The Manitoba Junior Hockey League offseason began early, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. With it came the annual bantam draft – which was bumped up from the first week of June to Sunday, April 26. The Winkler Flyers made six selections, including Brandon’s Carter Dittmer (first round, ninth overall), who was chosen just one pick after his teammate Calder Crossin went to the Swan Valley Stampeders eighth overall.
The Flyers, who felt very satisfied with their draft day success, have also stayed quite busy in the transaction department. Since the early/sudden conclusion of the 2019-20 season, the team has auto-protected one player and has received commitments from five others, while seeing three players from the 2019-20 roster sign on with postsecondary institutions for the coming school year. This is all on top of the six players chosen in the annual MJHL draft.
Since March 31, Flyers head coach Kelvin Cech has seen the commitments of Pembina Valley’s Derek Wiebe, Brandon’s Jordan Boyechko, Winnipeg’s Matthew Yakubowski, Grand Forks’ Mason Thingvold and East Grand Forks’ Josh Nelson. Auto-protected by area association in advance of the 2020 MJHL Bantam Draft Justin Hildebrand of Winkler. Talk about a boatload of fresh talent.
Players from Winkler’s 2019-20 squad moving on to pursue further education while playing university-level hockey include forward Mateo Albinati (who has signed on with the Marian University Sabres for the 2020-21 season) as well as forward Griffin Leonard and defenceman Garrett Szeremley, who have both agreed to play for the Salve Regina University Seahawks for the 2020-21 season.
The full list of transactions can be found below.
Offseason Commitments to the Winkler Flyers:
March 31 – Forward, Derek Wiebe. The 18-year-old Morden product spent the past season serving as captain of the Pembina Valley Hawks AAA program, where he put up 20 goals, 51 points and 30 penalty minutes in 48 games.
April 17 – Forward, Jordan Boyechko. The 18-year-old Brandon native collected 34 goals, 62 points and 82 penalty minutes in 48 games for the Southwest Cougars in Midget AAA action during the 2019-20 season.
April 22 – Defenceman, Matthew Yakubowski. Serving as captain as a 17-year-old in his second season with the Winnipeg Bruins of the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League, the Winnipegger earned 15 points in 21 games before breaking his leg the past November.
April 24 – Forward, Mason Thingvold. An American forward, the 19-year-old of Grand Forks, ND put up 16 goals and 29 points in 27 games for the Red River of the North Dakota High School Hockey League last season.
April 28 – Defenceman, Josh Nelson. An East Grand Forks native, Nelson collected one goal, 19 points and 12 penalty minutes in 30 combined games between Team North and the East Grand Forks high school program as a 17-year-old in 2019-20.
Auto-Protected by the Winkler Flyers:
April 20 – Forward, Justin Hildebrand. The now 15-year-old Winkler product skated for the Pembina Valley Hawks Bantam AAA squad in 2019-20, picking up six goals, 12 points and six penalty minutes in the process.
Past Winkler Flyers Continuing Schooling/Hockey Career in 2020-21:
March 16 – Graduating forward Mateo Albinati has committed to the Marian University Sabres for the 2020-21 season. The British Columbia native spent just one season with the Flyers, earning six goals and 24 points in 39 games this past year.
April 7 – Graduating forward Griffin Leonard has committed to Salve Regina University Seahawks for the 2020-21 season. The 20-year-old put up 44 goals, 94 points and 215 penalty minutes in 154 regular season games over three full seasons with Winkler.
April 7 – Graduating defenceman Garrett Szeremley has committed to Salve Regina University Seahawks for the 2020-21 season. Now 20, the Morden product played for five teams in four leagues and two countries over the past four seasons, finishing his junior career with an eight-goal, 22-point, 95 penalty-minute campaign in Winkler.