Panthers prospect Jayce Hawryluk has had an awesome past couple of weeks. Wait, no. He’s had an awesome season. It’s clear he has no intention of slowing down. However, after having a career night on Wednesday, and with the way he has played as of late, it comes as no surprise.
When asked to describe his performance on Wednesday night in one word, Jayce Hawryluk was stumped.
“That’s a tough question,” said Hawryuk. “Let me think.”
He scored 5 goals, recorded 1 assist and finished with a +7 rating to lead the Brandon Wheat Kings to an impressive 12-2 victory on home ice over the Saskatoon Blades. To people looking on from the outside, this is a crazy feat, one that barely seems possible. But not to Hawryluk or those who have followed his career year in the WHL.
“Incredible” was the word he chose.
The 20-year old forward is coming off a stellar month of February during which he tallied 7 goals and 26 assists in just 14 games. 39 points. 14 games. His outstanding play earned him the Player of the Month award over fellow Panthers prospect Dryden Hunt who tallied 5 hat-tricks in a span of just 8 games. Hawryluk had points in 12 of those 14 games, 2 hat-tricks, 11 multi-point games, 7 games with 3 or more points, and 4 multi-goal games. There’s also that entry-level contract he signed with the Panthers on Tuesday…that’s pretty cool too.
Wednesday night’s game started out how it usually does for Hawryluk as he recorded an assist on a goal by linemate and projected top-5 pick for the 2017 Draft Nolan Patrick. He was his typical, energetic, physical self too as he skated hard from deep in the offensive zone all the way into the defensive zone to separate an opposing skater from the puck. No big deal.
He entered the locker room at the end of the opening period on a high note, but that note was about to get even higher. Something magical must’ve happened in there at the end of the period – or probably not – because he was a man on a mission in the middle frame. Hawryluk admittedly didn’t finish off the month of February how he wanted as he tallied just 1 point and a -2 rating through the final two games, so getting back to his normal self was a high priority.
The Manitoba-native scored 2 goals in a span of 37 seconds about 8 minutes into the period. Neither goal was flashy; the first one was a simple, unassuming shot from the blue line while the second one seemed to have gone off a defender stationed at the front of the net.
Hawryluk wasn’t done yet, and he had plenty of time for some flashy goals. His hat-trick goal was exactly that. He took the puck into the zone and protected it as he drove to the net, sliding it past the goaltender to give him his fourth 3-goal game of the season and the 8th of his career.
There was definitely more where that came from as less than 5 minutes later, Hawryluk received a pass in the slot and rifled a wrist shot past the Saskatoon back up goaltender and Nashville Predators draft pick, Evan Smith, for his 4th goal of game, a feat he’s achieved for the 2nd time this season and 3rd time in his career.
Surprisingly, not one of Hawryluk’s first 4 goals came on special teams, so he decided to change that. The Wheat Kings entered the zone on an odd-man rush while shorthanded and Hawryluk eventually received a pass on the right wing which he put past the goaltender with apparent ease, nearly knocking the goalpost off its mooring in the process.
Wednesday night was easily – for him to achieve it and us to describe it – the best performance of Jayce Hawryluk’s WHL career – thus far, that is – and it only epitomizes how well his season has gone. He’s currently tied for 6th in the WHL in scoring with 85 points in 50 games, which is 14 fewer games than the league’s leading scorer.
To put it simply, Hawryluk would be leading the WHL in scoring had he not missed 14 games this season; he’s been that good. He’s also achieved career-highs on his stat line: goals (35), assists (50), points (85), and +/- (47). He reached the new assist mark in 13 fewer games than his total from last season, the new goal mark was reached – and surpassed – in 4 fewer games than last year, and the point total was reached in 11 fewer games than last season. Surprisingly, this was the first time in his career that he’s scored 5 goals in one game.
Hawryluk has gotten better each year he’s been in the WHL, and there’s no doubt he’s got more room to grow. As he heads towards the playoffs in hopes of winning his first Memorial Cup before turning pro next season, Hawryluk is worth more than keeping just one eye on. You should keep both eyes on him, because he’s not too far off.
We’ll leave you with this clip of Hawryluk being name the first star of the game on Wednesday: