You can find some gems at the biggest Midget hockey tournament in Canada.
Quinn Sproule, a first-year defenceman with the Okotoks Junior A Oilers, had his stock shoot up considerably after his performance with the UFA Midget AAA Bisons at the Mac’s Midget Hockey tournament last December.
He caught the eye of Oilers’ director of scouting Jay Magnussen.
“I was named a second-team all-star at the Mac’s,” the 18-year-old Sproule said. “The Oilers saw me there and I talked to Jay and Dan (Oilers coach-GM Dan MacDonald) afterwards and that’s where it started.”
The UFA Bisons lost in the semifinals at last year’s Mac’s tournament. Oiler forward Corban Knight, who also played for the Bisons last year, was named the Mac’s MVP last season.
Sproule was approached by teams from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League — one of which wanted him to join the club right away. However, the Okotoks Oilers fit his plans for the future.
“I didn’t want to lose my eligibility for a U.S. scholarship (by playing major junior),” Sproule said. “Okotoks also showed more interest in me and it’s been a good fit.”
So far, Sproule has fit in nicely wherever the Oilers have put him. He had been playing forward until three weeks ago sometimes as a member of the Bison line with Knight and Brandon Hoogenboom.
He is now partnered with with Nicholas Bell on the blueline.
“We have some good chemistry going — we seem to know where each other is going to be,” Sproule said of his partner. “I would say I am an offensive-defenceman for sure. I like to move the puck.
“But Dan has worked with me on my play in my own end and I think I have improved it a lot. I’m finishing the body and stuff, so it’s good to have that aspect of the game too.”
Sproule has nine goals and 14 assists in 40 games with the Oilers.
He admits playing a 62-game schedule in the Alberta Junior Hockey League is an adjustment, but it is a challenge he feels he is up too.
He said coach Dan MacDonald has a good plan in place to keep the first-year players fit for the longer season.
“Dan and our coaching staff has done a good job of giving us a day off, but making sure we are in good shape,” Sproule said, “but it will be nice to have the Christmas break.”
MacDonald said while the Mac’s might have been the first time they had talked to Sproule, he was on the team’s radar prior to the tourney.
MacDonald said Sproule’s been the ultimate team player willing to play both forward and defence.
“Some guys might say: ‘There are scouts out there and I’m a defenceman, I don’t want to play forward, but he plays where we need him,” MacDonald said.
Sproule’s versatility is a benefit, particularly when the team has plenty of injuries or players in the penalty box, he said.
By Bruce Campbell
Sports Editor, Western Wheel