WHL Next Generation is a 23-part series highlighting a handful of the future stars of the Western Hockey League. From first-round bantam draft picks to later-blooming selections, get to know the names of players set to establish themselves as the newest crop of exciting talent to grace the WHL. From August 1 through August 31, get the inside scoop on the incoming rookie class of 2018-19.
Aidan De La Gorgendiere
Team: Saskatoon Blades
The Saskatoon Blades are looking to add to their blue line with the recent departure of Libor Hajek, the former second overall pick at the 2015 CHL Import Draft. While it is hard to replace the kind of talent that got Hajek drafted in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft, Aidan De La Gorgendiere has tasked himself with doing everything he can to make the roster and improve the Blades next season.
“I’ve been training every day,” said De La Gorgendiere. “I’ve been meeting with a power skating coach and have been in contact with the staff in Saskatoon, keeping tabs with them and listening to what I need to do to improve as a player and give myself the best chance of making the team [out of training camp].”
De La Gorgendiere has high hopes coming into this season and is looking forward to getting the chance to play with some top end talent.
“Looking at the players they have on their team with guys like [Kirby] Dach, [Eric] Florchuk, [Chase] Wouters and all the other guys there, we are going to be a really good team next season and for many years to come. And there is a lot I will be able to learn from those guys both on and off the ice.”
The excitement for next season grew earlier this year when De La Gorgendiere suited up for his first game in Blades colours.
“I got to play a game in Everett during their teddy bear toss night. I was really nervous before the game, probably the most nervous I have been in my life, but the leadership in the locker room with [Evan] Fiala and some of the other guys made it a great experience and I can’t wait to get into the routine of things with those guys in August.”
De La Gorgendiere is hoping to help the Blades make the playoffs next season. If they do, the Blades will hope that the puck-moving defenceman will continue his productive playoff performances that he experienced in Bantam and Midget.
“I like the bigger games,” said De La Gorgendiere, who is a point-per-game player in his playoff career. “I feel like the bigger the game the better I play. Everyone ramps it up and the compete level increases and I feel like I thrive off it.”
In 2016-17 with Yale Hockey Academy Bantam Prep, De La Gorgendiere recorded 26 points (5G-21A) in 30 games during the season. When playoffs came around he recorded nine points (2G-7A) in four games. Helping his team win the CSSBHL Championship.
“It was really cool winning with the Bantam Varsity team,” said the Blades prospect. “We had some really good players and really good guys. It was really fun to play with them and a cool experience to win the championship.”
De La Gorgendiere continued his impressive play through his Midget season, posting 17 points (3G-14A) during the season and adding three assists in three playoff games.
“I thought [the season] was pretty good,” he said. “It started a little rough because I injured my shoulder at [The Saskatoon Blades] training camp. I dealt with that for the first bit of the season but once it healed up my play got a lot better and my confidence increased as well.”
“My coaches were also excellent, I learned a lot from them and from my teammates. A lot of the guys on that team will be trying to make the WHL this season so we just tried helping each other as much as we could as we were all going through the same process.”
While De La Gorgendiere’s Midget season didn’t end with a championship, he was a part of the team that won the WHL Cup.
“It was a blast playing in [the WHL Cup],” stated the defenceman. “We lost to Team Alberta in the round robin 6-1, so we knew going into the final that it was going to be tough. We took it to overtime and [Ryan] Watson took the shot and [Ben] King deflected it with a really nice tip and it went in. We were all shocked that we just won so the celebration was extra special.”
With an impressive resume already, De La Gorgiendiere was selected fifth overall in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft by Saskatoon, a team he is glad he has the opportunity to play for.
“I had a lot of talks with Saskatoon prior to the draft and they gave me pretty good idea that they were going to select me if I was available. It was a pretty easy decision for me to tell them I would love to play for them. They have a great team with a lot of talent and are a top-tier organization.”
“Moving to Saskatchewan will be a little tough as it is far from home, but I have some family living in Saskatoon,” De La Gorgendiere said. “I’m really excited for seeing how the older guys play and learning as much as I can from them.”
While there is pressure on the former fifth overall pick to live up to expectations, he is taking things one day at a time and enjoying summer.
“I’ve been out golfing a bit and have been trying to see my friends as much as possible before heading to Saskatoon. I’ve been happy with my training and the progress I have made but I am also a teenager and so I’m finding time to do things with my friends as well.”
De La Gorgendiere and the Saskatoon Blades will kickoff their 2018 pre-season against the rival Prince Albert Raiders at 7 p.m. CDT at the Art Hauser Centre, Prince Albert.
What is your favorite food?
Chicken Ceaser Salad
If you could choose any superpower what would it be?
Is there a song you could sing solely based off memory with no music or lyrics?
It Ain’t Me by Kygo and Selena Gomez
Who was your favorite player to watch growing up?
What is your favorite sport other than hockey?