Hometown Bound

Candice Ward/Photo

The Manitoba kid is coming home.

Hitmen rookie defenceman Layne Toder has had this week’s road swing marked on his calendar since he cracked the Calgary roster.

Tuesday night’s clash with  the Wheat Kings in Brandon will see his family and friends gather together to watch the smooth-skating blueliner for the first time since he was back in the MJHL with the Portage Terriers.

“I’m pretty excited for it,” Toder said. “I got a message that 60 people were confirmed to come out to watch. It’s going to be a lot of fun playing in front of my friends and family again.”

“When I step onto the ice they’ll probably be a little bit of nerves but once the puck drops, it’s off to work.”

It was back in 2010 as a kid that Toder first saw the Hitmen play, when a star-studded Calgary squad led by Martin Jones, Brandon Kozun, Michael Stone and Cody Sylvester, paced the club to its second WHL league title and a berth in the Memorial Cup that Brandon hosted.

“I remember watching and looking up to those guys as a little kid,” he said. “I’ve been in love with the team ever since.”

“It’s a pretty surreal feeling. You watch them as a little guy thinking you’ll never play there but have hopes and dreams of it. You go from that little kid to putting the crest on and it’s an amazing feeling.”

“It’s been a dream of mine to play for the Hitmen.”

As the season has progressed and nearing  the 20-game mark, Toder has made the adjustment to playing in the Dub.

The 17-year-old has appeared in all 18 contests and has racked up three points, all assists, so far on the season.

“It’s definitely a tough league to play in,” Toder said. “As a rookie you need to work hard every day to play the top minutes.”

With the pressure and grind a WHL season, the 6-foot, 173-pounder said that both his teammates and coaches have helped him stay focused on reaching his full potential.

“The coaches have helped me develop my game,” he said. “They’ve helped me develop mentally which is an important aspect of the game. I’ve developed more as a person from it, too.”

With his play proving that he can skate in the league only one question remains for Toder

Will he get a break from gathering pucks after practice?

“Probably not,” he laughed. “That’s rookie duties for you.”


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