© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Jayden Halbgewachs, left, from the Moose Jaw Warriors races against Swift Current Broncos defenceman Brett Lernout for a loose puck Tuesday.
The Moose Jaw Warriors expect Jayden Halbgewachs to become a household name in the Friendly City — once people figure out how to pronounce ‘Halbgewachs.’
Whether the 16-year-old is ready to start making a name for himself in the Western Hockey League this season is one of the big questions coming out of Warriors camp.
Halbgewachs (pronounced HALB-ge-walks) has plenty of speed and talent, but it remains to be seen if the 5-foot-7, 150-pound Regina product is ready to make the jump.
“He’s a pretty unique individual in the sense that he’s not very big, but his awareness and his puck skills are elite. You wonder if he can handle the physicality of the game, but he sure hasn’t looked out of place in our scrimmage or in Swift Current,” said Warriors head coach Mike Stothers. “He’s found a way to get the job done. He’s a pretty impressive young man and he can do things a lot of other players can’t do.”
Halbgewachs was a key piece of the deal that sent 19-year-old defenceman Joel Edmundson to Kamloops last December. Halbgewachs had been the Blazers first pick, 19th overall, in the 2012 WHL bantam draft.
“My main focus is to make the team and do what it takes to make the coaches happy and have them trust me,” said Halbgewachs who made his WHL debut with the Warriors last year. “I feel like I’m ready to make that step and hopefully I get that chance.”
Halbgewachs showed a surprisingly physical element to his game at rookie camp and knocked some much taller players to the ice.
“I wanted to play the body and show the coaches that I’m not afraid to be physical if needed,” said Halbgewachs who trained five days a week during the summer to prepare for the season. “I wanted to get bigger and stronger because it’s a big step from midget AAA.”
Last season with the midget AAA Regina Pat Canadians, Halbgewachs tallied 13 goals and 36 points in 42 games.
One of the big questions about where Halbgewachs plays this season it what better serves his long-term development. His future is clearly as a scoring forward. Is there any chance of him filling that role as a 16-year-old in the WHL and if not would it be better for him to put up some points in midget AAA or play in a more of a checking role in the WHL.
“Personally I would much rather be a top forward and score goals, but I’m willing to whatever it is that the coaches want me to do. I’m down for whatever they want,” said Halbgewachs.
Stothers said he has been impressed by a lot of areas of Halbgewachs’ game and feels he may be able to contribute outside of creating offence.
“Ideally his skill set is as a top-six guy. That (role) is going to be pretty tough to do around here,” said Stothers. “That’s not to say that — because he’s so smart — that he can’t contribute. He seems to be the kind of player who makes big plays at big times.
“It’s easy to look at his age and his size and say ‘no’, but he’s impressed me every single day.”
There isn’t a lot of room up front for players to carve a niche, but there is definitely room for one or two rookies to crack the roster and Halbgewachs hopes to be one of them. While playing in a top-six scoring role is a long shot, Halbgewachs is aiming high.
“I want to keep working hard at practice and in the exhibition games ahead. I want to out-work the other guys competing for spots, but also the vets as well. Not only do I want to make this team, but I want to be an important player on this team.”
Tribe tidbits... Warriors winger Tanner Eberle left practice early Friday when he was hit in the face by a deflected shot in front of the net during a power play drill. Eberle was struck just above the lip and below his nose. He left the ice under his own power and used a towel to help stem the flow of blood. He was heading to get x-rays later Friday night.