First Nations mid-season hockey report

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Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price was the lone Aboriginal player on the ice as the NHL showcased its biggest stars on All-Star Weekend in Tampa Bay.

It has been a tough campaign for the 30-year-old from Ulkatcho First Nation in British Columbia. Price missed 10 games early in the season while battling fatigue, but has remained one of the few bright spots on a Habs squad that looks bound to miss the postseason for the second time in three years after entering the NHL All-Star Break with a record below .500.

It has been a much more successful campaign for Calgary Flames left winger Micheal Ferland and Anaheim Ducks rookie defenceman Brandon Montour.

A member of the Cree Nation from Swan River, Manitoba, Ferland enjoys a more prominent role with the Flames this season. The 25-year-old played up and down the lineup during the first half, tallying 19 goals and 10 assists in 46 outings.

Ferland’s success represents an impressive turnaround after struggling with alcoholism early in his career. He will soon celebrate his fourth year of sobriety, and was rewarded last summer for his persistence and resilience with a two-year, $3.5 million contract.

Montour is a revelation in his first season with the Ducks. Selected 55th overall in the 2014 NHL Draft, the 23-year-old defenceman from the Six Nations of the Grand River has potted six goals and 15 assists through his first 47 NHL contests. He is emerging as the one of the most offensively talented young blueliners in the league.

Another young Aboriginal defenceman making a case for promotion to the NHL is Ethan Bear. He is in his first professional campaign with the Bakersfield Condors, racking up 11 points through 24 contests.

A product of Saskatchewan’s Ochapowace First Nation, Bear emerged as a top prospect in the Edmonton Oilers organization after leading the Seattle Thunderbirds to the WHL championship last season while earning honours as the league’s top defenceman.

Goaltender Devin Buffalo rounds out the list of budding hockey stars hailing from First Nations in Western Canada. A member of Samson Cree Nation in Hobbema, Alberta, Buffalo impressed in his senior year at Dartmouth University, backstopping the Ivy League squad to a 6-6-1 record, gaining a nomination for the coveted Hobey Baker Award, which honours the top player in US college hockey.

Closer to home, Mistissini’s Adam Cheezo is having a breakthrough season with the QMJHL Val-d’Or Foreurs. The 19-year-old has been one of the few bright spots on a struggling Foreurs squad, tallying 34 points through 35 games, just one point shy of the 35 points he amassed in 66 appearances a year ago.

Waswanipi’s Silas Mattawashish attended Foreurs training camp along with Cheezo before moving on to the CCHL, where he has racked in 36 points in 46 outings with the Ottawa Junior Senators and Nepean Raiders, including six multi-point performances.

Oujé-Bougoumou’s Trevor Cooper is also making steady progress in his first season between the pipes with the Midget AAA Lac St-Louis Lions. The mammoth 6’ 8” goaltender owns a 5-7-1 record through his first 13 starts with the Montreal-area squad.

Brandon Wadden has been regularly lighting the lamp in his first season with the Maniwaki Mustangs. The 18-year-old from Waskaganish sits atop the player stats in the fledgling CPJHL, racking up a spectacular 42 goals and 32 assists in just 17 games.

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