Prep Watch: Hawk eyes

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

The most notable names to come out of Saskatchewan midget hockey tend to be members of the Notre Dame Hounds – not surprising, since the school draws talent from across the nation. But there’s another crew making noise this year with a very different mandate.

Beardy’s Blackhawks is the nation’s only known First Nations-owned and operated midget AAA team and behind the work of center Alex Forsberg, they’re putting their reserve on the map.

The Blackhawks are made up of teens from First Nations communities, non-First Nations (like Forsberg) and Metis.

“Our first emphasis is to find the best First Nations players we can find,” noted coach Dale Grayston.

But the team also draws locals, which is where Forsberg fits in. The elite pivot, who just turned 15, is tearing up the midget circuit with 50 points in 31 games, putting him fourth in the league. Left winger Todd Fiddler, who often plays alongside Forsberg, is tops with 66 points in 30 games. Fiddler is more than a year older than his linemate, but the two make magic together.

“I’m a good playmaker and I score once in a while,” Forsberg noted. “He’s always open and I just find him out there.”

For the coach, Forsberg’s talents are not overlooked.

“It’s his vision,” Grayston said. “He has wide-ice vision. He can make most of his passes and shots dangerous for the opposition.”

And while that’s certainly great for Forsberg’s future, the youngster knows he still has work to do. Because of his age, he will return to the Blackhawks next year and Grayston said he only brought the center up an age level because he believed Forsberg could score 60 points in midget – something the kid is well on his way to doing.

“He gets as much ice time as anyone,” Grayston said. “He excels on the power play and he’s our best centerman on faceoffs.”

At 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, Forsberg could use a little more height, but he’s certainly well on his way to an NHL weight. In the meantime, he’s honing his craft and knows what he needs to work on.

“Probably my speed,” Forsberg said. “That’s a key part of why I moved up (to midget) – both skating speed and thinking speed.”

So far, it’s working out pretty well. Forsberg, whose brother Jesse is a defenseman with the Prince George Cougars, is also leaning towards a future in the Western League, but notes he has a lot of time to decide.

While playing for the Blackhawks, he’s soaking in a unique experience.

“It’s been really good,” Forsberg said. “I get to see a lot of different cultures, including First Nations.”

And despite his youth, Forsberg’s coach sees a player who is willing to be vocal when he sees the need.

“He’s engaging,” Grayston said. “He doesn’t sit back, actually. He initiates a lot of conversation in the dressing room. If he has an opinion, he’s willing to share it and he’s quite insightful.”

For a kid who lists Sidney Crosby and Jarome Iginla as two of his models for on-ice success, it’s probably not surprising Forsberg is a character kid. And the Blackhawks have already seen what he can do when he gets the puck on his stick.

Prep Watch, which features minor hockey players destined to become big names in major junior or the NCAA, appears every second Thursday throughout the season.

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