The press in Moose Jaw dubbed it “A big signing,” as their hometown WHL Warriors signed Maple Ridge’s six-foot-five, 215-pound defenceman Brandon Armstrong.
The Warriors are going to give Armstrong every chance to make the team this fall, and they told him he just has to take care of his own end of the ice.
“They want me in the big, shutdown defenceman role,” he said.
He has been working his way up. Two seasons ago Armstrong was with the major midget Vancouver Northeast Chiefs, where he put up 21 points and 98 penalty minutes in 40 games. Then last season he jumped up to the Port Moody Panthers of the junior B Pacific Junior Hockey League.
Refs in junior are more lenient toward physical play, and the players are bigger, so it was an adjustment. He put up six goals, 16 points and an even 100 PMs in 35 games.
He was taken by the Warriors in the fifth round of the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, 92nd overall, and now they’ll see if he’s ready.
“It’s obviously a big jump,” Armstrong said, and the team has asked him to work on his foot speed over the summer.
He has been working with his Panthers coach Ron Johnson, lengthening his stride and using his edges.
“Physically, I’m ready. I should be fine. The biggest thing for me is the speed.”
Time is on Armstrong’s side. At 17, he could play four years of major junior.
“My goal is to make it as far as possible,” he said.
His new coach, Tim Hunter, the former NHL gladiator who played with the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks, left an impression on the Ridge teen.
“I think he’s broken his nose a few times,” Armstrong observed.
The Warriors have some spots open on their blueline, with veterans having moved on.
“We believe that he has the ability to be an intimidating presence on the ice with his size,” said general manager Alan Millar. “He plays with an edge and we think that he’s real coachable and he’ll learn a lot through training camp and the early part of the season and he’ll be a big part of our future.”