During his three seasons in the Western Hockey League, Prince Albert’s Braden Schneider has been someone that fans have been cheering against whenever he returns to his home province with the Brandon Wheat Kings.
That’s not the case this week at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon and his hometown Art Hauser Centre as he’s one of the blueliners for Team WHL during the 2019 Canada Russia Series.
“It’s nice to be on the fan favourite side again,” Schneider said. “It’s always tough coming into these barns when you play for Brandon, especially with how much the fans here get into the games.
Having represented his country at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, the Hlinka Gretzky Cup and the World Under-18 Hockey Championship, the 18-year-old is hoping that this week’s games can earn him an invite to next month’s World Junior Selection camp.
“Each of those events are different in their own way but it’s always good to come back to that national environment and see a lot of the guys that you’ve become friends with at those tournaments and those camps,” Schneider said.
“I had the chance to got to the World Junior Summer Showcase (which was held in Plymouth, Mich. In August) and that really helped me a lot. I have more of an idea of what it is that the coaches are looking for here as they want guys that are hard to play against.”
Schneider has two goals and 11 assists in 20 games this year for the Wheat Kings, where he is one of the team’s assistant captains.
“There were a lot of great guys to look up to when I was a rookie in Brandon so it’s kind of cool with how it’s all worked out and now there are guys looking up to me,” Schneider said.
“I’m just trying to get better each time that I play and I’m really focussing on being more and more like a pro each day.”
Following a 7-2 win over the Winnipeg Ice on Monday, the Wheat Kings have a 9-12 record to sit in fifth place in the East Division and are one point back of the Moose Jaw Warriors for the second and final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We started off a little bit slow as there was a bit of an adjustment to (new head coach Dave Lowry’s) systems and with some new guys that came to our roster, but I think we’re trending in the right direction and I’m excited about the next part of the season in Brandon,” Schneider said.
The 2019-20 campaign is also a big on a personal level for Schneider, as he’s projected to be a first round pick at the 2020 National Hockey League Draft.
While he’s trying not to pay to much attention to the rankings, the Prince Albert product has been getting some tips from previously drafted Wheat Kings teammates Luka Burzan and Jiri Patera.
“They’ve told me a lot of things that I can look forward to already,” Schneider said.
“It’s an exciting time and I’m trying to soak everything in as it comes.”
Wednesday’s fifth game of the Canada Russia Series went right down to the wire at the SaskTel Centre as Vancouver Giants blueliner Bowen Byram tied things up for Team WHL with 20.6 seconds to go.
Defenceman Calen Addison of the Lethbridge Hurricanes sent the crowd into a frenzy at the 2:04 mark of the extra frame as he wired a shot by Amir Miftahkov to give his team a 2-1 triumph over Russia.
Saskatoon Blades netminder Nolan Maier turned in another strong showing on home ice as he made 25 saves.
Maxim Sorkin had the lone goal for the Russians, who received a 24-save performance from Miftakhov.
The sixth and final game in the Canada Russia Series will take place at the Art Hauser Centre at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.