When the Saskatoon Blades dropped a second round playoff series last season to the eventual WHL champions, the Kootenay Ice, it signalled the graduation of a pair of veteran defensemen in Teigan Zahn (TB) and Stefan Elliott (COL).
In Zahn, the Blades saw a tough, rugged, leader depart after five WHL seasons. He was a veteran rearguard who worked well with a number of youngsters in Saskatoon over the course of his junior career. Drafted by Chicago in 2008 and then by Tampa Bay in 2010, Zahn appeared in over 300 games for the Blades.
In Elliott, all the Blades lost was the top scoring defenseman in the WHL last season, and the organization’s all-time career scoring leader among blueliners. Elliot joins a host of WHL defensemen in the Avalanche system now, including Tyson Barrie, Troy Rutkowski and Kyle Cumiskey.
Suffice to say that due to these developments, Duncan Siemens (COL) instantly became an even more important piece of the puzzle in Saskatoon at season’s end last year. Then, a couple of months later in June, Siemens was selected by the Colorado Avalanche in the first round, 11th overall, at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in Minnesota. If the heat on Siemens hadn’t been turned on after the early post-season departure, returning to Saskatoon as a NHL first-rounder pretty much guaranteed elevated expectations.
Siemens appears to be in a great position with next season in mind, as the Blades will play host to the 2013 Memorial Cup tournament at Credit Union Centre. He will either find himself playing professional hockey at some level, or will compete for a national junior hockey championship.
While he is not oblivious to the frustrations of hockey fans in Saskatoon, a city that has never seen its beloved Blades win either a national or WHL championship since joining the league in the mid-1960’s, Siemens is fully aware that he cannot make it happen on his own. But for his part, he understands his role has changed moving forward in Saskatoon, given his standing as one of the elite rearguards in the entire WHL.
Upon his return to Saskatoon after getting his feet wet at his first pro training camp with the Avalanche, Siemens appears ready to assume a leadership role with the Blades. Entering his third full WHL season, the Sherwood Park, Alberta native will be looked upon most nights to keep pucks out of the Blades’ net. Increasing his offensive output will be a huge bonus, although his 43 points last season should be considered solid output for a rugged, stay-at-home d-man.
While the Blades managed a hot start this season, earning a regular spot among the CHL Top 10 ranked teams through much of the early going, the club struggled through December, winning only twice in their last 10 games. When the break in the WHL schedule for Christmas arrived, Saskatoon had played 35 games, posting a 20-14-0-1 record. Since returning to action, Saskatoon has posted six wins in nine games. The Blades trail the Moose Jaw Warriors by two points in the East Division, and sit sixth in the Eastern Conference standings.
Siemens knows he’ll see the ice in all situations as he continues his development in the WHL. Through 43 games so far this season, Siemens has scored six times and added 14 assists, with a plus-7 rating and 61 penalty minutes.
A graduate of the Sherwood Park Kings of the Alberta Midget Hockey League, Siemens now checks in at 6’3 and 205 pounds. HF spoke with Siemens before a game in Saskatoon on Nov. 30 against the Kootenay Ice.