(Courtesy Marc Smith) The Moose Jaw Warriors wrapped up their 2016-17 season back in April when they were knocked out in the first round of the WHL Playoffs.
The season didn’t end there for captain Brett Howden however as he headed to the American Hockey League to join the Tampa Bay Lightning’s affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch.
The Crunch went on a memorable playoff run that culminated in a six-game loss to the Grand Rapids Griffins in the Calder Cup Final.
That wasn’t the end of the season either for Howden, who then headed to Tampa Bay for the Lightning’s development camp at the start of July.
It’s been a busy offseason to say the least for the 2016 first round pick.
“It was a fun time,” said Howden, who was in Moose Jaw last week for the Warriors Alumni Golf Tournament. “It was a long time for sure, it was another two months that I was there, but it was a great experience.”
The opportunity to play for a championship doesn’t come around everyday and Howden said that he was able to learn a lot during the Crunch’s run to the final.
“They have such a good winning culture and for us young guys that were up there and got to be a part of that was so special,” said Howden.
Howden had three goals and four points in five games to end the regular season with the Crunch and then picked up two assists in three playoff games. He didn’t see any game action after the first round, but was able to take warm-ups with the team.
With the Warriors’ sights set on a WHL title in 2017-18, Howden said his experience with the Crunch will be very valuable for him.
“I helps me gain some experience of going that deep into the playoffs,” he said. “It was amazing how close of a team they were, so that’s something that I’ll take away coming back to Moose Jaw.”
There was a cool moment for Howden during the Calder Cup Final as another former Warrior was on the other side with Dylan McIlrath winning the title with the Griffins.
While Howden didn’t get to battle against McIlrath, who played with his older brother Quinton here in Moose Jaw, he said he did his best to get under his skin during warm-ups.
“He was sticking around the red line and I’d come and shoot pucks at him and stick handle around his feet,” said Howden. “Everyone on my team was like, ‘What are you doing? He’s going to kill you,’ but I told them after that I knew him. It was pretty cool.”
With a year as a Lightning prospect under his belt, including some professional games, Howden said he felt much more comfortable heading into his second development camp at the start of the month.
“I felt a lot more confident and more at home out there on the ice,” he said. “It was really nice to go back and to be able to win the three-on-three tournament was really fun.”
Howden led the 3-on-3 tournament in scoring with two goals and nine points in seven games as his Team Esposito won the title with a 2-0 win over Team St. Louis in the final.
Next up for Howden is Canada’s World Junior Summer Development Camp, which goes in Plymouth, Mich. from July 28-Aug. 5.
“I’m going to try to rest a bit before that, but obviously I’ve got to start working out again, it’s been a while,” he said. “It’s a short summer for sure, but I’ve got to work as hard as I can with the time that I have.”