At the tail end of solid rookie seasons, Virden Oil Capitals Sam Brunton and Nathan McInnis are excited for their first Manitoba Junior Hockey League playoffs.
“I’m looking forward to some high pace hockey,” Brunton said.
Brunton, a forward from Dryden. Ont., and Swift Current’s McInnis, a defenceman, are two of Virden’s nine first-year players. Head coach Tyson Ramsey said the squad’s rookies have been tremendous.
“This league can be tough to break into and our guys have been put in situations all year that they can learn from and they certainly have taken that and ran with it. Particularly our young defence,” he said. “They have been able to take on minutes that they maybe wouldn’t see on older teams, so it certainly has forced them to learn by doing. We are real happy with our young guys and look forward to seeing their development over the summer and into next year.”
Brunton, who recently turned 19, had two goals and four points in 35 games through Sunday. He has regularly played on a line with fellow rookie Colin Cook and 20-year-old veteran Jaxon Heeney. Ramsey said that Brunton is unique.
“He works hard everyday to improve his game and we really feel like he adds a little bit of everything to our group,” the coach said. “He can play physical and gritty and play in a checking role, but also has enough skill to play with some of our top guys. He has a very quick release on his shot and I think he understands that playing a limited role he needs to work hard on and off the ice to get his game to a place where he is going to be an everyday guy next year. We certainly are excited about the future here for Sam.”
McInnis has often been paired with fellow rookie Jackson Orr. Through 27 appearances, McInnis had a goal and five points.
“Nathan is a steady stay-at-home guy that is good with his stick and competes hard in his own end of the rink,” Ramsey said. “He sticks to structure and works hard to get better everyday. At just 18, we are excited to see how he develops into next year.”
Brunton billets with Janice Nylin, while McInnis is with Daren, Roanne, Kayla, Bryce, and Kenna Bryant. The players are enjoying their first seasons with the Oil Caps.
“I like the great facility along with the awesome support from the community,” McInnis said. “As well as playing with a great group of guys.”