MEDICINE HAT, AB — He admits it was a tough decision, but Caleb Wyrostok wasn't about to pass up what he considers a life-changing opportunity.
The former SEAC Bantam AAA Tigers is taking the next step in his hockey career in Edmonton, ready to lace up for the Northern Alberta Xtreme (NAX) Elite 15's for the 2018/19 season.
"I felt when the opportunity presented itself, they gave me the best opportunity to grow and develop as a player," said the 15-year-old over a phone call from his new abode in Edmonton. "To be part of such a great organization such as this one, it's an honour for them to come to me and ask if I would play up here."
NAX's program has routinely pumped out exceptional talent. The Xtreme 15's have won two of the last three CSSHL league championships, and are coming off an undefeated 36-0 campaign.
Wyrostok's move away from home comes after a whirl-wind, rewarding summer.
After leading his bantam AAA squad with 24 points in 27 games, the speedy winger was selected by the Swift Current Broncos in the ninth round of the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft. His play at the Alberta Cup in the spring didn't hurt either, scoring three goals in five games for Team South.
He says getting the call from the reigning WHL champions sparked his motivation to increase his off-season workload to prepare himself for the jump.
"I had a custom program with Alberta Sports Development Centre in Medicine Hat, at the college there," he said. "I worked with them all summer on a custom training plan that I thought would give me the best results to develop me and eventually play in (the WHL) and this league (in Edmonton)."
Although he stands at a mere 5'9" and 155 lbs according to Elite Prospects, he doesn't have a problem getting physical. Wyrostok tacked on 99 penalty minutes in his previous year with SEAC on top of his team-leading point production.
He says he added a bit of size to his frame over the summer, combined with endurance training to help out his conditioning.
"I gained a couple pounds in muscle and I was able to work on mainly my speed and agility even more than I already was," he continued. "That was a great improvement."
Wyrostok noticed the benefits almost immediately.
He travelled to Swift Current in late August for Broncos fall training camp — his second trip after participating in orientation camp shortly after the bantam draft. Wyrostok placed among the top players in several fitness testing categories, and believes his performance in the Blue vs. White intra-squad game left a good impression with the coaching staff.
"Being a 15-year-old there, there's a bit to prove to all the guys who've obviously returned there, and all the veterans," he continued. "I just went out and worked hard every shift. Definitely tried to adapt to the speed, which was fairly easy considering my skating. Keeping up with them, being able to make plays at that level, lots of easy plays, nothing fancy."
Now he begins his next chapter in his career, which comes with a new, unfamiliar challenge — moving in with a billet family seven hours away from home. A new school, a new hockey team and living situation, and the task of finding his 'new normal' are all speed-bumps he has to overcome.
But he says he's adapting to the change quite well so far.
"Now that I've got settled in, and have everything unpacked and have a bit of a routine going, it's been good," he said, mentioning he's living with two teammates who also play for NAX.
Although it's a big shift from his playing days in the Gas City, Wyrostok says he wouldn't be given this opportunity if it wasn't for his development with the SEAC Tigers.
"(SEAC) has a great program there," he added. "Them bringing in Coach's Edge every year in the training camp, there's definitely a lot of upsides to it, I just felt that NAX was the best place that I could develop."
His development will only continue to climb from here on, along with his confidence to compete among the best junior players in Western Canada.
Perhaps one day, that development will land him the ultimate dream; an NHL contract.
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