By Tyler Lowey, Times Reporter
Last year, they were one of the most talented teams to don the Foothills CFR Chemicals Bisons’ jersey.
Unfortunately, it was also the final year of the Alberta Midget Hockey League franchise in Strathmore, which has produced players for the Junior A level, Western Hockey League and life in the professional ranks.
The final group of Bisons carried that tradition on and flooded WHL camps across Western Canada.
Leading the way are a pair of talented 16-year-old centres, who managed to pull off the difficult feat of cracking the roster for their first eligible season.
Peyton Krebs was a no-brainer to make the Kootenay Ice, who finished with the worst record last season, at 14-46-10-2. The Ice selected Krebs with the No. 1 overall pick of the WHL Bantam Draft in 2016. Last year, as a 15-year-old, he appeared in six games with the Ice, scoring one goal and supplying five assists.
This year, through seven games, Krebs leads the Ice with two goals and eight points.
The other 16-year-old to break into the WHL is Chestermere’s Tarun Fizer, who saw his production limited by a broken collarbone last year, but still finished with 13 goals and 31 points in 27 games.
Unlike, Krebs, Fizer never got called up last year by the Victoria Royals, who selected him in the fourth round, 69th overall in the 2016 Draft.
Fizer is still searching for his first point with the Royals through four games.
Defencemen Cayde Augustine and Connor Bertamini found out the hard way the reality of trying to make a roster as a 16-year-old.
Augustine attended training camp with the Kelowna Rockets as a listed player, but was reassigned to the Airdrie CFR Chemicals Bisons.
Bertamini, who was an affiliated player and appeared in two games with the Bisons last year, has been reassigned to the Okotoks Bow Mark Oilers by the juggernaut Portland Winterhawks.
There are eight former Bisons and two former Wheatland Athletic Association midget Chiefs who have made their way to the expansion program in Okotoks. Of those players, four are currently listed by WHL franchises.
Kale Clouston was an AP last year for the Herd and attended training camp with Eastern Conference sleeper pick, the Moose Jaw Warriors. The Warriors selected him in the fifth round of the 2015 Draft.
Tyler Strath was drafted by the Lethbridge Hurricanes but traded to the Ice last season. Strath was one of the last players released from the Ice camp, according to their head coach James Patrick.
Hunter Young was one half of the league-leading goaltending tandem last season and was in camp with the Saskatoon Blades. He has since returned to AMHL for his 17-year-old season.
Joining the three former Bisons in Okotoks is local product Joel Krahenbil who was a late draft pick by the Spokane Chiefs.
The strong group of the 16-year-old class last year has landed on their feet in the WHL, as games opened two weeks ago.
Defencemen Cole Clayton (Medicine Hat Tigers), Liam Belcourt (Tri-City Americans) and Tyson Terretta (defending WHL champion Seattle Thunderbirds) have all logged ice time in the WHL this season.
The Hitmen and the Blades are off to the two slowest starts in the Eastern Conference.
Clayton is the only one of that defence core to find the score sheet thus far with one goal in four games.
Last year’s AMHL playoff hero Brandon Machado will play with the Saskatoon Blades this season, and Zach Huber, who played the wing last year, has lined up in three games as a centre with the Calgary Hitmen. Both Machado and Huber have yet to register their first career WHL point.
Ben Laidlaw was the other half of last year’s goaltending tandem and was reassigned from the Prince George Cougars to the Calgary Canucks of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.