Meadow Lake’s Hunter Schwartz is ready to take his game to the next level.

Currently a member of the Northwest ‘AA’ Stars, the young defenceman was recently named among the top 80 U15 hockey players in the province following a December tournament held as part of the SaskFirst High Performance Program.

“A few months ago, I signed up for the SaskFirst tryouts,” Schwartz told Northern Pride. “I made it to the top 160 and those 160 kids – 80 from the North and 80 from the South – then competed in Regina to determine the top 80.”

The SaskFirst Program was introduced by Hockey Saskatchewan in 1988. It was designed to provide a better understanding of the game as well as to promote the development of quality players, coaches, trainers, officials and administrators. The program begins every December with regional camps held throughout the province which are open to all players in the U15 category. From there, the top 160 players are invited to take place in a tournament held in December. Then a second tournament, featuring the top 80 players and which is held in February, will determine the top 25-30 who will attend a summer training camp. The process ensures all players not only have the opportunity to compete with their peers, but receive significant exposure as all SaskFirst events are highly attended by scouts from a variety of elite leagues.

“If I make it all the way, we will compete against similar teams from the other provinces and whoever wins gets to go to a big tournament in the United States,” Schwartz added. “I want to take part because this year is my draft year, and there are a lot of scouts at these events. At the event in Regina, there were a lot of people watching us. With COVID the last few years, we haven’t had much of a chance to be seen by anyone.”

Among those pleased with Schwartz’s recent success is his mother, Gina Schwartz.

“Darren and I are very grateful and humbled for Hunter to have an opportunity to represent Meadow Lake in a game our community loves,” she said. “Hunter is a hard working, loyal player who has always had an intelligent outlook for the game. All we wish for him is to try his absolute best, be a respectful teammate, coachable player, make some new friendships, and learn from more excellent coaching and valuable mentors. If he makes the next round, awesome. If not, he has had an amazing experience.”

Hunter Schwartz, meanwhile, echoed much of what his mother had to say.

“It’s been really fun because I get to play with all these different people,” he said. “The different coaching also helps. You get to experience it all.”

by Phil Ambroziak