Team success breeds individual success.
The No. 1 team in the Alberta Junior Hockey League now boasts half of the provincial loop’s representatives at the top draft eligible showcase around as Okotoks Oilers Austin Wong, Ben Sanderson and Jacob Bernard-Dockery were named to Team West at the CJHL Top Prospects Game.
“Before recently, I never really thought of ever getting drafted,” said Wong, the second-year centre from Cochrane. “I never thought it was a possibility for me, but I guess maybe it’s possible now.
“It’s definitely exciting and a goal to strive for. It’s definitely an honour to be named to the roster and an opportunity to showcase my skills and hopefully impress some people.”
Scouts in attendance will witness a unique skillset from the centre.
Wong plays a throwback brand of physical hockey to go along with a terrific shot and offensive instincts.
He’s balanced those two facets as a sophomore, enjoying a breakthrough campaign with 14 goals and 28 points in 31 games on what’s been Okotoks’ most consistent line flanked by wingers Kyle Gordon and Quinn Olson.
“Last year most of my game was getting pucks deep and fore-check hard, battle and make hits,” he said. “I’ve stepped into more of a leadership role this year, been able to score more and get more points and help my team in a bigger way.”
The 20-player rosters for CJHL West and East reflect NHL Central Scouting’s list of the Top 40 draft eligible skaters for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft.
Sanderson, the son of former NHLer Geoff Sanderson, has burst onto the scene of late with six goals and eight points in his past six games, using his blend of breakaway speed and size to great effect.
“After the first 20 games or so I felt a lot more confident with the puck, felt a lot better and more relaxed,” he said.
“Not thinking too much, moving my feet and just shooting from all over the ice has created opportunities for me and my teammates.”
The rookie winger has 13 goals and 18 points on the season with the Top Prospects nod a testament to his improved play.
“It’s such an honour, extremely humbling and I’m so excited,” he said.
“(The draft) is definitely in the back of my head, I try not to think about it too much, I just want to stick to my game and focus on what I do best.”
For Bernard-Docker a whirlwind month culminated in the prospects honour.
The defenceman arrived home late from Nova Scotia with a gold medal to boot from the World Junior A Showcase and woke up the next day to news of his spot on CJHL West.
“Playing with a bunch of the best draft eligible players in the country will be a good experience,” he said. “You try not to think too much about it (the draft), just go out there and play your game and stick to what you do well and the rest will take care of itself.
The Canmore native has added offensive splash to his well-rounded game as a sophomore, boasting a team leading 10 goals from the back-end.
“Experience has really helped me,” he said. “My confidence with the puck is a lot better this year. I’m willing to make more confident plays and keep the puck on my stick a little bit more than I did last year.”
The CJHL Top Prospects Game runs Jan. 23 in Mississauga, Ont.
The Oilers wrapped up their pre-holiday schedule on a high.
Okotoks edged the visiting Camrose Kodiaks 3-1 on Dec. 19 as southern Alberta was blanketed by a severe snowstorm.
Bernard-Docker, Tanner Laderoute and Kylor Wall provided the offence for the Oil, improving their record to 28-5-2.
The green-and-gold gets back on the ice for consecutive home dates versus the Drumheller Dragons and Calgary Canucks on Dec. 29-30.