Chase Felgueiras had every intention of honoring those lost during his first season with the Humboldt Broncos in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.
The 18-year-old defenseman did that and more, helping Humboldt to a playoff berth despite the fact the team had to be rebuilt completely in the months following the bus crash that killed 16 team members and injured 13 on April 6, 2018.
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The Broncos were traveling to a playoff game in Nipawin, Saskatchewan when the crash happened. Among those killed were 10 players and coach/general manager Darcy Haugen.
"I was playing for those guys no longer with us," Felgueiras said. "Although I didn't know most of them, I hope they're proud of me and hope I represented them well."
Felgueiras (6-foot-3, 187 pounds) was acquired in a trade with Olds of the Alberta Junior Hockey League on June 27, 2018. He is No. 179 in NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of North American skaters eligible for the 2019 NHL Draft at Rogers Arena in Vancouver on June 21-22. He's the only Humboldt player on Central Scouting's final list.
The native of Calgary, Alberta is friends with defenseman Ryan Straschnitzki, who survived the crash but is paralyzed from the chest down after sustaining a concussion, brain bleeding, a collapsed right lung and an injured right shoulder blade.
"I've known Ryan since I was 8 and I played hockey with him growing up," Felgueiras said. "Hearing he was in that accident struck me pretty good. Just hearing about the crash was devastating and no one wants that to happen. I think that whole situation hit all hockey players around the world pretty hard.
"Me and Ryan box at the same gym together and are partners on Xbox, so we play Fortnite sometimes. The way he continues to fight through the adversity and keep positive about everything inspires me to keep going every day."
Felgueiras said he'll never forget the season-opening ceremony Sept. 12, 2018. Survivors Brayden Camrud and Derek Patter returned to the lineup to join their new teammates in an eventual 2-1 loss to Nipawin. Camrud overcame a concussion, neck issues and loss of feeling in one of his arms to make it back.
"I thought we did pretty well for a brand-new team," Felgueiras said. "Especially for Camrud and Patter; coming to the rink every day and working hard for those guys, representing them well. Hopefully we made them proud this year."
Humboldt (35-19-3-1) finished sixth out of 12 teams before losing a best-of-7 series to Estevan in the second round of the playoffs.
"A couple weeks after the start of the season we got going and no longer had cameras in our face. We were just boys playing hockey, so it was a lot better," Felgueiras said.
Said Humboldt coach/GM Scott Barney: "They came together so fast in training camp. I've never really seen a team that close as a group following training camp, and that was a big reason for our success playing for each other."
A projected seventh-round pick, Felgueiras had 24 points (five goals, 19 assists) in 57 games. His production earned him time on the first penalty-killing unit and second power-play unit.
"We saw him at training camp and said, 'This kid can play,'" Barney said. "He skates and plays the game well. You can see where the scouts see the potential. He can make that long, hard first pass and he handles the puck well. He has the potential to have his game grow on defense."
Felgueiras also represented Humboldt in the SJHL/MJHL Showcase game in Regina, Saskatchewan from Jan. 14-15.
"Chase deserves to be recognized, you can see his upside," Peter Sullivan of NHL Central Scouting said. "He just needs to mature a little more with his defensive game. But he's got everything for a big defenseman with his size, skating and mobility. His acceleration is good, and he plays a type of game that isn't overly rambunctious but really creates a lot of the offense.
"He's more dangerous from the opposing blue line in and has very good anticipation on the offensive side of the puck. I can certainly see him getting even better next year."
Creating offense is something familiar to Felgueiras since he played several games at forward for Olds of the Alberta Junior Hockey League last season.
"I usually dressed as the seventh defenseman but then we got into some forward trouble so I was also playing forward a couple of games ... wing, center and even moved to the top line," he said. "It's good to know the offensive side of the game more because I kind of know what defenders don't like, so I just go out there and try to [tick] them off by doing the things to them I don't like being done to me.
"I'm not that bad of a skater, so I can get up and down the ice pretty well."
Barney said Felgueiras played 25-30 minutes a night as a top-pair defenseman for Humboldt and likely will be a key part next season as one of seven returning players.
"If Chase gets drafted that would be so rewarding for him," Barney said. "For the program it's huge as far as recruitment. It's good for the program since we'll have as many as 17 new faces in the lineup next season. Chase might end up getting a (college) scholarship eventually. The more players you can push forward the better."
Humboldt has produced six NHL players since being founded in 1970: Sheldon Brookbank, Curt Giles, Neil Hawryliw, Grant Jennings, Bill McDougall and Terry Ruskowski. Jennings won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1991 and 1992.
Felgueiras won't attend the draft. He said he'll probably watch from home if he isn't working his part-time job pouring cement with a friend somewhere in northern Calgary.
"If all goes well I'll be taken in the draft," Felgueiras said. "Obviously the Humboldt name means a lot to the hockey community and I'm so proud to be part of the team."
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