(Courtesy of Perry Bergson, The Brandon Sun) There’s not much that makes junior hockey executives happier than seeing steady growth in their young players.

Connor Gutenberg would be a textbook example. The 18-year-old Brandonite just finished his third year with the Western Hockey League club, and his point totals have gone from 10 in the 2015-16 season to 36 last year to 53 this season, including a career-high 18 goals.

“I’m really happy,” Gutenberg said of his season. “You want to improve every year and you want to see that in your numbers and your game. I think I did that, and the goal now is to keep improving and do the same next year.”

If you ask his head coach, David Anning, points are not even the most remarkable part of Gutenberg’s game.

“Connor is a very consistent player, he brings it every night,” Anning said. “You know exactly what you’re going to get from him. It’s going to be an honest effort. He thinks the game at a very high level so he always puts himself in the right spots, which makes him very reliable and trustworthy. He’s a guy that we use in all situations from power play to penalty kill to even strength against the hard matchups.

“He’s somebody who we lean on and rely on and I think he’s really grown as a player. He’s become even more of a leader for us.”

Gutenberg played on a line with fellow Brandonite Ty Lewis and Californian Evan Weinger during the regular season, and the trio took off, playing with uncommon skill and pace.

They combined for 210 points, paced by Lewis’ 100, after overager Weinger arrived following a trade with the Portland Winterhawks in early October.

“We play a fast game,” Gutenberg said. “All three of us can skate really well and we all have some skill. We complement each other really well. We’ve kind of clicked ever since we got put together shortly after Evan got here.”

The veteran of 182 regular-season games and 35 playoff games said experience is a big factor, especially when it’s combined with the resulting confidence that brings.

“I think it’s a little bit of both,” said Gutenberg, who had seven points in 11 playoff games this year. “You work hard in the summer to improve as a player and to see your totals improve like that is really encouraging.”

While the season may have ended a little more quickly than he hoped after the Wheat Kings were beaten in five games in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal by the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Gutenberg sees it as a solid building block.

He’s excited for the team’s future.

“I think we can be really happy,” Gutenberg said. “A lot of guys learned a lot this year. We had kind of a young group after the deadline. I think it will help us for next year.”


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