Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Now sharing a facility with his first junior team, Garan Magnes often runs into familiar faces with the Edmonton Oil Kings in the hallways of the Downtown Community Arena attached to Rogers Place.
The rookie MacEwan Griffins forward played 62 games for the local Western Hockey League club over parts of three seasons (2013-14, 14-15 and 15-16).
"It's pretty cool," he said. "You grow up in Edmonton and then that junior team wants to sign you. I went for it and I signed. I had a good year and a half there before getting traded to Seattle. It was a lot of fun playing in Rexall (Place). That was probably the highlight, playing where all those greats played."
Magnes himself is no stranger to rubbing shoulders with great players, not only from his time in the WHL, but also through his family connections. Most notably, his cousin is Colorado Avalanche forward Tyson Jost.
"It's pretty awesome," said Magnes of Jost, who is in the early stages of an NHL career after the Avs drafted him 10th overall in 2016. "You can't not be happy for one of your closest family members. I try to keep in contact with him, but it's a little tough."
Jost would be surely happy to reciprocate the praise for his cousin, who is thriving in his newest hockey experience. Magnes has recorded four goals and eight points in his first four Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference games and shares the Griffins' scoring lead.
It's outstanding production for a post-secondary rookie, even if the games were against Briercrest and Portage, both non-playoff teams a season ago.
"I don't think I expected him to have as good a start as he has," said MacEwan head coach Michael Ringrose. "He's getting a pretty good opportunity. He's playing with Njaazy (Brett Njaa) and Sean (MacTavish). Obviously, those guys are proven scorers at this level. But he's complementary to them.
"He has the ability to shoot the puck. He gets it off quickly and it's heavy and accurate. He's got a weapon there and he's put himself in good spots and figured out how to use it. The results are … eight points in the first four games."
Magnes, who grew up playing some hockey in California where he lived from ages 8-12 before returning to Edmonton, admits his good shot came as a result of hours of practice.
"I never had a great shot till about midget and then I just kept on shooting every day, so that came," he said. "I've always been a bigger body, so I didn't really have a problem with a heavy game either."
That's a big reason why Ringrose brought him in, but the two have known each other for a long time. Their paths first crossed at Vimy Ridge Academy as hockey instructor and pupil. Then Magnes played for the coach on the Spruce Grove Saints in 2016-17.
At MacEwan, he has fit right into the system – a testament to the versatility of a player who has also played some defence in recent seasons.
"He has the ability to play up and down your lineup," said Ringrose. "He can play in a scoring role, which is where he is now, but he's also big and strong and heavy and can play a checking role if he needs to.
"The thing that attracted me to him as a player is his versatility and his ability to play in any situation. Having coached him before, there was a level of comfort there that made it an easy decision to bring him in."
Magnes and the Griffins (3-1-0-0) head into their toughest test of the season to date with a home-and-home series against SAIT (4-0-0-0) – Friday in Calgary (7 p.m., SAIT Arena) and Saturday in Edmonton (6 p.m., Downtown Community Arena).
"I think back and last year they won the season series against us," said Ringrose. "Despite the success we had in the end, they were the one team that kind of had our number all year. We haven't forgotten that.
"We know what they're capable of. Obviously. their young team from last year is a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger and a little bit more comfortable at this level. The results are starting to show themselves on the scoreboard. They compete hard, they can skate, and they can score. They're definitely going to be a test for us and they've got great goaltending."