Elkhorn’s Layne Toder was happy to be playing postseason hockey once again.
In his 16-year-old season, the son of Jolene and Curtis Toder helped the Portage Terriers claim the 2017 Manitoba Junior Hockey League championship. The next season he moved up to the major junior ranks and his Calgary Hitmen were unable to make the playoffs. This past winter Toder, who turned 19 in January, played an important role as a two-way defenceman and leader as the Hitmen upset Lethbridge in the Western Hockey League first round and fell to the Edmonton Oil Kings in the second.
“I enjoyed being able to experience playoffs in the Western Hockey League and to go on a run with a great group of guys,” Toder said.
Hitmen assistant coach Trent Cassan, who runs the team’s blueline, said Toder provided playoff experience on the backend from his time in the MJHL. In nine WHL postseason games, Toder had three assists.
“For us, in the playoffs, he was really good against Lethbridge. They have a lot of top end forwards and he did a really good job shutting those guys down,” said Cassan of Toder, who was banged up late in the Hitmen’s playoff run.
The loss to the Oil Kings brought an end to a strong second WHL season by Toder. He collected 13 points, with two goals, in 67 games to top the 10 points he posted last season.
“This year I thought I improved by taking my role as a leader on the team - being able to play against the other team’s top players and playing crucial minutes,” Toder said.
Cassan said Toder’s confidence really grew in the second half of this past season. A smart player who can contribute offensively, Toder is reliable and is very strong defensively, Cassan said. The assistant coach explained that the 5-foot-11, 186-pounder does not allow a lot of space and is physical.
“I think he really enjoys being just a difficult player to play against. … He is super competitive, but he plays with good discipline,” Cassan said.
The Hitmen assistant coach said Toder is a “very important piece” for the Hitmen. That includes off the ice where Cassan described him as a quality person who treats teammates with respect, works extremely hard, and is popular among the Hitmen.
A former Yellowhead Chiefs bantam and midget AAA player, Toder appreciates all his family has done for his hockey career.
“My family has always been a big supporter of my hockey career and I wouldn’t be able to do it or be where I am without them,” said Toder, brother to Chance and Logan. “My mom has spent many hours driving me over the years and now comes up to Calgary to watch me play. I’m very thankful for all her support.”
After a long season thanks to the playoff run, Toder planned to take a couple weeks off before training both on and off the ice. His main focus this summer will be on his speed and shot. Toder is excited to go back to the Hitmen in the fall.
“I am looking forward to being a part of that group again and to be able to experience another playoff run with them,” he said. “I hope to take an even bigger leadership role during my third year.”