A hidden gem: Roddy Ross' route to the WHL

TISDALE — After a unique journey from Junior B to the Western Hockey League, former Tisdale Trojans goaltender Roddy Ross is ready for the next step in his career.

The Meadow Lake product was selected by the Philadelphia Flyers in the sixth round of the 2019 National Hockey League Entry Draft. Due to a system stocked with goaltending talent, the Flyers did not extend Ross an entry level contract this June. No matter where his first stop as a pro takes him, Ross said he is looking forward to:

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“Everything. … It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m looking forward to every part of it. It’s a job now. It’s really exciting and I can’t wait to do it.”

Earlier this year Ross wrapped up his junior career with his third WHL season. It was unlike the past two as he was with a new team – the Regina Pats – and lived on the University of Regina campus while competing in a hub in the Queen City with the WHL’s other Manitoba and Saskatchewan teams.

In his 20-year-old season, the 6-foot-3, 184-pound Ross was the last line of defence for a young Pats team. He posted a 3.75 goals against average and a 0.874 save percentage. The Pats were pleased to have him – and not just for his puck-stopping ability.

“I sure wish we could have had him for three, four years,” Regina head coach David Struch said. “He was a wonderful character – the way he carried himself everyday … his work ethic. It sure would have been nice to have him grow with us throughout the program. Unfortunately, we only had him for a couple of months …

“He was a very big part of our development and helping our young guys and, ultimately, we played really good hockey. With a young, hardworking team, you need good goaltending and he was a big part of that. We were really fortunate we had him there with us.”

In early April, Ross netted the WHL’s Goaltender of the Week honours. He was 2-0 with a 0.99 goals against average and a 0.964 save percentage. As the season went on, Ross felt stronger.

“I was starting to get on a roll and starting to feel like myself a lot more. … I think it was just overall everything. That’s hockey – it’s all different things and they were just falling into place.”

On the Pats, Ross got an up-close look at Connor Bedard. The forward from North Vancouver was the first ever player to receive “exceptional status” for the WHL. This allowed him to debut in the league a year early – as a 15-year-old. Last season Bedard had 12 goals and 28 points in 15 games while winning the WHL’s Rookie of the Year award.

“He’s unreal,” Ross said. “He’s an elite player for how young he is, and he handles himself really well. He acts like a pro whether it’s on or off the ice. He’s a really good kid and it was just fun playing with him and being his teammate. I’m excited to see how he does in the future.”

While Bedard has long been a lauded prospect, Ross was a hidden gem who took a different path to the WHL. He played the Junior B for the Onion Lake Border Chiefs as a 16-year-old. Then Trojans head coach Darrell Mann heard about Ross from a friend and brought him to Tisdale for one U18 AAA season. Ross posted a 1.85 goals against average and was named the team’s MVP.

“The organization and the coaches were really good to me,” Ross said of the Trojans. “I think that helped me a lot in being the player I am today. … It was an awesome fan base. I have nothing but good things to say about them. It’s something I will never forget – playing there for those guys. It’s just an awesome place.”

He started the 2018-19 campaign with the Junior A Camrose Kodiaks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. The WHL’s Seattle Thunderbirds signed him partway through that season. He was drafted in the summer of 2019 and played the next season in Seattle before being swapped to Regina.

“It’s definitely a crazy route,” Ross said of his journey. “You don’t find many people where they go play Junior B and, all of a sudden, they are in the Dub two years later.”

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