Young Ice forwards motivated for new season

Battling through off-season adversity, Jaedon Descheneau and Collin Shirley have something to prove.

Kootenay Ice forward Collin Shirley (blue) bears down on the forecheck during a scrimmage between Team Blue and Team Black at Western Financial Place on Thursday evening.

Kootenay Ice forward Collin Shirley (blue) bears down on the forecheck during a scrimmage between Team Blue and Team Black at Western Financial Place on Thursday evening.

It’s something he’s heard his whole life, however, Jaedon Descheneau’s height, or lack thereof, isn’t stopping him from having success out on the ice.

“I’ve ignored it, it’s not a huge deal,” said Descheneau. “It’s reality—I’m not going to be 6’4”. I just play the way I play and I think being small helps the way I play.”

Shortened stature hasn’t been a problem for NHL players such as Brian Gionta, Patrick Kane and Martin St. Louis—the latter being the reigning Art Ross Trophy winner who put up a league-high 60 points in the lockout shortened season.

Descheneau, a diminutive 5’8” forward, tallied 78 points last year, including 30 goals and formulated Kootenay’s most dangerous offensive unit while paired up with Sam Reinhart.

Eligible for the 2013 NHL Draft, the young 18-year-old heard his teammate’s name—Mackenzie Skapski—called during the event last June, but not his own.

While it was disappointing not to get picked up by a pro team, Descheneau is more concerned with keeping up his offensive production with the Ice as a new WHL season gets underway.

“I’ve proved to people that I’m not too small or anything like that, and that I can play at that level, and going forward from here, I’m going to see what happens next year in the draft, but the draft’s not a huge deal for me right now.

“I’m just looking forward to the season that we’re going to have in Kootenay and I think we’re going to do special things here.”

Even as a returning veteran, Descheneau is still approaching camp the same way he did when he first arrived in Cranbrook three years ago.

“I still gotta play like I’m not on the team and do what I can do and help the the younger guys who’ve never been to camp before and try to keep them playing well,” he said.

Emerging as one of Kootenay’s top point producers second only to Reinhart, Descheneau knows he’s going to be responsible for putting pucks into nets.

“That’s what I like to do, score goals obviously, just like everyone, and I think I’ve been like that my whole life,” Descheneau said. “It’s nice to be recognized as that type of player right off the bat this year and I hope I can succeed in my expectations.”

Like Descheneau, fellow Kootenay Ice forward Collin Shirley had to deal with his own form of adversity over the summer when he was cut by Team Canada’s U18 squad that competed in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament in the Czech Republic.

Shirley was invited to camp, along with 42 of Canada’s best U18 players, and posted a goal and an assist in three intrasquad scrimmages, however, he was released at the end of the four-day process.

“It was obviously disappointing, getting cut, I thought I had a good camp, but they made good decisions as they did, winning the tournament,” said Shirley. “It’s obviously something I wanted to do, but coming back here and having that tryout under my belt, I’m going to take it as motivation and keep moving forward.”

While getting released wasn’t a part of his plans for the trip to Toronto, he’s still grateful for the chance tot compete with the best of Canada’s young talent.

“Tons of good players—some of the skill sets were unbelievable and the physical play, too, was just nothing like I’d ever seen before,” Shirley said.

In his rookie season last year, Shirley posted 23 points, including nine goals, but his attitude towards a new year and new training camp hasn’t changed.

“You got to work your way back on the team,” Shirley said. “Nobody’s spot is safe here, so you got to come into camp, work your bag off all summer, be ready to go and act like you don’t have a spot.”

CAMP NOTES: Hudson Elynuik skated in a Team White practice, but did not play in any scrimmages. Team Black romped 7-2 over Team White in the first scrimmage. Sam Reinhart and 1998-born Drew Warkentine both scored twice, as fellow ‘98 goalie prospect Declan Hobbs was thrown to the wolves. Team Black repeated in the second scrimmage, downing Team Blue by the same 7-2 score.  Though he’s only a ‘98 prospect, Winnipeger Vince Loschiavo is consistently finding the back of the net in almost every scrimmage.