Hockey is all about opportunity, and for one local player with a bright future in front of him, taking the opportunity to play at a higher level is one he has taken many times this season. It also means that Bryce Kindopp has pulled a few different jerseys over his head this season for a few different teams.
On Jan. 9, the midget forward with the Lloydminster Baker Hughes Bobcats was called up to the Junior A ‘cats squad to fill in for some departing talent. He played on the Bobcats fourth line as its centre, got ample chances on the ice and played against the best in the Alberta Junior Hockey League from Spruce Grove. The jersey switch wasn’t a drastic change, as the Bobcat crest on the front was a familiar one, with only his number changing from No. 23 in midget to No. 4 with the Junior A team.
But it was a switch to a green jersey earlier in the season that may have been the best opportunity for the 15-year-old forward, as a two game stint with the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips not only gave Kindopp his first glimpse of major junior hockey, but also put him against one of the best players in Canada, in front of thousands of watching fans.
“It’s been a little crazy and gone by really fast,” said Kindopp of his year so far. “Definitely a big character builder though. Every time you get the opportunity to play at a higher level I think you should definitely take it. It has made me a better player and a better person.”
As part of the Lloydminster Heat last season in bantam, Kindopp was part of the team that won the Alberta Bantam Hockey League championship with an impressive 31-1-1 record during the regular season. He had 26 goals and 63 points in 33 games, adding 16 goals and 25 points in the playoffs. The Heat went to the Western Canadian Bantam AAA Championships where they finished with a silver medal.
At the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, the Silvertips selected Kindopp in the third round, 49th overall. Everett had him rated higher than what they selected him, and were happy to select the smart forward when they did in the third round.
“He’s a very smart player (with) great offensive instincts,” said Bill La Forge, director of player personnel with the Silvertips. “I love his ability to make people around him better. He is one of those guys the coach always wants on the ice, up by a goal, down by goal, power play, shorthanded, their wasn’t a situation he didn’t excel.
“He has the chance to be a very special player.”
Kindopp played two games for Everett in late November, both home games at Xfinity Arena in downtown Everett. It was the first wake up call for him, as the 8,100 capacity building was near full for his first appearance in Silvertip colours, as 6,500 fans were in attendance for a rivalry game against the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Two days later, despite half the crowd, Everett hosted the Kootenay Ice, and Kindopp found himself on the ice with one of Canada’s best junior players, Sam Reinhart. At that point, Reinhart had yet to leave for the World Junior Hockey Championships, but would go on to be a standout player in Canada’s gold medal victory.
For Kindopp it was an eye opener for what he should expect when he gets to the WHL full time.
“It kind of just makes your jaw drop,” said Kindopp. “You have been watching him since you were little and going up and seeing him in person is amazing. It was a wake up call for sure, bigger guys, fast pace, very intense.”
At just 15-year-old, Kindopp still has plenty of time to develop. Everett would like to see his skating speed improve and naturally add some more size to his frame, but there is no rush for him to make the leap to major junior. For now, be it with the Bobcats in junior A, or another short stint with the Silvertips, Kindopp is just happy to be making the best of the opportunities given to him.
“These opportunities I am getting this year are definitely going to make me be able to make that leap to Everett or wherever I am going to go.”