Patrick Martens’ offensive impact in the month of October was felt beyond the borders of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League and the speedy Nelson Junior Leafs forward has grabbed an opportunity to move on.
Fresh off KIJHL player-of-the-month honours, on Tuesday the Leafs’ leading scorer was signed by the Langley Rivermen of the British Columbia Hockey League.
“I’m very happy for Patrick,” Leafs coach Frank Maida told the Star. “He has worked hard this year, he has bought into our program and the results have shown. That’s what this league is for — to move kids on.”
Martens had a stellar October that saw the 18-year-old score 16 goals and add 10 assists. Playing on the Leafs’ top scoring line with Colton Schell and Matthew Naka, Martens led the league in scoring for stretches during the month and after this past weekend’s action sat second with 29 points.
The Rivermen currently sit last in the BCHL’s Coastal Conference with a 6-11-0-0 record. Coaching staff of the Lower Mainland squad told Maida that Martens will fit well into the team’s top three lines.
Martens grew up in Maple Ridge and was in his second season with the Leafs. In an interview earlier this season with the Star, Martens said he loved Nelson and couldn’t imagine playing Junior B in another community. He added that Junior A was his goal and had hoped to crack a roster next season.
“Of course it’s going to leave a void. He’s the top scorer on our team and second in the league,” Maida said. “But it’s an opportunity and that is what I told the players last night [Wednesday]. Now somebody can step up and fill that void.”
Offence has not been a huge concern for the Leafs so far this season. Schell, Matti Jmaeff, Nik Newman and Brett Norman have also shown they have an ability to both set up and convert on chances.
“Our scoring has been spread out so I’m not concerned about that aspect of our game,” said Maida.
The coach did add that the team’s recent five-game losing streak — that ended with a win in Osoyoos on Sunday afternoon — could be partially blamed on his forwards trying too hard to move up in the scoring leaders.
“I think the boys realized that we were getting away from the team concept and the team systems,” Maida said of the recent rough patch. “We might have been focusing a little too much on individual stats and holding the stick a little tighter. On Sunday we got back to playing system hockey and it was a total team effort.”
The Leafs travelled to Fernie to take on the Ghostriders on Thursday night (past Star deadline) and are back at the Nelson District Community Complex on Saturday for a tilt against the Grand Forks Border Bruins.
The departure of Martens coincided with the arrival of two new defenceman earlier this week. In a cash deal trade with the Kelowna Chiefs, the Leafs acquired Eric Spring. Then on Tuesday they signed J.J Beitel who spent the first part of the season with the Trail Smoke Eaters and spent last year in the Alberta Midget AAA League with the Calgary Buffaloes.
“They are going to bring some bigger presence to our back end and now we have some more experience,” said Maida. “Each one will bring a different part to the game.”
Maida describes Beitel as a puck moving defenceman while Spring is expected to add a little more of a physical aspect to the Leafs blueline.
Currently the Leafs are dealing with three key injuries to defenceman — captain Tyler Parfeniuk, Blake Arcuri and Riley Henderson are all out of the line-up.
As for moving his top sniper onto Junior A, Maida is sincere about his commitment to making sure his players’ development is fostered correctly.
“Our philosophy has always been to move kids on,” he said. “This is a development league and that is what we are here to do. I’m hoping we can move more players on before the end of the year.”