© Herald photo by Perry Bergson
Craig Leverton of Debden didn’t take long to get excited about where he was traded last week by the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The newest Prince Albert Raider has watched and played in a lot of games at the Art Hauser Centre.
Craig Leverton’s second chance couldn’t have come in a better spot.
The 18-year-old forward from Debden was acquired by the Prince Albert Raiders last week from the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
After playing 103 games in Alberta and posting 12 goals and 17 assists, he was dealt for 17-year-old forward Spencer Meyer, who had been reassigned by the Raiders.
Leverton, a hard worker on the ice, is pushing himself to improve as a Raider.
“I know I can be better,” he says. “I’m glad that I get a fresh start and a chance to prove to myself and the hockey world that I’m a lot better than I was doing out in Lethbridge.”
He played his minor hockey in Warman and Debden before joining the Beardy’s Blackhawks in 2009-10, later moving on in 2010-11 to the Saskatoon Contacts, where he scored 10 goals and has 22 assists in 33 games.
He was selected 25th overall by the Hurricanes in the second round of the 2010 draft.
His exit from Lethbridge last week came as a complete surprise.
Leverton had gone to college the morning of the trade and after he returned home, just before heading for a nap, he received a call to come to the rink.
“I was a little anxious and a little upset at the same time and when I got there they told me it was P.A.,” he remembers. “It didn’t really sink in until I was about half way back from Lethbridge. Then the excitement started to kick in. My family was more than excited for me to be coming back home to play here.
“Once everything settled down for me and the shock kind of escaped, it was a pretty cool moment to know I was coming here to play.”
Leverton said he attended many Raider games as a youngster, making his debut on Saturday even more special when he skated out to warm applause.
“It’s pretty cool to be on the other side coming out and having the fans cheering us on,” he said. “It was definitely a surreal moment for me. The way they had it set up was really well done. It was one of the highlights of my playing career so far for sure.”
He grew up a few minutes outside of Debden on a farm that had elk and cattle.
“Me and my dad, every winter we would build some boards and make an outdoor rink,” he said. “I probably spent three or four hours out there every night. I’d bring some of my buddies out there and we’d play for the Stanley Cup pretty much every night.”
He says the community of about 350 people, situated 94 kilometres northwest of Prince Albert, supports its athletes. He chuckles about the large contingent of fans on hand to witness his Raider debut.
“I think they turned the power off (in Debden) for sure,” he jokes. “You get some real good support from Dedben for sure … That town’s crazy about their hockey and when they’re playing at a high level they know how to show their support.”
Raiders GM Bruno Campese said last week after the deal that he was happy with his acquisition.
“With Leverton being somewhat of a local kid, we know quite a bit about him, being from Debden and playing minor hockey in the Saskatchewan area. Our scouts have known him and we’ve always kind of liked him,” Campese says. “He was a high second round draft pick but sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to. He’s played over 100 games and yet I think he would probably tell you himself he wants more and has more of himself to give.
“Sometimes a fresh start is all you need.”
Leverton struggled with injuries at times in Lethbridge and never quite found the offensive production that he was hoping for.
He says that his success invariably comes from outworking his opponents, a trait that should endear the 5’10”, 194-pound forward to Raider fans.
Leverton said he was quickly accepted by his new teammates and coaches. And while the deal came early in the season, Leverton is still finding himself three weeks behind in learning the team’s systems.
Although he’s only been in Prince Albert for a week, he likes what he sees.
“I feel like we have a really good chance of making a good playoff run here. That’s my main goal.”