North Stars reflect on SJHL/MJHL showcase experience

By Nathan Kanter
January 17, 2018 - 5:00pm

With Battlefords North Stars forward Dakota Huebner not able to take part in this week's Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League and Manitoba Junior Hockey League showcase due to injury, the majority of North Stars that did take part didn't have to worry too much about impressing scouts.

That's because three of the five North Stars that participated on the ice — Layne Young, Levi Kleiboer, and MacGregor Sinclair — secured scholarships to post-secondary institutions earlier this season.

Young will head to the University of Saskatchewan next season, Sinclair will go to Canisius College in 2019-20, and Kleiboer will attend the University of Maine next year.

But that didn't make the experience of taking part any less special.

"It doesn't really change if you're committed or not," Sinclair said after playing in his first showcase game on Monday, a 4-2 win. "You've still got to go out there and prove that hopefully you're one of the best.

"It's an honour to be selected still...and try to showcase the league."

Sinclair, Young, Kleiboer and North Stars defenceman Cody Spagrud played for Team Kunitz during the two-day event, held at the Co-operators Centre in Regina.

Spagrud, who coach Heck has repeatedly said deserves a Division-1 scholarship as much as anyone, was focused on one thing during the event.

"To win both games," he said. "That's it."

Indeed, Team Kunitz did win both their games against the MJHL, first over Team Belfour and then over Team Zajac.

Spagrud had an assist in the first game and a goal in the second.

Meanwhile, North Stars rookie forward Matthias Urbanski was the lone team representative on Team Schwartz, made up entirely of rookies, specifically those born in 1999 or earlier.

Urbanski recognized the big stage changed his mentality a bit, with scouts from roughly 50 schools in the building, but he said he was able to settle in.

"Pretty much any Division-1 school that you can think of could be here. So it's definitely a lot of nerves," he said. "But after you get the first game out of the way, you get a little bit more comfortable."

Urbanski had two assists in the first game and another assist in the second game.

North Stars head coach Brandon Heck was in Regina for the event but did not guest coach.

He pointed out that most scouts were there for the veterans, as opposed to younger guys like Urbanski, and was impressed with how things were run.

"It was a good job by the committee and [SJHL commissioner] Bill [Chow]," Heck said. "Very professional. You can see the instant replay and games are on TV. It's pretty cool for the players. I know I like watching the replays after goals.

"It's good for both leagues. Just talking to a few of the colleges and they love it. They think this is a great idea."

All showcase games were aired live on Access TV. In addition to live replays, there were also video interviews with some of the players (taped on the Sunday prior to the showcase) that aired on the big screen during intermissions.

The hallway entering the rink was filled with sponsor tables as well, including a merchandise table.

"It's run a lot better [than I thought]," Sinclair said Monday night. "A shout out to all the sponsors and everyone that has helped out because it's way beyond what I was expecting."

SJHL commissioner Bill Chow confirmed that the event is already set to return next year. The only thing that has to be dealt with is booking the ice again.

Heck said because of the strong on-ice product, he thinks the event has a bright future.

"When you have that much skill from both leagues, you're going to have good, fast games," he said. "I think it's going to make a good impression where this is a can't miss event for schools and other leagues."


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