Kayde Kinaschuk of the Columbia Valley Rockies, Bryce Sookro of the Nelson Leafs, Zakery Anderson of the Kamloops Storm and Tristan Weill of the Summerland Steam are the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League divisional Rookie of the Year winners.
Kinaschuk – Eddie Mountain Division – The Calgary, Alberta product had a tremendous rookie season that saw the 5-11, 165-pound forward finish second in the league in points with 33 goals, 21 assists for 54 points in 39 games, which also ranked him first among all rookies. Kinaschuk said receiving the award “was a big honour.”
Kinaschuk was driven to play his best to showcase himself and open doors to play at the next level. In the playoffs, Kinaschuk scored 10 goals, had seven assists for 17 points in 12 games.
“It’s been pretty special,” said Kinaschuk of his season. “I thought about how fortunate I was to have all this success this year and it was just a really good year, really fun and exciting.”
Sookro – Neil Murdoch Division – The Nelson native put up seven goals and 22 assists for 29 points in 41 games for his hometown Leafs. That ranked him 22nd among all rookies in points and first among all first-year blueliners.
Coming into the season, the 6-1, 200 pound defenceman knew he would be joining a strong Leafs team and admitted to entering the league with “not much confidence at all.”
“I didn’t really expect too much out of myself. I was expecting to be a top-four D-man was my goal by the end of the season,” said Sookro. “Things just kept getting better and I kept playing better. Everything went uphill from October until now.”
And now his confidence is “pretty high.”
“There are some pretty good players, some good rookies,” said Sookro. “There are some good rookies on our team as well.”
Anderson – Doug Birks Division – Playing for his hometown Kamloops Storm, Anderson, 17, finished in the top-20 of KIJHL point producers with 22 goals and 18 assists for 40 points in 40 games. Anderson, who played two games last season, said receiving this award definitely was a “big accomplishment for me.”
Those totals ranked Anderson seventh among all rookies.
“I feel as a first-year guy, I feel like I played a big role as my coach Geoff Grimwood was always putting me out in key situations,” said Anderson, who had a four-goal performance in his fourth game of the season. “I feel like I played really well. My game from last year to this year definitely took a big step and it showed.”
Anderson worked on his goal-scoring skills during the off-season and said that helped him score more than he has.
“I thought I did a big part in helping out the team in some of the wins,” said Anderson, who scored six game-winning goals.
Anderson’s season also included playing three games as an affiliate player in the BCHL with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks, scoring once.
Weill – Bill Ohlhausen Division – With 22 goals and 31 assists for 53 points in 42 games, the West Kelowna native was fourth overall in the league for points, and second among rookies.
“It was a pretty good accomplishment. I worked pretty hard for it and I think it has a lot to do with my teammates and coaches,” said Weill.
The 5-9, 160-pound forward expanded his offensive tools by being more of a playmaker and credited linemates Parker Konneke and Jack Lynes for his offensive success. He also said that what Head Coach and GM Mark MacMillan showed them to create plays and how to thread pucks through defenders was very helpful. Teaching the players what he learned while playing professionally was great, said Weill.
The Okanagan Rockets U16AAA grad debuted in the KIJHL with the Steam last season, playing three games, and said he became a better player at both ends of the rink this season.