Sure, Peter Quenneville scored in his first Western Hockey League game, but it took a month to see what he really had to offer the Brandon Wheat Kings.
<t-3.6>The Wheat Kings made a splash by adding the Columbus Blue Jackets prospect in a November trade with the Prince George Cougars after the
19-year-old from Edmonton opted to leave behind an NCAA Division I scholarship to join his younger brother, John, in Brandon. The elder Quenneville had all the credentials to suggest he could be an impact player for the Wheat Kings, with an Alberta Junior Hockey League MVP award and a United States Hockey League title to his credit before getting off to a strong start with one of the NCAA’s top programs this season at Quinnipiac University.<t$>
Although he showed plenty of potential, it took some time for Quenneville to really get his feet under him in the WHL. Through his first month in the league, the 5-foot-11, 185-pound right-winger had a respectable five goals and six assists in 14 games, but also a ghastly plus/minus rating of -15.
"As a player I’ve always been productive offensively, and early on here, I just had some struggles with confidence and things weren’t going that well," Quenneville said. "At times I put too much pressure on myself to produce, and I think now that I’ve relaxed and kind of just got back to basics and started to play my game, I think my confidence has grown and I’ve started to play how I expected to."
Since that first month in the league, Quenneville has gone on to produce six goals and nine assists in his last nine contests — along with a +6 rating — and he was named the Wheat Kings’ player of the month for December. He’s kept up his pace after coming back from the Christmas break, with points in all six games since returning, posting three goals and seven assists going into tonight’s game against the Red Deer Rebels.
"We thought that he would have a lot to offer our team, but any player coming to a new league, there’s a transition to get used to all that goes with it, whether that’s the travel, different players, everything else like that," Wheat Kings head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon said. "And I think the other thing that nagged Pete a little bit when he came here (is) he came here with an ankle injury, and I think he’s got healthier, he’s got more used to the league. I think he’s really a guy that has a lot of poise and a good offensive mind and he’s helped our team a great deal."
Chosen by Columbus in the seventh round of this year’s National Hockey League draft, Quenneville believes he has a lot to gain by testing himself against the elite 18- and 19-year-old drafted players that the WHL has to offer. Already up to seventh in team scoring with 11 goals and 15 assists despite playing only 23 of Brandon’s 41 games, he said he’s come back from the break focused not only on his own improvement, but on helping the fifth-place Wheat Kings (21-16-4-0) continue to work their way up the Eastern Conference standings.
"We’re poised to make a push here," he said. "Our conference is really close and I need to be the best I can be in helping the team move up the conference."
ONE-TIMERS: D Ryan Pulock (three goals, three assists) is also on a six-game point-scoring streak for Brandon … The Wheat Kings have their full roster back in Brandon, with the return of LW Jesse Gabrielle and LW Braylon Shmyr back from the World Under-17 Challenge in Nova Scotia.