He’s fast, he’s fidgety, he’s Flin Flon’s flashiest forward – and he’s heading to a major U.S. college program.
Donavan Houle-Villeneuve has committed to play with the Univ. of Maine Black Bears for the 2020-21 season. One of the SJHL’s top NCAA-eligible players, Houle-Villeneuve will join a program with ties to the Canadian junior A ranks.
Through 24 games, Houle-Villeneuve has 32 points, including 19 goals. He is tied with linemate Cole Rafuse for the SJHL lead in powerplay goals with 10. A third-year player for the Bombers, Houle-Villeneuve has already set a new junior career high in goals.
“We are very happy and proud that Donavan has achieved his goal of obtaining a Division I scholarship,” said Bomber head coach and general manager Mike Reagan in a media statement.
“He has come a long way from his rookie season and it just goes to show his commitment to becoming the player he has. Maine is getting a very exciting player that has lots of room to continue to grow. We believe he is going to be a very good college player."
Out of the SJHL’s top 10 scorers, only six – La Ronge’s Daylon Mannon, Melville’s Luke Spadafora, Houle-Villeneuve, Quintin Loon-Stewardson and Rylan Nivon with Battlefords and Yorkton’s Jordan Guiney – still have immediate NCAA eligibility, not having played in major junior.
The Black Bears program has some links to players from both the SJHL and from northern Manitoba.
This season, two former SJHL players – ex-Battlefords defender Levi Kleiboer and former Notre Dame Hound and SJHL and CJHL Rookie of the Year Adam Dawe – are playing with the Black Bears. Ex-Lebret Eagle Alfie Michaud is an assistant coach on the team. More junior A players, like ex-Notre Dame Hounds Nolan Renwick and Tim Gould and former OCN Blizzard player Bryden Sinclair, are committed to join Maine next season.
Current NHL alumni from Maine include Columbus Blue Jacket Gustav Nyquist, Dallas Stars goalie Ben Bishop, Detroit Red Wings netminder Jimmy Howard and L.A. Kings defenceman Ben Hutton. One ex-Black Bear, former NHLer and Olympian Paul Kariya, is in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
In northern Manitoba, the Maine program’s best known recent alumnus is Brady Keeper. The Cross Lake defenceman, former OCN Blizzard player and 2017 MJHL most valuable player suited up for the Black Bears for two seasons before turning pro last season, becoming the first player from Cross Lake to suit up for an NHL game.