Kyren Gronick is eager to head west to Prince George to try and make an impression at Cougars’ Training Camp but for now he’s looking to impress his customers with a rototiller.
The Cougars’ 16-year-old prospect is busy working lawncare around Regina, Saskatchewan “My uncle set me up with a job. I’ve been rototilling gardens, making a bit of cash,” said Gronick.
As good as Gronick is with the lawncare tools, he’s even better with a stick. Gronick was the Cougars’ second-round pick, 26th overall, in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft and is coming off a breakout season in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League with his hometown Regina Pat Canadians. As a 15-year-old rookie, Gronick was fourth in team scoring with 49 points (15G-34A) in 38 games. He was the second-highest scoring 15-year-old in Saskatchewan.
Despite the impressive numbers, Gronick says there was a transition period after making the jump to the SMAAHL from Bantam AA, “I started off the season a bit slow but as the year went on, I got more comfortable with the pace, the players, and the type of game I needed to play. I finished strong.”
So, what was key for him to put his early season jitters behind him? Good old-fashioned hard work, “My coaches really helped me with working on the finer details of my game before or after practice. I have to give a lot of credit to my line mates as well. I played with two 17-year-olds in Cal Caragata and Carson Whyte. They really pushed me and helped me throughout the year. I can’t thank them enough.”
Those line mates were the top two scorers on the team too. Caragata, who is a listed prospect with the Cougars, led the Pat C’s in scoring with 69 points (32G-37A) in 36 games and was team captain. Whyte was second with 53 points. Caragata will likely be at training camp and Gronick had high praise for his line mate and friend, “He’s a really hard worker and great guy in the room. He can find the back of the net like nobody’s business. He’s smart with the puck and easy to play with.”
Gronick parlayed his strong regular season showing into an even more impressive playoff run. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic cut his season short, Gronick was second in team playoff scoring with 13 points (5G-8A) in six games as they were in the middle of the second round. He said it all clicked when he started playing with an edge, “Confidence was key. I learned not to be scared and get involved more and play hard between the whistles. Once I started putting up points, I felt way more confident. I tried to keep a happy medium through the season; not getting too high or too low.”
Not only did the pandemic cut his season short, but it has provided a few new wrinkles to his off-season plans. Gronick however says he’s taking them in stride, “It’s been challenging but I do have a gym with a friend, so we workout every day. Typically, I would be on the ice right now, working on skills development, but I am finding other ways to be active. I am working outdoors and biking a lot, throwing the football around, and just being as active as possible.”
He hopes to return to the ice soon, as Saskatchewan starts to slowly reopen after weeks of strict physical distancing protocols were in effect. When he does get back on the ice, Gronick has emphasised one area of his game he wants to improve upon in particular, “I need to work on my footspeed. No matter what level you play at, you’re never fast enough. It was a jump from Bantam to Midget and it will be an even bigger jump from Midget to the WHL. Power skating will be a big thing for me this summer.”
For now, Gronick is pushing around a rototiller in Regina, making an honest buck. He hopes he can soon push for a roster spot on the Cougars for the 2020-20201 WHL season.