The Swift Current Broncos can't thank Santa for the pre-Christmas gift they've received.
2016 first round WHL Bantam Draft pick Jacson Alexander has signed a Western Hockey League Standard Player Agreement and will join the team before the new year.
"We're certainly excited," said Broncos Head Coach and Director of Player Personnel Manny Viveiros. "Jacson is a really good hockey player. We know he has pro potential eventually and this is the league for him to be in to fulfill that dream of his. This is a skilled young defenceman who moves the puck real well. We feel that he can come in at a young age right now and help our hockey team. I was very impressed by the way he was at our training camp this year the way he saw the ice and the way he made that first pass... He has the skating ability to be able to (skate at this level). A lot of times for young defenceman in this league the big part of it is skating, but he has that ability."
Alexander had previously committed to the University of Denver in the NCAA and was playing for Victoria in the BCHL.
"I think the biggest thing with Jacson is he's a pretty special player," Viveiros said. "A real good route for him is the WHL and our program. On top of that is our schooling package... quite honest it's a better education package than what colleges are offering in the states. Schooling and being in a professional atmosphere as far as getting ready for the next level of professional hockey."
These young men have to make very, very difficult decisions at a young age of what path they want to follow if they want to be a professional hockey player. We do have to have patience in that regard. We're ecstatic. We're very happy to have him in our lineup and he will be a big part of it for years to come."
Viveiros admitted the team's on-ice success this season could have had an impact on Alexander's decision, but also pointed to several other factors in Swift Current's favour like an easier travel schedule, good schooling, limited commute, high-quality facilities and a close-knit environment.
The 5'9 and 180lbs Alexander had 3 goals and 7 assists in 29 games for the Grizzlies this season and was the youngest defenceman on the team by two years. He was the third leading scorer among 16-year-old defencemen in the BCHL.
There will still be a significant adjustment to the WHL level when he joins the team likely by December 29th.
"He is 16-years-old so there is going to be a learning curve," Viveiros said. "We're certainly going to be patient like we are with all our 16-year-old players. Once they get comfortable they can contribute. That's no different than Logan Barlage or Connor Horning. They both have developed tremendously and are becoming contributors to our hockey team. We feel that Jacson will do the same thing even in a shorter period of time."
Swift Current picked Alexander 17th overall in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft. He led all defencemen in the CSSBHL at 14-years-old with 22 points in 24 games. Alexander added 8 points in 15 games and 3 more in 4 playofff games during an injury-interrupted 15-year-old season in the CSSHL prep league.
The Victoria native played for one of the Canadian entries in the recent World Under 17 Hockey Challenge and had a point in 5 games.
His addition brings the Broncos back up to seven defencemen in their lineup. That doesn't mean they won't think about adding another veteran ahead of the upcoming January 10th trade deadline.
"Obviously we just added some depth to our club," Viveiros said. "That gives us a little more patience as far as if in fact we do look to add to our hockey club on the back end before the trade deadline, but still depth in this league is what makes a difference between teams going deep in the playoffs or even getting by the first round of the playoffs."
Locking up Alexander means the Broncos have signed three of their four first-round selections between the 2016 and 2017 drafts. With Alexander, Barlage and Ben King in the fold the Broncos now only need to secure 15-year-old defenceman Joel Sexsmith. Sexmith attended Broncos camp, but he has yet to commit to their program.
Swift Current returns from the holiday break by hosting the Moose Jaw Warriors on December 27th. They will then visit Moose Jaw the next night, host the Saskatoon Blades on the 30th and open 2018 in Saskatoon on New Year's Day.