Published on September 03, 2013
Dylan Busenius is hoping for big things from himself and his teammates as he enters his final season in the WHL.
Herald photo by Perry Bergson
Published on September 03, 2013
Jayden Hart, who heads to Boston Bruins camp this week, is excited about the upcoming season.
Herald photo by Perry Bergson
With a full camp under their belts and a strong summer of workouts behind them, Jayden Hart and Dylan Busenius are out to prove that Prince Albert Raiders fans haven’t seen their best hockey.
Both were unhappy with the seasons they had in Medicine Hat and Prince Albert after their Jan. 1 trade.
“It was pretty disappointing after my 17-year-old season,” Hart says. “I expected a lot of myself in my 18-year-old season and I guess it was kind of a disappointment.”
“It took some time to adjust. When I got here I wasn’t playing my best hockey. I didn’t play my best hockey all year I guess.”
He isn’t alone.
“I felt like I let the staff and team down by my play,” Busenius said. “It wasn’t really where it was at when I came from Medicine Hat. I definitely want to build off that and have a better season. There’s a lot of stuff in my game that I need to work on.”
Hart is a 6’2”, 192-pound product of Fort McMurray, Alta. He was drafted in the third round of the 2009 WHL bantam draft, 58th overall by the Medicine Hat Tigers.
He put up big numbers in AAA midget with the St. Albert Raiders in 2010-11 -- 21 goals and 23 assists in 34 games -- and also appeared in a pair of games that season with the Tigers.
He earned a spot the next year as a 17-year-old, appearing in 67 games with 13 goals and 19 assists.
After appearing in 18 games with the Tigers last year, Hart left the club in December for personal reasons and asked for a trade.
Hart subsequently appeared in 33 games for the Raiders, scoring nine goals and adding 12 assists with 28 penalty minutes a -21 rating.
Busenius, meanwhile, played 34 games for Prince Albert, scoring twice and adding 14 assists with 18 penalty minutes and a -10 rating.
The 6’0”, 185-pound defenceman from Edmonton, had spent his entire career with the Tigers, appearing in 214 games with 14 goals and 54 assists to go with 116 penalty minutes and a -20 plus-minus rating. He was a first round WHL draft pick in 2008, going 16th overall.
Busenius says the pair were immediately welcomed by their new club.
“The guys and the staff and our billets did a really good job of making us feel comfortable right away,” Busenius said, adding that the guys in the dressing room were terrific. “They made it really easy to adjust. It took a few games to get used to the systems and how everybody played and getting used to playing with new players. But after we got comfortable I think it worked out pretty well. We had a lot of fun.”
Some fans have blamed the New Year’s Day deal for the team’s swoon. The Raiders acquired Hart and Busenius for popular forward Logan McVeigh, defenceman Zach Hodder, prospect Connor Hobbs and a second round pick in 2013.
An argument can be made that the season actually turned four weeks earlier on Dec. 4 in a 7-4 loss at home to the Spokane Chiefs.
At the time, after a four-game skid in mid-October, they had gone 13-5 until Spokane came to town. After falling behind to the Chiefs early, the Raiders rallied to tie, only to give up three goals in the final three minutes.
With the defeat, the Raiders dropped to 20-9-0-2, still good for first in the Eastern Conference. From that point on, they went 17-28 -- including five overtime and shootout losses -- in the season and playoffs.
Hart and Busenius heard the whispers that the deal affected the team’s season.
“It was pretty tough mentally, not to say that we were blamed because I don’t feel like that,” Hart says. “When we did get here, we weren’t playing our best hockey like they were before. I took quite a bit on my shoulders and a lot of times I was disappointed in myself because I wasn’t playing the greatest hockey. Maybe I was a bit hard on myself.”
“Everybody deals with it differently,” Busenius said.
Busenius found himself a target of some boobirds in Medicine Hat because he was an older player on a struggling Tigers team. He says you either have to ignore it or utilize it as fuel.
“Try to use it,” Busenius said. “If you don’t try to use it, it’s just going to tear you down and it’s not going to do any good for you in the end. If you try and use that to motivate yourself, I think it can be a great motivator.”
Both put in good summers of work.
Hart, who heads down to Boston Bruins camp this week, worked with former NHLer Norm Lacombe in Edmonton. Busenius, meanwhile, trained in Edmonton with current NHLers Johnny Boychuk and Jay Bouwmeester. His also skated with his uncle Steve Serdachny, who teaches power skating.
“I’m feeling a little bit quicker and definitely stronger,” Busesnius says. I think I got a lot stronger, especially in the lower body area. I’m pretty stoked. I think there are a lot of guys who came in really good shape. I think we could have a top-notch team this year for sure.”
Busenius was impressed by the condition his buddy showed up in too.
“He’s definitely one of the guys who has surprised me the most this summer,” Busenius says of Hart. “He’s a great player and I think he looks really strong on his feet. I’m pretty excited to see what he can do this year.”
While Hart is considered by some to be one of the quieter guys on the team, Busenius sees a different side of him.
“He’s a great guy,” Busenius says. “I love to be around him. He’s funny, he’s goofy, he’s kind of quiet. I like him a lot.”
For Hart, it was a bonus to be traded with a friend.
“He’s a great player and a great friend too,” Hart says. “It was nice to be traded with him. Basically I knew somebody right off the bat. He’s a great player, a good skater, his hockey sense is phenomenal ... so I’m excited for him this year too.”
Busenius says if he’s playing well, fans will see he’s not holding onto puck but he’s making good passes, his game is simple, he is getting into rushes, is physical and has strong defensive positioning.
Hart says if he’s playing well, he’ll be winning faceoffs and playing strong hockey at both ends of the ice.
They’re both optimistic about the season ahead.
“I think we’re going to go really far this year,” Hart says. “We have a lot of good players coming back and some good young guys coming up, so I’m excited.”
Busenius also likes what he sees from his Raider teammates as he enters his WHL swan song.
“The last four or five years have just gone by so fast,” Busenius says. “I’m pretty excited about the team we have this year. Obviously in your 20-year-old year you want to be part of something special and I think we definitely have the potential to do that here.”