On the cusp of the NHL, and close to home
Two Maple Ridge prospects who have climbed the hockey ladder right up to the penultimate rung will be playing close to their family and friends over the next two weeks.
Brad Hunt is with the Vancouver Canuck’s farm team, and his Chicago Wolves will take on the Abbotsford Heat this weekend, with games on Friday and Saturday nights (starts are 7 p.m.). Family friends and former teammates will be in the sellout crowd.
The next weekend, Victor Bartley’s Milwaukee Admirals will be in Abbotsford.
Both players are offensive defencemen who will attempt to make the NHL by moving the puck – piling up points while not getting burned in their own end.
Hunt was a great junior, his best season being 55 points (16 goals, 39 assists) in 60 games for the Burnaby Bulldogs of the BCHL in the 2007-2008 season. That won him a scholarship to Bemidji State University in Minnesota, where he continued his impressive hockey career. Through four NCAA seasons the ironman played a team record 150 games, and became the school’s top-scoring defenceman of all time with 112 points (24 goals, 88 assists).
He was signed by Chicago on July 24, 2012.
Playing what should be his first full season with the Wolves, he leads all defencemen with 14 points (two goals, 12 assists) in 27 games.
Abbotsford has been good to Hunt – he scored his first professional goal there, on the power play, and added an assist.
Victor Bartley is the top scoring defenceman with the Admirals, farm team of the Nashville Predators. He has 18 points (six goals and 12 assists) in 34 games this year. In addition to his offence, he is the team’s plus-minus leader at plus-7. Bartley’s numbers build on a resume that includes a great rookie season in the AHL – last year he had 39 points in 76 games played.
Bartley was a standout Western Hockey League defenceman who played with the Kamloops Blazers and Regina Pats. He finished his over-age year with the Pats with 46 points (15 goals, 31 assists) in 72 games.
Bartley started his pro career with the ECHL’s Utah Grizzlies, and was an all-star with 23 points (two goals, 21 assists) in 21 games. The parent club New York Islanders promoted him to the AHL Bridgeport Sound Tigers, but he appeared in just eight games before suffering a season-ending triceps injury.
He spent the following season (2010-2011) in Swedish pro hockey with Rogle BK. He was the league’s second highest scoring defenceman with 11 goals and 23 assists.
Following that impressive year, he signed a two-year, entry-level contract with Nashville.
There are other AHL players from Maple Ridge. Brett Sonne is a checking centre with the Peoria Rivermen, while Patrick Wiercioch is with the Birmingham Senators, and has had eight games with the Ottawa Senators. He could take his place on the NHL club’s blueline as the season gets underway, and is sure to get future callups.