3 Forwards, 2 Defensemen and 1 goalie to keep an eye on at the U15 playoffs
This season, 2008-born teams in the Canadian Sport School Hockey league (CSSHL) have been full of incredible talent. From high-scoring forwards and productive blueliners, to consistent goaltending, this season has seen it all.
The U15 Prep Western Championships began on Monday. While it’s difficult to limit to just six, we’ve keyed in on three forwards, two defensemen and one goalie to watch during this week’s playoff action.
Forwards: Liam Ruck, Cruz Pavao, Joe Iginla
No player tallied more regular season points than Liam Ruck, forward for Okanagan Hockey Academy. In 27 games, the 5-foot-8 forward from Osoyoos, British Columbia, CAN, collected 53 goals and 90 points. 34 of those points have come in the midst of a nine-game point streak. A huge step forward from last season, where he recorded 13 goals and 34 points. Ruck also put up four assists in three playoff games last year.
Known for scoring in bunches, he has put up five or more points in seven contests. The highlight of his season was a 10-point performance against the North Shore Warriors on Sept. 30th. If Okanagan has any hopes of a deep playoff run, Ruck will need to continue to find the scoresheet with his incredible offensive ability.
A name that has been mentioned extensively on WHH, Cruz Pavao has put together quite the 2022-23 campaign. He really entered the conversation when he led No. 16 Calgary Edge School to the championship at the Rocky Mountain Classic back in November. Since then, all he has done is continue to pile up the points in league play. Pavao ended the regular season as the fifth-best scorer with 32 goals and 67 points. No stranger to showing up when the games meant the most, he put up 19 points in five playoff games last season as well.
Edge School poses the biggest threat to No. 4 Northern Alberta Xtreme this postseason. In six games against NAX, Pavao notched three goals and six points. For Edge to have any hope in overcoming the juggernaut that is Northern Alberta, Pavao will have to be on his game from the minute the puck drops.
Sitting just behind Pavao in overall scoring is Joe Iginla, and it seems the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree. Suiting up in 27 games for No. 8 Canadian-ranked RINK Hockey Academy Kelowna, Iginla’s knack for finding the net has led to 37 goals and 65 points. A threat on the man advantage, he has also produced 15 points on the power play (8G, 7A). But perhaps the most impressive aspect of his game is Iginla’s ability to stay out of the penalty box. Behind Ruck (6), Iginla has the least amount of penalty minutes at just four. Iginla gained crucial first-hand experience in last year’s playoffs, where he scored one goal in four games. That experience will help him prepare for this year’s playoff run, which will be a gauntlet given the talent involved from participating teams.
Defense: Daxon Rudolph, Landon DuPont
When a player puts up 17 goals and 50 points in 30 games, it’s an impressive feat. If that player happens to be a defenseman, it’s that much more of an incredible accomplishment. That is just what Daxon Randolph did this season for NAX. Only held off the scoresheet in two games, Randolph has been a prime example of how consistent production from the blue line can bolster a team’s attack. He enters the playoffs having scored at least one point in his last 13 games.
The area where Northern Alberta truly receives a jolt from Randolph is the power play, where he has produced 19 points (6G, 12A). He even has the mitts to show up in the shootout, where he went 1-for-2 this season.
Another fellow defenseman who piled up the points was Landon DuPont for Edge. Seeing action in 27 games, DuPont was able to score 15 goals and 47 points. He was held scoreless in the first four games against NAX before tallying a goal and an assist in their final two-game series of the season. With some added confidence, getting production from him will be vital for Edge to go toe-to-toe with some of the best of their birth year, Not to mention a possible tilt with NAX, should the chips fall that way.
Goaltender: Parker Snell
Simply put, you would be hard pressed to find a better goaltender than Parker Snell this season not only in the CSSHL, but in other ‘08 youth hockey programs around the world. Across the course of 15 wins, he put together a 1.35 goals-against average, .944 save percentage and four shutouts. Numbers that were so impressive to start this season that he was put on the WHH radar quite early.
No stranger to playoff hockey, he manned the crease in two games of the Western Championships last year for Northern Alberta, going 1-1-0 with a 1.00 goals against and .963 save percentage. After getting a taste, a more seasoned and experienced Snell can be a major problem for opponents.