Holding onto Faith after a tough season

Kootenay Ice defenceman eligible for NHL draft, but missed most of last season due to injury.

Kootenay Ice defenceman Tanner Faith is NHL draft-eligible this year

Kootenay Ice defenceman Tanner Faith is NHL draft-eligible this year

After undergoing shoulder surgery in January, Tanner Faith was given the option to go home to Saskatchewan or stay and rehab with the team.

The Kootenay Ice defenceman elected to remain in Cranbrook.

“I live in Wilcox, and there are only 300 people there,” said Faith, in an interview after exit meetings with the team. “I’d rather be here, I guess.”

It’s hard not to feel for the 18-year-old blueliner, who only suited up 10 times in a 72-game schedule for the Ice last season after injuring his shoulder early in the campaign.

“I  got to watch a lot and see other teams play and see us play,” said Faith. “I guess learning from the stands is a different perspective on the game, so I take that out of it.

“I just try to be as positive as I can.”

In just his seventh game of the 2013/14 campaign, Faith went awkwardly into the end boards during a tilt against the Seattle Thunderbirds.

He missed the next 21 games—a month and a half—before getting back into action. Three games later, during a contest against the Vancouver Giants at the Pacific Coliseum, he went down again in another collision.

It’s especially frustrating, considering this is his first year of NHL draft eligibility.

Faith, in his sophomore year with the club, gained a lot of attention after being paired up with team captain Joey Leach in the latter half of the 2012/13 season.

Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill said Faith learned a lot under Leach, which helped develop the confidence to play and excel in the WHL.

“His confidence level last year, from Christmas to the end of the year, was tremendous,” said McGill. “We were very excited for him to come in this year and he got hurt early, and it was unfortunate—nothing we could do about it.”

Faith’s performance was enough to make scouts take notice, and he billed as a prospect to watch by the Central Scouting bureau for for the following year.

Unfortunately, the injuries put a damper on that.

However, Central Scouting has kept Faith on the list as a prospect under the Limited Viewing category.

“It’s obviously nice to see myself show up on the list after only playing 10 games this year,” said Faith, “so it’s only limited viewing, but it gives me a bit of confidence and something to look forward to.”

While he hasn’t had a lot of opportunity to develop the offensive side of his game, he isn’t afraid to use his size to play a physical, shutdown role.

McGill isn’t surprised that NHL scouts have been eyeing up Faith.

“He’s got terrific size and with his terrific size comes really good skating ability and I think that’s one of the biggest things they really like. His skill level, his passing, is good,” McGill said.

“Obviously, every defenceman needs to learn how to read the rush properly and make those right reads, and that will come with maturity and with games and playing more.”

The Ice head coach admits his defenceman has a lot of upside.

“He has a lot of tools,” McGill said. “The biggest thing for him is to stay healthy, and the biggest words out of scouts’ mouths—and even out of our mouths here—is he has all the potential to be a good player.”