Fourth year forward Hunter Cloutier said that playing for the Virden Oil Capitals gets better and better.
“Coming back every year, it seems like every year is better then the last,” said the 20-year-old from Winnipeg. “The way the town rallies around the team makes it so fun to play. Being able to play my four seasons with the guys I came into the league with has been great.”
Like Cloutier’s experience with his Manitoba Junior Hockey League team, the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder keeps getting better and better. He went from recording 19 points in 40 games in 2017-2018 to more than doubling that total with 49 in 60 contests the next season. Last season Cloutier posted career highs of 65 points and 29 goals in 55 games.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the 2020-2021 MJHL campaign to be suspended (with a tentative return to hockey activities on Jan. 1), Cloutier was ahead of last year’s points production pace. He has six goals and a league-best 17 points in nine games for a 1.89 points per game average compared to 2019-2020’s 1.18.
“Hunter is a very, very skilled hockey player,” Oil Caps head coach Tyson Ramsey said. “His natural ability is second to none and he is one of those guys who has an innate ability to put the puck in the net. When he competes hard, he is very hard to contain for opposing teams.”
Cloutier has been especially dangerous on the powerplay this season. He is tied for the league lead with seven powerplay points and six assists with the man advantage.
“He is effective because he is a threat to shoot the puck and score or to make a great pass to set up another opportunity to score,” Ramsey said. “If you take his shot away, he is able to see the ice and identify other options.”
While he has long been an important contributor for the Oil Caps, Cloutier continues to work on his game – to not only get better but also to help lead the team. He is one of the squad’s assistant captains.“I’ve really been trying to throw my body around more this year and play a more 200-foot game to show that you can’t take any nights off because every team in the league is capable of beating anyone,” Cloutier said.
Although he has racked up points this season, Cloutier would rather talk about the team success the Oil Caps have had. Virden topped the MJHL standings when the season was paused.
“We have lots of returning guys this year and I think that has helped our team become a close-knit group and that has translated on to the ice,” Cloutier said. “We’re all buying into the systems and playing our roles, which has led to our success so far.”
He is looking to cap his junior career in style. Afterwards, Cloutier would like to go to university on a hockey scholarship. He has not 100 per cent decided on what he would like to study but is currently interested in sports management.
Cloutier will certainly leave the Oil Capitals with great memories – both on and off the ice. During his time on Virden, he has billeted with Karen and Jack Forster.
“There’s not enough nice things I can say about them,” Cloutier said. “They make me want to come back to Virden every year. Them giving me a comfortable environment that feels like a home away from home has meant the world to me. Not only have they helped me succeed on the ice, but they also have off the ice. They’re hands down the best billets anyone could ask for.”