Brian Drewry / Times Colonist
JULY 26, 2019 09:57 PM
It was a summer full of options for Michael Hoekstra, but when there’s “one of the best Junior A franchises” in your own backyard and you have a chance to live at home and graduate with your friends, it was “really a no-brainer.”
So the former South Island Royals major midget star put pen to paper this week and signed with the B.C. Hockey League’s Victoria Grizzlies.
Hoekstra, who’ll turn 17 next week, was selected by the Prince George Cougars in the 2017 Western Hockey League bantam draft, but it’s college hockey and an NCAA scholarship that are in his sights now.
“A chance to play with a great organization like the Grizzlies, who have produced NHL draft picks and NCAA players, was just too good to pass up,” said Hoekstra, who will enter Grade 12 at Spectrum Community School in September.
“And then to live at home and go to a familiar school, it all just made sense that the Grizzlies was the ideal team to play for and develop my game for the next level.”
The Grizzlies are getting a six-foot-two, 175-pound winger who scored 11 goals and 23 assists in 40 games in the B.C. Major Midget Hockey League last season. And Hoekstra even held his own in his first taste of the junior hockey, suiting up for four regular-season and eight playoff games with the Saanich Braves of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League.
“Mike is a young player who we think will develop into a very good power forward in our league,” said Grizzlies general manager and head coach Craig Didmon, whose club opens training camp Aug. 19 at Juan de Fuca Arena.
“He’s got size, skill and skates very well, and he’ll be draft eligible for the NHL next summer and we think we can help him develop toward that next step.”
Hoekstra is no stranger to the Grizzlies family either.
“I know [veteran] Marty [Westhaver] and his brothers and am friends with the family so that’ll make the transition a little easier,” said Hoekstra.
“I think I can bring a strong two-way game to the Grizzlies and I like to play the body as well so I’m just going to focus on improving every game out and working toward getting an NCAA scholarship.”
Didmon has had a busy last week. He just returned from Anaheim, California, where he oversaw a prospects camp for the the BCHL team and the results were a success.
Forward Ben Biester will be coming north from the Anaheim Junior Ducks program where the 18-year-old, six-foot, 185-pound winger scored 19 goals and added 13 assists in 30 games for the Junior Ducks last season.
“Ben was head and shoulders above the rest at the camp so we invited him to come up here to our camp and prove he can be a top player in our league, and we think he can,” added Didmon.
LOOSE PUCKS: The Grizzlies’ preseason schedule was finalized recently. They will play a home-and-home set with the Nanaimo Clippers with the first game Aug. 23 at Juan de Fuca Arena and second game Aug. 24 at Frank Crane Arena in Nanaimo. On Aug. 30 the Grizzlies will travel to the Cowichan Community Centre to take on the Capitals, and on Aug. 31 the Grizzlies and Capitals will head to Sooke’s Seaparc Arena for a 2 p.m. game.
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