Note to our fans: The MJHL will be highlighting our players throughout the season that are currently signed in the Western Hockey League.
“We feel that the MJHL gives younger players a great opportunity to further develop as a player and person in a very professional and competitive environment,” said Kevin Saurette, Director of Operations, MJHL.
“These players are able to play important minutes against older competition which translates into the players being better prepared for when they make that next step to Major Junior Hockey.”
The 2nd installment of the WHL Prospect Watch features OCN Blizzard 17-year-old forward Justin Nachbaur.
By Derek Holtom
MJHL Web Correspondent
Many Western Hockey League players past and present have gotten a taste of junior hockey life in the junior A ranks before making the jump. And OCN’s Justin Nachbaur is the latest to follow that path to his dreams.
The Cross Lake product is in the midst of a thrilling playoff ride with the OCN Blizzard, who are now in the MJHL championship final. Earlier this season he signed on the dotted line with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, and is hoping this year in the MJHL paves the way for a successful season in the Saskatchewan city next fall.
“I wanted to sign with Prince Albert ever since I was drafted,” said Nachbaur. “It was a lot of hard work that allowed me to get signed.”
The talented forward who just turned 17 in early March has that one factor coaches say you cannot teach – size. He already stands 6’3’ and weighs in at 210 pounds. That size aided him in putting up 11 goals and 20 assists as a 16-year-old with the Blizzard. He also had 52 penalty minutes – all in 52 games this year.
“I had a lot of help and support from my teammates this year,” said the rookie forward. “They’ve helped me be successful in this league.
He’s added three goals and an assist in nine playoff games – including the series-clinching goal against the Winkler Flyers (shorthanded no less).
“The series have been a closer than the scores have indicated,” said Nachbaur. “It’s definitely hard to get those wins, but so far everything has worked out.”
His current coach knew he had all the tools to success this year, and he said it was gratifying to see Nachbaur perform as well as has done this year.
“I saw him as a Norman Northstar as a 15-year-old, and he was their best player,” said Blizzard head coach Doug Hedley. “We knew he had a shot (to play with us) coming in, and he’s ended up being one of our top four to seven forwards all year. He’s had an outstanding season.
“I’ve talked to P.A. about him all season,” he added. “There was even some college interest in him at the MJHL Showcase. But he’s chosen the WHL path.”
Hedley added along with his strong shot and work ethic, Nachbaur is a great listener and is a very coachable player.
Getting to play in all situations at the junior level as a 16-year-old has benefitted Nachbaur immensely this season, and he feels the MJHL was the right place for him to be this year.
“P.A. wanted me here this year, and I think that’s part of the reason they signed me,” he said. “Playing my first year of junior here (in OCN) really helped me a lot. This was a great way to see how the junior level is. It’s really helped me get ready for the next step next year.”
Nachbaur was originally a seventh-round draft pick by the Raiders in the 2015 WHL Bantam draft – the same year Swan Valley defenseman Lane Kirk was drafted by the Raiders in the fifth round. The two northern MJHL rivals could potentially be teammates next season with the Raiders.