Justin Dueck has been attending the Kelowna Rockets training camp for the last two or three years.
Dueck, 18, feels better about his game and playing style each time he attends their camp. The netminder compares his playing style to Devan Dubnyk, who has played 542 NHL games.
“I’m pretty fast around the net. I’m a big guy (six-foot-one, 205 pounds) for this league,” says Dueck, of Swift Current, who joined the Grand Forks Border Bruins from the Prairie Hockey Academy. “I move well with my size. I have got really good patience.”
“He’s a very polished goalie. He’s very clean in the net,” says Border Bruins Head Coach-GM Dave Hnatiuk. “He’s really good on the ice, post to post and at playing the puck and his angles are good. He competes hard. I wouldn’t be surprised if Justin gets called up by the time the year is done. Hopefully that happens for him.”
Dueck joined the Border Bruins after having a solid experience with the Rockets, who already had both goalies from last season signed.
“The pace is always really high and you can never slack off,” he says. “I think I played very well. I had a few hiccups here and there.”
Rockets coach Kris Mallette places an emphasis on small details and that is one of the things Dueck gained a better understanding of during the camp. He learned to do everything he can to get better each day.
“I’m going to carry that through to my season this year with the Border Bruins,” says Dueck, who was encouraged by the Rockets to have a good development year in Grand Forks.
Dueck believes his camp experience will help him with the Border Bruins and he feels as though his teammates look up to him – see him as a leader because he has experienced a high level. Dueck wants to lead the KIJHL team and have a good season.
As one of Hnatiuk’s first recruits, familiarity with the coach is one of the reasons he came to the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
“He’s really for the players. He wants to move guys up,” says Dueck. “Dr. Mark Szynkaruk, the new owner of the team, has put a lot of work and effort into the team here. He has definitely put on a good program. I think that’s the first step to our success we are going to have this season.”
Upon his return from Rockets camp, Hnatiuk told his rookie goalie to stay positive and upbeat. Hnatiuk says it will take Dueck time to adapt to the speed of the KIJHL game compared to the WHL.
“It’s going to be a lot different than the crisp, cleanliness of the WHL,” he says. “I just told him, ‘It’s up to you on how to make a name for yourself here.’ I’d like to see him become an affiliate player with a BCHL team close by. To give him opportunities to go up and play.
“He’s a confident young man, a very mature young man,” Hnatiuk continued. “He has a great head on his shoulders. Duey is a guy you don’t have to worry about.”
Hnatiuk knows every time Dueck is in goal, he will compete and give the Border Bruins a chance to win.