Friday 30 June 2017

Two Potential Olympians

The names of Derek Dun and Luke Lockhart probably aren't household names in Canada by any means. There are a few who may know the names on the west coast thanks to their play with the UBC Thunderbirds, but to suggest that these two players could be Canadian Olympians might be a stretch. Luckily for Dun and Lockhart - two Canadians with Chinese heritage - they may still be Olympians at some point in their careers as the two U Sports hockey players are getting the chance of a lifetime as they signed with the KHL's Kunlun Red Star for the upcoming season!

Dun, the goaltender pictured above, and Lockhart, a centerman, inked deals to play for Mike Keenan this season as the Beijing-based KHL club looks to up the stakes when it comes to being a major player in the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Lockhart's competition might be a little more difficult than Dun's in net, but both are young enough to become good players in the professional hockey ranks if they can survive the next five years until 2022.

Dun played in the BCHL with the Cowichan Valley Capitals and, for a short time, the Nanaimo Clippers where he saw action in 88 games, posting a 3.59 GAA and a .902 save percentage. The key over his four seasons in the BCHL is that he improved upon his previous season's stats each year, and this got Dun an opportunity in the NCAA with the Northern Michigan University Wildcats. If that school sounds familiar, their alumni include current Grand Rapids Griffins netminder Jared Coreau, retired NHLer Dallas Drake, retired Ranger and King Tom Laidlaw, and current Swiss league player Mike Santorelli. In other words, Northern Michigan is doing a decent job in churning out professional hockey players.

Dun played just six games at Northern Michigan, so let's not put too much stock in his career WCHA stats of a 2.95 GAA and an .882 save percentage. It was his transfer to UBC where Dun gained significant playing time as the netminder suited up in 16 games on the left coast in the Canada West Conference. It was in the Thunderbirds' net that Dun established himself as a solid Canada West netminder. The following highlight was just one of the reasons that UBC made the Canada West playoffs this past season, and Dun was a big reason why.
Again, Dun's stats weren't overwhelming when you look at them - 2.87 GAA and .910 save percentage - but his heritage and his abilities in the net attracted Kunlun to sign him. It also didn't hurt that he studied international relations and finance as well as taking a Mandarin course at UBC.

"It's been exciting, trying to learn a little bit of one of my native languages," Dun, whose mom May speaks Mandarin and whose dad Bill is fluent in Cantonese, told The Province's Steve Ewen. "I kick myself a little for not doing it sooner."

It seems he'll get to practice his Mandarin first-hand with this new opportunity.

Joining Dun next season with the Red Star will be UBC teammate Luke Lockhart. Lockhart was a seventh-round pick in the WHL bantam draft with the Seattle Thunderbirds with whom he'd spend five WHL seasons. The knock on Lockhart was his size in that his 5'10" frame often looked smaller against some hulking WHL defencemen. He worked hard in Seattle to be ranked as the 68th-overall North American skater during his 2011 draft year after posting 21 goals and 27 assists in 71 games for the Seattle Thunderbirds. However, after not being drafted, Lockhart kept honing his game as he became a reliable centerman for Seattle, eventually leading them back to the playoffs in 2012-13 after they had missed in three consecutive seasons while being voted as the team's MVP by his teammates.

"I've watched Ryan Kesler for years now," the Burnaby, BC native told Yahoo Sports' Neate Sager in 2011. "Early on, he wasn't putting up a huge amount of points but he played hard, won all his faceoffs, played penalty kill. I really base my game a lot on him."

His high-energy game and hard work down low made him a target for UBC once his WHL career ended, and Lockhart went home to his second Thunderbirds team after former UBC coach Milan Dragicevic went on a heavy WHL recruiting mission in 2013. Lockhart's efforts saw the centerman become a reliable face-off man, a key performer, and someone the Thunderbirds leaned on for consistency. In four CWUAA seasons with the T-Birds, Lockhart scored nine goals each season while posting point totals of 15, 18, 23, and 18 while helping the T-Birds back to the playoffs after missing the postseason in the previous two seasons.

Lockhart will be one of the younger players of Chinese heritage that Kunlun Red Star will give an opportunity to, and it sounds like Lockhart is looking forward to his new KHL challenge.

"It's a great opportunity and a great league," Lockhart told Rob Williams of the Daily Hive. "Obviously I'm leaving a bit behind here but it's a great opportunity and I look forward to it."

Here's hoping a couple of Canadian-born, U Sports-educated players can make a significant impact on Kunlun Red Star next season and for seasons to come. And maybe, just maybe, we'll be talking about a couple of former UBC Thunderbirds competing for medals at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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