Trips across the Canadian prairie in winter are nothing new to Kaeden Korczak.
But this month, for the first time, the 16-year-old rookie defenceman from Saskatchewan is seeing his home province through the windows of a Western Hockey League bus.
Korczak and the Kelowna Rockets are in the midst of a six-game tour of Eastern Division cities, the club’s final action prior to the Christmas break.
“It’s been super cool,” said Korczak, who was born and raised in Yorkton, Sask. “I’ve had a lot of family and friends come out and see me. Knowing people are there to support you is a good feeling.
“It’s been fun, nice to be back.”
Korczak, the Rockets’ first round pick, 11th overall, played all of his minor hockey in Yorkton, including the 2016-17 season with the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League’s Maulers.
Despite playing in arenas all across Saskatchewan during his minor hockey days, Korczak is seeing the inside of several WHL buildings for the first time, another perk of his first full season in major junior.
“I didn’t play in a lot of these rinks growing up, so it’s cool to be kind of living a dream and playing in them now,” he said. “I’d never played in the Brandt Centre (Regina) until this trip, so that was nice.”
Korczak got his feet wet as a 15-year-old last season, playing in four regular season games with the Rockets and five more in the playoffs.
This season, the young blueliner, who logs between 13 and 18 minutes of ice time per night, and has eight assists in 25 games.
With captain Cal Foote’s absence from the Kelowna lineup, Korczak will be helping carry even more of the load over the last four games of the trip.
Foote and Rockets’ teammates Dillon Dube and Kole Lind are in St. Catharines this week for Hockey Canada’s national junior selection camp.
Korczak and the Rockets will be in Moose Jaw tonight to take on the Warriors, the will visit Swift Current Wednesday in the fourth game of their prairie trip.
Kelowna closes out its prairie trip with a stop Friday in Prince Albert and Saturday in Saskatoon to play the Blades.
The Rockets’ next home action is Wednesday, Dec. 27 against the Kamloops Blazers.
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