North Star acquisitions proving fruitful already

By Nathan Kanter
January 30, 2018 - 2:00pm

One hundred and thirty-nine.

That's the combined number of Western Hockey League games the three newest Battlefords North Stars players brought with them when they joined the team at the trade deadline in early January.

Roughly three weeks after Cole Johnson, Garan Magnes, and Parker Smyth were acquired in separate deals, it's abundantly clear they will each play a vital role in the team's run for a second straight Canalta Cup this spring.

Johnson, a 19-year-old from Marwayne, Alta., was just named the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League player of the week after notching eight goals and an assist in four games. He has found the back of the net 10 times and added four helpers in eight total games with the North Stars so far.

Because the coaching staff has been trying to find chemistry up front, Johnson has also had a revolving door of linemates.

"He can just score in all kinds of ways," North Stars head coach Brandon Heck said late last week. "We saw [Wednesday against Melfort], he scored shooting through a defenceman, and [on] a breakaway where he caused a turnover, and then just beating a guy with his speed up ice to get into the open.

"The thing I've liked the most about him is how he's pressured the other team without the puck to cause those turnovers."

While Johnson has gotten much of the praise as of late, Magnes and Smyth have contributed as well, albeit in different ways.

Magnes scored two goals in his first games as a North Star, helping them defeat the Flin Flon Bombers on Jan. 12. The 20-year-old veteran has seven points in seven games so far, with him playing defence in six of those games.

For the past week, Magnes has been paired with Levi Kleiboer, and the two seem to be a great fit, according to Heck.

"Whoever he plays with on the backend, he makes that d-partner better. To make Levi Kleiboer better, that's impressive," Heck said. "He's just so good at supporting the puck with his partner, and sucking guys to him to then give [Kleiboer] the puck with space. He's also got a rocket of a shot and he shoots the puck; it's hard, always."

Smyth, a 19-year-old who grew up in Red Deer, Alta., has tallied a goal and four helpers in eight games, with his goal coming shorthanded.

Although his numbers don't jump off the page, he has gotten time in all situations, including the penalty kill, second power play unit, and even strength.

"He's just a smart player. He doesn't get out of position," Heck said. "He's got that gift; how to change a stick angle, open the goalie up, and along the boards he wins battles. Sometimes it looks like he's not working the hardest but he's a smart worker. He's got that pro aspect to his game already."

Perhaps the most important thing about the new additions is how smooth their transition has been in such a short amount of time.

Heck credits the leaders in the North Stars dressing room.

"They're excited to come to a place where the room expects them to win," Heck said. "It's fun to be around this group. So when you're having fun, you're playing well and when you have confidence, you play better."

Johnson said he's just excited for what's to come.

"The whole community is behind us. I'm excited," he said. "I know a few guys on the team and it made it easy coming here. Everybody has treated me well. It's just a great group of guys here and I'm just ready to do some damage."

The North Stars are currently in first place in the Global Ag Risk Solutions division with a 32-8-2 record. There are 16 games left in the regular season.

On Tuesday, they host the Kindersley Klippers at the Civic Centre, in the first of seven straight home games.


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On Twitter: @NathanKanter11

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