Dylan Kuczek suffered a season-ending shoulder injury. (FILE PHOTO)
With his injured shoulder nearing 100 per cent, Dylan Kuczek is looking forward to getting back in camp with the Brandon Wheat Kings next season.
The 18-year-old Winnipegger had his rookie season come to an early end after injuring the AC joint in his shoulder in February. It was the second straight season Kuczek had suffered the same injury, so after remaining here for his initial recovery, he was sent home by the club late in the season to continue his rehab.
"Instead of worrying about travelling and what the guys were doing, I was rehabbing my shoulder so I can be back on the ice as soon as possible," Kuczek said.
It was a frustrating way to finish a frustrating season for Kuczek. The burly 6-foot-1, 212-pound defenceman, who was a second-round pick in the 2009 Western Hockey League Bantam Draft, played just 33 games, many of them at left wing due to Brandon’s injuries up front.
Kuczek also missed out on the team’s playoff run, although he was at the MTS Centre to see the Wheat Kings’ three first-round games against the Calgary Hitmen in Winnipeg.
"It was tough to hear about it and not be able to see it, but I was doing what was right for my shoulder," Kuczek said. "… It was tough, but nothing I could do about it, really."
Now Kuczek is focused on re-establishing himself on Brandon’s crowded blue-line, where seven players are eligible to return, including late-season call-up Colton Waltz.
Kuczek said that’s going to take a new commitment to off-season training.
"I know what I have to do and last year I didn’t really do that," he said.
"I’m gonna work a lot harder than I did last year and hopefully get a chance at playing some hockey next year."
AROUND THE WHL: The WHL reports that this year’s final, won by the Edmonton Oil Kings over the Portland Winterhawks, had the highest attendance of any series in league history, with an average of 10,660 fans per night, peaking with 12,514 in Edmonton for the Oil Kings’ Game 7 victory … Edmonton D Mark Pysyk was the final WHL player of the week of the season, picking up a goal and two assists in four games last week to help the Oil Kings win their first Ed Chynoweth Cup … Medicine Hat and Seattle traded size for speed last week, with the Thunderbirds acquiring 5-foot-9, 148-pound LW Riley Sheen, who had a goal and two assists as a 17-year-old last season, while the Tigers receive rugged RW Jacoby Doty, a 6-foot-3, 223-pounder who had 107 penalty minutes as an 18-year-old … Tri-City has announced that LW Nathan MacMaster will not return to the team as an overager next season.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition May 16, 2012