After ending the season on a high note, Calgary Hitmen have bright future

With an average age of 17.8, the Calgary Hitmen have a bright future ahead

Article content

The Calgary Hitmen ended their season on a high note.

The team finished the season without a playoff appearance but remained in the race until the very end, sitting only two points behind the Prince Albert Raiders for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Hockey League’s Eastern Conference.

Article content

In a campaign that was considered more of a developmental season, the young team showed that they could still compete for a playoff spot.

Advertisement 2

Article content

The Hitmen showed great resilience throughout the year, including right at the end as they finished their season with a five-goal second period to erase an early 2-0 deficit in route to defeating the Swift Current Broncos 6-3 at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday.

“Today we were just talking about being really proud of our season,” said head coach Steve Hamilton.

The final game had a couple of milestones attached to it as centre Oliver Tulk scored his 40th goal of the season, marking the first time a Hitmen player has achieved the milestone since Mark Kastelic accomplished the feat in the 2018-2019 season. Tulk also added his 40th assist to cap off his impressive campaign.

Defenceman Carter Yakemchuk, who earlier in the season secured the record for the most goals by a defenceman in Hitmen history, added to his total, scoring his 30th of the year to lead all rearguards in goals this season. Yakemchuk, who is eligible for the 2024 NHL Draft, has an opportunity to be a high pick.

Hamilton was impressed by his two stars this season.

“It was neat to see those guys get those milestones,” said Hamilton, who believes the team’s future was on full display this season. “Just a lot of really good contributions throughout the year from guys.”

Article content

Advertisement 3

Article content

Calgary Hitmen vs Swift Current Broncos
Calgary Hitmen Carter Yakemchuk battles Swift Current Broncos Connor Gabriel in first period WHL action at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Sunday, December 17, 2023. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

The Calgary-based team is the youngest in the league, with an average age of only 17.8. The Hitmen showcased throughout the season that they can hang with some of the top teams in the WHL despite their youth.

With promising rookies throughout the lineup, the Hitmen look poised to show improvement next season.

With first-year players Ben Kindel, Reese Hamilton, Chase Valiant and Keets Fawcett showing great potential this season, the team has built a young core that can carry them into the future. The majority of the team is also expected to return next season.

Recommended from Editorial

The Hitmen will be losing one player as Tyson Greenway played his final WHL game.

“It’s a tough day on the ice obviously with my last career Western League game,” said the graduating forward. “It’s awesome to end my career in the season with a win.”

Greenway was acquired by the Hitmen in an October trade with the Tri-City Americans for a 2026 second-round pick. After soaking up his final moments with the Hitmen, Greenway hopes to continue his hockey career.

Advertisement 4

Article content

“I kind of got to figure out some school options and just kind of keep my career going,” said Greenway.

Calgary Hitmen vs Spokane Chiefs
Calgary Hitmen centre Tyson Greenway (6) celebrates his goal on the Spokane Chiefs during the third period at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday, January 12, 2024. Brent Calver/Postmedia

During his WHL career, Greenway collected 99 points in 259 games. Hamilton praised the 21-year-old’s all-around game.

“I think your legacy sometimes is more than goals and assists,” said the coach. “I think Tyson did a great job here.”

Greenway applauded the team’s talent, saying despite the young squad having doubters, they proved they could battle it out with the best teams in the league.

Hamilton said Greenway is a great person and teammate for sticking it out with the younger team.

Despite the coach not looking ahead to next season just yet, he knows the future is bright for the Calgary Hitmen.

Kisio gets Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame call

Kelly Kisio is heading to the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame.

Kisio played 761 games in the NHL, scoring 229 goals and 429 assists in his career. The Red Deer native then became the general manager of the Hitmen in 1998. In his 18 years with the team, he led the Hitmen to 17 playoff appearances and two WHL championships.

Kisio, who is currently a scout with the Vegas Golden Knights, joins Jarome Iginla, Craig MacTavish, Dave King, Billy Dea, Shannon Szabados and the 2000-2001 Red Deer Rebels in the 2024 class.

Advertisement 5

Article content

Loose Pucks

Before the game on Saturday, the Calgary Hitmen gave out the team’s annual awards. Below are the winners of each award:

  • Player of the Year: Oliver Tulk
  • Defenceman of the Year: Carter Yakemchuk
  • Rookie of the Year: Ben Kindel
  • Calgary Hitmen Fan Favourite: Keets Fawcett
  • Humanitarian Award: Ethan Buenaventura and Carson Wetsch
  • Scholastic Award: Chase Valliant
  • Three-Star Selection Award (awarded to the player who received the most three-star selections this season): Oliver Tulk
  • Leading Scorer Award: Oliver Tulk
  • Coaches Award: Ethan Buenaventura
  • Players Choice Award: Ethan Buenaventura
  • 20-year-old Graduation Award: Tyson Greenway

[email protected]

Article content