Tanner Kaspick skates up ice for the Brandon Midget AAA Wheat Kings Sunday. (TIM SMITH/BRANDON SUN)
It hasn’t taken long for Tanner Kaspick to make an impact on the Brandon Midget AAA Wheat Kings this season.
Through his first seven games with the midget club, the 5-foot-10, 173-pound rookie forward has scored one goal, recorded seven assists and is centering Brandon’s top line that also includes Brandon Switzer — who’s second in the Manitoba AAA Midget Hockey League scoring with 13 points — and WHL prospect Tyler Coulter. The young Kaspick is also on the Wheat Kings’ first power-play and penalty-killing units.
What makes Kaspick’s debut even more impressive is he’s an underage player. The 14-year-old received special permission from Hockey Manitoba before the season to move up from the bantam ranks this season and it has quickly become apparent that he fits right in.
"What it is (that’s so impressive) is how responsible he can be for such a young guy in all three zones of the rink," Midget Wheat Kings head coach Ken Schneider said. "He’s our leader in winning faceoffs, he’s really good in his own end at defending and he’s really strong on the wall in the corner. It applies itself to both ends of the rink.
"On offence, he manages the puck well and he’s good at using his teammates and then in his own zone he’s tough to play against because he’s strong and he positions himself well to defend."
Kaspick hadn’t thought about moving up to the midget level until his bantam head coach from last season approached him with the idea. Kaspick liked the chance to move up a level one year early as it would give him a chance to play with his older brother, Jordan, and a lot of his teammates from last year’s Bantam AAA squad.
There was also a precedent for the move. Wawanesa’s Jordan Thomson joined the Southwest Cougars as an underaged player two seasons ago when he was 14 and Thomas Lenchyshyn did the same with the Eastman Selects last season.
Kaspick, who was named the Manitoba AAA league’s West Division player of the week on Monday (one goal, five assists), submitted an application to Hockey Manitoba that was backed by local hockey people and it was approved. While the young forward expected to feel at home with a lot of familiar faces with the midget team, he didn’t expect to be playing such an integral role with the Wheat Kings right off the bat.
"I didn’t really know coming in to tryouts. I just knew I needed to work as hard as I could to see where I could get," he said. "(I didn’t expect this role) this early. I’ve been working hard though and things are just going my way now."
Schneider said Kaspick has earned every bit of ice time he has had so far with the Wheat Kings and believes he’ll be able to maintain his roles on the team all season. Schneider also thinks that playing against bigger, stronger players this season may lead to more junior hockey scouts coming out to watch Kaspick, since he’s eligible to be selected in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft.
History is on Kaspick’s side for being selected fairly early in the draft — Thomson and Lenchyshyn were both first-round picks in their draft years — but that’s not something he is focused on right now. Instead, Kaspick just wants to play his game and not become a distraction for what he and his teammates want to accomplish on the ice this season.
"I’m trying not to think about that," he said. "I’m thinking about the team and trying to do whatever I can to help the team win."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 23, 2012