Returning forward Willick named Mintos captain

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Prince Albert Mintos captain Kody Willick battles for position with Tisdale Trojans assistant captain Cole Tanchuk at the Art Hauser Centre on Saturday night.

Kody Willick’s journey to the Prince Albert Mintos was not typical of most players at the Under-18 level.

After starting last season in the AA ranks with his hometown Saskatoon Sabrecats and posting 28 points in 21 games, Willick was called up to the AAA level in December when Gabe Klassen stuck with the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks.

He made the most of his opportunity as he had 18 points in 22 regular season games, recorded an assist in the Mintos’ quarter-final loss to the Saskatoon Contacts and also played in one game for the SJHL’s Nipawin Hawks.

“Kody earned a spot coming out of camp last year, but our roster was pretty much full,” Mintos head coach Danton Danielson said.  “When we lost Gabe, it was an easy decision to bring Kody in immediately.

“He was a pro the whole way as he worked through getting used to a new team. He worked on what he needed to work on and he became one of our most important guys right away.”

Willick, who had seven points during his team’s two pre-season games against the Tisdale Trojans last weekend, was also able to learn a lot from the veteran players on the Mintos about what it took to succeed at the Under-18 AAA level during the course of the 2019-20 campaign.

“I just sat back and listened as much as I could, which I think helped me a lot going into this year,” said Willick, who was tied with Regina Pat Canadians forward and Prince George Cougars prospect Kyren Gronick for the most points in Saskatchewan Male Under-18 AAA Hockey League exhibition play.

“I learned a lot from the leaders on our team like Spencer Welke and Chase Friedt-Mohr. They taught me about what it took to be part of the Mintos, how to be a good guy in the room and how to help out the younger guys on the team.”

Willick will have the opportunity to lead the team during the 2020-21 season as he was named as the team captain and will succeed the departing Friedt-Mohr, who is expected to compete for a spot on the Spokane Chiefs’ blueline.

Joining Willick on the leadership group are returning forwards Gage Helm and Dallyn Peekeekoot, along with Kody’s twin brother Tanner, who spent last year as a defenceman for the Battlefords Stars.

“We had a difficult decision in picking this group of four players as we had about eight or 12 guys that fit into the same characteristics that we are looking for,” Danielson said. “We felt like Kody, Dallyn, Gage and Tanner are the best representations of the culture we are looking to build here and they have experience of playing in this league already.”

One of the things that Willick is looking forward to the most about the upcoming season is the fact that he gets to play with his twin brother Tanner again after spending last season on separate rosters.

“That was the first time that Tanner and I weren’t on the same team,” Willick said. “I knew what he was going to do half the time, but it was definitely different to be going against him.”

The Mintos are currently slated to open up their regular season schedule on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. against the Saskatoon Contacts at the SaskTel Centre.