Harrison Brunicke is a Calgary kid, but South Africa will always be home.

Despite moving to YYC when he was only two years old, he holds his roots of his home country close and is appreciative of where it all began for his family.

“All my family is from there and I still have aunts, uncles and cousins there,” he said. “It’s awesome, a unique story. Moving to Canada we didn’t know much about snow or even hockey for that matter, that culture shift was big. It started by going to school with guys that were involved with hockey, they introduced me to the game. Played grass roots hockey, messed around on the outdoor rink.

“To still have family back there and call to check in is special, hopefully we can go back to visit soon. I’m proud of where I’m from and the shift we made as a family.”

As soon as he laced up skates for the first time, he fell in love with the game and over time saw his own game skyrocket.

Working his way through the minor hockey system, the passion and joy of the game has always been there and continues to drive him to this day with the Kamloops Blazers.

“I don’t think I was a very good at a young age,” he laughed. “It started to become more of a realization of what I could be in my midget year, getting drafted to Kamloops, living that experience and seeing how professional that organization is. The coaching staff has helped me improve and become the player I am.

“Looking back, as a kid I would have never thought to be in this situation so to be here is pretty surreal.”

NHL Draft prospect Harrison Brunicke scores a BEAUTY!

Last season as a 16-year-old, the Blazers rostered a deep squad and made quite a run to the WHL Eastern Conference Final, before hosting the 2023 Memorial Cup.

With a team filled with elite talent and veterans, the experience was an eye opener for Brunicke.

“Playing with that team seeing the players we had like Stankoven, Zellweger, Masters and so many more was awesome,” he said. “That first year helped me for sure to understand how hard those guys work, what the next level will be like. The work they put in every night to be better players, all those things was a big learning and growing experience for me. I took a lot from different guys that I wanted to add to my game.

“We have a younger team now. For me, I was looked to take on more on by my coaches, be relied on in more situations. Playing power play or penalty kill, eating minutes up, I strive in that environment. Everything I learned from the first year was beneficial for me.”

With the added responsibility, Brunickie improved on his offensive output a year ago with 21 points (10G, 11A) in 49 games showcasing he can more than hold his own in the offensive end without sacrificing his play defensively.

Despite having his season cut short due to injury, he was fully on the radar of NHL scouts earning a final ranking of 52nd among North American skaters.

“Once the process starting happening, Calgary was one of the first teams I met with,” Brunicke said. “Excitement grew from there. Throughout the year I met with my coaches and their biggest thing was staying in the structure. Playing my position, play hard, be physical and be in the right spot. The puck finds you there and translate to offence. That was the big for me to grow and I felt my game took off after from that after the second half of the season.

“From playing at the Top Prospects Game getting to compete with the best of the CHL to represent Canada at the U18s were amazing experiences. I learned a lot about myself and my game. Getting to meet a lot of great people and unbelievable feeling to win gold.”

And now the big day is almost here, the NHL Draft.

“I’ll have my mom, dad and sister there, I’m excited to have them there,” Brunicke said. “They’ve been in my corner my whole life and I’m excited to go to Vegas and experience it all.”