By Andrew Echevarria
Often times, young hockey players derive their game from NHLers they look up to or capture inspiration from. In terms of scouting, it’s not eccentric to compare a young prospect’s game to that of a mature NHL player, to create a visual complement for the reader or listener.
However, a prospect’s play can sometimes be unique and difficult to compare to that of a well-known player. Such is the case with Michael St. Croix.
The Winnipeg native has had great success from an early age - dominating the Manitoba midget AAA League in scoring and having played in the Under-17 Hockey Challenge at age 15 - it’s as if the passion for hockey is in his blood, which may be true.
“I have a hockey family, it’s what I’ve grown up with my whole life and I’ve fallen in love with the sport at a very early age,” St. Croix said. “My father played for the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Philadelphia Flyers and my older brother got drafted to the Calgary Flames.”
St. Croix was drafted fourth overall by the Edmonton Oil Kings at the Western League bantam draft in 2008. But when St. Croix suited up for his rookie season in 2009, the Oil Kings were young and struggled to win games, notching just 16 overall.
“It was very tough, especially with a young team,” St. Croix said. “A lot of them weren’t used to losing that many games.”
Despite the struggle, St. Croix led the team in goals and points, gathering a total of 46 points in 66 games. And better days were on the horizon.
This year, the Oil Kings set their modern franchise record for wins and points and made the playoffs.
“Making the playoffs was actually a very big deal for our team,” St. Croix said. “Although we didn’t do as well as we would’ve liked, we learned a lot of lessons that will be very beneficial down the road and next season.”
St. Croix had another successful campaign himself, placing second on the team with 75 points in 68 games.
“I think the best thing from this year is I’m a better hockey player, offensively and defensively,” he said.
His statistics and achievements speak for themselves, but the essence to St. Croix’s unique game is his style of play. A playmaker and goal-scorer, he believes a big part of his game involves his vision, which contributes to his impressive offensive abilities.
St. Croix is able to set up plays and get passes through the narrowest of lanes, but most importantly he positions himself perfectly to finish the play. At the same time, his vision grants him the confidence to get fancy with the puck and put on a show.
Although St. Croix’s game is unique, he finds similarities in other players.
“Patrice Bergeron has awesome vision,” St. Croix said. “He’s not the fastest guy out there, but he competes, he’s a leader, he makes plays, he scores and he’s reliable defensively. I think a guy like that is someone who I would like to mould my game after.”
With the NHL draft approaching in June, St. Croix said he isn’t very nervous about the rankings. Central Scouting had him as the 59th-ranked North American skater, while International Scouting Services put him at 56th overall.
“They’re just a matter of opinion,” St. Croix said. “The only person you should be impressing is on an NHL team, who will hopefully give you an opportunity in the future.”
That being said, he’s not worried about where he’ll be a few years down the road either.
“Wherever I go is going to be awesome,” he said. “Just to play in the NHL is a great accomplishment and a dream come true regardless of where you go.”
However, there is one team he might prefer over the others.
“I hear the Jets might be coming back,” he said. “Being a Winnipeg boy, playing for the Jets would be a little weird, but very cool at the same time.”
Andrew Echevarria is a former journalist who worked for HockeyProspect.com. Andrew writes extensively about the WHL and many of its prospects. You can reach him at Andrew.firstname.lastname@example.org.