Brian Drewry/ Times Colonist
SEPTEMBER 7, 2018 10:34 PM
Cam Thompson knows a thing or two about season openers.
He should. He’ll take part in his third B.C. Hockey League one tonight when his Victoria Grizzlies visit Hap Parker Arena to take on the Powell River Kings.
But none have been more important than this one as Thompson, who’ll turn 20 in 12 days, begins his final season of junior hockey, which he hopes to propel into an NCAA Division 1 hockey scholarship in the U.S.
He looks to have all the tools to make that happen.
The six-foot, 180-pound centre/winger is coming off his most productive season with the Grizzlies, including leading the team in scoring in the playoffs with seven goals and three assists in 12 games. That came on the heels of notching 17 goals in 52 games in the regular season.
“I’m excited about the season,” said Thompson, who began his junior career as a 16-year-old with the Peninsula Panthers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.
“Sure, the scholarship thing is in the back of my mind, but I’m just going to go out every game and focus on what I have to do to play well and help the team win.”
And this Grizzlies team is likely to win a lot this year, thanks to a talented top line that includes Thompson, captain and reigning BCHL rookie of the year Alex Newhook and New York Rangers seventh-round draft pick Riley Hughes. The three looked dangerous in the preseason and Thompson expects them to be even better as the season moves along.
“[Alex] and [Riley] are two highly skilled guys who are quick and shoot the puck extremely well so I’m beyond excited to play with those two, and we’ve had some good chemistry already so hopefully we can keep it going,” said Thompson.
Thompson will also be sporting a letter on his jersey for the first time as he joins veterans Ryan Nolan and Carter Berger as assistant captains.
“I’m looking forward to being part of the leadership group here,” added Thompson.
“It’s my third year in this league now and I know what it takes to be a leader in this league. And Alex is a great captain. He’s mature beyond his years so I think we have a great leadership group.”
Both Thompson and Newhook know this won’t be your everyday season opener. Not after the Grizzlies and Kings played a heated second-round playoff series last spring that saw the Kings end the Grizzlies’ season.
“Oh, this will be a very intense game, right off the bat,” said Newhook, who is committed to Boston College of the NCAA for next season and is expected to be a first-round pick in next spring’s NHL draft in Vancouver.
“Both teams will be highly motivated. We’ll be looking to get some revenge on them from last season, and for them, it’s their home opener so there’ll be a lot of energy in the building so it’s going to be a fun one.”
And Newhook, who finished eighth in league scoring last season with 66 points in 45 games, says there’s no sense easing into things.
“I think it’s good to have a game in Powell River right at the start. We have a good rivalry which makes the games fun and the early road trip allows the team to bond a little more, so we’re all looking forward to it.”
Following tonight’s game, the Grizzlies return home to prepare for next Friday’s game in Alberni Valley and next Saturday’s home opener when the top-ranked Penticton Vees visit The Q Centre.