Monday, 18 April 2016

Coming Home

For CIS teams, there's always a battle to try and bring in CHL graduates who haven't been drafted or want to go back to school. For every Canada West school, there's a WHL team just down the road who play in the same city... except for one. The University of Manitoba Bisons don't have that luxury as the closest WHL team is the Brandon Wheat Kings, so the challenge of recruiting WHL graduates becomes that much harder. However, one announcement tonight should have Bisons fans smiling as a local boy is coming home!

Nick Zajac, pictured above in his final season with the Sasaktoon Blades, announced via Instagram (stick-tap to reader Christian for the heads-up!) that he will be playing for the Manitoba Bisons next season! The Winnipeg-born Zajac played 322 WHL regular season games where he put up 55 goals and 97 assists. His final season saw Zajac named as the captain of the Blades as he put up his best season in the Western League with 20 goals and 32 assists in 72 games. He was also nominated for the Royer Hardest Working Player Award in the WHL this season!

The left winger won't be mistaken for Stamkos or Ovechkin on the ice, but he's the kind of player that should do well in Canada West as it's a "working man's league". Canada West players need to be gritty and tough along the boards, show speed and skill through open ice, not be afraid to throw a hit, and opportunistic when it comes to goal scoring. Zajac won't lead Canada West in scoring, but he should do well if he brings the same style of play he showed in his final season with Saskatoon.

For head coach Mike Sirant, getting a player like Zajac to play with a few less tussles shouldn't be hard. He has watched over another Winnipegger as he made the transition into dangerous scorer after Jordan DePape came to the school after four seasons in the WHL. DePape was a hard-nosed kid who didn't mind the tough, gritty play, and Sirant has helped DePape elevate his play to become this season's top scorer in Canada West.

Again, that's not an expectation that should be placed on Zajac. He does have the same gritty, hard-working make-up that DePape showed, though, so perhaps lightning can strike twice for Sirant and the Bisons. Zajac has hands and skates fairly well, so there's enough raw talent for him to be a solid player on the Canada West front. Here's a highlight package from the October 7, 2015 game against the Kootenay Ice that shows a Zajac goal.
It's always great news when a homegrown talent decides to come back and show off his skills. I'm already excited at the possibilities that this announcement brings with respect to the Bisons' lineup for next season! Congratulations, Nick, and welcome home!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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