July 2, 2019
It’s not often that four players from one community are drafted into the NHL in a given year, never mind all four are defencemen. But this year, the names of Maxwell Crozier, Layton Ahac, Carter Berger and Cole Moberg were all called this year’s NHL Draft in Vancouver. While their paths are somewhat varied, all intersected at some point at the North Shore Winter Club, in North Vancouver.
Here’s a look at the four players:
#86 – Layton Ahac (Las Vegas Golden Knights) 2.22.2001, 6’2″, 187, 4-28-32 Pts in 53 regular season BCHL games, plus 5-12-17 in 17 playoff games.
First of the group picked was Layton Ahac, who started his minor hockey career at North Vancouver Minor, before moving to the North Shore Winter Club for his final year of bantam in 2015-2016. The following year he moved to the West Van Academy E15 program, before joining the Prince George Spruce Kings of the BCHL for his first year of junior in 2017-18.
After scoring about half a point per game in the regular season for the Prince George Spruce Kings this year, Ahac put up 17 points in 17 games in the post-season. Prince George won round after round, were crowned champion of the BCHL and then took home the Doyle Cup, as BC-Alberta champion. The team ultimately fell short in the Canadian Junior A championship, losing to the Brooks Bandits, who they’d downed in the Doyle, but Ahac had already managed to prove himself, extending his season as long as it could to show scouts what he can bring to a team.
Being a local kid from North Vancouver, he was happy to have plenty of friends and family in the building cheering him on.
“My whole family is out,” he said. “I’ve also got tons of friends and past coaches who live locally. Their support has just been tremendous.”
After he heard his name called, he explained his decision to go the BCHL route and how his relationship with Prince George head coach Adam Maglio exceled his development.
“I went with my gut feeling. I went to Prince George and I fell in love with it there. I thought, ‘I want to play here and I want to play for this guy.’
“[Maglio] is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had and I got to have him for two full years. He saw something in me that maybe others didn’t see. He always pushed me to be my best and I’m super grateful for him.”
Ahac will make the jump to the NCAA next season with Ohio State University.
#106 – Carter Berger (Florida Panthers), 9.17.99. 6’0″, 201, 27-36-63 in 54 regular season games, 5-13-18 in 15 playoff games.
Next of the four d-men picked was Carter Berger, a late 1999 birth year, who was undrafted last year but invited to the Anaheim Ducks prospect camp the following week.
Berger played the last three seasons with the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL. This year, he exploded for 27 goals and 36 assists in 54 regular season games, a huge gain in production after posting 34 points in 2017-18.
The North Vancouver native also had an impressive postseason with 18 points (5G/13A) in 15 games as Victoria advance to the semifinals before being eliminated by eventual league champions Prince George.
His 63 overall points were highest of all defensemen in the league.
Berger, the archetypical late bloomer, played all his minor hockey plus two years of midget A1 at NSWC before joining the Grizzlies.
Berger said being drafted in his hometown was extra satisfying after he was passed over in last year’s draft.
“It’s pretty special,” he said. “It’s always in the back of your mind, all season long, playing with a bit of a chip on your shoulder.”
With the college route to the pros generally allowing for more time to develop, Berger thought all along that this was the best option for himself and his game.
“I’m a late bloomer,” he said. “The college route offers you so much time to develop. You obviously want to make that step to pro hockey as soon as possible, but at the same time you don’t want to rush it. The college path is perfect for that.”
Berger credits his own self-belief as well as playing with talented players as the main reasons why he was able to excel offensively this season.
“It’s just confidence,” he said. “It also helps when you have such a skilled team. I’m the third guy from our team getting drafted this year. That’s pretty rare, especially for a BCHL team.”
Heading into this year’s camp with Florida, he will hope to draw on his experience with Anaheim.
“Last year, going in, I was a little bit nervous and jittery,” he said. “This will be my second time around, so I know what to expect and I’ll be a lot more comfortable.”
He will head to the University of Connecticut this fall to continue his development.
#120 – Maxwell Crozier (Tampa Bay Lightning), 4.19.00, 6’1″, 194, 10-33-43 in 60 regular season games, USHL Sioux Falls Stampede.
Maxwell Crozier played all his early minor hockey at the North Shore Winter Club before moving with his family to Calgary and continuing with the NWCAA Bruins and then on to the Edge Hockey Academy in the CSSHL for first year midget.
After playing one year in the BCHL in Nanaimo as a second year midget aged player, Crozier moved to the USHL this past season where he led all Sioux Falls Stampede defensemen with 10G-33A in 60 games played. The Stampede hoisted the Clark Cup as league champions in the spring.
Crozier committed to Providence College in 2017, and will join the team this fall.
194 – Cole Moberg (Chicago Blackhawks), 10-17-00, 6’3″, 198, 13-27-40 in 61 regular season games.
Cole Moberg played all his minor hockey at North Shore Winter Club in North Vancouver through to first year midget A1, before joining the Vancouver North West Giants of the BC Major Midget League in his second year.
After going undrafted in the WHL bantam draft, Moberg was picked up by the Prince George Cougars for the 2017-18 season, putting up 2-9-11 points in 64 games as a first year major junior d-man. His points total jumped to 40 this year, just two behind the team’s #2 scorer, left winger Josh Maser, and 10 back of #1, Valdisalv Mikhalchuk of Belarus.
His 13 goals were eighth best among WHL d-men, even though the Cougars finished in last place of the 10 team Western Conference.
“It’s a surreal feeling to see all that work I’ve put in pay off. I am so honoured to be drafted by an organization with such a rich history like the Blackhawks,” said Moberg. “There’s so many people to thank from my family, to coaches to the Cougars organization. The real work begins now.”