Like everyone else in the world, it’s been a strange time for the Prince Albert Mintos during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While they don’t know yet when the Saskatchewan Male Under-18 AAA Hockey League will officially return to action, the program still has to go about business as usual when it comes to getting ready for next season.
“It’s sort of a weird ‘Twilight Zone’ type of thing right now as we have to try and run our hockey team as though everything is going to proceed as normal, but we’re also keeping our eyes and ears open as to the different scenarios that can take place for next year,” Mintos head coach Danton Danielson said on Friday afternoon.
“There are a lot of unknowns still from Hockey Canada’s standpoint and our league, but we’re just trying to go with the flow and be flexible…in addition to doing our job at the same time.”
Having already announced the signings of forwards Tanner Howe (Prince Albert Venice House Pirates – Regina Pats draft pick) and Travis Swanson (Prince Albert Dairy Queen Chill) in February, along with blueliner Rhett Ravendahl (North East Wolfpack – Portland Winterhawks draft pick), the Mintos revealed more players that will be part of the side next season.
Forwards Zach Bansley (North East Wolfpack – Lethbridge Hurricanes), Karson Blanchette (Unity Lazers – Seattle Thunderbirds draft pick), Tysen Durant (Martinsville Marauders – Spokane Chiefs draft pick), Trae Johnson (Martensville Marauders – Brandon Wheat Kings draft pick) and Curren Wintonyk-Pilot (Battlefords Stars), defencemen Nate Misskey (Pacific Coast Academy – Victoria Royals draft pick) and Tanner Willick (Battlefords Stars), and goaltender Kris Johnson (Beardy’s Blackhawks) will all be joining the club for the upcoming campaign.
The team also announced on Friday that forwards Gage Helm, Dallyn Peekeekoot (Prince Albert Raiders draft pick) and Kody Willick (who is Tanner’s twin brother) will be returning for their second seasons in the U18 ranks, along with Raiders blueliner prospect Tre Fouquette.
“We’re excited about this group that we’re bringing in,” Danielson said. “The group of guys that we have coming back are all really good leaders and the right kind of characters that you need to have in building the type of culture and atmosphere that we want here.
“We’ve added a nice mix of experience and youth in our new players, along with some really good skill across the age group, which is what we were after. We wanted to build a group of guys that will work well together and these were all guys that were high on our list of who we wanted to bring in.”
The Mintos could also bring back a few signed Western Hockey League prospects as forward Chase Bertholet (Winnipeg Ice) is eligible to return to the league, in addition to blueliners Chase Freidt-Mohr (Spokane Chiefs), Chase Pauls (Lethbridge Hurricanes) and Marek Schneider (Saskatoon Blades).
However, their statuses won’t be known until there’s a better idea of when the 2020-21 season will get underway at the major junior level.
“We’re not tied down to one situation or the other, whether that’s having to make a decision right away when it comes to our roster or tied to waiting a long time before making decisions,” Danielson said.
“We’re not in a rush to finalize the roster but we will do so as the players we want to have on our team become available. We’re keeping our ear to the ground and following the (COVID-19) situation as it evolves.”
The team will be without a few familiar faces, however, as they have committed to other programs for the 2020-21 campaign.
Forwards Cooper Chisholm and Kelowna Rockets prospect Turner McMillen will be suiting up for the Estevan Bears, who are joining the U18 ranks along with the Warman Wildcats.
Medicine Hat Tigers prospect Ashton Ferster and fellow forward Dawson Brace will also be moving on as they have committed to the Tisdale Trojans, while forward Austin McLean will be playing for the Regina Pat Canadians.
In other news, the Mintos also welcomed a new team manager this week as Kalen Wright will be replacing Don Fauchoux, who wrapped a 12-year tenure with the club last season.
“A few of us here in the organization have been handling the managerial side of things since Don finished up, so we’re just starting to the transitional process here now that Kalen’s been brought in,” Danielson said.
The next major event for the club is their fall camp, which is scheduled to take place on Aug. 15 and 16 at the Art Hauser Centre.
Catton Moving Up
The biggest news in the U18 circuit came on Saturday evening as the Saskatoon Contacts announced that underage forward Berkly Catton would be joining the team next season.
Catton, who is widely considered to be the best prospect available for the 2021 WHL Bantam Draft, had 108 points in 30 games for the Saskatoon Bandits last year to finish fourth in Bantam AA scoring.
He’ll be part of a Contacts side that is expected to return forwards Riley Heidt and Brayden Yager, who were taken second and third overall by the Prince George Cougars and the Moose Jaw Warriors two weeks ago.
The Contacts also announced on Saturday that forward Kalan Lind, who was the sixth overall selection by the Red Deer Rebels last month, will also be joining the club.
Meanwhile the Regina Pat Canadians have landed forwards Sam Oremba and Bailey Birnie for the upcoming campaign.
The pair, who led the SBAAHL in scoring while playing for the Regina Monarchs last year, were taken in the first round of the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft by the Seattle Thunderbirds and the Swift Current Broncos.