really enjoying a full-time stint on the Stampeders this year.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” he said. “It’s been interesting, getting used to junior hockey.” Ellingson said the only downside has been the injury bug, but added he hopes that’s behind him.
“In the game after the Christmas break, I ended up separating my shoulder,” he said. “I was out for a month, and that wasn’t fun having to watch every game.”
Ellingson said he’s had a couple of concussions in hockey before, but said now that he’s healthy he’s looking to the future. In fact, he scored in his second game back from injury, helping the Stamps to a big extra-time win over the powerhouse Portage Terriers, serving notice all four lines on the Stampeders can produce.
Langan grew up watching the Swan Valley Stampeders, and he always looked up to some of the local players who went on to have important roles with the Stampeders.
“I used to watch the Stamps a lot as a kid – I really enjoyed watching the Stampeders back then,” he said. “I really liked watching Darcy Riddell and Patrick Leask.”
Ellingson adds perhaps a few years down the road, he and Langan will be the inspiration to young players coming up wanting to play junior A hockey in the Valley.
“It was always a dream to grow up and play for the Stamps,” he said. “I always had fun watching them as a kid. Hopefully I can inspire some other kids to play for the Stampeders.”
As for how their season has gone this year personally, both players say it’s been OK so far, but they hope to continue to improve.
“It’s been good so far,” said Langan. “I didn’t really have any goals in place, I just wanted to put some numbers on the board this year.”
Ellingson said he’s in a different role than last year, and knows he’s not expected to put up point-a-game numbers. But he has been contributing offensively and in other ways, and is happy to play the role the coaching staff has laid out for him.
“I’m in that fourth line, grind kind of role this year, but happy to score some goals and put up some points too,” said Ellingson. “The adjustment has been fine, as I’ve always played some strong defensive hockey as well. And I like to throw the body around and grind in the corners, that kind of stuff.”
No shock, as he’s already 6’1 and 190 pounds.
As for playing in the Valley as opposed to playing junior away from home, Langan says he’s right where he wants to be. “I actually like playing at home – it’s way better playing in front of family,” he said. “I like it.”
Both Ellingson and Langan said they’re poised to make some noise in the playoffs, and they’re not content to just make the post season.
“I think we can lock down sixth place,” said Ellingson. “Hopefully we can go up against Winkler or Winnipeg, and give them a good run for their money, and go as deep as we can.
“I think we’re going to clinch sixth place, but if we have to play in the survivor series, so be it,” echoed Langan.