In March, the Cranbrook Bucks announced their sixth player commitment, 2002-born forward AJ Vasko. At the time, he was just the third forward to commit to the Bucks, joining Noah Leibl and Brendan Rogers.
The La Selle, Manitoba product spent the last three seasons playing on various teams at Rink Hockey Academy. He was selected by the Winnipeg Blues 28th overall in the 2017 Manitoba Junior Hockey League draft. Much like some of the Bucks’ recruits before him, he does have junior A experience, getting into one game with the Blues last season as an affiliate player. Let’s take a closer look at Vasko’s path to the Cranbrook Bucks.
A Rink Hockey Academy product
In 2016-17, Vasko had a productive season playing U15 AAA for the Pembina Valley Hawks. In 32 games that season, he managed 17 goals and 28 assists for 45 points.
Vasko joined Rink Hockey Academy the following season, playing in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League’s Elite 15s division. He played 35 regular season games that year, contributing 12 goals and 14 assists for 26 points. Playing another five games in the playoffs that season, he added one goal and three assists for four points.
In 2018-19, Vasko made the jump to Rink’s Prep division team in the CSSHL. He scored 10 goals and added 13 assists for 33 points in 35 games played. Vasko also got into four games with Rink’s U18 AAA team, chipping in with a couple of assists. In four CSSHL Prep division playoff games, Vasko scored one goal and added three assists.
Game Star | Congratulations to @BluesWpg Prospect FWD Andrew Vasko who was named the #Zuieke Player of the Game for Team Grey in Game 2 of the 2019 #MJHL Prospect Development Camp. pic.twitter.com/cEGDxb5jZM
— #MJHLHockey (@mjhlhockey) July 27, 2019
Following the 2018-19 season, Vasko attended the MJHL prospect development camp. He earned player of the game honours in game two of the camp.
Last season, Vasko once again played in the CSSHL Prep division, this time as the captain of his Rink Academy squad. His leadership included putting up 56 points in 31 games, as he scored 15 goals and added 41 assists. In another two playoff games last season, he chipped in with one goal.
Vasko’s strong offensive season saw him get called up to play a game with the Winnipeg Blues. He was held off the scoresheet in his lone MJHL game, but just the experience should help him prepare for the BCHL this upcoming season.
Vasko commits to Cranbrook
— AJ Vasko (@ajvasko27) March 30, 2020
On March 30, the Bucks officially introduced Vasko as the most recent player at the time to commit to the expansion franchise. In the team’s news release announcing the signing, head coach and general manager Ryan Donald had high praise for the 17-year-old.
“Our staff is excited to add a player and person of AJ’s calibre to our hockey team for this season,” said Donald. “AJ represents a lot of the qualities that we look for in our players, enthusiastic, hard working, and extremely competitive. This past season AJ was the captain of his team and it was obvious the more that we spoke with him that he would be a great fit for our team culture and the Cranbrook community.”
Clearly, the Bucks are thrilled to have a player like Vasko join them for their inaugural season. Similarly, Vasko is ready to take the next step, and he is being given a great opportunity in Cranbrook. He turns 18-years-old in October, so he has three seasons of junior eligibility ahead of him. Without a doubt, he is ready to put his stamp on this brand new team.