He may be a rookie by SIJHL standards, but he looks anything but.
At 6’2” and 220 pounds, what Byron Katapaytuk lacks in experience is more than made up for in size, and the 18-year-old Moose Factory native hopes to use that leverage to his advantage in his first season of Junior ‘A’ hockey with the Fort Frances Lakers.
The 18-year-old came highly recommended to Lakers’ director of scouting, Grant Perreault, and head coach Wayne Strachan by Murray McGee, head coach of the Timmins Majors ‘AAA’ Midget team of the Great North Midget League, where Katapaytuk played last season.
“Byron brings size, offensive ability, and hockey smarts to our hockey team,” Strachan enthused. “I believe he will be one of the top rookies in this league once he adjusts to this level of hockey.
“For a big guy he skates and moves well, and I like the way he brings the puck to the net,” Strachan added.
“He will contribute and play a top-six forward role; will get chances on both the power-play and penalty kill.”
Katapaytuk scored 21 goals and added 21 assists in 32 games with the Timmins Majors last season. He followed that up with an equally-impressive playoff run, where he notched six goals and six assists in eight games.
The season prior, he recorded 19 goals and 30 assists in 34 games for the Majors.
Katapaytuk, who set up Colton Kennedy for the game-winner with less than two seconds left in overtime of the Lakers’ 4-3 win over the K&A Wolverines here Saturday night, said success comes when he keeps things simple.
“I try to get as many goals as possible and help get the ‘W,’” he said matter-of-factly.
“I’d like to chip in at both ends of the ice, and as long as we get the win, I’m happy,” he added.
The Lakers’ offence, as a whole, enjoyed a coming out party of sorts in Saturday’s win, and Katapaytuk stressed they’ll have to build off that if they hope to string some wins together early in the SIJHL regular season.
“We’ve got to start somewhere, so there’s a start,” Katapaytuk said. “All we can do is come out hard and do the best we can.”
Katapaytuk also said the squad is geared up for tomorrow’s season-opener against the defending champion Fort William North Stars.
“We’re expecting a big crowd,” he remarked. “Hopefully, the community is behind us and will support the team.”