CARROT RIVER — Carrot River Outback Thunder forward Kayden Graham is enjoying a strong rookie season while trying to develop his game.
The 18-year-old from Archerwill was fourth on the Junior B hockey team in scoring with 25 points, including six goals, in 35 games, as of Sunday. He paced his squad with 19 assists. On Saturday night, Graham recorded four assists as the Outback Thunder triumphed, 5-2, over the Regina Silver Foxes to end a two-game losing streak. The 5-foot-9, 150-pound Graham has been usually playing this season on a line with Kaden Suski and former North East midget AA teammate Liam Hallett.
“We knew what we were getting when we signed Kayden in the off season as we saw him play and captain the NE AA midget team last season where he had lots of success,” Outback Thunder general manager Brennan Hall said. “We also knew coming in he had chemistry with Liam Hallett and once we put the two together, they haven’t been split. To see how we were at the start of this season to now and these two rookies come in and have that instant chemistry together was amazing and great for everyone involved.”
When asked what has allowed him to contribute as a rookie, Graham said, “Speed and just having chemistry with my linemates from past years.” Hall said the youngster, who he called “an amazing kid and player,” is one of the fastest skaters in the Prairie Junior Hockey League.
Outback Thunder head coach Luke Folk said Graham’s “speed makes him a constant offensive threat, but his defensive game has also stood out – from being the first guy back supporting his D, battling in corners to create or shut down opportunities, blocking shots ... whatever the situation, he grinds until it’s done.”
“He is a go-to guy for us that we can rely on in tough situations and know he will give us the best effort he possibly can,” Hall said.
Graham is working hard on his game to try to earn a spot at the Junior A level in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League next season. He attended camp with the La Ronge Ice Wolves this past fall.
The forward, who Folk said has “got energy for days,” has been able to adapt to junior hockey, his coach said.
“[He’s] playing a physical style against guys with 60 plus pounds on him,” Folk said. “Eating up minutes on the PK and creating turnovers. We preach defence first in the room and Graham tends to lead the way.”
With the North East midget squad, Graham developed his game and improved his points total each season. He went from recording eight points as rookie to posting 40 in his third and final season.
“Playing midget AA helped me because it was a faster, cleaner passes, better goaltending,” Graham said. “Just had to work every shift I was out there.”
Now Graham is working on his game with the Outback Thunder. He is enjoying the experience.
“The boys are really good to play with, just a great group of guys overall. Billets are great too,” said Graham, who billets with Trish and Dean Hardie.
The Thunder last week
Thursday, Jan. 23 in Saskatoon
Saskatoon Quakers 8, Carrot River 3
Outback Thunder Scorers: Tristin Strunk, Chase Gallant, David Wiens
Chiefs Scorers: Cole Young (2), Noah Bankowski, Jordan Hudson, Wyatt Arndt, Keegan Randell, Hunter Schnell, Brendan Kemp
Goalies: Chance Griffith, Carrot River, 32 saves on 39 shots; Steven Soyko, Carrot River, 8 on 9; Steven Duchscher, Saskatoon, 25 on 28
Notes: Outback Thunder forward Brandt Fiske recorded two assists. The Quakers led 2-0 and 4-1 at the intermissions.
Friday, Jan. 24 in Fort Qu’Appelle
Fort Knox 5, Carrot River 0
Fort Knox Scorers: Matthew Plews (2), Trey Stocker (2), Chase Zurowski,
Goalies: Steven Soyko, Carrot River, 35 saves on 40 shots; Jakob Taylor, Fort Knox, 33 on 33
Notes: After a scoreless first period, Fort Knox took a 3-0 lead in the second.
Saturday, Jan. 25 in Regina
Carrot River 5, Regina Silver Foxes 2
Carrot River Scorers: Brandt Fiske (2), Brett Harper, Tyler Almen, Tanner Dutcawich
Silver Foxes Scorers: Jacob Belton, Jordan Yeske
Goalies: Chance Griffith, Carrot River, 22 saves on 24 shots; Justice Haack, Carrot River, 12 on 12; Blake Diewold, Regina, 35 on 40
Notes: The Outback Thunder capped their road trip with a win. It halted a two-game losing streak. Carrot River was rolling early. It held a 3-0 lead in the first period and was up 3-1 at the first intermission. The Outback Thunder outscored the Silver Foxes, 2-1, in the second period. Fiske finished with three points. Kayden Graham recorded four assists.
The Carrot River Outback Thunder (14-20-1) open their February schedule by hosting the Prairie Junior Hockey League-leading Saskatoon Quakers on Saturday. The Outback Thunder are in Prince Albert on Sunday to take on the Titans.