This past season brought a wonderful opportunity for Conner Roulette. After a great single season with the Winnipeg Thrashers of the Manitoba AAA U18 Hockey League, Conner put his sights on accomplishing something bigger this season and that was making the jump to Western Hockey League, full-time.
Roulette was drafted in the second round, 34th overall by the Seattle Thunderbirds in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft. Roulette made an immediate impact at training camp and he cracked this year's roster as a 16-year-old. It ended up being a season of great individual successes for Conner and it also included some team success, enough so to earn the team a spot in the WHL Playoffs. However, his dream of making his playoff debut in the WHL came to a close yesterday. Commissioner Ron Robison announced the cancellation of the playoffs due to the growing concern of COVID-19.
Roulette is now back in Winnipeg as the off-season has arrived.
"It's obviously tough when the season comes to an end, but everyone is focused on staying healthy," said Roulette. "It's all about staying safe and healthy right now, that's the most important thing. It sucks, but I'm just trying to keep my mind off things right now and focus on moving forward."
Starting his first full WHL season, it sure didn't take Roulette long to record his first-ever regular-season point. During the third game of the season against Kamloops, Roulette lit the twine against the Blazers once. In all, Roulette added up 19 goals and 20 assists this season for a 39 point total.
Michal Teply of the Winnipeg ICE led the Western Hockey League in rookie scoring with his 63 points. Including Teply, only seven other players had more points as a rookie than Roulette. Conner was also 102nd in league-wide scoring this season.
"My success this season is something I can use moving forward into future years. I really trained hard and worked hard for this," said Roulette. "I didn't want to think too high or think too low."
The expectations on Conner have been high for a few years now as he continues to grow into the player he has become. Playing with the Winnipeg Hawks Bantam AAA team in the 2017-18 season, Roulette had 101 points (52G) in just 34 regular-season games. Moving forward to the playoffs, he scored 10 times and added 13 assists in eight games. With the Thrashers last year, Conner was named to the league's First All-Star Team and he was named the Rookie of the Year. The 16-year-old had things to prove moving into his first WHL season and he sure did achieve some of the goals that he set out for himself.
"I mean it was a pretty big transition from AAA to the WHL, so I kind of didn't know how it would go," he continued. "With that said, I just built confidence as the season went on and I think I did a pretty good job at the end of the day, I'm pretty proud of it."
Teddy Bear Man:
Against the Everett Silvertips on January 11, it was the Thunderbirds annual Teddy Bear Toss game. Cole Fonstad potted his ninth goal of the season to give Everett a 1-0 lead late in the first. That set the stage for Roulette to show what he could do. With 55 seconds left in the period while on a man advantage, Roulette tickled the twine with his 14th goal of the season to tie the game at one and thousands of bears flooded the ice.
Conner also had one assist in the game as his team beat Everett, 4-3. He was also named the game's first star.
"It was funny earlier in the day, the whole team was joking around about who would score the goal," continued Roulette. "All the adrenaline and excitement that ran through me, it was incredible, what a feeling. Just to see everyone happy and taking pictures, that's what it's all about. It was awesome to score that goal and I'll look to do it again next year."
In fact, Conner became so confident that he even said that he was going into games expecting to score, something that some 16-year-olds may have trouble saying confidently. Thanks to all his success, he has now been recognized back in his home province of Manitoba.
Roulette, a member of the Misipawistik Cree Nation, has been named the Manitoba Aboriginal Male Athlete of the Year. He was presented with the award by the Manitoba Aboriginal Sports and Recreation Council.
"It's truly an honour. To be recognized like that, it makes me feel really proud of who I am," said Roulette. "It makes me feel like so many people are supporting me and that's such a special feeling. I feel great and I have to say thank you to everyone who has supported me, this means everything."
Not only did Conner make the full-time jump to the WHL this season, but he also made his debut with Team Canada. He played on Canada Red at the World U17 Hockey Challenge. He played in four games and he notched two goals.