Ask any player about being an "elder statesman" as a 20-year-old in the WHL and they will say it's never easy. Not only is it your final year in the league that you've called "home" for a few years, but there is a ton of unpredictability near the end. Will your team make the playoffs? How deep will they go? And what's the plan to continue playing after the final buzzer goes?
The last batch of WHL graduates to come through the Lethbridge Hurricanes system saw some varying degrees of success on their new adventures.
#1. Tyler Wong
The fan favourite and former Hurricanes captain captured the imagination of many in the hockey world after he scored the first goal in Vegas Golden Knights history, albeit in pre-season play, on his way to a hat-trick in his debut. A few fans were hopeful they would see the 5'9" forward in the NHL before too long with a performance like that. But he wasn't able to replicate the performance at all. The now-22-year-old played in 54 games for the AHL's Chicago Wolves this season, amassing just three goals and four helpers. He also played six games with the ECHL's Quad City Mallards, picking up a goal and assist.
#2. Matt Alfaro
A late-season acquisition from Kootenay in hopes of getting some secondary scoring, Alfaro's career took him back home last season, as he played in 26 games for the University of Calgary. He netted three goals and nine assists in that time for a Dinos club that didn't make it to the playoffs.
#3. Zak Zborosky
Picked up from the Ice in that same late-season deal for Alfaro, Zborosky found himself in a similar situation as his old teammate, just in a different location. The 21-year-old forward played in 18 games for the University of Regina, scoring nine goals and 13 assists to finish second in Cougars scoring. He was also named to the Canada West all-rookie team for his efforts.
A few other 20-year-olds made cameo appearances for the Hurricanes last season and continued on with their hockey careers this past season. Ryley Lindgren was traded to Swift Current during his last WHL season and he played four games for Mount Royal University in Calgary this past season. He was joined on the Cougars by Kord Pankewicz, who found himself as a member of the AJHL's Brooks Bandits to finish off his junior career. And Shaun Dosanjh, who ended up with Portland at the end of last season, played four games with the UBC Thunderbirds.
There's no doubt post-secondary has become a destination of choice for many players who aren't able to go pro, as this list attests. The WHL scholarship program doesn't hurt in those efforts, as players look to continue playing hockey while lining up another possible career choice to fall back on.
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