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SASKATOONEXPRESS - February 6-12, 2107 - Page 10

Leschyshyn family Jake Leschyshyn (right) was rated 31st among North American skaters in the NHL’s central scouting’s midterm rankings. (Photos by Darren Steinke)

Like father, like son and daughter

Darren Steinke Saskatoon Express urtis Leschyshyn had no expectations that his children would follow his footsteps in hockey, but the former NHL defenceman is enjoying the fact that two have chosen that route. For two full seasons from 1986 to 1988, Curtis was a star defenceman for the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades. He went on to play 1,033 NHL regular-season games for the Quebec Nordiques/Colorado Avalanche franchise, Washington Capitals, Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes franchise, Minnesota Wild and Ottawa Senators from 1988 to 2004. Curtis was a member of the Avalanche’s Stanley Cup-winning team in 1996. These days, Curtis’s son, Jake, is a standout centre for the WHL’s Regina Pats, and daughter, Anna, is a star forward with the Saskatoon Stars of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League. Curtis coached Jake for his one season with the midget AAA Saskatoon Blazers and currently is an assistant coach with the Stars. “It was something I think that they inherently did,” said Curtis. “Myself or my wife (Laura), we didn’t force them to play the game. “We welcomed them to try it, and they both enjoyed it. Even our third child, Kate, tried playing hockey, and she didn’t like it. I didn’t force her to stay in it. I never forced Jake or Anna to stay in the game. We try and encourage them to work at it as hard as possible. For the most part, they’ve done that all on their own.” Both Jake and Anna have vague recollections of their father playing in the NHL. When Curtis was wrapping up his final season in 2004, Jake was turning five at the end of that campaign, while Anna was two years old. Jake started skating about the time he was closing in on his fourth birthday. He decided to take up hockey, because that was the sport his dad played. “I think that he (Curtis) was a big influence on me starting hockey,” said Jake, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 182 pounds. “I started with skating lessons and then just kind of worked up from there.

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Anna Leschyshyn is a star forward with the Saskatoon Stars of the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League. “I enjoyed the game more and more and just got hooked on it. There are not a lot of sports out there that have these long seasons. You go through a lot and get a lot of good memories and experiences throughout the course of the season.” Anna got into the sport because she wanted to follow what her father and older brother were doing. As time went on, Anna developed her own reasons for loving the game. She loved the team environment of the sport. As she progressed through minor hockey, Anna developed fond memories of all the teammates she played with and the coaches she played for. “They are all really positive and it is just awesome,” said Anna, who stands 5-foot-10. “It was really fun. There are always great girls to play with, and it has just always been great. I have just been lucky to have such great teams and teammates.” AS020608 Aaron

While Curtis has already cemented his mark in the game, both Jake and Anna are building their own reputations in hockey. Jake’s WHL rights were originally held by the Red Deer Rebels, who selected him in the first round and sixth overall in the 2016 WHL bantam draft. While making moves to gear up to host the 2016 Memorial Cup, the Rebels traded Jake’s rights to the Pats in January 2015. As a 16-year-old rookie last season, Jake appeared in 66 regular-season games, collecting seven goals and nine assists. He added a goal and three assists in the Pats’ 12 postseason games. Jake turned a lot of heads in that playoff run, displaying a gritty work ethic. As a 17-year-old sophomore, Jake had 17 goals and 23 assists in his first 46 games with the Pats. Just past midJanuary, Jake was rated 31st among North American skaters in the NHL’s central scouting’s midterm rankings, which means he can be a potential second- or third-round NHL entry draft selection. On Jan. 30, Jake played in the CHL/NHL Top Prospects game in Quebec City, and he scored an empty-net goal to help Team Cherry earn a 7-5 victory over Team Orr. While he has already made great memories with the Pats, Jake gets a chuckle out of fond recollections when he would hang out with Curtis, when Curtis was a Blades assistant coach from 2012 to 2014. “I think I just kind of hung out around the locker room after games waiting for him to get a ride home,” said Jake. “I just remember getting to skate I guess after morning skates with the team just going out there and goofing around with them. “After games, I was in the locker room vacuuming and stuff like that. I think they kind of had me doing rookie duties before I was a rookie. I think it is pretty funny looking back.” Anna started to turn heads last season as a 14-year-old underage rookie with the Stars. She piled up 14 goals and 11 assists in 28 regular-season games. Anna then added another four goals and six assists in 11 playoff games. She was a key figure who helped the Stars win a second straight league title, second straight Western regional banner and make a second straight appearance at the Esso Cup, the national championship tournament. As a 15-year-old sophomore, Anna has almost eclipsed her offensive totals from her rookie campaign, netting 14 goals and 16 assists in 23 regular-season games. “Last season was awesome,” said Anna. “Coming into the league when I was just a first year and being able to experience going to Esso Cup and just being able to win league with all the group of girls we had was just awesome and just a great experience.” So far in their careers, Jake and Anna have displayed a better touch around the net offensively than Curtis showed during his career. Curtis played a different role on the ice being a defensive defenceman, and he has enjoyed watching his children fill the net. “They both have way more offensive upside than I had, which from my perspective as a defensive defenceman is really nice to see,” said Curtis. “It is nice to not have to tell them to defend all the time like I was told to do, but they need to be responsible the other way as well. It is a learning process every day when they get on the ice. Hopefully, they become better players each and every time they are out.” Curtis prefers to stay focused on the present when it comes to his children and their hockey careers. “I don’t really try to look too far into the future,” said Curtis. “I think we have to stay kind of within the season, within the moment. “I think they both have potential, and it is really up to them to see where that takes them. Potential only takes you so far. You have to be dedicated. “Ultimately, it is up to them. I have zero bearing on where the game takes them. I hope they can continue to play for a long time.” (You can see more of Darren Steinke’s work in his online blog stankssermon.blogspot.ca.)

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Saskatoon Express, February 6, 2017