Kelowna Chiefs rookie Porter Dawson is having a strong season because of his play and the opportunities he is earning.
Dunsmoor Creative photo
Porter Dawson watched a lot of Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) action growing up in Kelowna.
“The league is getting better each year. I feel the game speed is getting faster,” he says. “I just feel kids are getting faster, stronger, bigger.”
Dawson, 18, is contributing to the improving talent entering the league each year. He is shining with his hometown Chiefs, that rank seventh best in B.C. among junior B clubs. Dawson also leads all KIJHL rookies in scoring with 45 points in 35 games – that ranks him eighth in the league.
Not far behind is Elvis Slack of the Grand Forks Border Bruins, Sicamous Eagle Jaxon Danilec with 29 points in 28 games. The top scoring defenceman is Columbia Valley’s Tristan Lambert followed by Golden’s Dylan Ford.
When it comes to the KIJHL’s rookie leader, Chiefs coach Ken Law says they knew if they could get Dawson on the team, he would make an immediate impact. Dawson has centred the top line all season and plays in all situations.
“He’s just a natural, gifted playmaker. We’re trying to get him to shoot a little bit more,” says Law. “Sometimes [he] takes a scoring chance away to try to beat somebody out. He’s just a guy that has good vision on the ice. He finds his teammates. He works really hard to get into scoring positions.”
Dawson likes how he has been playing and put pressure on himself for a big year. He needed to prove to himself he could do better after having a bad season to his standards with the Okanagan Rockets. Dawson knew he had more to give.
His family is close to Grant Sheridan’s, the late co-owner of the Chiefs, and he wanted to have a good season for Sheridan. He credits his early success to linemate Kayson Gallant and coach Law. Dawson has played with Gallant since the exhibition season, while also seeing time with Zane Avery and Kaden Meszaros. He prepared himself for his first junior hockey season by training hard and changing what he eats. Dawson focused on getting stronger, but knows he is playing with more confidence compared to last year.
“It’s the same speed, but it’s more physical then the league I played in last year,” he says., “I found that you can’t make mistakes in this league.”
Dawson believes his willingness to work hard each game is what makes him effective. He also cares to make the right play and be unselfish.
If Dawson maintains his production, he is on pace to finish with close to 70 points.
Border Bruins coach John Clewlow wishes he had a couple more Slacks on his roster.
“We’d be pretty much top of the league. With his ability, and the way he plays, he has the ability to change a game just by himself,” says Clewlow.
Jasper, Alta., product Elvis Slack has been a key addition to the Grand Forks Border Bruins. He leads the team in goals.
Peter Kalasz Photography
Like Dawson, Slack credits his linemates for his first half success. They showed the Jasper, Alta, product how to play and it helped him adapt quickly.
Named after his parents favourite musicians, Elvis Presley and Elvis Costello, Slack is impressed by the KIJHL’s level of play.
“Anyone can beat anyone on a night. I like that aspect,” says Slack, 17, a graduate of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL).
Slack says playing in the CSSHL helped him adjust to the KIJHL, though the players aren’t as big. He realized he had to do everything faster and keep his feet moving.
“I always think I should improve my skating. You can never be a good enough skater,” says Slack. “Always work on my skating, puck handling, get shots off a little bit quicker.”
His goal is to play in the B.C. Hockey League next season and has interested teams.
Clewlow loves Slack’s work ethic and skill level, as well as the desire to progress in his career. The way he works rubs off on teammates.
“Just the way he battles. You can see it in Elvis when something doesn’t go right. He just bears down and starts taking the body,” says Clewlow. “Kind of puts kids in place with his size (six-feet, 180 pounds), his strength. He kind of opens the eyes of the rest of the team.”
Prince George native Jaxon Danilec backchecks hard to help prevent a scoring chance against the Kelowna Chiefs.
Dunsmoor Creative photo
Danilec, 18, has benefitted from having “a lot of good veterans on my team” and that has helped him build confidence.
The veterans he credits are Trysten Brookman, Tristan Walz as well as goalies Cole Steinke and Koltin Dodge. The goalies have given him insight where to shoot. His linemates Brayden Haskell and Brandon Pelletier have also been key.
The former Cariboo Cougar has found the KIJHL to be more physical, facing more mature players. The main thing Danilec has had to adapt to is “keeping my head up a lot more” to make plays. With the help of his linemates and tweaking his game, Danilec has found a way to get shots through, allowing him to score 16 goals in 28 games. Learning from Haskell and Pelletier has given him confidence.
As for the offensive blueliners in the KIJHL, Ford is followed by Tristan Lambert of the Columbia Valley Rockies, who has 25 points in 26 games, then Kelowna’s Ty Marchant with 23 points in 30 games. Spokane Brave Owen Miley plays defence/forward and has 23 points in 30 games.
The KIJHL rookie scoring race is one fans will want to follow heading down the stretch.
Divisional rookie scoring leaders prior to Christmas break:
Eddie Mountain: Beau Larson – Kimberley Dynamiters – 31GP 11G 15A 26 PTS
Neil Murdoch: Elvis Slack – Grand Forks Border Bruins – 25GP 19G 12A 31 PTS
Bill Ohlhausen: Porter Dawson – Kelowna Chiefs – 31GP 15G 27A 42 PTS
Doug Birks: Jaxon Danilec – Sicamous Eagles – 28GP 16G 13A 29 PTS