Calgary Hitmen have a bright future after finishing the season on a high note

With an average age of 17.8, the Calgary Hitmen have a bright future ahead of them

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The Calgary Hitmen finished their season on a high note.

The team finished the season without a playoff appearance, but remained in the race until the end, placing just two points behind the Prince Albert Raiders for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference of the Western Hockey League.

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In a campaign that was considered more of a developmental season, the young team showed that it could still compete for a playoff spot.

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The Hitmen showed great resilience throughout the year, including right at the end when they ended their season with a five-goal second period to erase an early 2-0 deficit en route to defeating the Swift Current Broncos 6-3 at Scotiabank Saddledome on Saturday. .

“We were talking today about being really proud of our season,” head coach Steve Hamilton said.

The final game featured a pair of milestones as center Oliver Tulk scored his 40th goal of the season, marking the first time a Hitmen player has achieved the milestone since Mark Kastelic accomplished the feat in the 2018-2019 season. Tulk also added his 40th assist to cap off his impressive campaign.

Defenseman Carter Yakemchek, who earlier this season set the record for most goals by a defenseman in Hitmen history, added to his total, scoring his 30th of the year to lead all rearguards in goals this season. Yakemchuk, who is eligible for the 2024 NHL Draft, has a chance to be a high pick.

Hamilton was impressed by his two stars this season.

“It was great to see those guys achieve those milestones,” said Hamilton, who believes the team’s future was in sight this season. “Just a lot of really good contributions from the guys throughout the year.”

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Calgary Hitmen vs. Current Fast Broncos
Calgary Hitters Carter Yakemchuk battles Swift Current Broncos Connor Gabriel in WHL first period action at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary on Sunday, December 17, 2023. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia

The Calgary-based team is the youngest in the league, with an average age of just 17.8 years old. The Hitmen showed throughout the season that they can hang with some of the best teams in the WHL despite their youth.

With promising rookies throughout the lineup, the Hitmen appear primed to show improvement next season.

With freshmen Ben Kindel, Reese Hamilton, Chase Valiant and Keets Fawcett showing great potential this season, the team has built a young core that can carry them into the future. Most of the team is also expected to return next season.

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The Hitmen will lose a player when Tyson Greenway plays his final WHL game.

“It’s a tough day on the ice, obviously, considering the last game of my Western League career,” the graduated forward said. “It’s amazing to end my career this season with a win.”

Greenway was acquired by the Hitmen in an October trade with the Tri-City Americans for a 2026 second-round pick. After enjoying his final moments with the Hitmen, Greenway hopes to continue his hockey career.

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“Somehow I have to figure out some school options and just continue with my career,” Greenway said.

Calgary hitmen vs. Spokane bosses
Calgary Hitmen center Tyson Greenway (6) celebrates his goal against the Spokane Chiefs during the third period at the Scotiabank Saddledome on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024. Brent Calver/Postmedios

During his WHL career, Greenway accumulated 99 points in 259 games. Hamilton praised the 21-year-old’s all-round game.

“I think your legacy is sometimes more than goals and assists,” said the coach. “I think Tyson did a great job here.”

Greenway applauded the team’s talent and said that even though the young team had doubts, they showed they could contend with the best teams in the league.

Hamilton said Greenway is a great person and teammate for hanging in there with the younger team.

Even though the coach isn’t looking ahead to next season yet, he knows the future is bright for the Calgary Hitmen.

Kisio receives call to Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame

Kelly Kisio is headed to the Alberta Hockey Hall of Fame.

Kisio played 761 games in the NHL, scoring 229 goals and 429 assists in his career. The Red Deer native then became the general manager of the Hitmen in 1998. In his 18 years with the team, he led the Hitmen to 17 playoff appearances and two WHL championships.

Kisio, who is currently a scout for the Vegas Golden Knights, joins Jarome Iginla, Craig MacTavish, Dave King, Billy Dea, Shannon Szabados and the 2000-2001 Red Deer Rebels in the 2024 class.

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loose discs

Before Saturday’s game, the Calgary Hitmen presented the team’s annual awards. Below are the winners of each award:

  • Player of the year: Oliver Tulk
  • Defense of the year:Carter Yakemchuk
  • Rookie of the Year: Ben Kindel
  • Calgary Hitmen Fan Favorite: Keets Fawcett
  • Humanitarian Award: Ethan Buenaventura and Carson Wetsch
  • School Award: Chase Valliant
  • Three Star Selection Award (awarded to the player who received the most three-star selections this season): Oliver Tulk
  • Top scorer award: Oliver Tulk
  • Coaches Award: Ethan Buenaventura
  • Players’ Choice Award: Ethan Buenaventura
  • Graduation Award 20 years: Tyson Greenway

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