Chris Roberts/Courtesy of lloydminstersource.com
When the Lloydminster Bobcats finished training camp at the end of August last season, defenceman Austin Yaremchuk found himself on the outside looking in.
Just a 16-year-old when the season began, the Sherwood Park native – and youngest player on the team – didn’t even anticipate playing much to begin with.
“Coming into the year I thought, you know, I’ll be in and out of the lineup, play a couple shifts a game. I was really more focused on practising with the guys, I thought that’s how I was going to improve,” he said after the Bobcats’ final practice of the 2012-13 season.
Yaremchuk played four games in September and just six in October, but from then on became a regular on the back-end. Not only playing bottom-pairing minutes, but logging key minutes on the power play and penalty kill.
Injuries, trades, and his own improved play continued to create opportunities for Yaremchuk, who had a coming out party in early November, scoring the game-winner and adding two assists against his hometown Sherwood Park Crusaders.
From then on, it wasn’t so much of a surprise to see Yaremchuk on the top defensive pairing with Grant Baker.
“Ryan (Parent) rolled the lines, people got injured and that was kind of my shot to try and be a top guy. And so I just kept kind of working on that, and for sure at the end of the year I couldn’t complain at all with the ice time I got,” explained Yaremchuk, who along with his brother and teammate, Nolan, was born in Switzerland, the son of former NHL’er Ken Yaremchuk.
Listed at 5’10 and 165, Yaremchuk appears much bigger on the ice, and that’s perhaps a result of the work he has – and will continue to – put in when it comes to improving his overall game.
“I’m graduating (high school), which will bring in some fun for me I know that,” said Yaremchuk of his summer plans. “And after that, and during that, I’m going to be training hard and really dedicating myself for next year.”
He added that both he and Nolan will work out three times a week over the summer, while also including a number of different activities on days off.
And it’s that dedication and commitment that led to him finishing second on the team in points by a defenceman with 14 points in 47 games.
Now, with promises of change and movement from head coach and general manager Garry VanHereweghe, Yaremchuk looks as safely put as anyone on the Bobcats roster. After all, established 17-year-old defenceman don’t exactly grow on trees, even at the Junior A level.
But despite still being one of the youngest players on the current roster, Yaremchuk is hoping to be more of a leader next season.
“I’m going to help some of the younger guys, I know maybe some of them will be in my shoes that I was in this year, and I know what it feels like to be the young guy,” he said.
“It’s not too big of a thing, the guys in the room are great guys and it was really easy for me to adapt to everything.”