LA RONGE — After developing his hockey game in Chicago, Tommy Wright is embracing new experiences while pursuing the sport he loves with the La Ronge Ice Wolves.
As of Sunday, the forward led all Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League rookies in points. Off the ice, Wright has been pleased to try snowmobiling, fishing, skating on the lake, and driving on the ice road.
“I love living in La Ronge because it is something I never thought I would be able to experience,” Wright said. “I love getting to see the Northern Lights and love doing things outside I wouldn’t get the chance to do back home.” On the ice, the 2003-born forward has made a big impact for the Ice Wolves. He was second on the Ice Wolves in points with 40 – behind captain Walker Jerome’s 47, as of Sunday. Wright plays both on the power play and the penalty kill.
“He’s been a great surprise. … He does everything very, very well,” said La Ronge head coach Kevin Kaminski, who also stated, “He plays a very good 200-foot game. He’s so smart, so accountable in the D-zone. He prides all the little things.
“Then when once he gets the puck down low, he uses his body for puck protection. He feels the pressure on what hip the guy’s on and spins off and takes it to the net. Whether he’s going to jam it or someone is open back door, he makes the plays.”
Wright is one of a number of rookies who are playing important roles for the Ice Wolves this season.
“They’ve been outstanding. … This is a great experience for them,” Kaminski said of his rookie crop. “They’re making it count.”
Including Wright, the Ice Wolves have four rookies among their top seven scorers. Dylan Handel is second on the team in goals with 17 – one behind Jerome and Ethan Strik – and has 32 points to be fifth on the squad in that category. Lleyton Shearon is one spot behind with 27 points. One place behind him is fellow first-year Kale Taylor, who has 25. Mason Buecket and Air Ronge’s own Jacob Cossette each have 16 points. Of the duo, Kaminski said, “they are finding their groove and are playing like men right now.” Also up front the team has rookies Flynn Maxcy (10 points), Seth Dragan (five points and has seen time with the Junior B Saskatoon Quakers) and Cole Thomas (four).
On the backend, the Ice Wolves’ rookies include Rylan Silzer, who Kaminski praised for being good defensively. He has 11 points. The team also has first-year defenders Kaycee Coyle (18 points). Kyle Graham (13), and Miles Gust (four).
In goal, Topher Chirico has been “outstanding,” Kaminski said, in backing up Dawson Smith. The rookie netminder has an 11-71-0 record with a 310 goals against average.
The Ice Wolves only have four 20-year-olds this season. The group includes Jerome, Strik, Trenton Curtis, and Connor Abric. The Ice Wolves’ 2002-born players have helped the rookies along.
“Those guys show by example with their work ethic on and off the ice and their play and their demand of the winning ways that I think that we have created here in La Ronge,” Kaminski said.
With a mix of veterans and newcomers, the Ice Wolves “feel that we have a team that can do some damage in the playoffs,” the head coach stated.
Success in La Ronge
The 6-foot, 190-pound Wright has 14 goals and 26 assists through 50 games. Kaminski praised the big, strong forward's game.
“He’s a dynamic player down low on the cycle. That’s where he gets a lot of his points.”
What has allowed him to put points in his first Junior A season?
“Developing chemistry between my linemates I believe has allowed me to put up these points,” Wright said. “Also, the work we have put in on the power play has a big role.”
He said that he has enjoyed his time with the Ice Wolves due to his coaches and teammates.
“Killer and Schneids (assistant coach Kyle Schneider) reward hard work, which makes it easy to work hard,” Wright said. “My teammates make coming to the rink everyday very enjoyable even when it is not my day.”
Wright hails from Schererville, Ind. and played in the Chicago area. Ice Wolves head coach Kevin Kaminski had heard good things about Wright from Gino Cavallini, a former Quebec Nordiques teammate who coaches in the U18 AAA Chicago Mission program the player and Gust competed for. Ice Wolves head scout Rob Fiola was high on Weight after seeing him play at the “Mac’s Tournament” (now called the Circle K Classic). “The SJHL is different because it is far more physical than what I have experienced,” Wright said. “I believe it is a gritty league, which fits well for my game.”
Off the ice, Wright said it was a big adjustment moving to La Ronge.
“A different country, different people, and different style of living. That being said, my billets, Brent and Jenny, made me feel so welcome since the day I got to La Ronge which made the adjustment so much easier,” said Wright, a big Chicago Blackhawks fan who cheers for the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals as his family is from Ohio.