A St. Albert teen is getting the chance to play on the same team that has boasted some of his hockey idols.
Only 15 years old, Cameron Kuzma signed a Western Hockey League (WHL) Scholarship and Development Agreement with the Regina Pats in May and played his first game for the team on Nov. 1.
He has played six games for the Pats so far — a rare opportunity for someone so young — and can play up to five more games later in the season.
“[Kuzma] is a big-body player and he has a chance to stretch some more,” Regina Pats director of scouting Dale McMullin said in a news release. “He’s got a good feel for the game, a good set of hands and can make plays. I really believe in time like all of them, if he does his part, he has a chance to be a top-six player with his growth projection and the skill level that he carries.”
Kuzma was a Pats fan even before he was drafted to play for the team.
Watching them in last year’s playoffs, he “couldn’t believe how fast it was, and how cool it was” seeing former Pats players Connor Bedard and Stanislav Svozil.
“When I got my name called in the draft it was just surreal,” he said “[I’ve been] watching since I was a little kid, right?”
Before joining the Pats, Kuzma played with Hockey Club Edmonton in the Junior Prospects Hockey League.
This season, he has joined the Pats in games against the Prince Albert Raiders, the Brandon Wheat Kings and the Saskatoon Blades.
A highlight for Kuzma was his performance in a 6-1 game against the Wheat Kings.
“We had a couple of sweet chances,” said the six-foot-two, 181-pound forward. “I went through the neutral zone and dangled one guy, and then put [the puck] through another other guy, and I shot it and went off the guy's stick. So that was that was pretty cool.”
But he said that getting to train with, learn from and make friends with his teammates has been the most impactful part of the experience.
He’s currently attending the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame in Wilcox, Sask., where he plays for the Notre Dame Hounds U18 AAA team.
It’s far from his home in St. Albert, but the young player moved into the dorms at Notre Dame to be closer to the Pats and attend the school’s hockey program.
Kuzma will join the Pats on a permanent basis next year and continue to sharpen his hockey skills at the professional level.
“I feel like I'm looking good,” he said. “I've been trying to keep my work ethic up and trying to make sure that I'm just improving every day.”