Overager's goal: Dominate again

SCOTT FISHER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:49 AM ET

Joel Broda has set the bar high for himself.

Pole-vault height.

The overage centreman sniped 53 goals a season ago -- the lone WHLer to eclipse the 50-goal mark.

He then led the team in playoff scoring as the Calgary Hitmen marched to the WHL final. Now, the 6-foot, 203-pounder must ponder what he can possibly due for an encore.

"The same thing as last year," Broda said when asked where he'll draw his motivation from.

"I'm playing for a contract and the right to play pro hockey.

"The motivation is there to do whatever I didn't do last year, and that's win the championship."

Playing with 108-point winger Brandon Kozun and Tyler Fiddler, perhaps the biggest surprise of the young season with eight points through four games, Broda could be poised to put up mind-boggling figures.

But he's not going to offer up any predictions.

"I don't want to throw any numbers out there," he said. "There's a lot of things that can happen during the year.

"I want to be keep scoring, but I also want to improve on the other things in my game. I want to be a top guy on the defensive side of the puck."

Improving his defensive skills is one of the few areas he has left to work on at the junior level. In fact, if he had been drafted by any other team than the Washington Capitals (fifth round, 2008), he'd likely be starting his professional career right now.

But the Capitals farm system is considered one of the deepest in hockey.

So deep that Broda has been forced to wait for that first contract.

"It's a tough thing to deal with," the Prince Albert, Sask., product said. "They have so much depth and (AHL) Hershey has a lot of older players.

"But, at the same time, it's an opportunity for me to come back and have one more dominant year of junior.

"It's never a bad thing when you can come back, and hopefully, be a top-end player in the league. I'll prove myself that way and show that it wasn't just a one-year thing."

Kozun, who leads the league with 10 points, said he had a huge smile on his face when Broda walked back into the Hitmen room last weekend.

"I was pretty happy," Kozun said.

"Anytime you can get a guy back who has scored that many goals, it's a positive for your team.

"I played a lot with him last year, and it's nice to have that chemistry back. It helps because we know where each other is on the ice."

The Hitmen put their perfect 4-0 record on the line tonight in Cranbrook against the 2-2 Kootenay Ice.

No one expects a repeat of last season's record-breaking 122-point campaign, but Broda isn't shocked his club is ranked No. 1 in the CHL.

"We have a lot of good returning players and a lot of good young players, too," Broda said.

"With Jonesy (goalie Martin Jones) back there, we're real solid in net and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do as the season goes deeper."

The Hitmen will wear special pink 15th anniversary jerseys when they host the Moose Jaw Warriors Sunday (2 p.m., Saddledome).

Hit parade

The Hitmen released overage forward Jason MacDonald yesterday, leaving the club with two 20-year-olds (Broda and Cody Gross).

GM Kelly Kisio said he made the move to open up more playing time for his young players.

"I felt we needed to get some of our younger players out there and give them time to develop," Kisio said. "Unfortunately, Jason was in one of those spots where I felt we needed a younger player to play."

Kisio said he'll keep an eye on which overagers are available as the league's cutdown date of Oct. 10 nears, but added he's comfortable icing a lineup with two 20-year-olds.

SCOTT.FISHER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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