November 22, 2017

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Lewis gets second chance at NHL

Wheat Kings winger signs entry-level contract with Colorado Avalanche

Brandon Sun Brandon Wheat Kings forward Ty Lewis skates during team practice at Westman Place in September. The Brandon product signed an entry-level contract with the Colorado Avalanche in early October. (Perry Bergson / The Brandon Sun files)</p>

Brandon Sun Brandon Wheat Kings forward Ty Lewis skates during team practice at Westman Place in September. The Brandon product signed an entry-level contract with the Colorado Avalanche in early October. (Perry Bergson / The Brandon Sun files)

Ty Lewis is taking a less conventional route to the NHL, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a legitimate pro prospect.

The 19-year-old Brandon Wheat Kings left-winger was a rare case in the off-season: after being bypassed completely for the second time at the NHL draft, he signed an entry-level contract with the Colorado Avalanche in early October.

So, what gives?

How does the NHL Central Scouting’s 59th-rated skater get ignored for all 217 picks at the draft before earning a free-agent deal only four months later?

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Ty Lewis is taking a less conventional route to the NHL, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a legitimate pro prospect.

The 19-year-old Brandon Wheat Kings left-winger was a rare case in the off-season: after being bypassed completely for the second time at the NHL draft, he signed an entry-level contract with the Colorado Avalanche in early October.

So, what gives?

How does the NHL Central Scouting’s 59th-rated skater get ignored for all 217 picks at the draft before earning a free-agent deal only four months later?

Actually, it’s not a big mystery. He earned his big break fairly.

"I thought I had a good chance to be drafted last year, but unfortunately it didn’t work out," said Lewis via telephone Monday morning.

"You know, it happens, but I thought I had a really good summer of training. The Avalanche gave me a good opportunity to come to development camp and I think I learned a lot there. I grew as a player and got a lot better over the summer."

Lewis is not an imposing physical specimen but at 5-11¾, 185 pounds, he’s well within basic requirements for the modern game.

He grew up in the Wheat City and has been a rink rat since he was young, getting much of his off-season tutelage at his dad Dave Lewis’s after-hours hockey skills and power-skating business.

That work ethic and some success early in the Western Hockey League season suggest the Avs made a wise investment.

His nine goals and 31 points in 18 games put him in a tie for fifth in league scoring. He established a career high of 30 goals and 68 points in 70 games last season.

In Brandon, he’s a trusted member of the club’s top-six forwards group, playing on a line centred by Carolina Hurricanes third-rounder Stelio Mattheos while also getting regular duty on the penalty-killing unit and playing the right point on the power play.

In Colorado, Lewis got a strong recommendation from one of the Avs’ amateur scouts, Wade Klippenstein, a former Wheat Kings director of scouting.

"Wade called me after the draft and asked if I would like to come to Colorado’s development camp," said Lewis, who has grown six inches and put on 60 pounds since the Wheat Kings chose him in the 2013 bantam draft.

"Knowing that Wade’s obviously a very smart hockey man and he was in Brandon organization for a number of years before he moved (to the Avs), and I thought it was a good opportunity for me... It was a great experience."

Lewis played on Colorado’s rookie team at a tournament in San Jose before being invited back for main training camp. He also suited up for one exhibition game in Denver when the Avs faced the Las Vegas Golden Knights.

"He was invited to camp and he made the most of that opportunity," said Wheat Kings head coach David Anning.

"(He’s a) highly skilled guy. He’s taken a step offensively where he’s producing every night. He’s making the most of his opportunities, he’s got a great skill set, good shot, good vision. He’s around the puck, he skates well, so he has all the attributes you need to put up points in our league."

Once he returned to Brandon, Lewis got another big break when he joined teammates Tanner Kaspick and Kale Clague on the WHL squad that competed against Russia in the recent Super Series games. In two games, he registered one assist playing on a line with Jaret Anderson-Dolan and Noah Gregor.

"The next step is going into (Team Canada’s world junior) camp next month," said Anning.

"Hopefully he’s shown well enough to get that opportunity."

HENRY RETURNS TO PATS:

Regina sniper Nick Henry, a fourth-round pick by Colorado in June, recently returned to the Pats lineup after a four-month rehab following surgery to repair a torn labrum in a shoulder.

Henry, an 18-year-old from Portage la Prairie who scored 35 goals in 2016-17, suffered the injury during the second round of the playoffs but its seriousness wasn’t diagnosed until he showed up at the NHL’s pre-draft scouting combine in Buffalo.

He’s expected to supply a ton of offence for the Pats, who are the host team for the 2018 Memorial Cup tournament.

HELP IS ON THE WAY:

Moose Jaw blue-liner Josh Brook is working his way back to active duty after being sidelined since the pre-season following surgery for a wrist injury.

The second-round draft choice was hurt while at training camp with the Montreal Canadiens and the high-flying Warriors, who lead the WHL with a 15-4-0-0 mark, hope to have the Roblin product back soon. He recently had the cast removed and is considered week-to-week.

mike.sawatzky@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @sawa14

Read more by Mike Sawatzky.

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History

Updated on Tuesday, November 14, 2017 at 11:29 AM CST: Placement fixed.

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