Kitimat’s Justin Almeida rising in the hockey ranks

Kitimat's Justin Almeida earned a Player of the Year award in July.

Justin Almeida, from Kitimat, was over the moon when in July Hockey Now magazine named him the Minor Hockey Player of the Year.

“It was really special,” said Almeida on learning he had won. “I’ve seen a lot of [the list’s] names before and there’s great hockey players that got it.”

He’s currently playing for the Cariboo Cougars but hopes to be playing for the Prince George Cougars by next year.

Naturally his ambition lies in eventually being drafted to play in the NHL.

He said he credits his work ethic and his “hockey IQ” as key factors which led to his title.

The publisher for Hockey Now, Larry Feist, says the selection committee for Player of the Year is a collection of top-shelf coaches, scouts and other notable people from the hockey world.

The committee is chaired by Dave Babych, who has played on a number of teams in the NHL.

Feist says each month the committee works through a list of notable players as they finalize the top contenders for Player of the Year.

He said the International Scouting Service (ISS) is part of that committee which speaks to the quality of selections.

“They’re the worldwide leader in scouting,” he said. “Every NHL team buys their scouting list.”

As for what they look for in players, it’s a comprehensive list.

“The person’s got to be an exceptional hockey player, and from there it usually boils down to three to six players, and the committee really gets in to meeting and talking about character, school…off-ice involvement,” said Feist. “Just having a really good character…in tandem with exceptional hockey skill.”

On the Hockey Now website, Babych is quoted saying, “I know some of the kids that have won this award, before. You can see the importance of being a well-rounded person. Not everyone is going to make the NHL but the guys who are well-rounded always seem to be successful in life.”

The first B.C. Minor Hockey Player of the Year award went to Surrey’s Colin Fraser. Fraser went on to be a two-time Stanley Cup champion, once with the Chicago Blackhawskcome and one with the Los Angeles Kings.