As the saying goes, one man’s loss is another man’s gain, or in this case, it’s one school’s loss, is another school’s gain as Grande Prairie Storm star Zachary Okabe commits to St. Cloud State University.
Proud and honoured to announce my commitment to play college hockey at https://t.co/xpqLEt77Gm State University @SCSUHUSKIES_MH . I would like to thank my family, teammates, coaches, and friends that helped me along this journey. #gohuskies 🐾 pic.twitter.com/IhBpHkXGsR
— Zach Okabe (@zachokabe) August 10, 2018
Okabe made it official via his Twitter account earlier this evening that he’d be no longer joining the University of Vermont Catamounts, as initially planned. Instead, he’ll be taking his talents the State of Hockey and suit up for the St Cloud State Huskies of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC).
The Huskies finished with a 25-9-6 record in 2018 and were crowned NCHC regular season champions. Their season would end after losing 4-1 to Air Force in the NCAA Regional Semi-Finals.
The Storm forward is coming off a superb rookie season in the AJHL. It took him no time to adjust to the junior hockey game scoring 10 points in his first six games. Okabe continued his fine form all season long and would wrap up his first campaign falling just short off a point-per-game average with 57 points (22 goals, 35 assists) in 58 games. He’d follow up his impressive regular season with five points in nine games during the Storm’s postseason run.
Although Grande Prairie was unable to take home any silverware as a team; Okabe filled up his trophy case nicely. First came a unanimous selection to the AJHL (North) All-Rookie team, then he was named the AJHL Rookie of the Year becoming the first Storm player to receive the award since 1998 (Blaine Bablitz), and, finally, he was nominated for the CJHL Top Rookie award which he would eventually lose out to Boston College commit Alex Newhook (Victoria Grizzlies).
It’s pretty simple really, Okabe is an elite talent. He’s got the speed, a great shot, and reads the game exceptionally well – to name a few traits.
However, one intriguing thing about Okabe is how he’ll perform this upcoming season. Coming into Grande Prairie last season, the 2001-born was surrounded by top-level veteran offensive players with the likes of Justin Bernier, Eduoard Michaud, and Dallas Comeau all on the roster. Now, heading into this year’s campaign the group is very different. Okabe will be looked at to be “the guy” which could take a little to adjust too. We saw a similar situation with Ty Readman in Sherwood Park last season. The Crusaders had a lost the like of Tyler Maltby, Tanner Younghans, and Matt Dykstra who were all huge contributors to the team. Of course, Readman figured it out and had a successful season and earned himself a scholarship. We should expect the same from Okabe, but again it could take a little time for him to adjust.
Although nothing has been made official, yet, it should be expected that the Huskies will want Okabe at his earliest availability which would be the 2019-20 season. With that being said, if the newest member of the Huskies is coming to your town, I would highly suggest you get out and watch this kid play.