Brad Hunt is the new patron saint of every Maple Ridge kid who needs to beat the odds to play in the NHL.
The Oilers are loaded with young talent at forward, but like Hunt’s poise on the blueline.
“He’s become a very big danger on that power play,” said Oilers coach Dallas Eakins. “The one thing that we’re going to hammer home here, and something that’s going to be a priority on the power play, is that we need to shoot the puck more. It’s totally necessary, and Hunt has that mentality.
“He’s been good five-on-five, he’s been able to break the puck out real well, he’s had, really, very few problems in his own end and he’s played a real solid game,” the coach continued. “He’s brought us an element on the power play that we haven’t had in the past. “
The storybook ride to the NHL is those B.C. boys who are minor hockey studs, drafted into the Western Hockey League to much fanfare, tear it up in major junior, and then appear smiling on television next to an NHL general manager as they pull on their new team’s jersey.
Hunt’s path was a lot less direct, but it has gotten him there. He was a star in the B.C. Hockey League with the Burnaby Express, and parlayed that into a scholarship with NCAA Bemidji State University, where he was a standout.
Just as he was cut by his midget A team in Maple Ridge, Hunt was never drafted – probably because at five-foot-nine he is considered undersized for a defenceman.
But he signed as a free agent, and has put up points through two seasons with NHL farm teams. Hunt, now 26, was in the Vancouver Canucks system, and had 33 points in 65 games with the Chicago Wolves. Last season he was an all-star for the Oklahoma City Barons, improving to 50 points in 66 games, and showing elite shooting and passing skills.
He played three games with the Oilers last season – the proverbial cup of coffee. But for the first time in his career, Hunt is in an NHL club’s plans, right out of training camp.