ESTEVAN — The Estevan Bruins have turned to their most experienced player to be their captain this season.
Forward Keagon Little, who is entering his fourth and final season with the team, will wear the captain's "C" in 2023-24. Little rejoined the Bruins after Christmas last season, and finished with 19 points in 16 games played.
Along with goaltender Cam Hrdlicka, Little is one of two players still with the team from the squad that won the SJHL title in 2022.
Little said it is "a great honour" to be the Bruins' captain.
"It's a great organization, and I'm really happy. I'm looking forward to getting started this year with our regular season games on the 22nd," said Little, alluding to the season-opening game against the Melville Millionaires on Sept. 22.
Being a fourth-year player helped him prepare for being captain.
"I've got a lot of great coaches that are helping me out, too, and I'm just going to come in and be the leader that I know I can be, work hard and show people on the ice … that I give it my all every shift," said Little.
He'll also be leaning on the team's alternate captains, forward Owen Barrow and defenceman Blake Heward. Barrow was an alternate to finish last season, while Heward is in his first season with the Bruins.
"I'm looking forward to getting to know Heward a little bit more, and I've known Barrow for a while," said Little.
He was really excited when he was told in the spring that he would be the captain.
Little said he's not too outspoken in the locker room, but he wants to lead by example when on the ice. If there is something to be said, he will say it.
"I think my biggest strength is how hard I work on the ice and off the ice," said Little.
Head coach and general manager Jason Tatarnic said experience is just one reason Little was chosen as captain.
"He has a good understanding of how we like to do things on the ice, off the ice and in the weight room. He's been through it all before and he's a great communicator with the guys. It was an easy decision. He just checked off all the boxes and he's done a great job so far," said Tatarnic.
As for the alternates, Tatarnic said it was easy to go back to Barrow with an "A" because of his work as a leader last year. Heward, meanwhile, has lots of experience through his time in the Western Hockey League and brings good communication skills.
"We really wanted a guy that was good in the dressing room, and we know Blake's been a well-respected, well-liked guy in the dressing rooms for the prior teams he's played for," said Tatarnic.
Little recognizes there are high expectations for the team this year. It's the final season of junior hockey for Little and the other 20-year-olds, and they want to go out on a high note. But they'll have to work hard if they're to fulfill their goals.
Estevan has become like a second home for Little. The coaches have been great and the people and fans are "amazing", he said. There is no better place to play junior hockey, and the newcomers to the team have come in and marvelled at how great it is to be here.