Special to the Daily Herald
One of the biggest events in Ashton Tait’s young hockey career will be taking place later this month.
The 15-year-old forward for the Prince Albert Mintos will suit up for Saskatchewan’s Under-16 program at the 2021 WHL Cup, which will be held in Red Deer from Oct. 20-24.
“It’s a real honour to represent the province at the event,” Tait said. “I’m looking forward to it and I think it’s going to be a fun tournament.”
Tait’s team will be looking to defend the championship that Saskatchewan won for the first time in 2019 with a roster that included former Minto and current Prince Albert Raiders blueliner Tre Fouquette.
“We’re a really hard-working team and we’re fast,” Tait said.
“If we can play a fast-paced game, I don’t know if there’s a team that can keep up with us. We just have to make sure that we can keep up the pressure.”
After putting up 47 points in 32 games over the course of two seasons with the Prince Albert Venice House Pirates Under-15 program, Tait made the jump up to the Under-18 ranks this year with his hometown Mintos, where he has two goals and an assist in four games ahead of a pair of home games with the Estevan Bears this weekend.
“It’s definitely a lot faster than the Under-15 league but if I can play my game, I know I can make an impact out there,” Tait said. “I just need to keep working on getting better and better.”
“Ashton’s a very intelligent hockey player and he’s a student of the game,” Mintos head coach Tim Leonard added. “That’s something you don’t see too much anymore.
“He’s watching hockey all of the time and trying to get better. Before the season started, I told him that we’re going to be leaning on him lots. There will be some growing pains, but I really like what I’m seeing from Ashton and he’ll be a good player down the road.”
Tait’s head coach for Team Saskatchewan is Rod Dallman, who was his bench boss during the last two years with the Pirates.
“The growth in his overall game has been tremendous,” Dallman said. “His desire to learn is exceptional.
“Ashton wants to be a 200-foot player and he wants to make hockey his career. He understands that you need to be well-rounded if you want to make it to the next level and that’s something that he’s focussed on doing since a young age.”
This season is a big one for Tait as he’s expected to have his name called during the 2021 WHL Prospects Draft, which will be held on Dec. 9.
While the COVID-19 pandemic means that he’ll have to wait a little longer before knowing what his next step in his hockey career will be, Tait believes the wait will be worth it, especially as he gets to play against older talent this season with the Mintos.
“I think this season is going to help me out a lot,” Tait said.
“I’m playing against bigger guys and some of them could be in the WHL right now. I think it’s really going to help me as I get ready for that next level.”