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Chris Van Os-Shaw rededicated himself on and off the ice this season, and was rewarded with 51 goals, a college scholarship and the RBC CJHL National Player of the Year award
A little motivation can go a long way. Just ask Chris Van Os-Shaw.
After putting up 90 points in 76 games over a season-and-a-half with the Humboldt Broncos, Van Os-Shaw requested a trade in search of a fresh start heading into his final year of junior hockey. On Sept. 2, he was dealt to the Spruce Grove Saints.
The forward was at a crossroads in his young career.
“I didn’t have a scholarship and I knew this was a make-or-break season for me,” Van Os-Shaw, 20, explained. “I didn’t know what I’d be doing next year without hockey, so I trained harder and I got bigger and faster. I took everything more seriously going into this season.”
Serious numbers followed.
Van Os-Shaw led the Alberta Junior Hockey League with 51 goals and 97 points in 59 games, becoming the first AJHL player to reach the 50-goal plateau since Columbus Blue Jackets forward Mark Letestu scored 50 with the Bonnyville Pontiacs in 2005-06.
Van Os-Shaw was named AJHL MVP and is committed to the University of Minnesota State-Mankato for 2018-19.
He is also the 2017-18 recipient of the RBC CJHL National Junior A Player of the Year award, following in the footsteps of first-round NHL draft picks Tyson Jost and Cale Makar, the last two winners.
“I definitely surprised myself,” laughed Van Os-Shaw. “It was a goal of mine to get to 50, but to actually do it was an unbelievable feeling. It’s an accomplishment I’ve very proud of.”
Four seasons ago Van Os-Shaw was playing Midget AAA hockey in Saskatchwan, posting 17 goals and 35 points in 42 games for the Prince Albert Mintos. Towards the end of the season, Van Os-Shaw hit a growth spurt and shot up to 6-foot-2, packing on muscle along the way.
The following season began in Weyburn with the SJHL’s Red Wings and Van Os-Shaw had a modest six goals and 10 points before being dealt to Humboldt 24 games in. He was still getting comfortable in his own skin, learning how to use his size and speed and strength. Game-by-game his confidence grew and he finished the year with 22 points in 16 games for the Broncos.
Van Os-Shaw followed that up with a 68-point team-MVP season in Humboldt, but he knew his game still wasn’t as strong as it could be. The trade to Spruce Grove sparked something and he entered this past season as a man on a mission to grow his game even more.
As you can guess, he blossomed.
“He’s a late bloomer for sure, both physically and mentally,” said Spruce Grove head coach Bram Stephen. “I think he’s learned a lot about the game and himself over the last few years. Physically he’s a pretty dominant player, he’s got size and an amazing shot and really good offensive instincts. He added to that this year by improving his 200-foot game and his attitude was terrific.
“We were impressed all season long that he didn’t have an ego, he was accountable to himself and his teammates if something didn’t go his way, and because of that, we saw the overall growth we did.”
Van Os-Shaw said he grew just as much off the ice, rededicating himself to his schoolwork, while trying to become a role model in the community. With university aspirations, Van Os-Shaw added eight required university-level courses to his schedule during the season. He juggled the added work, regular schoolwork, hockey and volunteering in the community, mainly helping former NHLer and Saints president Ryan Smyth with his youth team.
Van Os-Shaw didn’t sleep all season, apparently.
“It’s all about balance, and I knew if I got in to university it would be the same type of thing: school, hockey, community work. So I applied it this season and it changed me. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do in terms of going to college or going to a trade school or even not going to school at all. This year I really figured things out; I’m going to take business courses, maybe entrepreneurship.”
Big brother grew up in a big way this season.
“I have a younger brother, he’s 12, and a younger sister, she’s eight,” explained Van Os-Shaw. “They look up to me and it gives me some perspective. I remember growing up watching the Regina Pats and really looking up to those players. All of the sudden I’m a junior hockey player and there are kids looking up to me. I try to be a great example in whatever I’m doing.”
Before Game 4 of the AJHL final, Van Os-Shaw led by example and demonstrated class beyond his years, sporting his old Humboldt Broncos jersey for warm-up 10 days after a tragic bus crash rocked the hockey world. The player he was traded for last fall, Conner Lukan, was one of the 16 who lost their lives.
Van Os-Shaw said he’s still in shock and has yet to come to terms with the accident; wearing his former Broncos jersey was a tribute to all his fallen former teammates.
He hasn’t stopped thinking of them and he won’t for as long as he’s playing hockey.
“Every time I step on the ice it’s for them, because they can’t. I play every game for them.”
Coach Stephen said the sky is the limit for Van Os-Shaw, who has plenty of hockey in his future.
“There’s going to be some pro opportunity for him in pro development camps – there’s some interest there already. You look at the last time guys came close to scoring 50 goals like him was Mark Letestu and Matt Frattin, and they both ended up in the NHL, so certainly the ceiling for him is quite high.”
“I’m ready for whatever challenges come,” said Van Os-Shaw, “and I’m doing everything I can to be ready. I’m working on my hands and my foot speed this summer, and I’d like to put on maybe five pounds as well. I have online courses to complete alongside my training and I’ll be working, hopefully at a golf course.”
Even in the offseason, as motivated as they come.
Story by Derek Jory / HockeyCanada.ca