The Canmore Eagles were left searching for their next offensive defenceman last summer.
Mark Drohan filled that role in the 2018-19 season and did a tremendous job after being acquired from the Calgary Canucks. The Calgary native put together a career year scoring 13 goals and 61 points in 60 games, tied for most by a defenceman in the AJHL. He was also voted into the Viterra South Division All-League Team and was a nominee for the AJHL’s Most Outstanding Defencemen award.
It’s safe to say whoever they chose to play that role had some big boots to fill.
Enter rookie defenceman, Dylan Witzke.
Witzke was a 2002-born defenceman signed from the Calgary Buffaloes of the AMHL – the same program Drohan played his final year of midget AAA.
It didn’t take him long to adjust offensively scoring eight points in his first ten games. Witzke continued to be consistent all year long for the Eagles offence with 40 points in 54 games.
He had his first three-point game on in October versus Drayton Valley. He then matched that career-high in February in an impressive 7-6 win over Brooks at the CRA. Witzke played a critical role in that win getting assists on two of the tying goals and also giving the Eagles a one-goal advantage early in the third period.
Witzke played a crucial role in the Eagles’ sixth-ranked powerplay. He is one of the best in the league at playing the “quarterback” role on the top unit powerplay. His elite passing ability made him the perfect man to set up Canmore’s offensive juggernauts Connor Lyons and Alex Young.
At the end of the season, he really filled his trophy cabinet coming away with the Canmore Top Defenceman award, being named to the Inter Pipeline All-Academic team, and also voted into the Viterra South All-Rookie team.
Next season will be a big one for Witzke. It’ll be a year for him to prove that he is one of the top offensive defencemen in Alberta.
One thing to watch out for will be life without Young and Lyons. The three of them really fed off each other throughout the season.
Now, the question is who’s going to step up and finish off the chances Witzke is giving them. One player to watch is Zach Carlson who he seemed to connect with more as the season went on.
What we do know is that Witzke had an impressive rookie campaign under Andrew Milne in Canmore. He produced at a great offensive rate and was reliable defensively. There’s a reason he was voted into the Viterra South All-Rookie team after all.
He has the full capabilities to be one of the best offensive players in the AJHL for the next few years, and possibly even an Outstanding Defenceman winner somebody.