It may still feel like summer outside, but don’t let that fool you. With junior hockey and Midget AAA training camps opening across the country in mid-August, hockey season is upon us once again.
Cree hockey is well represented this season at all levels, from minor hockey to the pros, and Cree players are getting noticed. Here is a brief list of some of the players you will be hearing about this season.
Charlottetown Islanders, QMJHL
Waswanipi’s Deverick Ottereyes returns to PEI for his third season in the QMJHL with the Charlottetown Islanders. The eighth-round pick played his Midget AAA hockey in Amos and has developed into a steady two-way centre. Islanders’ coach Gordie Dwyer expects big things from Ottereyes this season.
“He will be one of our leaders this year,” said Dwyer, during an interview with the Nation. “Each year, Deverick has taken on more responsibility, and this year we’d like to see him play a more offensive role.”
Ottereyes has yet to see pre-season game action, but his job with the Islanders is secure.
“We’ve used the first couple games to get a look at some young kids, and players we need to make decisions on,” explained Dwyer.
“Deverick definitely has a job with the Islanders this season.”
Lac St-Louis Lions, Quebec Midget AAA Developmental League
The youngest player on this list, 16-year-old Cody Petawabano of Mistissini just completed his first QMJHL camp in Chicoutimi after being selected 49th overall in this year’s QMJHL entry draft.
Petawabano impressed in pre-season action, picking up one assist in two pre-season games, before being cut by the team.
“Cody is a young kid, who did very well at camp,” said Chicoutimi coach Patrice Bosch. “He is a big boy, has lots of skill and is very coachable.”
“We just felt that he needed another year to dominate at the Midget AAA level. I don’t see any reason why he won’t be back in Chicoutimi next season.”
Alex, Brett and Christopher Hester
La Tuque Wolves, LHJAAAQ
It will be a family affair in La Tuque, as three members of Waskaganish’s Hester clan join the Midget AAA Wolves.
Alex Hester heads to La Tuque after participating in training camp with the QMJHL Val-d’Or Foreurs, where he shined in exhibition games, but was the Foreurs’ final cut at camp.
“Alex has a bright future,” said coach Mario Durocher. “He has all the tools, and we expect him to be in Val-d’Or next season, if not sooner.”
Alex is following in the steps of his older brother Brett, who made his mark in Val-d’Or last season with his gritty style of play and timely scoring. Although still eligible to play in the QMJHL, Brett declined to participate in the Foreurs camp this month, instead opting to join La Tuque to play with his young brother.
“There aren’t a lot of jobs available for 20-year-olds in the QMJHL,” said Charles J. Hester, the players’ father. “Typically, those spots are taken by players who have been drafted (by an NHL team). Brett had a lot of offers to play in Quebec and Ontario, but decided he wanted to play with Alex.”
Coach Durocher thinks that may be a good thing for 18-year-old Alex.
“Alex is a more skilled player than Brett, but we’d like to see him have some of Brett’s edge in his game,” explained Durocher.
Their cousin Christopher will join the Hester brothers. The 18-year-old is making his AAA debut alongside his cousins after spending the 2012-2013 lining up on left-wing with the Waskaganish Bears AA.
Collège Français de Longueuil, LHJAAAQ
Silas Neeposh is among the most travelled young hockey players you may ever meet. The smooth-skating defenceman from Mistissini patrolled the blueline for a number of Junior and Midget teams in Ontario and Quebec before finally getting his opportunity last season with the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and Val-d’Or Foreurs of the QMJHL.
But as a 20-year-old, Neeposh faces the same job shortage as Brett Hester, and has opted to return to Midget AAA this season in Longueuil.
“Silas is a smart kid and a highly skilled defenceman,” said Patrice Bosch, the new coach of the Sagueneens, who also coached Neeposh at Midget AAA Kahnawake in 2011.
“He will have an immediate impact on that team’s defence.”
We don’t yet know exactly where 18-year-old Synee Coonishish will be playing this year. But, that isn’t for lack of opportunities.
After representing Mistissini in the first season of the APTN hockey reality TV show, Hit the Ice, Coonishish opted to stay close to home to play hockey last season. He was recently released after a strong training camp with the Wellington Dukes of the Ontario Junior Hockey League; a victim of a numbers game after the Dukes signed five centres and four left-wingers during the off-season. While the Dukes would like to keep Coonishish within reach as an affiliate, social-media buzz indicates that the Temiscaming Titans of the NOJHL would like to sign Coonishish for the upcoming season.
Calgary Flames, NHL
The product of Swan River, Manitoba will be attending his second NHL training camp in September with a lot to prove. Drafted by Calgary in the 5th round in 2010, Ferland had a breakthrough season in 2011-2012 with the WHL Brandon Wheat Kings, and the future looked bright.
But legal issues and a less-than-stellar training camp landed Ferland back in the Juniors last season where he spent time with a Saskatoon Blades team that disappointed; first by their early exit from WHL playoff action, and then by a poor showing as hosts of the 2013 Memorial Cup. Ferland, however, was one of the positives in that tournament for the Blades, which bodes well for the young winger as he seeks to take the next step in his hockey career.