SASKATOON — Justin Lies has been enjoying himself since joining the Saskatoon Blades in a late August trade.
The Blades acquired the Flin Flon product from their Western Hockey League foe the Vancouver Giants for forward Kyren Gronick and a 2025 second-round draft pick. Lies, who turns 19 on Thursday, has earned a role and has contributed to the Saskatoon squad’s early season success. As of Wednesday, the Blades were 15-4-0-0 and sat third in the WHL’s Eastern Division.
“I really like being here,” Lies said. “The team is really good. We’re doing really well on the ice and off the ice we’re a really tight group. It’s been a lot of fun and we just got to keep ‘er going here.”
The 6-foot-2, 205-pound forward has three goals and nine points in 18 games. He has impressed in a number of areas.
“You can tell he’s a big body that wants to play the right way,” said Saskatoon assistant coach Wacey Rabbit, a former Blades standout who went on to a long pro career in the minor leagues and overseas. “He’s a smart young man and he works hard. I really enjoy working with him. You can see the work that he’s put in, it’s now paying dividends on the ice. He’s one of our most consistent forwards the last few games, that’s for sure.”
Lies is on pace to surpass the eight goals and 16 points he posted in 50 games for the Giants last season. What has allowed him to put points this season?
“I think we’ve been working as a team and in the summer you always try to work on skills … I think I’m starting to implement those into my game a bit more,” Lies said.
However, his focus is neither on his points production nor his individual accomplishments.
“I’m not too worried about that. The team is doing well,” Lies said. “As long as I’m helping the team in all the other ways that I can.”
One of those way is his physical play. Lies leads the Blades with 38 penalty minutes.
“That’s definitely something I can bring to the team,” he said. “Hard on D, getting the O-zone grind time, tiring guys out, being hard on them. I think it paves the way for the rest of the group … Got to be physical every time, every chance that I can.”
Rabbit praised the way Lies handled the challenges thrown at him late in the offseason and early in the WHL campaign. First, Rabbit noted, there was the trade. Then Lies spent time at the rookie camp of the National Hockey League’s Vegas Golden Knights. After that experience, he returned to the Blades and had to get up to speed.
“He’s resilient,” Rabbit said. “He wants to learn.”
After going unselected in the 2022 NHL Draft, Lies earned an invite to the Golden Knights’ July prospect development camp. In September, he competed in the squad’s rookie camp and played in the Rookie Faceoff Tournament against prospects from some other NHL clubs.
“It was a really good experience there,” Lies said. “You’re playing against older, stronger guys. Everyone is an elite player there. The pace is really good. You bring that back and you try to play with that pace in your game regardless of the speed of the game or whatever. Trying to get my game onto that level all the time.”