Number of capable local hockey players on rise

Future editions of the Flin Flon Bombers could see more homegrown players.

While some Bomber rosters in the past were almost exclusively made up of Flin Flonners, local representation on the Bombers has slowed. On occasion Flin Flon players, including Richard Dupre, Tanner Korchinski, Cole McCaig, Ryan Fox and Dillan McCombie have become fan favourites in the past 15 years, but recently, the team has rarely included more than one local player at a time.

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Some local talents are hoping to change that trend. In total, 12 players – six forwards, four defencemen and two goalies – from Flin Flon and Creighton entered camp with the Bombers this summer, up from nine last year.

That number rises to 13 if you count Isaac Jackson. While the returning defenceman is officially listed by the SJHL as being from Warman, Sask., Jackson grew up in Flin Flon before moving south, heading back up north in the summer. Regardless of his officially listed hometown, Jackson has been embraced by Bomber fans as one of their own – even Bombers head coach and general manager Mike Reagan considers Jackson a Flin Flonner when asked.

“Isaac is a local guy. He hadn’t been here for a number of years, but I’m extremely happy that we’ve got one local guy, a kid that grew up here, went through my hockey school, his family billeted Bombers. He knows what it’s all about. I think that’s very important.”

Jackson was the only Flin Flonner assured of a spot with the team heading into the season. Goaltender Jeremy Dutcawich is one of four goalies competing for three spots in the Bomber net. Like Jackson, Dutcawich moved away from Flin Flon as a young man to learn hockey elsewhere – in his case, to southwest Manitoba, where he played for the Yellowhead Chiefs bantam AAA and midget AAA programs. Dutcawich suited up along with his younger brother Tanner and Bomber hopeful Ryder Richmond on the Chiefs.

Reagan said he sees some Flin Flon players who could someday don the maroon and white.

“I think that it’s awesome to see that we’ve got three or four guys that are local who could potentially be playing for the Bombers at some point, hopefully. We haven’t had that for a number of years and to think that there are two or three guys here who could play for the Bombers in the next couple of years,” said Reagan.

“I think that’s exciting. I think it’s great for the community. I think that it can be inspiring to younger hockey players in Flin Flon, to see these guys hopefully in a Bomber uniform at one point.”

Some younger Flin Flon-born players, like Justin Lies, Owen Slugoski and Jordan Pfoh, had interesting training camps, but none of the players will be joining the Bombers this year. Lies, who turns 15 in November, has committed to play at the Rink Hockey Academy, a Winnipeg-based prep school and hothouse for hockey development, this season. In the team’s annual maroon and white game, Lies scored a goal and assist against older competition and was on the ice during key moments of the game, including a last-minute rush with the goalie pulled that produced a game-tying goal with seconds left.

Slugoski, 15, played in Melfort last season for the North East Wolfpack bantam AA club, while Pfoh, now 16, played in Thompson, enjoying a breakout rookie year with the Norman Northstars midget AAA squad. Slugoski scored two goals in the Bombers’ 11-1 drubbing of the Nipawin Hawks in the two teams’ annual rookie game.

Flin Flon-born players hoping to make the Bombers are aided by a rule in the SJHL rulebook regarding player eligibility. Under current rules, SJHL players born in an SJHL team centre are property of their local SJHL team until they turn 17. Once a player turns 17, the team that owned their rights has three days to register a player on their 50-player protected list – otherwise, they will lose their rights to that player.

Players who are from an SJHL town who are playing midget AAA are also protected, as well as players who were carded by a team but have left to play major junior hockey.

Through the first stipulation, junior A rights for Lies and Slugoski will be automatically owned by the Bombers until they turn 17, while Pfoh will be covered for at least one more year through the second stipulation.

The third stipulation allows the Bombers to keep rights for players like Chrystopher Collin, who left the Bombers for a spot on a QMJHL team, and Brandson Hein, who attended Bomber camp, played parts of two seasons in the WHL, then played for the Bombers.

That rule does not apply to players who are from an SJHL town, but who move away before a certain age for non-hockey related reasons. It’s through that rule that the Bombers lost a chance at Rylan Nivon, a 19-year-old forward who played for the AJHL’s Lloydminster Bobcats last year. Nivon was raised in Flin Flon and played in the Flin Flon minor hockey system until age 12, when his family moved to Saskatoon. The SJHL then recognized Saskatoon as Nivon’s hometown, allowing the Melville Millionaires to obtain his rights.

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