Opening of QMJHL camps signal opportunities for young Cree players

Share Button

The off-season was short-lived for hockey players seeking a coveted spot on a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team, including a trio of young Cree players who are once again on the Val-d’Or Foreurs training camp roster.

Mistissini’s Adam Cheezo did not see any action in the Foreurs’ first four pre-season contests at Bishop’s University in Sherbrooke, but is expected to have a growing role in Val-d’Or’s offensive plans after enjoying a breakthrough campaign last season. Cheezo potted 10 goals and 25 assists in 66 appearances with the Foreurs last season.

The 18-year-old caught the eyes of professional scouts with last year’s performance, but will have to wait until next year to continue pursue his pro hockey dream after being passed over at the 2017 NHL Draft.

Cheezo is joined at the Foreurs camp by Waswanipi’s Silas Mattawashish, who returns for a third straight year, and Chisasibi’s Linden Namagoose, who is applying for a full-time job with the Foreurs for the second time.

Mattawashish played 33 contests with the Foreurs last season, recording one assist, before closing out the schedule with the Valleyfield Braves of the QJAAAHL, where he notched five goals and eight assists in 17 games.

Namagoose has seen plenty of action in the early going of the Foreurs’ August schedule, going pointless in three games patrolling the Val-d’Or blue line, while going +1 on the plus/minus.

In the college hockey ranks, Waswanipi’s Deverick Ottereyes will return to the Nipissing University Lakers this fall for his sophomore season. Ottereyes spent three seasons in the QMJHL with the Prince Edward Island Rocket, later renamed the Charlottetown Islanders, before ending his junior hockey career with the Gatineau Olympiques.

The 22-year-old scored an impressive 74 points in 41 games with the Kahnawake Condors of the QJAAAHL before enrolling at Nipissing University last year, appearing in 19 games while completing the first year of a Commerce program he plans to continue this fall.

Moose Factory’s Jonathan Cheechoo called it a career last spring following a solid 40-point year with Slovan Bratislava of the KHL. It remains to be seen if the first Cree player to score 50 goals in the NHL is done with the game, as rumours persist that Cheechoo might represent Team Canada at the 2018 Winter Olympics in February.

Out in Western Canada, Ethan Bear of Ochapowce First Nation is set to be the next Native sensation to hit the NHL when he reports to the Edmonton Oilers’ training camp next month. The 20-year-old has emerged as a pleasant surprise for the Oilers, who selected him 124th overall in the 2015 NHL Draft. Bear has since exceeded expectations, particularly last season, when he racked up 70 points for Seattle of the WHL, and led the Thunderbirds to a berth in the Memorial Cup while taking home honours as the top defenceman in the WHL’s Western Conference.

A number of Native hockey veterans are expected to play key roles with their NHL clubs this season, with none facing higher expectations than Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price. A member of British Columbia’s Ulkatcho First Nation, Price made headlines this summer by inking an eight-year contract extension that will pay him an average of $10.5 million per season.

Micheal Ferland, a 25-year-old Cree from Swan River, Manitoba, is expected to return to the Calgary Flames line-up for his third full season this fall. Ferland has enjoyed unexpected success with the Flames after overcoming a personal battle with substance abuse. The on-ice agitator appeared in 76 games with Calgary last season, and set a career high with 25 points, potting 15 goals and adding 10 assists.

Two-time Stanley Cup winner Jordan Nolan, an Ojibway from Garden River, Ontario, remains under contract with Los Angeles, but will face an uphill battle to maintain a job with a Kings squad that could be facing an imminent rebuild after missing the NHL playoffs this spring for the second time in three years.

Nolan’s former teammate Dwight King of Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan, closed out last season with the Montreal Canadiens, but the two-time Cup winner will not return to the NHL this season after inking a deal this summer with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg of the KHL.

Share Button

Comments are closed.