photo via Target Photography
At the onset of the 2017/2018 season, the Sherwood Park Crusaders were a roster full of young AJHL prospects heading into their first junior campaign. A number of them experienced success throughout their first year of junior hockey, from Will Zapernick challenging for the team’s scoring title to Brandon Vogel developing into the team’s number one goaltender.
One first-year that stood out to me was the St Albert product, Garrett Clegg. After a successful minor hockey career for the St. Albert Raiders, Clegg joined the Crusaders for two games at the end of the 2016/2017 season before making the full time jump to the AJHL. Known for his quick release and his powerful shot, the ’00-born forward made an immediate impact on-ice. On October 4th, Clegg was named the CrusadersTV Player of the Week, making him the first new Crusaders player to earn that honour.
While it was Clegg’s first honour with the organization, it certainly wouldn’t be his last. After scoring 19 goals as a rookie – a total good enough for second in the North Division among first-year players – Clegg was named to the AJHL All-Rookie Team, becoming the fifth Crusaders player in the last eight years to earn that recognition. Of note, the other four players – Matt Tomkins, Tommy Nixon, Sean MacTavish and Ty Readman – all earned scholarships to NCAA schools.
“There are a lot of great players in this league, and it’s a huge honour to be selected to this team,” Garrett Clegg said at the time of the team’s announcement. “I couldn’t have gotten there without my teammates and coaches helping me out a long way.”
Since debuting, Clegg’s NHL-level shot and offensive instincts have earned him plenty of accolades. However, a deeper look at the numbers shows just how good Clegg has the potential to be. When compared to former Crusader Tyler Maltby – now playing for the Maine Mariners of the ECHL – it’s eerie how closely their stats line up over their rookie seasons. While Maltby was able to accrue more assists in his first year (16-13), Clegg was able to outpace the former Crusader in both goals (19-16) and points (33-32). Not only that, but Clegg was able to do so in one less game.
While we can only assume what Clegg has the potential to do in year two in the AJHL, it’s worth noting the jump in Maltby’s stats in his second season with the Crusaders. In 2016/2017, Maltby exploded for 67 points, with his 41 goals leading the entirety of the AJHL. The next season, Maltby continued his torrid pace, scoring 38 goals and again leading the league in scoring. Is Clegg in line for a similar jump? It’s not out of line to think so; he improved steadily throughout last season and had the necessary tools to take the next step in his 18-year-old season.