Cam Newson (left) in front of the Whalers net during a game against the Aldergrove Kodiaks earlier this season. (Jody Harris photo)

White Rock Whalers set to host PJHL prospects game

Junior ‘B’ hockey league’s top young players – including many from Surrey – set to take part

Some of the top young players from across the Pacific Junior Hockey League will lace up their skates at White Rock’s Centennial Arena at the end of the month as part of the junior ‘B’ circuit’s annual prospects game.

The game is set for Monday, Jan. 28 at 7 p.m. and will feature the top 16- to 18-year-old players from the league’s two conferences.

“It’s a great exposure opportunity for the (young players) of our league,” said Ronnie Paterson, the owner of the White Rock Whalers, who will serve as the event’s official hosts.

“It’s a wonderful event and gives our league’s younger players the chance for some additional exposure – we get some scouts out from different junior programs, and some colleges… it puts a lot of younger talent under the microscope and it’s a good vehicle to expose our league.”

Plenty of Surrey and White Rock talent will be taking part in the game, including two players from the host Whalers – defencemen Ryan Doray and Cam Newson, both 16.

The Surrey Knights will be represented by four players – defencemen Amraj Gill, 17, and Bradley Collins, 17, and forwards Dryden Valade, 18, and Himmat Aujla, 16.

Other local players who’ve been tapped to take part include Surrey resident Mason Smith, who plays for the Abbotsford Pilots, and Richmond Sockeyes forward Craig Schouten, also a Surrey native.

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For Newson, the opportunity to play a showcase game is nothing new, as the South Surrey resident and Semiahmoo Minor Hockey alum has been one of the PJHL’s most scouted players this season.

The rookie blue-liner – who was drafted in the 2017 Western Hockey League draft by the Calgary Hitmen and whose rights are now owned by the Spokane Chiefs – is likely to move up to the junior ‘A’ or major-junior ranks next season. He has spent the last two weekends with the BC Hockey League’s Powell River Kings, after being called up as an affiliate player.

He scored his first BCHL point – an assist – last weekend. With the Whalers, he has six goals and 14 assists in 31 games.

“I think it’ll be a fun game – (it’s) a good way to get some exposure to different teams, and it’s nice that it’s in White Rock, too, so I’ll have family to come out and watch, too,” Newson told Peace Arch News.

Newson said his recent experience at the junior ‘A’ level with the Kings has been an eye-opener, and while it has helped sway him “a little bit” with regard to an upcoming decision whether to go the BCHL or WHL route next year, he will wait awhile before making any final decisions.

“I’m still keeping all my options open,” he said. “It was great for me to play at the junior ‘A’ level for a bit though, and start to learn how I need to play up there. It was definitely an adjustment, those first few games, learning the pace and physicality of it.

“The speed is the biggest difference – everyone is a lot faster and just really smart with the puck, too.”

Newson can play five more games as a call-up with the Kings until his junior ‘B’ season is over. After the Whalers play their final game, he can suit up for as many BCHL contests as the Kings wish.

“It would be great to go back up there after our season’s over, if they need me,” he said. “But for now, I’m just focused on playing with the Whalers and hopefully going for our own playoff push.”

The Whalers are currently in ninth place in the PJHL, eight points back of the final playoff spot.

The Whalers were granted the prospects game earlier this season, Paterson said.

“(League officials) looked around and thought it’d be a good chance for us, in our first year, to host the game. We embraced it and are looking forward to the opportunity. It’s going to be exciting.”

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