Brushett finds a home in Pow­ell River

Well-trav­elled ju­nior player from Que­bec chas­ing down BCHL scor­ing ti­tle with the River Kings

The Province - - SPORTS | HOCKEY - STEVE EWEN [email protected]­media.com Twit­ter.com/SteveEwen

Ryan Brushett is a re­silient sort.

The Pow­ell River Kings for­ward is try­ing to reel in Vic­to­ria Griz­zlies for­ward Alex Ne­whook in the race for the scor­ing ti­tle down the stretch drive in the BCHL reg­u­lar sea­son.

The Kings are the third team in the league Brushett, a 20-year-old from Ver­dun, Que., has played for and the sev­enth Ju­nior A ros­ter he has been on — if you count his short stints with two Al­berta teams this sum­mer be­fore be­ing traded back into the BCHL with Pow­ell River.

In his first 108 reg­u­lar-sea­son games in the league, spread over a sea­son each with the Ver­non Vipers and Sur­rey Ea­gles, Brushett com­piled 31 goals and 75 points. Through 49 games this sea­son with Pow­ell River, he has 35 goals and 73 points.

Ne­whook, 18, pro­jected to be a first-round pick for June’s NHL draft at Rogers Arena by many pun­dits, has 81 points, in­clud­ing 29 goals, through 46 games this sea­son.

Vic­to­ria (31-16-0-3) is two points up on Pow­ell River (3119-1-0) atop the Is­land Di­vi­sion with a game in hand. Vic­to­ria has eight games left in league play.

“As soon as I got to Pow­ell River, I was wel­comed with opened arms,” said Brushett, who is slated to play next sea­son for the Univer­sity of Ne­braska Omaha, an NCAA pro­gram whose most cel­e­brated alum­nus is Pitts­burgh Pen­guins for­ward Jake Guentzel.

“I just get along with the guys here and it’s al­ways fun when you come to the rink and I’ve learned a lot.

“Ob­vi­ously ev­ery year has been dif­fer­ent. Ev­ery year brings dif­fer­ent chal­lenges. This year, I’ve been en­joy­ing the process. We’ve had some in­juries, we’ve had some ad­ver­sity, but we’ve tried to get through it as a group.”

Brushett’s rights were dealt to the Al­berta Ju­nior Hockey League’s Bon­nyville Pon­ti­acs and then the Grande Prairie Storm over the sum­mer, but he was adamant about play­ing his fi­nal year of ju­nior el­i­gi­bil­ity in the BCHL.

Grande Prairie dealt him to Pow­ell River Sept. 7 for fu­ture con­sid­er­a­tions and Kings gen­eral man­ager and coach Tyler Kuntz re­mem­bers think­ing at the time his team had brought in a top-six, point-agame for­ward.

Brushett has ob­vi­ously shot well past that.

“He’s been so great to coach. He got here and right away said, ‘Just tell me what you need me to do,’” said Kuntz, who was hired by Pow­ell River in the off-sea­son and whose re­sume in­cludes a stint as an as­sis­tant with the Van­cou­ver Gi­ants and as bench boss of the UBC Thun­der­birds.

“He’s a hockey nerd. He loves learn­ing about the game. He loves work­ing on his game. He’s hard to knock off the puck. He might not be the best skater, but his hockey IQ is very good and he al­ways finds a way to get the puck on his stick with the game on the line.”

The Kings have ex­celled de­spite los­ing for­wards Ben Ber­ard (back) and Matthew Fawcett (shoul­der) early in the cam­paign. Ber­ard, a 29-goal man last sea­son, had 10 goals in 12 games when he was side­lined, while Fawcett had 20 points in 21 games.

Brushett, a six-foot, 175-pounder, started his ju­nior ca­reer in the United States Hockey League in 2015-16, split­ting time be­tween the Sioux Falls Stam­pede and Bloom­ing­ton Thun­der. He was the lead­ing scorer on a Lac St.-Louis Li­ons midget team in 2014-15 that also fea­tured for­ward Joseph Ve­leno, the Detroit Red Wings firstrounder who was part of the Cana­dian world ju­nior en­try.

GAR­RETT JAMES PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Pow­ell River Kings for­ward Ryan Brushett is breath­ing down the neck of Vic­to­ria Griz­zlies star Alex Ne­whook in the race for the BCHL scor­ing ti­tle with 73 points in 49 games. Ne­whook has 81 points.

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