(Marc Smith/DiscoverMooseJaw) Justin Almeida will remember Mar. 9, 2019 for the rest of his life, as he accomplished a lifelong dream in the morning and then capped it off with a big milestone in the evening.
“The hockey gods were on my side today, I woke up felt good, so it’s nice,” said Almeida.
On Saturday morning, the 20-year-old signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had selected him in the fifth round of last summer’s NHL Draft.
Almeida wasn’t done there, however, as the Moose Jaw Warriors forward picked up two goals and three points in the team’s 6-1 win over the Regina Pats, giving him 100 points on the season.
“That’s probably one of the best days of my life, signing a contract is the next step to making the NHL and that’s your goal as a young kid, so when I signed I was happy, my family was happy, all my friends, so it was pretty huge for me,” said Almeida.
“100 points was on the back of my mind coming into the game, I wanted to get it out of the way before the end of the season, so I’m glad I got that out of the way, that’s a big accomplishment too.”
It’s been quite a three-season run for Almeida since coming to the Warriors in a trade from the Prince George Cougars. The former fifth overall bantam pick had six goals and 19 points in 87 games with Prince George. Since coming to Moose Jaw, Almeida has 80 goals and 213 points in 165 games, he was drafted by Pittsburgh and now has signed an NHL deal.
“I [signed the contract] in Alan [Millar]’s office, so it was pretty cool that he brings me over in a trade and my career kind of took off from there coming with the Warriors, so it’s only right that I signed it here,” said Almeida.
Ten players have signed NHL contracts since Tim Hunter took over as head coach of the Warriors in 2014-15.
“Really proud of Justin, he’s been a real good Warrior here and great job by Alan and the scouts for making the deal to bring him here,” said Hunter. “It’s great for our organization, it’s great for Justin, he can relax and play, so it’s great for him, his family and our organization.”
Almeida finished last season just two points shy of the century mark, finishing with 98 points in 72 games. He has posted 30 goals, 70 assists and 100 points in 60 games so far this season.
To reach that 100-point plateau is another notch for Almeida to cap off a special day.
“I ended the year [last year] and I was happy with my season but when you’re two away, it was kind of in the back of my mind all summer so it was nice to get it this year,” said Almeida.
The Kitimat, B.C. product leads the WHL in assists and has moved into third place in points, just four back of linemate Tristin Langan. The other third of the Almeida-Langan line is Brayden Tracey, who assisted on Almeida’s second goal on Saturday, which pushed him into triple digits.
The trio is the highest scoring line in the Western Hockey League with all three in the top-12 in points this season.
“We have great chemistry, we all work off each other really well, we’re all high skilled and can think the game really well, so it’s nice when we battle hard and we have games like today where we all contribute,” said Almeida.
This is just the third time in the Warriors’ franchise history that two players have recorded 100 points in a season, but it’s the second straight year that it’s happened after Jayden Halbgewachs and Brayden Burke both hit the mark last season.
Almeida has four games left to add to his point total and get set for another post-season run with the Warriors.