CANMORE – The Canmore Eagles added a big forward to its attack just as rumblings out of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) website point to a return to action later this month.
On Tuesday (Jan. 12), the Eagles welcomed 16-year-old signee Nathan Pilling, a six-foot-two centre from the Calgary Flames U18 AAA team of the Alberta Elite Hockey League (AEHL).
"One thing I’ve always prided myself on is my character," said Pilling. "I think being a hard worker and someone for the guys to look up to, even though I’ll be one of the younger guys, is definitely something I’ll try bringing to that team.
"I'm super excited to be a part of the Canmore community, as well. Living on the west end of Calgary, I'm always coming into Canmore being a tourist, but I’m pretty excited to be a part of that local community."
Depending on a return to play for the AJHL and AEHL, the Eagles are looking to have the big forward join the roster sooner rather than later.
“If the U18 league is on pause and we’re playing, then we’ll try to figure out a way to get him to come up and join us,” said Andrew Milne, Eagles head coach and general manager.
Milne added that there’s early indications Pilling will be a point producer at the junior A level, and able to excel under any situation.
“I think he’s got the complete package and that’s what’s exciting about him,” said Milne.
"He plays up the middle and skates really well for his size. He’s got a great release. He’s what we would call a 200-foot player. We think he’s going to develop into a very well-rounded player.”
Last season on the Bruins U16 AAA squad, Pilling led the team in scoring with 24 goals and 49 points in 37 games.
Offence will be Pilling's bread and butter, but the young forward said he's trying to match defensive prowess with his attack.
One hurdle Pilling thinks he'll have overcome is adapting to the high speed of junior A play.
"Going from minor midget to AAA this year, the speed picked up significantly, so going from being a 16-year-old now to playing with 18, 19 and 20-year-olds that’s something I’m going to have to pick up quickly and try to get used to," he said.
If Pilling isn’t able to join the Eagles this season, he’ll be ready to go in 2021-22. The hope is the young gun will move into a “pivotal role” with the team.
he Eagles, and other AJHL teams have been adding roster depth in recent days. The signings are officially for the 2021-22 season, but could suggest that teams are tactically bulking up in case the AJHL returns this season and other leagues don’t.
According to the AJHL’s game schedule on its website, six regular season matchups are set to take place Jan. 29, including the Eagles against the Camrose Kodiaks at the Canmore Rec Centre at 7 p.m.
The next evening, Canmore is slated to play the Kodiaks at their barn.
The games were re-added to the calendar after being taken down for weeks during the league’s pause starting in December.
If games are to go ahead, it would be pending Alberta government approval. Sports, such as junior A hockey are under restrictive measures until at least Jan. 21.
By: Jordan Small RMOutlook
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