Produced by the Western Hockey League in partnership with BC Tree Fruits, “Growing the Game’s Best Talent” is a multi-part series highlighting the next generation of WHL stars set to embark on a journey pursuing NHL dreams. “Growing the Game’s Best Talent” can be seen monthly at WHL.ca, featuring a key member of the upcoming 2019 NHL Draft Class. Together, the WHL and BC Tree Fruits are “Growing the Game’s Best Talent.”
Being an 18-year-old NHL Draft-eligible player is a balancing act. Playing in the WHL, graduating from high school and managing expectations and pressures of the upcoming NHL Draft – it’s a lot.
But for top-ranked 2019 NHL Draft goaltender Trent Miner, he couldn’t be handling it with more aplomb.
“He’s got a real composed, poised way of doing things on and off the ice,” said Vancouver Giants Head Coach Michael Dyck. “That disposition lent itself to his success this season.”
Coming into the 2018-19 WHL Regular season, it was expected that Miner would play backup to Arizona Coyotes prospect David Tendeck, but that lineup was quickly changed. Just three weeks into the Vancouver’s Giants campaign Miner earned Eli Wilson Goaltending WHL Goaltender of the Week with a 2-0-0-0 record, 1.00 goals-against average, stopped 54 of 56 shots for a .964 save percentage and earned his first career WHL shutout. Two weeks later, he did it again.
“It was pretty cool that I was improving from the start of the year,” said Miner. “It really proved that what I was doing in practice translated to those games.”
Although there was a lot to celebrate for Miner during the time, unbelievable heartbreak struck his family, simultaneously. Miner’s grandfathers, Reg Averill and Don Brading, passed away two days apart.
“Going back home was tough, but I was also happy to see everybody,” said the Brandon, Man. native. “When I came back though and even when I left before, everyone on the team was so supportive and understanding. They really helped me get back on my feet when I came back [to Vancouver].”
“We had a team that supported everyone this year,” said Dyck. “It was really neat to see how the boys rallied together around Miner and helped him through that difficult time.”
Speaking of support, there may not have been a more supportive goaltending duo in the WHL this year than the tandem of Miner and Tendeck. Healthy competition between the two pushed them to be their best any time they stepped on the ice – a relationship that doesn’t always prosper in high-level hockey.
“There was almost like an older brother, younger brother thing,” laughed Miner. “We picked on each other a little bit, but at the same time, we were also open to helping each other and wanting each other to succeed. Now looking back on the year, our success wasn’t because he had a good game and I had good games, it was because we were both working together and because we formed a good bond.”
“It was easy,” said Dyck when commenting on coaching Miner and Tendeck. “I didn’t have to worry about egos because that wasn’t them. They had such a good relationship with each other that jealousy between those two was never a worry.”
The ice wasn’t the only place Miner was successful this season. Finishing as the Giants’ top academic player this year, he excelled in English 12, Financial Accounting 12, History 12, Math 12 and Law 12. But his work ethic in school and in the rink wasn’t anything new for Miner.
“Growing up, my parents were always strict about marks,” said Miner. “They said ‘You need to have good marks to play hockey,’ so the balance between school and hockey is something I’ve been dealing with for a while.”
But from the outside, Miner makes it look easy. Pulling off a 24-5-1-1- record, 1.98 GAA, .924 SV% in 32 regular-season games, a second-place finish in the 2019 Rogers WHL Championship Series and an 85 per cent overall average in school, Miner put himself in a good position ahead of the NHL Scouting Combine and Draft.
With a final ranking of sixth among North American goaltenders, the 6-foot-1, 179-pound netminder entered the combine nervous and excited for one skill in particular.
“As hard as it was, the VO2 Max test was actually kind of fun,” said Miner, the tied-for-second place finisher in the aerobic fitness category. “I had never experienced it before, but it was cool to test my fitness that way.”
After his incredible season, will things ever slow down for Miner? Not likely.
Following the WHL Championship Series, Miner had a few days to get back into the gym to prepare for the combine before heading to the event. Shortly after the combine, Miner participated in Hockey Canada’s Program of Excellence Goaltending camp at the under-20 level. The next stop will be Vancouver, B.C. for the NHL Draft on June 21st and 22nd. But for Miner, there’s no shortage of motivation.
“I don’t think I’ve ever pictured anything different for myself,” said Miner. “I just go into the next thing and I don’t think of the negative sides of any activity. Sure, I could be at the lake today or something, but that type of thinking wouldn’t have gotten me to this point in my life. I know what my schedule is, and I embrace it, going full steam.”