Christmas add: Saskatchewan Huskies land former P.A. Raider MVP Kosior

Herald file photo. Prince Albert Raiders alumni Landon Kosior during a Raider home game last season.

Darren Zary, Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Landon Kosior took his dad’s advice.

Wayne Kosior is a player agent with Trailblazer Hockey Advisors, so he knew the pros and cons of playing professionally versus the U Sports level and taking advantage of the Western Hockey League’s scholarship program.

Landon had been playing for the ECHL’s Iowa Heartlanders, an affiliate of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, but he wasn’t playing in the American Hockey League, which is a step closer to the ultimate dream of playing in the NHL.

For now, the WHL’s scholarship package was too good to pass up, so Kosior finds himself as the newest addition to the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team.

“He’s an agent and he helps me out because he knows a lot of the rules and stuff,” Kosior, a former MVP defenceman with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders, said of his dad. “If I would have played past Christmas (past Dec. 31), I would have had to red-shirt if I ever came back to the U of S. Then, if I stayed a full year (in the pros), I would lose my scholarship.

“To make the AHL was definitely my goal going into the year, but once that didn’t pan out, I think it was a no-brainer to come back.”

Kosior — who joined the team over the Christmas holiday break — will make his Canada West conference debut this weekend when the Huskies play his hometown University of Regina Cougars in a home-and-home series Saturday and Sunday.

Game-time Saturday is 5 p.m. at Merlis Belsher Place in Saskatoon.

“I have nothing but great memories of playing pro — I had lots of fun out there. But I think, at the end of the day, I wanted to use my education package,” added Kosior, who had two goals and 11 assists for 13 points in 19 ECHL games with Iowa this season.

“I saw the Huskies were doing amazing and I’ve got some friends that were already playing here and they were loving it, so it was a no-brainer for me to come here.”

Kosior — who played AAA under-18 hockey for the Tisdale Trojans with current Huskies teammates Cade Hayes and Roddy Ross — spent four seasons with the WHL’s Raiders. In his final season, the Raiders’ assistant captain racked up 17 goals and 46 assists for 63 points in 60 games and was named a WHL second-team all-star. On the Huskies, he has reunited with former Raiders forward Keaton Sorensen.

Kosior was named Prince Albert’s MVP after the 2022-23 season and named the team’s most valuable defenseman in 2021-22 and 2022-23.

He was highly sought after by U Sports teams, including the Huskies.

“Put it this way: he was my No. 1 recruit that I wanted, in terms of defencemen, in the summertime,” acknowledged Huskies head coach Brandin Cote, whose team is 11-5-0 this season. “But I knew there was a chance he was going to play pro hockey.

“I just think he oozes character. He’s a great teammate, works very hard. He’s got a pro mentality, which is why he had an opportunity to play pro, and he’s going to help us, definitely, on the power play in terms of his offensive ability, his puck movement.”

The Dogs are deep in the back end with as many as 10 defencemen on the roster, but Mac Gross and Rhett Rhinehart have been battling injuries and rookie Evan Bortis has yet to play. The team will lose at least one player, captain Shane Collins, to graduation after this season and have a few players entering their senior years.

“At this time of year, we have six weeks where we don’t have a bye, so who knows what happens (injury wise),” noted Cote. “I think (extra depth) is a good problem to have.”

The Dogs also hoped to add forward Jace Isley, who was set to join the team in the fall but signed a two-way AHL contract with the New Jersey Devils. Isley, who has seen action in three AHL games this season, decided to remain with the ECH’s Adirondack Thunder.

“We have lots of depth up front,” said Cote, “and I think we’re in a good spot.”

The team has also added goalie Chase Coward, who had been playing with the WHL’s Prince Albert Raiders this season.

“Chase is a very good goaltender,” noted Cote. “He’s had some hip issues. (Max) Hildebrand had been playing pretty well and (the Raiders) didn’t want a 20-year-old goalie sitting on the bench. He’s a great kid, a great student and he’s a Saskatchewan kid and I think he’s got a lot of upside. He’s going to push our guys and it helps to alleviate a bit of the uncertainty there in terms of a case where somebody goes down (with injury) during the stretch.”

Subhead: Close Knit Group

Kosior said he’s been impressed that the Huskies are such a close-knit group.

“I’ve only been here for about a week and I already don’t feel like a rookie or anything. It’s been super-welcoming and just a great group of guys here,” said Kosior.

“It’s a great league. I know the U of S, we’ve got a great team here and we can make a run and hopefully go all the way to the finals. I think that’s our goal: to win that and go to nationals.”

Kosior finds himself playing on a team with former Blades Rhinehart and Josh Pillar, once former bitter WHL rivals.

“They’re great players,” praised Kosior, who is enrolled in the College of Arts and Science but plans to pursue a business degree. “I always hated playing against them because they are good. It’s great to have them on my team now and they’re great guys, too. There’s no bitterness or any rivalry anymore. We’re just great teammates.”

Subhead: Looking to get back on track

Saskatchewan was rolling through the first half of the season, only to get swept by Mount Royal University to close out the first half. They hope to quickly get back on track.

“It’s really important,” said Cote. “I think we’ve had a good break in terms of keeping guys active and engaged. We’ve had a good week of practice since we’ve been back. Always the ones are tough when you are coming off byes and haven’t played in a while. They’re always tough to get the timing (down). The majority of teams are in the same boat.

“We’ve just got to make sure we’re keeping it simple early and get our feet under us early. We’re in a pretty good spot. We have two games in hand. We would have liked to have had a few more points before the break there, but we’re in a good spot and we have the opportunity to go on a pretty big run here if we take care of business. The issue now is there are teams that are behind us that are fighting for their playoff lives, too, so every game is going to be a battle.”

For Kosior, it means playing against the Cougars, who also put out feelers to recruit him.

“I talked to them a bit, but I think the U of S was always my No. 1 option, just the facilities and everything, and how great the program is here,” said Kosior. “I think the U of S was always my option, but it’ll be interesting to play against my hometown team, for sure. I’ve got quite a few friends that play there, too.”