What do you want to be when you grow up, Lukas? Top Manitoba prospect in WHL Bantam Draft had dad's support on career path... as a seven year old

Lukas Hansen’s debut in the game came at seven, which is later than some. In hindsight, the timing was perfect.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/04/2020 (1066 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Lukas Hansen’s debut in the game came at seven, which is later than some. In hindsight, the timing was perfect.

“I remember my car ride home from my first game and my dad says, ‘Lukas, do you want to be a hockey player?’ I said, ‘Yes, I want to be a hockey player.’ He said, ‘OK, we’re going to do this,’” says Lukas.

Homegrown talent

There are a number of Manitoba prospects up for grabs in Wednesday’s WHL Bantam Draft. A look at those prospects and the order in which teams will be drafting.

Some 2005-born Manitobans expected to be chosen in Wednesday’s WHL Bantam Draft (prospects listed in alphabetical order):

Donovan Bodner, G, RHA Bantam Prep

Grayson Burzynski, D, Winnipeg AAA Bantam Monarchs

Hayden Chaloner, F, Winnipeg AAA Bantam Sharks

Brayden Dube, C, Parkland AAA Bantam Rangers

Rylan Gould, C, Winnipeg AAA Bantam Monarchs

Kyan Grouette, F, Parkland AAA Bantam Rangers

Lukas Hansen, C, Winnipeg AAA Bantam Warriors

Omen Harmacy, D, Shattuck-St. Mary’s U14

Joey Lees, F, Norman AAA Bantam Wolves

Scott Minor, D, RHA Bantam Prep

Tyler Paar, F, RHA Bantam Prep

Jayden Perron, C, Winnipeg AAA Bantam Warriors

Liam Saxberg, D-F, Winnipeg AAA Bantam Warriors

Carter Sotheran, D, Pembina AAA Bantam Valley Hawks

Thomas Stewart, D, RHA Bantam Prep






1. Regina Pats (from Swift Current)
2. Prince George Cougars
3. Moose Jaw Warriors
4. Tri-City Americans
5. Saskatoon Blades (from Regina)
6. Red Deer Rebels
7. Seattle Thunderbirds
8. Kelowna Rockets
9. Victoria Royals
10. Vancouver Giants
11. Medicine Hat Tigers (from Saskatoon)
12. Calgary Hitmen
13. Brandon Wheat Kings
14. Winnipeg Ice
15. Prince Albert Raiders
16. Lethbridge Hurricanes
17. Prince George (from Medicine Hat)
18. Spokane Chiefs
19. Kamloops Blazers
20. Edmonton Oil Kings
21. Swift Current Broncos (from Everett)
22. Prince George (from Portland)

“And so the next day after practice, we go to the outdoor rink beside the arena and spent a few hours there and I remember thinking, ‘Wow, this is what it’s going to take?’ But I loved it. I remember spending hours and hours on that rink. That was like my second home.”

And so it began.

Some days you may see Lukas, a 15-year-old centre with the Winnipeg AAA Bantam Warriors, pushing his family’s 2012 Chevrolet Equinox down the road while carefully simulating the cross-cuts of his skating stride.

Other times, he will be wearing a customized harness tethered to a large truck tire, dragging the dead weight across a large open field across from the family home.

It’s a hard grind, but for the six-foot, 150-pounder it’s nothing to complain about. He’s on a mission.

It doesn’t hurt that his dad, Justin Hansen, has some serious hockey cred. After spending five years and 235 regular-season games in the WHL during the 1990s and early 2000s, Justin is a student of the game and he exudes a passion for it. 

Chosen in the eighth round of the 1998 NHL Draft by the Phoenix Coyotes, the combination of a bruising style and that era’s less-enlightened attitude about head injuries resulted in at least seven concussions for Justin, derailing any hopes of a pro career.

Lukas could be in a position to one-up the old man.

He is widely regarded as the province’s best prospect in Wednesday’s WHL Bantam Draft and could be the lone Manitoban to be selected in the first round. He has talent, yes, but also possesses the sort of dedication and commitment uncommon for someone his age.

“The benefit of going through it, I learned a lot, so I can more prepare Lukas for the WHL and the style and what the coaches are going to require,” says Justin, 39.

“Some of the major things are like what tools are in your toolbox? Can you take care of your own end? Can you play your position? Do you know your teammates’ positions? (That’s) so you know where they are and where they’re supposed to be.”

Justin has never coached one of Lukas’s teams (wanting him to learn from different coaching styles and personalities) but has served as a mentor, video camera always at the ready. As a seven-year-old, Lukas began his hockey education by being schooled on the responsibilities of the defensive end. Eventually, Dad’s instruction transitioned to the neutral zone.

Only in the last three years has Justin taught offensive-zone fundamentals. The process is unusual only because it’s the exact reverse of what most young players experience.

“I learned offensive end first,” says Justin. “Once I got to the (WHL), the main thing was, ‘take care of your end.’ If you’re learning it and you’re not good at it, the coach doesn’t trust you. And if the coach doesn’t trust you, he’s not going to put you on the ice.”

Video review of outdoor workouts and indoor games has become a ritual in the Hansen home.

“He’d show me, ‘Look, this is what you’re doing wrong. Look at your crossover. Look at where your stick is,’” says Lukas.

Warriors bench boss Tyler Riel has coached Lukas for the last two years, naming him team captain each season. In 44 regular-season and playoff games in 2019-20, Lukas scored 46 goals and collected 94 points.

“Scouts will come to the game and see the skill level and all the things that kids can do on the ice, but it’s intangibles like work ethic and leadership qualities and just who they are as a person, how mature they are,” says Riel. “Those are huge factors in getting drafted probably how high Lukas is going to get drafted this year.”

The Warriors were in the midst of the playoffs when the pandemic crisis ended the season.

Before that, powered by the centre duo of Hansen and the multi-talented Jayden Perron, another top prospect for the bantam draft, the club went 36-0 in the regular season. However, there were moments of uncertainty, such as a mid-season game against the Winnipeg Sharks; the Warriors were struggling, trailing 5-2 with about 18 minutes left.

“I looked at my assistant coach and said, ‘I think we’re going to lose, this will be our first loss of the season. I don’t think we have it tonight.’” says Riel.

“Lukas heard me, turned around and said, ‘We’re not losing.’ And he hopped over the boards and scored a goal. Then Jay hopped over the boards and scored a goal. Then we tied the game up and we won.”

Performances like that are certain to attract attention from WHL teams. The Brandon Wheat Kings and Winnipeg Ice, choosing 13th and 14th overall, respectively, are possible landing spots for Lukas.

There’s also a good possibility that the Prince George Cougars, who own the Nos. 2, 17 and 22 picks, could be his destination. Lukas was born in Prince George, his mom Giovanna grew up in the B.C. city and his dad spent almost two full seasons with the Cougars.

Justin also has a good relationship with one of the team’s co-owners, Nashville Predators blue-liner Dan Hamhuis, who was a teammate in Prince George. So a return to northern B.C. might be a natural fit for Lukas.

Lukas insists he will be content no matter which team chooses him. Raising his overall game? Well, that’s another matter.

“There’s never really a good enough,” he says. “There’s a lot of good players out there, so we know I’m not the best. We’ve always gradually improved pretty much everything so I can be the best that I can be, and there’s still some things I need to work on for sure.”


Twitter: @sawa14

Mike Sawatzky

Mike Sawatzky

Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.

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