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Leading the charge: Salmon Arm Silverbacks alumni

 

Salmon Arm has an extensive list of players who have furthered their careers through the Silverbacks organization, however, only three have climbed to the top and stayed in the National Hockey League. These three stars are Travis Zajac, Riley Nash, and Josh Manson.

They all are continuing their careers at the most elite level, and look to be joined by a fresh new wave of alumni such as Taro Hirose and Chase Priskie who all are seen on the cusp of the NHL rosters.

These elite alumni know what it takes to play the game at the NHL level, and this year look to set new Silverback alumni records. The careers of these players set the standard for the next wave of Silverbacks alumni to carry the torch.

Travis Zajac (New Jersey Devils)

The first player I’ll explore currently holds the longest standing NHL career amongst his Backs alumni counterparts and that is Travis Zajac of the New Jersey Devils. Zajac is heading into his 15th season with the Devils and is currently set on the third line with Jesper Bogvist on his right and Miles Wood to his left. 

It’s been a long career for Zajac, who was originally a first-round pick, 20th overall, for the Devils back in 2004. It didn’t take long for him to crack the roster as the Devils saw Zajac in the lineup for two years later, where he picked 42 points in 80 games in his first NHL season. 

Zajac’s extensive career is undoubtingly impressive and will be decorated even more so by the end of the 2020-21 season. He is looking to break a couple of career milestones of 1,000 games played and 200 NHL goals. The Winnipeg, Manitoba product is within striking distance of both this season.

Riley Nash (Columbus Blue Jackets)

Our next alumni is also a first-round NHL draft pick like Zajac. He went 21st overall to the Edmonton Oilers in 2007 but didn’t launch his career with the team.

Nash was acquired by the Carolina Hurricanes for a 2nd round pick in 2010 and ended up igniting his career with the Hurricanes in the 2011-12 season. He only played five games that season, but Nash stayed with Carolina for the following five years to finish his contract. 

As a free agent who didn’t re-sign with the Hurricanes, Nash was in search of a new home in the summer of 2016. He found one in Boston with a two-year deal playing for the Bruins starting in the 2016-17 season.

During his second season with the Bruins, Nash posted a career-high 41 points in 76 games. After the 2017-18 season, Nash didn’t receive a contract from the B’s and ended up packing his bags, bound for his current home with the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Nash is in his third and final year of his contract with the Jackets. At the end of the 2020-21 season, Nash will be left again to transition to another team, or if the opportunity presents itself, further plant roots in Ohio and sign an extension.

 

Josh Manson (Anaheim Ducks)

Our next standing alumni was a sixth round pick, 160th overall in 2011 – Josh Manson of the Anaheim Ducks. He is the son of longtime NHL defenseman Dave Manson, who was known for his ability to deliver big hits and make big-time plays, which you can read about here. 

Josh Manson furthered his career out of Salmon Arm by playing NCAA Division I hockey at Northeastern University. In his junior year at the school, Manson won Hockey East’s award for best defensive defenseman, which further put him on NHL teams’ radar.

He played three full years at the NCAA level before he forfeiting his fourth and final year at college after signing a two-year entry-level contract with Anaheim. Manson debuted with the Ducks during the 2014-15 season.

Manson has done well in southern California and signed a four-year deal with Anaheim back on Oct. 4, 2017. Manson resembles a gritty style of play, much like his father. He uses his physicality to open up space and regain puck possession for the Ducks on the back end. This season Manson looks to break 100 career points, and becoming just the third Silverbacks alumni to do so. 

Who Comes Next?

These Silverbacks alumni are currently leading the charge for NHL success and are known as the first-ever to do so. They will, without a doubt, go down as some of the greats to come out of Salmon Arm, but with time and age comes a new wave of players.

We are now seeing newer Silverbacks alumni trying to make their way into the NHL. Taro Hirose and Chase Priskie appear to be on the new wave of players, and hopefully make NHL rosters in the coming years. Keep an eye out because you never know which Silverbacks player you could see on the big stage next.