Monday, 25 July 2016

Pats standout Hobbs is finding his way to "The Show"

Connor Hobbs is a star on the Pats blue-line.
    One day the Washington Capitals might look back on the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and admit they got a steal selecting Connor Hobbs in the fifth round.
    For about the last five years, Hobbs’ hockey career has been on a steady upswing. The 19-year-old defenceman was arguably the best Saskatoon product and possibly the best Saskatchewan product to play in the WHL last season.
    He became standout offensive defenceman piling up 19 goals and 22 assists in 58 games with the Regina Pats, while still remaining strong in the defensive zone. In 12 games in the WHL playoffs, Hobbs picked up 10 points coming on four goals and six assists.
    The Capitals selected Hobbs in the fifth round and 143rd overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and prudently signed him to a three-year NHL entry-level contract on July 1st of this year.
    In what is turning out to be a memorable summer, Hobbs, who stands 6-foot-1 and weighs 196 pounds, is among the 41 players who have been invited to Hockey Canada’s national junior team summer development came, which starts Saturday and runs through to Aug. 6. The players take part in practices in Toronto starting Saturday and running to Aug. 2. From Aug. 3 to 6, the players will participate in series of exhibition games against national teams from Finland, Sweden and the United States in Plymouth, Mich.
    Way back in 2012, Hobbs was selected by the Prince Albert Raiders in the fourth round and 67th overall in that year’s WHL Bantam Draft. He never played a game for the Raiders as his WHL rights were traded to the Medicine Hat Tigers before his 16-year-old season.
Connor Hobbs brings the puck up ice for the Pats.
    Hobbs had a sound 15-year-old season as a rookie in the midget AAA ranks recording six goals and 10 assists in 38 games with the Saskatoon Blazers. He arrived in Tigers training camp in 2013 looking to crack a spot on a team that was loaded with veteran defencemen.
    The rearguard had an impressive camp, where he able to show off what has become his trademark point blast. The Tigers brass made the hard decision to send Hobbs back to the Blazers for his 16-year-old campaign.
    Hobbs took a big step forward collecting 11 goals and 12 assists in 33 games with the Blazers. He also appeared in 10 regular season games with the Tigers collecting a goal, two assists and a plus-one rating in the plus-minus department. In those games, Hobbs looked like he should be a WHL regular.
    During the off-season, those that saw Hobbs work out in Saskatoon could see he had a purpose to do everything he could to ensure he stuck in the WHL for the upcoming campaign.
Connor Hobbs threads a pass in the offensive zone for the Pats.
    In August of 2014, Hobbs earned a spot on Canada’s under-18 team that won gold at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament co-hosted annually in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
    Hobbs returned to the Tigers following that international event to start his 17-year-old season collecting a goal, an assist and a plus-one rating in 12 games. He was fighting for minutes on a defensive unit that was still heavy with veterans. As he was in his draft year, he did the smart thing for his situation and returned home asking for a trade.
    The talented rearguard played four games for the Nipawin Hawks in the junior “A” ranks and suited up for Canada at the World Junior “A” Challenge in Kindersley in December of 2014.
    The Pats acquired Hobbs on Jan. 5, 2015, and the Saskatoon product played lots of key minutes collecting a goal, 15 assists and a plus-five rating in 33 regular season games to finish the 2014-15 campaign. He did enough to earn his NHL Entry Draft selection from the Capitals.
Connor Hobbs looks for an offensive zone opening.
    In the present moment, Hobbs has to be considered one of the best defencemen in the WHL. He has reached the point that he pretty much does everything right. 
    He is the guy you want in the defensive zone controlling the puck and bringing it up ice to start an offensive rush.
    On the power play, he has become a skilled quarterback that really commands things and calmly sets in plays. On the defensive side, he can more than hold his own physically.
    Hobbs has put in the time, and he found the right opportunities to allow his career to progress. 
    With the way he has progressed, there is no telling how good he can be, if the upswing in his game continues.
    With the Pats expecting to have a real strong team this coming season, Hobbs will likely be returned to the WHL ranks for his 19-year-old campaign, and he will definitely be a player to watch. 
    WHL fans of any team would be to wise catch Hobbs in action while they still can.

Willo gets Hockey Canada camp call

Kaitlin Willoughby is on  Hockey Canada's radar.
    University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team forward Kaitlin Willoughby is going to get the chance to see how she stacks up with Canada’s best.
    On Wednesday, Willoughby was one of 22 players from the Canadian Interuniversity Sport ranks to receive an invite to Hockey Canada’s Women’s Development Camp, which runs Aug. 5-14 in Calgary. For the CIS players, the camp provides an opportunity to turn heads in order to earn a roster spot for Canada’s women’s team that will play at the FISU Winter Universiade, which will run Jan. 29 to Feb. 8, 2017 in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
    The CIS players will take part in four games including two clashes against Sweden’s national team and two matches against players that are part of Hockey Canada’s women development program. The CIS players are eligible to be picked for Canada’s National Women’s Development team that will play in a three game series against the United States from Aug. 17 to 20 in Calgary.
    After graduating from the midget AAA ranks playing for her hometown Prince Albert Bears, Willoughby quickly attained star status with the Huskies. In the 2013-14 campaign, she was named the CIS rookie of the year after recording 10 goals and 15 assists in 28 regular season games.
    The speedy forward was a key contributor in helping the Huskies win their first ever Canada West title during her rookie campaign. Willoughby permanently carved her place in the history of the Huskies women’s hockey team in the 2014 best-of-three Canada West championship series against the University of Regina Cougars. In a series deciding Game 3, Willoughby potted the double overtime winner to give the Huskies a 2-1 victory at the ancient Rutherford Rink.
Kaitlin Willoughby has piled up the points in three seasons with the Huskies.
    During her three seasons with the Huskies, Willoughby has collected 30 goals and 41 assists in 82 regular season games. The always pleasant and upbeat 21-year-old has also built a reputation for being loved by her teammates and a large number of players from the other U of S Huskies teams.
    Willoughby has more than earned her chance to get on Hockey Canada’s radar.
    With that said, the CIS players will be in tough to earn a chance to play on Canada’s National Women’s Development team that will play in a three game series against the United States. The women’s development camp contains 42 players that are part of Canada’s women’s development program including Saskatoon product Emily Clark, who is already a member of Canada’s senior national women’s team at age 20. Clark is a gritty star forward with the storied and powerhouse University of Wisconsin Badgers of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
    From Aug. 7 to 14 in Calgary, Hockey Canada will also host a selection camp for the under-18 women’s national team. The under-18 camp contains 43 players including defender Willow Slobodzian and forward Mackenna Parker, who are both star players for the Saskatoon Stars.
    The Stars have won the last two straight Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League titles. Both Slobodzian and Parker reside just outside of Saskatoon in Clavet.
    The camp also includes Saskatoon products and forwards Nara Elia and Sophie Shirley. Shirley was a member of Canada’s under-18 team last season. Both spent last season with the Notre Dame Hounds team that plays out of the Junior Women’s Hockey League.
    Defender Brooke Hobson from the Prince Albert Bears rounds out the Saskatchewan players invited to the under-18 camp.

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