Lakers announce five players returning next season

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

Over the course of the last week, the Fort Frances Lakers have announced the return of five players from last season’s team with more still likely to come.

“We are lucky to have up to 15 players coming back from last season,” said general manager Luke Judson. “Obviously we are looking to make improvements from last season, but we are excited about our returning players and what they bring.”

So far, returning for next season are forwards Trever Sanderson, Ryker Watt, and Nolan Rideout. On the blue line, Fort Frances local Darnell Kempf makes a return to the hometown squad along with Josh Greene.

Defenceman Josh Greene (#5) is one of several players confirmed to be returning to the Fort Frances Lakers for the upcoming 2023-24 season, according to team GM Luke Judson. – File photo

In 23 games with the Lakers last year, Sanderson posted six goals and 11 assists for 17 points total. Before joining the Lakers, the 6-foot Prince Albert, SK native posted three goals and 10 assists with the Red Lake Miners. For a total of 30 points over 42 games played in the 2022-23 season.

Watt was the Lakers’ leading scorer last season, potting 24 goals and 19 assists for 43 points in 48 games played. The 6’2″ forward from Weyburn, SK will look to build on that next season.

Rideout made his name with the Lakers playing on the penalty kill. The Flin Flon, MB product had three assists in 48 games played and will look to build on last year’s success with the team.

A former Fort Frances High School Muskie, Kempf played in 44 games last season and was named the team’s most improved player. Kempf also contributed to the offense adding three goals and nine assists for a 12 point total from the blue line.

6’1″ defender Josh Green joined the Lakers after 11 games with the Dryden GM Ice Dogs. The Pullman, Washington, USA product posted two goals and four assists with the Lakers for a six point total with another two goals and three assists for five points with the Ice Dogs.

The Lakers are continuing to build their roster from last year and hope to move up in the SIJHL standings. Judson is working to bring back other players as well as finding new hands to fill open roster spots. Including that of starting goalie Brenden Stroble who has committed to the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, MN.

“We have a few players committed who we have yet to announce that will add skill, toughness, and leadership to our group,” Judson said. “As well as several promising prospects coming to training camp.”

“There are a lot of great players out there who might not be getting a lot of attention as recruits, so we’re trying to turn over every stone to find talent. Take Ryker Watt, for example, a player who came from U18 AA hockey last season to lead our team in scoring.”

Judson says over the summer, the team has hosted ice time to connect with players in the area as well.

“We’ve hosted four weeks of junior prep ice time in Fort Frances and International Falls, and we’re also very excited about our local players,” he said “There are a handful of young players in the area who have impressed us with their development, many of whom we’ll hopefully see in a Lakers uniform soon.”