If the Prince George Spruce Kings had their druthers, Miguel Marques would be playing junior A hockey for them full-time this season.
The kid who grew up in the Heritage neighbourhood on Pilot Street in Prince George is that good at what he does. At just 15, his hockey skills as a playmaking right winger and love for the physical side of the game go way beyond his years.
But his 2006 birthday means he can’t mix with the 16-20-year-old crowd in the B.C. Hockey League on a regular basis until after the season ends for his Delta Hockey Academy Under-17 prep team. And even then, there’s no guarantee for the Spruce Kings Marques will be coming back to them after playing in the team’s training camp scrimmages this past weekend at Rolling Mix Concrete Arena.
Marques is projected to be selected early in the Western Hockey League prospects draft on Dec. 9 and his junior future is still very much up in the air.
“Obviously I’m excited and we’ll see what happens,” Marques said. “I just have to keep playing hard this year and see where it takes me.”
Normally held in May, the draft was rescheduled because most of the eligible players were not able to play a full schedule last season with their teams due to provincial health orders which restricted team travel and competitions and WHL scouts need to see them in action before they make their picks.
“It’s been an odd year with COVID and everything and there’s a lot of competition around so we’ll see what happens,” said Marques. “You just have to find a way to get better every day with everything that’s going on.”
Marques played last year at St. George’s Academy, where former Prince George Cougars general manager Todd Harkins is the head of hockey at the Vancouver school. The U-15 prep team Marques played for was limited to six games and he lit up the scoreboard with seven goals and assists.
The previous season he played with the Prince George bantam triple-A Cougars under head coach Mirsad Mujcin and was one of the team’s top scorers with 16 goals and 42 points in 26 games.
He said his weekend in the Kings’ camp was ideal preparation for the Canadian Sport School Hockey League season, which starts this weekend for his Delta Academy team.
“Coming out here it’s been fast and competitive, I didn’t know what to expect right away,” he said. “It’s compete and hitting and it was fun to play and a good experience with the older guys. It’s just a fast pace, compared to my league. You always have to win your puck battles and be hard on your body and stick.”
Marques started playing hockey when he was five and found success playing in the Prince George Minor Hockey Association and in spring tournaments on select teams. He said one of the most influential coaches in his development was Travers Rebman, now head coach of the Kootenay International Junior B Kelowna Wings.
“He’s been pushing me since I was little, I think in my first year of peewee, and he ran my spring team as well,” said Marques. “My cousins were playing hockey and they just asked me if I wanted to try it out and threw me out on the ice and that’s where I started.”
Kings head coach Alex Evin watched te five-foot-10, 150-pound Marques play for Team Blue in two weekend scrimmages at RMCA and was suitably impressed with what he displayed playing with and against older, bigger and more experienced players.
“For me, I feel like he would be a very special player and we’re so happy to have him a part of our camp and give him a good experience and it looks like he’s going to have a bright future in the game,” said Evin. “He’s got to obviously wait for the Western League draft to see how that plays out, but if he’s ever going to consider going to the NCAA, we hope we’re the team he plays for.
“He’s an elite skater, he makes good decisions with the puck. He’s feisty. He has a really good skillset on him and his skating is really impressive. He’s an awesome kid and good to have around the group and he’s very into it every day, if it’s video, practice or working with our sports psychologist, he’s super into it. It’s nice to see some higher-end talent coming out of this town in the future.”
WHL or BCHL, Marques still hasn’t decided which route he will take, but if he does decide a U.S. college scholarship is what he wants, he knows he won’t have to find a billet home once he starts playing junior hockey.
“I think the Spruce Kings would be on top of the list, just playing at home in front of the fans would be awesome,” he said.
LOOSE PUCKS: Two other locally-produced 2006-born players competed in the weekend scrimmages. Defenceman Sean Minhas played for Team Blue with Marques and the two of them leave Monday to join their Delta Academy U-17 teammates. Defenceman Ethan Hamilton patrolled the Team Red blueline and will travel this week to Penticton to play for the Okanagan Hockey Academy U-16s… The Spruce Kings have four days to practice before they head south to play the Merritt Centennials Friday to start the exhibition season. The Kings also play on West Kelowna on Sept. 28 and Penticton on Sept. 29 before they host the Cents at RMCA on Oct. 3. The regular season begins Oct. 8 in Merritt.