It’s been a summer of change for the Sherwood Park Crusaders.
They lost a long list of vets, some left to head to school, others were dealt away as future considerations. But credit to Kyle Chase and his staff, who have been working relentlessly at filling those gaps in the lineup. A busy off-season continued over the past week as the team brought in two more players, without giving up anything in the short term.
18 years old – 6’0’ – 161 lbs
The mobile defensemen should be able to help fill the gap left by Ben Sowa on the Crusaders back end. He spent last season playing in his hometown with the Victoria Cougars of the VIJHL where he posted some solid numbers that show his offensive potential.
What may be of more value for the Cru was his ability to step up in the playoffs. In 16 playoff games last year he was able to pot 13 points, if he can translate that big game play to the AJHL, he could be a major piece for the Crusaders push to go on a deep run.
Since he’s never played in Alberta, Cru fans likely aren’t too familiar with his game, so I asked him who he tries to model his game after and the answer he gave me… Erik Karlsson.
That self-comparison matches up well with scouting reports as well. A smooth skater who can move the puck up ice in a hurry. If there’s one concern in his game, it appears to be his strength. The good news however, is with young junior hockey players, a summer in the gym and a growth spurt has really helped guys in a situation similar before, so there’s plenty of reason to believe he could come into Crusaders camp a much more complete player.
If you want to hear more from Pang, you can hear his interview with myself HERE.
20 years old – 6’1 – 209 lbs
The Cru acquired the ‘97 forward in a deal with their division rival, the Bonnyville Pontiacs. Just by looking at the deal on paper, I score this one a win for Kyle Chase, as he’s able to acquire a big veteran forward in exchange for future considerations, which sends a message to Crusaders fans that this team isn’t okay with being mediocre.
Not only does Stewart bring 34 games of AJHL experience, he’s also appeared in 143 WHL games with the Kootenay Ice, where he put up 23 points.
While his offensive numbers don’t exactly jump off the page (11-8-19 last year with Bonnyville) this is the type of guy who doesn’t exactly need to score to be effective.
While he likely won’t come in a score Tyler Maltby numbers, he’s hard to play against and should be able to open up some ice for the Crusaders younger and more skilled forwards. There’s also always that chance with 20-year-olds in this league that they finally do find that offensive confidence and break through for career years, especially with scholarships often on the line.
I could also see Stewart may be working well with someone like Ty Readman, who had success with Tyler Maltby in the past. If you want an NHL comparison, maybe think of the way that someone like Patrick Maroon compliments Connor McDavid’s game. That may be a reach, but giving a veteran guy like Stewart an honest chance in an offensive role could be a season changer for the Cru.
Even if the offense isn’t there on some nights, you have to like the fact that Stewart has been around junior hockey for a long time. When you look at how young this team could end up being come opening night, having a guy like Stewart who has almost seen it all in junior hockey could have a real positive impact on some of the younger kids that could be throwing on green jerseys this season.
As most know, this team lost a lot of really important guys over the summer and replacing the leadership and steady play of Ben Sowa along with 38 goals from Tyler Maltby was not going to be easy.
That said, this was some excellent work by Kyle Chase to fill a couple of key holes without giving up anything in the short term. It’ll be interesting to find out what the future considerations are, but I have confidence that the return the team gets from Stewart will be well worth it.
As for Pang, I think he quick game could translate well to the AJHL and he could be a player who rises through the lineup fairly quickly.
I still think this team is either one or two more additions, or breakthrough performances from becoming a championship contender but at the same time, those moves could always come in season. If I’m Adam Manah or Kyle Chase, I have no problem icing this squad to start the season and see how things go for a bit.