Sports

Unexpected star leads Chiefs offence

Josh Hansen (right) has been the offensive surprise of the year in the BCHL, leading the league in goals with 15. The Chilliwack native’s career high heading into the season was 12.  - JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS
Josh Hansen (right) has been the offensive surprise of the year in the BCHL, leading the league in goals with 15. The Chilliwack native’s career high heading into the season was 12.
— image credit: JENNA HAUCK/ PROGRESS

Josh Hansen, scoring star.

Let’s be honest now.

Did anyone see that coming?

Sure, we all loved the Chilliwack kid’s game — his work as a penalty killer, as a leader, as a gritty get-in-on-the-forecheck kind of guy.

But with a grand total of 21 goals in 113 regular season BCHL games coming into this season, the idea that the 20-year-old would suddenly become an offensive force, well...

“I kind of thought it might be in me, and it was waiting for the right opportunity,” Hansen said after Tuesday’s practise. “I was always the defensive penalty killer. Now, I’m getting chances on the power play and I’m saying after every game, ‘I want to stay here.’ I’m trying to make the best of it and I feel like I have.”

He certainly has.

Hansen’s career high coming into this year was 12 goals, scored last season in 58 games.

He blew past that in just 16 games this year, and currently leads the league with 15 goals in 18 games.

For the record, that’s a 50 goal pace.

“I try not to think about that because it’s so early in the season,” Hansen said. “A lot of credit goes to my linemates. I just try to get to the right spot at the right time, and they seem to get me the puck.”

Hansen has indeed been blessed with great linemates.

Offseason acquisition Austin Plevy has more than replaced the offensive production of the man he was traded for (Derek Huisman). Through 18 games, the Langley native has 11 goals and 23 points.

“He gets the puck down low, to the dirty areas where it needs to be,” Hansen said. “He forechecks hard, sees the ice so well and has a great shot. Just so talented.”

Luke Esposito hasn’t played like the BCHL rookie he is.

The Connecticut kid leads the league in assists, and with 24 points he sits second to Penticton’s Wade Murphy in the BCHL scoring race.

“He’s so solid on the puck and he’s obviously a great playmaker,” Hansen said. “I’ve always wanted to play with guys like that and getting the opportunity this year has been great.”

If Hansen had his way, he’d probably issue 100 per cent of the credit to Plevy and Esposito, but that would be selling short the work he did over the summer. Hansen spent the offseason training under the watch of Chiefs strength and conditioning guru Paul Nicolls, and the results are obvious. Not only is he stronger on the boards, his footspeed has improved remarkably.

Several times this season, Hansen has been seen pulling away from pursuing defenders.

“I always considered myself a good skater, just not very explosive,” Hansen said. “Paul worked a lot with me to develop that and I think it’s helped.”

Hansen doesn’t have the dangling ability of his uber-skilled buddies, but the veteran complements them so well with what he does. He is adept at going to the net and getting those ‘garbage goals’ that coach Harvey Smyl loves so much.

All coaches love Hansonish players, and it’s no coincidence that his offensive surge has resulted in more attention from collegiate talent evaluators.

Hansen still hasn’t committed to a scholarship opportunity, which makes his goal-scoring binge particularly well timed.

“I’ve never really talked to any schools up until this year, and now I am,” he said. “It’s different and good, because I definitely want to play hockey after this season is over.”

Hansen and his Chiefs are on home ice Saturday night at 7 p.m., hosting the Penticton Vees at Prospera Centre. Chilliwack beat the Vees 4-1 in Penticton last weekend, but they’ll be without Plevy and defenceman Cooper Rush this time.

Both are taking part in a prospect showcase game as part of the World Junior A Challenge in Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

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