With the trade of Colin Bernard to the Langley Rivermen last week, the lone returnee on the 2017-18 Chilliwack Chiefs defence is 17 year old Powell Connor.
Surrounded by new faces on a team with Royal Bank Cup aspirations, the teenager is ready to build on a solid rookie year and step up as a leader.
“Seeing Colin get traded was a little bit of a surprise and I don’t think anyone was expecting it,” Connor admitted. “I wish him all the best, but as a team we’re just going to move on and keep working hard because it’s a big year.
“He was a big piece of our team last year so guys will definitely have to step up to replace him.”
Only Sean McCloskey, by 49 days, is younger than Connor on the Chiefs D.
But Connor has 51 regular season games under his belt.
Twenty year old Bryan Allbee is next with 20.
Add the 23 games Connor played in last season’s BCHL playoffs, plus a handful more at the Western Canada Cup, and the Vernon native is experienced beyond his years.
“I think I have experience in big situations and that’s given me the ability to stay calm when the games get bigger,” Connor reasoned. “I can help the younger guys, and the new guys, to get through those situations.
“This time last year I was looking up to the older guys, following them and taking more of a back seat, where this year I’ve taken what I’ve learned and helped to teach the new guys.”
On bchl.ca Connor is listed at six-foot-one and 179 pounds, which makes him the same height and a little bit lighter than 18 year old Matt Slick and 19 year old Luke Albert.
On the ice, No. 27 looks big.
In last year’s playoffs he stood out as a physical force, delivering one or more crushing hits each night. Players venturing down his side of the ice had to be wary of being plastered against the boards.
“I’d say I probably have the reputation of a guy who’s not overly liked throughout the league,” Connor said. “I play hard between the whistles and if guys don’t like me, then that’s their problem.”
Connor picked up three goals and 16 points in the regular season last year and two goals and three points in the playoffs.
Offensive production isn’t something he worries about.
A defensive D-man first, he’s focused on making life easy for goaltenders Mathieu Caron and Daniel Chenard.
“It’s going to take time for our new group to come together, but I think we should gel pretty quick,” Connor said. “My personal goals are to be a leader, play the best hockey I can and hopefully get a scholarship at the end of it.”
“Those are my goals.”
— Connor and company had a rough start to the season, yielding 13 goals in two games vs Prince George last weekend.
They tied the Spruce Kings 5-5 on Friday and lost 8-2 on Saturday.
This weekend brings a home and home versus the Langley Rivermen, who the Chiefs blanked 3-0 in the preseason.
Chilliwack hosts Langley Friday night at Prospera Centre, with a 7 p.m. start and they visit the Rivermen Saturday.