By Byron Hackett
There’s plenty of ways a flat tire can ruin your day, but Tuesday wasn’t one of them for Kale Howarth.
The 19-year-old Red Deer product, who is in his second season with the Trail Smoke Eaters of the British Columbia junior A Hockey League, was on his way back to Trail when his trip was side tracked by a flat tire.
A brief stop in Cranbrook to fix the flat before he was back on the road, which provided just another footnote in the Christmas story for Howarth, who that same day was named to the Canadian Junior Hockey League Prospects game later this month in Cornwall, Ont.
The players selected for the game, from Junior A leagues across Canada, are among the best 40 CJHL prospects for the 2017 NHL Draft in Chicago. Howarth will suit up for Team West in the game on Jan. 25 game and said over the phone this week that it was one of his teammates that broke the news.
“My teammate texted me and said congratulations on making the prospects game. I had no idea,” Howarth said.
“As soon as I found out it was just an unreal feeling to be a part of something like this. A lot of great names have played in it. It’s a really humbling feeling.”
Those names, perhaps the most famous of them is Kyle Turris, who was selected third overall in the 2007 NHL Draft from the Burnaby Express of the BCHL. Tyson Jost most recently, from the Penticton Vees, 10th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft to the Tampa Bay Lightning and having major success at the World Junior Championships in Toronto.
The six-foot-six, 205-pound forward may not be in that elite class, but the prospects game allows another opportunity for NHL scouts to evaluate his talent.
“The CJHL Prospects Game is a tremendous opportunity for these players to showcase their ability and represent their teams, leagues and communities on a national stage,” said Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting in a CJHL press release.
As of Monday, Howarth is currently listed as a “C” prospect on the NHL Central Scouting watch list, which means a potential fourth through sixth selection. While he’s committed to Northern Michigan of the NCAA for next season, the Smoke Eaters leading scorer hopes he can take advantage of the big stage and improve his stock for the NHL draft.
“I just hope to have another good game. Just show everyone what I can do. Hopefully this will help me out for the upcoming draft in Chicago. Just go out and have a good performance. See what happens,” He said.
With 43 points in 33 games this season, Howarth sits ninth in the BCHL in scoring. He’s also ninth in points per game with 1.30, and tied for sixth in power play goals with nine and leads the way for his Smoker Eaters squad. That’s a long way from the 27 points in 53 games last season, a change he credits to his new head coach Cam Kieth.
“It was a maturity thing. Maturing into the league,” the 19-year-old second year BCHL forward explained. “We got a new coach this year and him and I just clicked since day one. He’s probably one of the biggest reasons why I play so well. he told me a roll and if I want to be successful, play that roll. It’s working for me so far.”
Dating back to bantam AA, 2016-2017 has been the most productive Howarth has ever been in his hockey career– helping create a confidence that even a flat tire can’t deflate.
“I learned last year how to use my size and everything,” Howarth said. “This year everything has fallen into place.”