Big things expected for Yager & Firkus duo this season
Moose Jaw Warriors
The Moose Jaw Warriors are expecting big things out of two players heading into their second seasons in black and red.
16-year-old forward Brayden Yager heads into his rookie campaign with high expectations after a strong showing in a 24-game stint with the Warriors in the Subway WHL Hub, while 17-year-old linemate Jagger Firkus is in the same boat.
The duo spent time on each other’s line during the Hub and are expecting the same again this season.
“We both think the game pretty well, we’re on the same page,” Yager said. “Jagger’s a super creative guy in this game, so he’s super easy to play with.”
Firkus said his style of play messes well with what Yager does on the ice.
“He’s a quick speed guy and I’m more of a slow, skill guy that can give him the puck when he has time, so that works out,” he said.
As they’ve started to play together, Firkus said the bond has also grown off the ice.
“We’re really good friends on and off the ice and each summer we go to PEP camp, so it’s not like we’re spending too much time away from each,” he said. “We’re always hanging out and seeing what the other ones doing.”
“He’s a good guy off the ice and he’s hilarious, so we’ve gained chemistry off the ice,” Yager added.
With both players expected to be key parts of the Warriors’ attack in just their second season in the WHL, expectations are high, but Yager said he doesn’t feel any pressure going into this season.
“I’m just going to have fun and play well,” he said.
Yager, the third overall pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft, played in all 24 games in the Hub as an affiliate player with the Warriors after his Under-18 AAA season was cancelled.
He finished with seven goals, third on the team, and 18 points, tied with captain Daemon Hunt for the second-most on the squad.
Yager said he learned a lot about what it takes to play in the WHL last season.
“Last year I was just getting my toes in the water,” he said. “Over 24 games, you get use to the game and this year, hoping to step it up a bit.”
Head Coach Mark O’Leary said Yager looks like a confident player coming into this season.
“He’s comfortable with how we run things here and what we’re all about and just having to worry about himself, worry about his game and development as a player,” he said.
Firkus also had a strong showing in his rookie campaign with the Warriors, posting six goals and 14 points in 23 games during the Hub.
He said he grew a lot during those 23 games.
“The top players are obviously really skilled and they’re ready to be in the pro leagues, so they’re built and they’re all around hockey players, so I just want to take from that and try to be one of them,” he said.
Firkus focused on adding weight and strength over the offseason to accomplish that.
“I focused on my shot, just to make sure I can do shots in different places, make sure I can get shots off when I regularly couldn’t before,” he said.
Like Yager, Firkus got a taste of the WHL as a 15-year-old and then came in ready as a 16-year-old last season.
O’Leary said he’s stepped it up another notch this season.
“I thought he was our best forward at training camp, he’s put in a lot of work in terms of his skill level and that side of things, but I see a guy that’s real determined,” he said.
The Warriors will lean on the duo as they continue to prepare for the start of the regular season on Oct. 1.
They think the team can surprise people this season.
“We’ve built a great team around here, we have lots of depth throughout the forward and the back as well as goalie, so I’m excited to get going for the regular season,” Firkus said.
The Warriors return to the ice this weekend for a home-and-home set against the Regina Pats to close out the preseason. The two teams meet on Friday night at Mosaic Place and then on Saturday at the Brandt Centre in Regina. Puck drops at 7 p.m. for both games.