Chris Roberts/Courtesy of lloydminstersource.com
As a team, it was a year that the Lloydminster Bobcats would soon like to forget, but beneath all losses, controversy, and off-ice issues, there were some individual successes.
No more is that true for defenceman Grant Baker, who finished second on the team in scoring with 39 points in 58 games. For his offensive abilities and his ever-improving defensive game, Baker was named to the North Division All-League team, joining Sherwood Park defender Josh Healey.
“It’s a pretty big honour for myself, it just shows that all my hard work is starting to pay off,” said the Calgary native as the team cleared out of the Civic Centre two weeks ago.
In 59 games in 2011-12, Baker had just 18 points, making the 2012-13 campaign a 21-point upgrade.
Baker was named captain in January after Casey Knight was traded to Spruce Grove, and rather than fumble under the added pressure, he thrived with the ‘C’ on his jersey, recording 23 points in the final 20 games of the regular season.
The captaincy is something the 19-year-old takes a lot of pride in, particularly after learning from Knight, whom he was close with for the past two seasons.
“Just being personal with the guys and making sure you know how guys react to certain things,” said Baker of the captain’s role. “(And) trying to help them out, guide them, and if the coach yells at them or something then you be there to pick them up.”
He said that this season was “frustrating to say the least,” but was happy with the direction of the team in the second half.
“I think we just had more of a team mentality, we all were buying into the same system, and we were all working on the same things together and wanting to reach our one goal, which was to reach the playoffs.”
Baker was one of just a few returning players as the Bobcats geared up for camp last year without a true top-tier talent in the league, save for maybe Matthew Marcinew, who was dealt to Olds shortly following the team’s 0-8-1 start.
This fall, the ‘Cats will hold camp with almost every player eligible to return, including Baker, who has emerged as one of the top defenceman in the AJHL.
And he only plans to get better.
“It’s just little simple things I’ve got to continue to work on in the off-season, taking my points and knowing when to join the rush and on the power play, that’ll all help get more points next year and be a little bit more offensive,” he said.
With everyone getting a year older and head coach and general manager Garry VanHereweghe committing to get younger, skilled players, there’s no reason to think the Bobcats won’t still be playing at this time next season.
“We’ve got a good group of guys coming back, it won’t be an easy team to make next year, and that’s exciting,” said Baker.