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Henry’s college commitment a franchise first for the Bucks

 

It was recently announced that Cranbrook Bucks graduating forward Reece Henry committed to Minot State University of the American Collegiate Hockey Association.

Henry played in all 20 games with the Bucks last season, collecting one goal and three assists. Although he contributed a bit offensively, Henry’s true value to the team was his leadership as a veteran player.

Henry was a late addition to Cranbrook’s 2020-21 regular season roster, as he was acquired at the Feb. 25 trade deadline. Much like many of his new teammates, Henry got off to a bit of a slow start with very little game action before April.

When Henry finally did find his game with the Bucks, his veteran presence was noticeable on an otherwise inexperienced team. He did, of course, have 140 games under his belt in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

In 122 regular season contests with the MJHL’s Portage Terriers, Henry managed 29 goals and 42 assists for 71 points. He added another seven goals and nine points in 18 playoff games with the Terriers. His most memorable hockey moment would almost certainly have to be a game seven overtime winner to clinch the 2019 MJHL championship.

While the college commitment is a huge step in Henry’s career, it is also a milestone for the Cranbrook Bucks franchise. Henry is the first player to commit to a post-secondary hockey career while playing for Cranbrook.

With the Bucks one season removed from being a brand new expansion team, there are still many milestones to reach. However, they can now say one of their own has earned a university commitment as a member of their program.

First to get one — but not to have one

Although Henry is the first to do so while a member of the Bucks, there have been a few previously committed players pass through Cranbrook as well.

Henry is now the sixth player to play for the Bucks en route to college hockey. He joins the following players that spent time in Cranbrook with previous university commitments:

Of course, four of those five players were imports that spent time with the Bucks during the 2020-21 extended training season. All four of them returned to the United States prior to the regular season, while the BCHL was at the mercy of provincial COVID-19 restrictions. The lone Canadian on that list is Burgin, who like Henry, came over to Cranbrook from the MJHL as a 20-year-old to complete his junior career.

With Henry and Burgin both graduating to post-secondary programs, who could be the next Cranbrook Buck to obtain a commitment? Considering none of the players expected to be on the Bucks 2021-22 roster have commitments, it could be anyone.

Candidates aplenty for future commitments

20-year-old goaltender Michael Harroch could be the most hungry for a commitment, entering his final season of junior hockey. The Bucks also had three 2001-born players on their roster last season who are all likely looking to find a school for next season.

Then comes the surplus of 19-year-old players making up the core of this second-year franchise. Forwards Zeth Kindrachuk, AJ Vasko, Noah Leibl, and Nathan Fox have all established themselves as capable BCHL players. Cranbrook also features a pair of standout defensemen born in 2002 — Rhys Bentham and Cameron Kungle.

The Bucks core also contains a group of 2003-born players progressing well toward an NCAA commitment. Forward Noah Quinn and defenseman Cole Assailly both made strong first impressions in the BCHL, while goaltender Nathan Airey showed signs of growth in his first taste of junior hockey.

Cranbrook recently signed 2003-born forward Andrew King, an import out of Dubuque, IA. King is a prospect for not only the NCAA, but was also listed by Central Scouting ahead of this year’s NHL draft, although he didn’t end up hearing his name called.

Then there’s the young Bucks from Cranbrook’s inaugural season roster, like forwards Tyson Dyck and Walker Gelbard. Despite limited action due to injuries for both players last season, they proved to be offensive catalysts when they were in the lineup. Even at a young age, they are both well on their way to NCAA commitments, if that’s their goal.

Evidently, there is no shortage of candidates for the next Cranbrook Buck to earn a college commitment. Time will tell, but the organization is well on its way to providing many players the opportunity of reaching their college hockey goals.