Special from Jesse Adamson
The past four-plus months have been difficult for all BCHL players due to increased COVID-19 restrictions, but it has arguably been the most difficult for 2000-born players watching their last year of junior hockey eligibility slip away.
Many of those players don’t have a scholarship in place for next year and were counting on playing games to catch the eye of someone at an NCAA Div-1 program.
When the news came down earlier this month that the BCHL had been approved to play a 20-game regular season, those 20-year-old players were thrilled.
“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” said Nanaimo Clippers goaltender Jordan Naylor, who turned 21 back in January. “There have been a lot of times this season where myself, and I’m sure a lot of the other 20-year-olds in junior hockey around the world, have been really upset. This opportunity is amazing. You go to sleep at night and this is what you wish for.”
Naylor was one of the top netminders in the BCHL last year, but went into this season without a scholarship. The Aldergove product is confident that the work he has put in at practice and in the gym will show when he gets back into game action.
“Personally, I’ve taken these couple months we’ve had off after the exhibition season to try and be the best me possible,” he said. “I’ve put in a lot of work, so I’m expecting to come out here and, once I get my feet under me in a game scenario, prove that I can make a difference for my team.”
“I feel like it’s a bit of a weird year for the NCAA and a lot of teams are at the end of their seasons, so they’re going to know what they need. I’m hoping some teams are going to need a goalie.”
Prince George Spruce Kings forward Christian Buono is in a similar spot. The 20-year-old from Burnab is entering his third season in the league, coming off two strong campaigns in the league. He was especially productive during his stint in Merritt last season when he produced 25 points in 37 games to finish the year.
He is another 2000-born player who comes into this shortened season still looking for a scholarship.
“I want to go out and show how much I’ve improved on my game the last two years and I want to show off some different aspects of my game,” he said. “I’ve been pretty offensive-minded the past two years, so if it’s going out there and blocking more shots, forechecking harder or hitting harder, that’s what I have to do to try and get that scholarship that I’ve had in the back of my mind for two years now.”