Graduating Raiders take the next step

Over-agers, Budik look to hockey futures after end of 2017-18 season

With their Game 7 loss to the Moose Jaw Warriors on Tuesday night, the Prince Albert Raiders ended their 2017-18 season.

It also marked the end for three, and possible four, Raiders skaters in the Western Hockey League.

Over-age players Regan Nagy, Jordy Stallard and team captain Curtis Miske now move on to the next step in their hockey careers.

Meanwhile, 20-year-old Czech defenceman Vojtech Budik has indicated that this season will likely be his last in the WHL.

The Daily Herald spoke with each of the four skaters about their time in P.A. and what’s next for them.

Regan Nagy, right wing, joined the Raiders in early January 2018 after a trade with Victoria

Prince Albert Raiders forward Regan Nagy, right, and team general manager Curtis Hunt. — Terran Station/Fragment Media

Nagy closed out his WHL career with the Raiders after spending his first four and a half seasons with the Victoria Royals.

“It was my first time ever getting traded. So it was a little bit different for me. But it was an easy group to come into,” he said. “These guys are awesome and they welcomed me with open arms; even the coaching staff, too. Everything was great, and it was easy to fit in with these guys and they made me feel part of their family.”

Nagy is from Ogema, Sask., which is about 115 kilometres south of Regina. The chance to play meaningful, playoff hockey in front of family and fiends in his home province was special for him, he said.

As for what’s next for him, hockey-wise, he said, “I’m not too sure yet. I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m just gonna enjoy my time here with these guys as the last little bit ends.”

Nagy hasn’t been drafted by an NHL team.

Jordy Stallard, centre, joined the Raiders at the trade deadline in January 2017, after a trade with Calgary

Prince Albert Raiders forward Jordy Stallard, right, was awarded the team’s MVP award for his 90-plus points scored during the 2017-18 WHL regular season. — Terran Station/Fragment Media

Stallard is a draftee of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, who selected him 127th overall in the fifth round of the 2016 Entry Draft.

The Brandon, Man. native has yet to sign an Entry Level Contract with the Jets.

As of Wednesday this week, Stallard said, “I haven’t really heard much from Winnipeg, but hopefully something will happen there.”

Regardless, Stallard said his goal remains cracking a NHL roster.

“I think I can say that for everyone: Everyone who’s playing now, they’re dream is to make it to the NHL, and that’s my goal. Hopefully I’ll make the turn to pro next year and then go form there. But there’s a lot of hard work ahead of me.”

Being part of the Raiders team this year meant a lot to him, he said. “I’m very proud of every single one of the guys in there; we battled hard and showed a lot of people that we can play and it’s a great organization. I couldn’t be prouder as a 20-year-old to be leaving as a Raider; best of luck to all the guys in the future.”

Curtis Miske, left wing, joined the Raiders at the trade deadline in January 2017, after a trade with Spokane.

As of the Raiders’ last game of the season in Moose Jaw, Miske didn’t have any commitments to pro-level hockey teams. But on Friday, the Raiders announced that he had signed a standard players contract with the Orlando Solar Bears, of the ECHL (the ECHL was formerly known as the East Coast Hockey League).

The Solar Bears are an affiliate of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs.

“I think this is an awesome opportunity for me,” Miske said in a press release sent out by the Raiders on Friday. “It’s always been my dream to play pro hockey and I’m super excited to get started.”

Reflecting on his time with the current crop of Raiders, Miske said, “eight months is a long time, but coming to the rink is so much fun and such an easy thing to do, and it’s such a good group of guys.

“When I think about my time in the WHL, I always think of P.A. This is the closest team I’ve ever been on, and I’ve made friendships for the rest of my life, which is probably the most important thing you could take from this season,” he said.

Should he get inquiries about the sporting and hockey community in Prince Albert, the Alberta native said he’ll advise those interested to “go for it. It’s been the best time of my life here and I’ve had so much fun.”

He described how the team’s boisterous, loud fans during the playoffs at the Art Hauser Centre were a strong motivator for him.

“To have the constant support of the community, that’s huge for me as a person and as a player, so if you get a chance, come around here, and just hold it highly, because it’s a true honour to play here.”

Vojtech Budik, defenceman, joined the Raiders in 2015 after the team selected him the WHL import draft in round 1, 17th overall

Prince Albert Raiders defenceman Vojtech Budik, left, is a draftee of the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres. Budik won this season’s award as his team’s top defenceman. — Terran Station/Fragment Media

The NHL’s Buffalo Sabres drafted Budik in the fifth round, 130th overall, in the 2016 Entry Draft. The team has not yet signed Budik to an Entry Level Contract.

A day after his team’s playoff exit, the Czech national indicated that this season is likely his last in the WHL; Budik spent all three years of his WHL career with the Raiders, playing in 189 total games.

He said that if he signs on with the Sabres, he’ll likely begin playing with Buffalo’s American Hockey League affiliate team, the Rochester Americans.

If that doesn’t work out for him, Budik said he may choose to play with a professional team in the Czech Republic, because he has had some contact with it.

Either way, he said he’s sad to be leaving Prince Albert.

“It’s probably my last season here. It’s probably the best time for me,” he said. “I’m so sad, because it was my last game, probably, so it’s pretty tough for me.”

He also expressed his gratitude for everyone who helped him find his way in the league and in Canada, a new country for him when he first arrived in Prince Albert in 2015.

“I’m thankful for everybody – for my billets, coaches, Curtis Hunt, the general manager. They gave me the opportunity to play here – three years – so I’m thankful for everything.

“They coached me; they gave me everything – on the ice and off the ice. I want to say thank you for everything.”

Budik mentioned how he’ll always remember how cold P.A. is, but also the bond he and his teammates created over the season, as well as the Raiders’ fans.

“Thank you for the fans for supporting us this season in playoffs too. It was an awesome crowd when we played games here, especially the last game here.”