Rookie in name, veteran in game.
Steering the ship from one league and one province to another has proven to be a soft landing for first-year Okotoks Oilers forward Carter Huber - one of the most consistent presences on the youngest team in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
“We almost don’t even look at him as a rookie,” said Oilers head coach James Poole. “He went over to B.C. and played in that Junior B league and I think that helped with his maturity level and you can see it in his game.
“Great work ethic on and off the ice, he’s respected not just by the rookies, but by the veterans. He works hard in the gym, he’s great in the community and just an outstanding kid.”
The stat sheet might list him as a rookie, but you wouldn’t know it in his play.
Foregoing his final season of midget hockey with the Calgary Royals, Huber benefited from a year out of province spent with the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League’s Revelstoke Grizzlies in 2014-15.
“I didn’t want to go back and play midget, wanted to play against older guys, bigger guys and mature my game,” said Huber. “You’ve got the half-visor on and there are some pretty big guys in that league. You learn to play that junior style game where you don’t have a lot of time with the puck.
“I’m glad I did it and feel like I’m more ready this year.”
Affiliating with the West Kelowna Warriors while with the Grizzlies, Huber was all set to make the jump to Junior A on a full-time basis.
“I came ready in camp and have been working my way into a solid spot in the lineup,” Huber said. “I wanted to come in and be an impact player right away. I don’t necessarily consider myself a true rookie just having played junior last year and 10 games of experience in the BCHL.”
He not only made the Oilers out of camp, but has been a fixture on the top two lines while seeing regular duty on both the penalty kill and Okotoks’ third-ranked powerplay.
“I believe in myself as a top player. Keeping that belief and knowing I can help the team at both ends of the rink and keeping my habits good has been paying off for me,” Huber said.
“The coaches have been great, they stay consistent with the coaching style where if you’re playing well and working hard they’re going to reward you with ice-time.
“That’s been a big motivator for me.”
The Calgarian has made the most of the opportunities earned.
Huber ranks first amongst first-year Oilers with 8 goals and sits second with 14 points. Perhaps more impressive are the 18-year-old’s possession numbers with the club where he’s near the top in takeaways.
“There a lot of things he does for us that help us win hockey games,” the coach added. “Forced takeaways, looking over the past 10 games he was one of the top players in that and he’s one of the players that has the least amount of turnovers as well.”
The hard-nosed winger has been a familiar face to the Okotoks brass for several years.
Carter is the second member of his family to wear the green-and-gold. Older brother Bennett played 26 games for the Oilers in 2014 before finishing up his junior career with Kelowna. Additionally, Carter played spring hockey for Okotoks assistant coach Derek Stuart.
“Knowing him we knew the work ethic was going to be there. The one aspect he really worked on last year and during the off-season was his skating,” Poole said.
“He’s gotten a lot better, he’s playing with a lot more pace and that’s been a bit of a surprise.
“He’s been a great addition for us.”
Okotoks saw its two-game winning streak snapped in a 5-2 loss to the Camrose Kodiaks Friday on home ice. The Oilers responded with a 3-0 victory over the visiting Bonnyville Pontiacs on Sunday. Netminder Brian Wilson made 25 saves for his first shutout with the club.
Okotoks wraps up its home schedule before the break when it hosts the Brooks Bandits on Dec. 17.
Puck-drop is 7 p.m.