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Prep Watch: Koekkoek's calling

Slater Koekkoek is a name hockey fans will be hearing more of in the future.

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Slater Koekkoek is a name hockey fans will be hearing more of in the future.

Defenseman Slater Koekkoek is only allowed to use his cell phone for a couple hours a night and if hockey isn’t being shown on the one sports channel he gets, he’s out of luck.

And he couldn’t be happier.

Koekkoek (pronounced ‘Koo-kook’), is in his first full season with the Notre Dame Hounds midget AAA team after spending most of last year with the Saskatchewan prep school’s bantam squad. The 6-foot-2 rearguard has five points through eight games and doesn’t mind the sacrifices that come with attending the famous institute, including picking up his cell phone only after classes for the day have ended.

“And you have to hand it in before bed,” Koekkoek noted. “It takes some getting used to. They’ve got you on a strict routine, but it’s for your own good.”

Citing Detroit future Hall of Famer Nicklas Lidstrom as a role model, Koekkoek lists his best attributes as “my physical play and my shot. I try to get my shot off as much as possible.”

The youngster would like to keep working on his passing and footwork, but for coach Del Pedrick, Koekkoek has been turning heads since last season, when he came up and played five games with the midget Hounds.

“As a bantam player, Slater proved himself with our affiliate team,” Pedrick said. “I believe he could have played for us in any situation last year, so it’s great to have him full-time this year.”

Pedrick likes the two-way game Koekkoek brings, not to mention his physical game and ability to join the rush.

“He’s a laid-back guy, but works very hard,” Pedrick said. “He’s keen; a guy that pays attention.”

Originally from Winchester, Ont., near Ottawa, Koekkoek is used to small-town life, though even Winchester is big compared to Wilcox, Sask., the village of 300 where Notre Dame is the focus. The fact the Hounds draw talent from across the country was also an intriguing wrinkle.

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“I was looking for a school to go to with a good hockey program and Notre Dame caught my eye,” Koekkoek said. “There’s a lot of different personalities on the team, I’m playing with mostly older guys, so it’s fast out there.”

Indeed, born in February of 1994, Koekkoek isn’t NHL draft eligible until 2012, but he’s playing an important role on the Hounds as a Grade 10 student. Still mulling over his future options, the defenseman’s Canadian League designation is with the Ontario League (where he could be drafted this summer), though the NCAA or even the United States League are also on his radar.

Since getting his bearings with the Hounds early this year, it seems the only thing that could stop Koekkoek’s ascension was a scare the school had with the H1N1 virus that led to some students being quarantined and hockey games being postponed for a week.

“They think they’re invincible,” Pedrick said of the kids at Notre Dame (and kids in general). “We’re continuing to drive home the point of washing their hands, getting rest and taking care of themselves.”

For Koekkoek, it’s better safe than sorry and now that the team’s back in action, it was all worth it.

“(Notre Dame’s) health care (department) is doing a great job right now,” he said. “We’re just trying to stay healthy.”

With that sorted out, Koekkoek is free to go back to what he does best; rocking bodies and putting up points.

Prep Watch, which features minor hockey players destined to become big names in major junior or the NCAA, appears every second Thursday throughout the season.

For more great prospect profiles and news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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