By: Lanny Stewart
Leadership is a trait that’s come naturally to Kolten Kanaski.
Named captain of the Eastman Selects midget team while in his second year of the program, Kanaski understands what it means to have the innate ability to always show confidence, to be relied upon and to be there for teammates – both on and off the ice.
“I had to step into bigger shoes than I was expecting, so that leadership role is something that’s kind of a natural instinct for me,” said the 19-year-old Oil Caps forward regarding his time wearing the ‘C’ with the Selects. “It kind of runs in the family with my Dad being a police officer and whatnot.”
His leadership qualities will be put to the test this upcoming season as Kanaski will be entering into his third year with the Oil Caps this fall after a breakout sophomore campaign. Having been thrust into a variety of different roles during the 2017-2018 season with the Oil Caps – whether it was spending time on the power play, killing penalties or matching up to play against the opposing team’s top lines – Kanaski learned a lot and it helped him develop a 200-foot game that will only benefit him moving forward.
“I got to see the ice quite a bit and got to play with a lot of good players,” he said, reflecting on his 17-goal, 34-point regular season and his eight points in 14 playoff games. “I kind of felt you could put me with anyone on our team last year and I could excel because everyone on that team had good chemistry.”
Jamie Hodson, director of business and hockey operations for the Oil Caps, says Kanaski, along with the rest of the Oil Caps players, spent a lot of hours this past season with the club’s strength and conditioning coach Brock Davies as well as Patty Hole, the organization’s power skating instructor, working on specific areas of their games. Hodson says it’s really beginning to pay dividends for Kanaski.
“He really took the initiative to improve, and this year I’m sure we’ll continue to see that development in his game,” he said.
Hodson says Kanaski will take on a larger leadership role this upcoming season – and believes he’s more than ready for it.
“Kolten is a great individual off the ice as much as he is on the ice,” he said. “His teammates think highly of him. They see his effort on a nightly basis and follow suit. He’s also a community-driven individual and is usually the first to volunteer and to help out when he can.”
Troy Leslie, head coach and GM of the Oil Caps, echoed the same sentiments.
“He’s shown since Day 1 when he got here that he’s got good leadership capabilities and obviously, that’s going to be a big part of his game this year. He’s very well spoken and mature and he handles those situations very well. He’s good at speaking in public and is a confident kid, that’s for sure.”
Leslie says Kanaski’s game includes getting to the ‘dirty areas’ of the ice and playing with a lot of grit. That determination, Leslie says, fuels his game.
“He’s really developed into a good two-way player who goes into the hard areas of the ice, who sticks up for his teammates,” he said. “Last year, he had a really good start to the season and really came on – he was our player of the month in October – and for good reason. Kolten has a scoring touch. He’s going to have more opportunity to add to his totals in terms of providing offence and I believe he’ll be up for the challenge.”
What’s Kanaski’s next challenge after hockey? He hopes to one day become a lawyer. He plans on taking a couple courses during this upcoming hockey season with visions of attending law school at some point down the road.
But what about becoming a police officer like his Dad?
“He definitely likes to push that, that’s for sure,” he said with a smile.
“If becoming a lawyer doesn’t work out, being a police officer is definitely my Plan B.”