Defenceman trying to earn a spot back in the WHL
When the Moose Jaw Warriors reunited on Boxing Day they had three new faces on the ice at practice.
© Times-Herald photo by Matthew Gourlie
Kevin Pochuk carries the puck up ice at Moose Jaw Warriors practice Thursday.
Two constitute a big part of the future of the team and the third hopes he has a future in Moose Jaw.
The Warriors called up 18-year-old defenceman Kevin Pochuk from Virden of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, plus goalie Brody Willms and forward Brett Howden who are both 15. Willms will act as Justin Paulic’s back-up while Zach Swachenko plays for Team Pacific at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. Howden has played the five games he can play as a 15-year-old and will only practice with the team until Jan. 3.
The Warriors are Pochuk’s third Western Hockey League team in two seasons and he is hoping to make the most of the chance.
“I came in for a few days before (Christmas) and met everybody. I knew that this was a place I wanted to play and I’m very excited for this opportunity,” said Pochuk who was listed by the Warriors shortly after he was released by the Saskatoon Blades in October.
“I want to bring a little more experience to the defense, but I think offensively is more where I think my strength is. So I’m hoping to bring some offence.”
Pochuk was a fifth round pick of the Red Deer Rebels and made their team at a 17-year-old after he put up 19 goals and 64 points in 42 games as he won the Manitoba midget AAA title with the Winnipeg Wild.
The six-footer had two goals and five points in 32 games last season with the Rebels.
He was part of the trade that saw Lukas Sutter sent to Red Deer, but was released after five games with the Blades.
Pochuk seperated his shoulder in Saskatoon and missed almost all of September and some of October.
“Unfortunately I got an injury and it set me back a bit, but I’m healthy and I feel like I’m playing well now,” said Pochuk who had no points, six penalty minutes and was a minus-two with the Blades.
Pochuk also played at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge with Team West in 2012.
With the WHL trade deadline looming on Jan. 10, the Warriors may need the depth on the blue line that Pochuk brings. Veteran Warrior defenceman Travis Brown is expected to be a hot commodity at the trade deadline. Warriors general manager Alan Millar said that if Pochuk impresses, he would be open to keeping eight defencemen even if the Warriors don’t make a deadline move.
“He has an opportunity here between now and the 10th to see what he can do,” said Millar. “He gives us some good depth and he certainly gives us some options depending on what may or may not happen prior to the deadline.
“We’re certainly not opposed to keeping eight defencemen if he earns his way onto the team or if we feel he is ahead of some other guys at that time.”
With Howden’s midget AAA team, the Eastman Selects, off for 10 days, he opted to come practice with the Warriors.
Willms will be with the team until Jan. 6 when Sawchenko will return from the Under-17 Challenge.
“It’s good to be back and obviously playing with this level of guys is great,” said Willms. “You have to battle all the time in practice here and this level of shots is a lot more fun to face.
“It’s nice to be around the team and to be put in this environment.”