It’s been quite the rise for Layton Ahac.
Less than two years after playing his final game with the Prince George Spruce Kings, the 20-year-old blueliner finds himself one step away from the bright lights of the National Hockey League.
Ahac, who was a third-round pick of the Vegas Golden Knights in 2019, signed on the dotted line at the end of March.
“It’s a great feeling and a step in the right direction. I was happy to make the decision with my family as I went home. I want to say thanks to everyone who helped me since I started playing because they are a big reason why I signed.”
The North Vancouver product decided to turn pro after spending the last two seasons for the NCAA’s Ohio State Buckeyes. In 63 collegiate games, Ahac registered one goal and 12 points.
“I felt there was a chance to turn pro near the end of the season. (The Golden Knights) reached out and said that I could join them and it was a great feeling to sign with them. The next step is playing in the NHL, so that is what I am working towards now.”
When it came to signing after his sophomore season rather than waiting to play a full four years in the NCAA, Ahac believed the timing was right to make the jump.
“(The Golden Knights) have been out to a lot of my games in the past two years and just hearing feedback from them about my game was really beneficial. They look at the game from the pro side so it’s a different perspective. Having that feedback and taking it day by day allowed me to sign, they just mentioned to me (that) after my second season that I would get an offer.”
“My coaches (at Ohio State) gave me their input and at the end of the day, it kind of came down to what was best for me. They are happy to support me with whatever I chose. It was definitely a grind over the past two years of never being satisfied and always wanting more. To be rewarded with a contract is a great feeling,” added Ahac.
Crowning moments in PG
Ahac’s short but stellar BCHL career came during the two best years in Spruce Kings’ history. As a 16-year-old rookie, the blueliner racked up 29 points in 57 games and was part of a Prince George squad that earned its first Mainland Division title in franchise history.
With a core that included Dustin Manz, Patrick Cozzi, Ethan De Jong, Kyle Johnson, and Evan DeBrouwer, the Spruce Kings went on a magical playoff run, which led them all the way to the Fred Page Cup Final.
Unfortunately, the Cinderella story fell three wins short, falling in five games to the Wenatchee Wild.
“Being in Prince George with that coaching staff helped shape me as a defenseman but also as a person. You know spending time away from home for two years is tough at 16 and 17, but when a community welcomes you with open arms and is supportive along every step, it’s unbelievable.”
“Playing in Game seven against Chilliwack was an absolute battle. To go that whole way with that group was unbelievable. After we beat (the Chiefs), we had a pretty good feeling that we could be a successful team in the playoffs. Winning that first series was huge for us and the organization,” mentioned Ahac.
The road didn’t get any easier for the Spruce Kings as they rallied from a 3-1 series deficit against the Surrey Eagles before rattling off three consecutive wins to advance to the third round.
From there, PG made short work of Powell River and took the series in five games courtesy of an overtime goal from Johnson.
Kings of the BCHL
The Spruce Kings completed the climb to the top of the mountain in 2018-19, posting a record of 39-13-6 and sweeping the Vernon Vipers in four games to win the Fred Page Cup.
PG went on an unprecedented run in the postseason going 16-1, sweeping its last three opponents, the Victoria Grizzlies, Chilliwack Chiefs, and the Vipers.
The only team to take a game off the Spruce Kings was the Coquitlam Express, who pitched a 3-0 shutout victory in Game four of their opening round series.
“That was a super-special group and we knew it too. We kind of had that swagger going into (the) playoffs and having that whole community behind you. I remember in the Doyle Cup, having a sold-out rink was unbelievable, the place just lit up. One of my favourite parts about Prince George was the fans and the atmosphere (at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena).”
From there, Ahac and his teammates claimed the Doyle Cup on home ice against the top-ranked Brooks Bandits, wrapping up the series in six games.
“Winning at home and sharing that win with the crowd and the whole city of Prince George was an unbelievable feeling and I will never forget it,” said Ahac.
However, PG fell one win shy of completing the trifecta, losing in the final of the National Junior A Championship to the host Bandits.
Ahac is now with the Henderson Silver Knights of the American Hockey League as he begins his next step towards the NHL.