Though the playoffs are still in full swing, the Chilliwack Chiefs are looking to the future.
The junior A team added a big piece to next year’s roster, inking defenceman Austin Chorney.
The 15 year old will make the jump from Yale’s prep hockey academy — the latest in a lengthy list of Lion recruits.
“There’s a few other guys on my team who are affiliated with the Chiefs, and Chilliwack’s where a bunch of them want to play when they’re older,” Chorney said. “The Chiefs are a good organization to play at the next level.”
Described by head coach Jason Tatarnic as smart, physical and possessing an all-round game, Chorney was a second round (29th overall) of the Moose Jaw Warriors in the 2015 Western Hockey League bantam draft.
He finished second among D-men in high school league scoring with 10 goals and 19 assists in 36 games, hinting at some serious offensive chops.
“I thought I played pretty well and produced pretty well,” Chorney said of his just-concluded high school season.
Chorney got his feet wet in five regular season games with Chilliwack. He picked up two assists and some valuable experience.
“It’s a fast league where the puck’s got to be on and off your stick real quick,” Chorney said. “It’s definitely different than midget. The guys are bigger and more aggressive and you have to keep your head up a lot more.”
Among the many Yale Lions who’ve joined the Chiefs since Tatarnic arrived is Dennis Cholowski.
The Langley native helped Yale win the inaugural Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) Elite 15s Division Championship before joining the Chiefs for the 2014-15 season.
Two years later he’s on the cusp of becoming a high-round National Hockey League draft pick and moving on to St. Cloud University.
Not a bad path for a young player to follow.
“He’s really smart, obviously, and he is so calm and has so much poise with the puck,” Chorney observed. “He’s a very good player who’s developed really well in Chilliwack.”
That said, the teenager side-stepped comparisons to Cholowski, stylistically or otherwise.
“We’re not the same kind of player,” said Chorney, who may end up bringing more physicality than Cholowski. “I think I’m a little bigger than he was when he was my age, but he’s got that experience and poise that I don’t have yet.”
The Chiefs list Chorney at six feet tall, weighing 208 pounds and he feels he’ll be OK playing full-time against players four years older than he is.
“I played those five games, and I’ve also gone to camps where I’m one of the youngest guys, so it’s something I’m not new to,” he said. “I’m not too worried about that.”
How long will he be in Chilliwack?
Chorney said he’ll go year to year and see where he’s at after next season. The WHL route remains very much in play, as it did for Chilliwack native and ex-Chief Ryan Bowen.
“The biggest adjustment this year coming from midget to junior will be the schedule,” he said, when asked what he’ll be working on. “You play a lot more games and I’ll have to learn how to push through that, I guess. Being consistent through the long schedule will be a challenge.”
l Chorney has impressive athletic lineage in his immediate family.
Father Terris won a Grey Cup championship in 1993 with the Canadian Football League’s Edmonton Eskimos.
He played at a big-time NCAA program, making Nebraska as a walk-on and helping the Cornhuskers to three Big 8 Championships and appearances in three Orange Bowls, a Fiesta Bowl and a Citrus Bowl.