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SASKATOON EXPRESS - December 12-18, 2016 - Page 6 AS121214 Aaron

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Saskatonian plays starring role for red-hot Pats Darren Steinke Saskatoon Express onnor Hobbs never caught the gridiron bug, even though he regularly attended University of Saskatchewan Huskies football games. Growing up in Saskatoon, Hobbs’ father, Cal, was an assistant coach for the Huskies, coaching the defensive line and special teams. Cal also played for the Dogs and was a member of the 1990 Vanier Cup championship team, so it seemed natural for Connor to take up football. “I guess my dad’s original plan was for me to be a football player,” said Connor. “I got on skates, and I was a lot better on skates than on my feet, so I chose hockey.” The early choice proved to be a wise one. These days, Hobbs is a star offensive defenceman playing his 19-year-old season for the Regina Pats, one of the WHL’s powerhouse squads. He was also selected by the Washington Capitals in the fifth round — 143rd overall — in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft and has an entry-level contract signed with the big club. Hobbs started skating at age three and learned to love the game, attending skills camps run by the Huskies hockey teams and playing in the Red Wings minor hockey zone in Saskatoon. He wasn’t sure if playing in the WHL was a possibility until he was selected in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft by the Prince Albert Raiders in the fourth round. “It was pretty cool when I got drafted to the Prince Albert Raiders,” said Hobbs. “That was a big thing for me and my family. It was very exciting and a big day getting to be in the paper. It was cool. I knew right then and there I wanted to play in the Western League.” Before Hobbs would suit up in the WHL, he continued to develop his game playing for the Saskatoon Blazers of the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League. As a 15-yearold rookie, Hobbs recorded six goals and 10

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assists in 38 games. During that first midget AAA season, the Raiders dealt Hobbs’ WHL rights to the Medicine Hat Tigers. In his 16-year-old season, Hobbs was returned to the Blazers, but played 10 games for the Tigers on a call-up basis. In August 2014, he played on Canada’s under-18 team that won gold at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament co-hosted in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Hobbs proceeded to make the Tigers in his 17-year-old season, but was fighting for minutes with a defence group that contained a lot of veteran players. After 12 games, Hobbs returned home and asked for a trade. On Jan. 5, 2015, the Tigers dealt Hobbs to the Regina Pats. Playing under head coach and general manager John Paddock and assistant coach Dave Struch, Hobbs became a WHL star. “It was probably the best thing that has ever happened to me for my hockey career and as a person too,” said Hobbs. “Our dressing room is incredible. “I hand it all over to Dave Struch and John Paddock. They kind of hung their necks out for me there when I asked for a trade. I think they are pretty happy with it now and with how it has worked out. “I am obviously very happy that Regina is where I found home. I can’t say enough about the Pats organization and John and Dave and how much they have helped me and (assistant coach) Brad Herauf here this year. It is a pretty special place here in Regina.” Last season, Hobbs had 19 goals and 22 assists in 58 regular-season games and he added another four goals and six assists in 12 playoff games. The Pats playoff run ended with a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in Game 7 of a second-round series against the Red Deer Rebels, who were hosting the Memorial Cup. This season, the Pats have jumped out to a 19-2-4 start and have often topped the Canadian Hockey League’s top-10 rankings.

Connor Hobbs is disappointed he didn’t get a shot at playing in the World Junior Hockey Championship. (Photo by Darren Steinke) Hobbs has 11 goals, 21 assists and a plus-18 rating in 23 appearances. Despite the strong start, Hobbs did experience one big disappointment, when he wasn’t invited to the main training camp for Canada’s world junior team. Pats forwards Sam Steel and Austin Wagner did get invites. “I believe I should be there, but it’s the game,” said Hobbs. “It is just how it works sometimes. Things aren’t going to fall the way you want them to. I just have to keep bettering myself as a player.” Hobbs also realizes he will have his crack at the professional ranks due to the fact

he has an entry-level contract signed with Washington. He wants to have an extended stay in the NHL. “It is incredible just to see that you are wanted,” said Hobbs. “I don’t have very many words that can describe the feeling of that. Signing your first contract is a pretty huge moment. It feels really good, but at the same time, there is always work to be done, and there are always things you can improve on and areas to get better at.” (You can see more of Darren Steinke’s work in his online blog stankssermon. blogspot.ca.)

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Saskatoon Express, December 12, 2016  
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