By Ryan McCracken on August 25, 2017.
The Medicine Hat Tigers put some added stock into their defensive future on Thursday morning by signing goaltending prospect Garin Bjorklund to a WHL standard player agreement.
The Tabbies selected Bjorklund with the 21st overall pick in the first round of this year’s bantam draft after his stellar year in Calgary with the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League’s Bisons.
“It’s an unreal feeling. I’m really excited for the future and being able to wear the orange, white and black one day. Putting on the Tigers’ logo is a big deal to me,” said Bjorklund. “I didn’t have any hesitation signing. This is the team I wanted to go to.”
When the Tigers closed the book on the 2016-17 season in a Game 7 loss to the Lethbridge Hurricanes, there was a fair amount of uncertainty when it came to the team’s future between the pipes. Nick Schneider and Michael Bullion were both entering their overage seasons and prospect Rylan Rommelaere stepped away from hockey last summer, leaving just rookie Duncan McGovern as a viable option for the coming years. But Tigers general manager Shaun Clouston and his staff went to work and shored up the situation over the next few weeks, sending Matt Bradley to the Regina Pats for Ottawa Senators prospect Jordan Hollett and using their first-round bantam pick on Bjorklund.
“It was something we realized had to be addressed. We feel really, really good about being able to address it in the way that we did. We drafted what we felt was the best player available at that time in Garin, but we were very aware that he was a goaltender,” said Clouston. “We made it a priority and if there was a goaltender we felt was the right calibre, an impact player — every team wants their first-round pick to be an impact player and we believe he will be.”
Bjorklund is the first goaltender Medicine Hat has selected in the first round of a WHL bantam draft in 10 years. Tyler Bunz was also taken in the first round at 21st overall in the 2007 draft and went on to produce a 115-55-9-10 career record in orange and black.
While Bjorklund’s major junior career is yet to be defined, the 5-foot-11, 155-pound netminder shares at least one accolade with Bunz. After posting a 15-6-3 record, a 1.34 goals against average and a .918 save percentage, Bjorklund picked up the title of the AMBHL’s top goaltender 10 years after Bunz accomplished the feat.
The season earned Bjorklund on place on the Team Calgary South’s Alberta Cup roster, where the Grande Prairie product posted a 1.34 goals against average and a .960 save percentage over three games, and picked up an all-star nod in the process.
“We really think Garin is going to be a special player. Not to put a lot of pressure on him, there’s enough pressure on the goaltending position as it is, but he’s a very engaged individual, he’s intelligent, he’s competitive. We had our spring camp and just loved what we saw there with his energy and enthusiasm.”
Bjorklund and the Tigers kick off training camp today at the Canalta Centre.
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