Tough sledding for 16 year olds in junior hockey

Tough sledding for 16 year olds in junior hockey

It’s rare for major junior or junior A teams to play them, and rarer still for them to make an impact

Jacob Bestebroer writes a bi-weekly column in the Chilliwack Progress during the BCHL season.

It’s not easy to make a junior A or major junior hockey roster at 16 years of age.

I make that statement as an opinion but it’s one that can be backed up by the numbers.

Granted, while there are some restrictions on the number of 16 year olds teams can have in some of these leagues, the numbers show that these restrictions aren’t keeping many, if any, 16 year olds from playing at those levels.

The BCHL allows each team to have two sixteen year old players.

A player’s age is determined by what age they are as of December 31 during the season in question. As of right now there are 12 spread out over 17 BCHL teams.

In the Western Hockey League, teams are allowed a maximum of three. On the 22 WHL teams, there are currently 42 players that were born in 2002.

In the Alberta Junior Hockey League, there are 19 on 16 teams.

The 12 team Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League has just two 16 year olds while there are just three on 11 teams in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

Add it all up and it equals 78 sixteen year olds skating on 78 junior hockey teams in Western Canada. In rough numbers approximately just 4.5 per cent of players playing junior A or major junior hockey in Western Canada are 16 years old.

Eliminate major junior and just 2.9 per cent of players in the four western junior A leagues are 16 years old.

The bottom line is you have to be a very good player to crack a junior hockey lineup in western Canada at that age and this season two of them, forward Ethan Bowen and defenseman Brody Gagno, are suiting up for the Chiefs.

Bowen follows in the footsteps of some very talented 16 year old forwards that have worn Chiefs colors over the years. That list includes Jeff Tambellini and Gabe Gauthier in 2000-01 and Nathan Martz in 1997-98.

Tambellini scored 21 goals and added 30 assists in 54 games in his 16 year old season. The following year he led the league in scoring with 117 points.

Gauthier, who had the advantage of playing a full season with the Chiefs as a 15 year old (the rules have since changed, you can’t play full time junior hockey at that age anymore), put up 30 goals and 51 assists in 45 games.

Martz had eight goals and 13 assist in 59 games.

Bowen is off to a good start with three goals and four assists in 10 games.

Two home games for the Chiefs this weekend. Tonight (Friday), the Chiefs host the Coquitlam Express in a battle for first place in the Mainland division.

Both teams had records of 7-3-0-0 prior to Coquitlam’s Wednesday night game against the Surrey Eagles.

It’s been a while since the Express earned a win against the Chiefs. The last time Coquitlam beat the Chiefs was March 6, 2015.

That’s a streak of 27 games during which the best result for the Express was a tie the last time these teams met late last season.

Saturday night the Chiefs host the Wenatchee Wild.

Game time for both games is 7 p.m.