Braydyn Chizen certainly made a huge impression on the Brandon Wheat Kings.
The six-foot-seven, 207-pound defenceman arrived from the Kelowna Rockets on Jan. 10, and while he only played 26 games with his new club, the likeable St. Albert, Alta., product quickly became one of the guys.
He enjoyed his time in the Wheat City as well.
“It was awesome,” Chizen said. “I wish I would have gotten here sooner. Coming here I didn’t really know what to expect, to be honest, and I kind of only knew the way of one organization when I got here, but I fell in love with it and had a really good time in the couple of months I was here.”
Chizen scored twice, added two assists and earned 42 penalty minutes and a four-game suspension for a checking to the head major as a Wheat King, while also adding a physical presence on a defensive corps that boasted four 17-year-olds and a 16-year-old.
Chizen doesn’t hesitate when asked what he’ll remember most down the line when he thinks about his time as a Wheat King.
“Probably the group of guys,” Chizen said. “It was fun to play with and make new friendships with this group. It was a really fun group. Everyone got along really well. I’ll also remember the good reputation that the Wheat Kings have.”
He was one of just two overagers on the team, with Linden McCorrister filling the other spot.
He certainly showed a flair for the dramatic in his final Western Hockey League action on Saturday. Early in the season-ending game against the Regina Pats, he pinched off the point, picked up the puck, skated in on net and outlasted Pats goalie Max Paddock before tucking the puck into the far corner.
“That was awesome,” Chizen said. “That’s something you dream about but don’t expect to happen. For me to get one and then also Linden, that was a pretty special night for both of us.”
Chizen, who was a seventh-round selection of the National Hockey League’s Minnesota Wild in 2016, was acquired along with a 2019 fifth-round bantam draft pick for Schael Higson, who had been sent home by the team. Higson scored once, had nine assists and accumulated 30 penalty minutes in 29 games in Kelowna.
Chizen’s plan is to go to the University of Alberta in the fall to take advantage of the five years of scholarship money that he accrued during his tenure in the WHL.
“It’s a great program and allows us to focus on hockey in the years after high school, and if hockey doesn’t work out and you don’t get a contract, it’s a great route to go and get your schooling paid for,” he said.
Chizen’s final WHL totals are 237 games played, 13 goals, 29 assists, 42 points and 275 penalty minutes. He also played 16 playoff games in Kelowna.
His WHL path began with a pair of games with the Rockets in his 16-year-old season in 2014-15 — he didn’t play in the league final when the Rockets swept the Wheat Kings — and he’s keenly aware of how quickly the time has flown by.
“I remember my first game and my first year in the league like it was yesterday,” Chizen said. “When you look back at all the memories that were made and all the fun times with the boys and being on the road and playing games, there are so many highs and lows that come with it too but I think you learn a lot from it.
“Those four years went by in the blink of an eye. It was great time, the best time in my life so far. When you talk to guys who played in the league, they always say that junior is the best time of their lives. It went by a little quicker than I wanted it to but it’s over now and it’s time to move on.”