May 14, 2020

Savoie, top CJHL prospect, ready for NHL Draft day

It’s not necessarily the most popular loop, but Sherwood Park Crusaders forward Carter Savoie worked make the trip more than worthy for scouts this season.

The 2020 NHL Draft eligible had a huge season, leading the Alberta Junior Hockey League in goals with 53 and finishing second at 99 points.

Not that you’d know by his modest demeanor.

“(I was) kind of just right place, right time,” said Savoie, No. 61 in FC Hockey’s Spring ranking for the 2020 draft. “I owe a lot of credit to my linemates, (Arjun) Atwal and (William) Zapernick. They helped me a lot by just being those older guys, knowing what it’s like to go through the league and just give me tips that I can soak in.”

He helped the Crusaders to win the regular season title, going 49-9-0.

On top of that, he helped Team AJHL to a silver medal in the 2019 Junior Club World Cup in September, collecting five points (one goal, four assists) in five games.

He then represented Western Canada at the 2019 World Junior A Challenge, adding another two goals to his totals, in four games.

“(The season) went pretty well,” Savoie said. “With going to Russia at the beginning of the season, that was a great experience and then coming back and hopping right into it with the Crusaders. Obviously, our team did really well. We had a great group of guys, great leadership group.

“Then heading off to Dawson Creek for Team Canada, I think I struggled a little bit there but when I came back to the Cru I think I found my legs again.”

Playing in the AJHL wasn’t for a lack of options.

In 2017, Savoie was drafted into the WHL by the Regina Pats, 198th overall.

In 2018, he was drafted by the USHL’s Dubuque Fighting Saints 56th overall.

But he knew the path he wanted to take.

“Growing up, I always wanted to go to college,” said Savoie. “Me and Mike Benning have been really close buddies since we were really little and just watching his brother Matt go through the college route gave me the inspiration and made me want to do the same thing.”

Edmonton Oilers’ defenseman Matt Benning played two seasons in the AJHL himself, before spending one season in the USHL and then going to the NCAA.

The choice seems to have worked out for Savoie.

With the draft the next event on his list, he’s widely recognized as the top prospect out of not only the AJHL, but the Canadian Junior Hockey league altogether.

“That’s a huge accomplishment,” said Savoie. “It’s a big honor. I’m really excited about that, I’m really looking forward to the draft.”

Savoie’s teammate and childhood friend, Michael Benning, is also eligible for the 2020 draft, and has been with Savoie for nearly every step of his career so far.

“We live two minutes away from each other,” Savoie said. “We sit together in the room, we’re always over at each other’s houses, drive to practice together, drive to school together, we’re pretty much always together.”

Benning, No. 74 in FC Hockey’s Spring ranking, and Savoie have played together growing up, and will continue that as they are both committed to the University of Denver.

Savoie is headed there next season and Benning the year after.

Before that though, they’ll be waiting for the draft and hoping they get the opportunity to continue their hockey careers together.

“It has come up a couple of times, even with our other buddies bringing it up,” said Savoie. “We don’t know what’s going to happen there, obviously it would be super nice to go to the same team but you can’t really choose.“

Obviously, it’s more likely that they’ll be taken by different teams.

If that is the case, Savoie doesn’t think that will be a problem to play against his long-time teammate and friend.

“We’re pretty competitive,” the 5-foot-10, 181-pound forward. “We’d probably play really well against each other because we’d want to win really badly.”

Savoie has another prospect that’s close to him in his younger brother Matthew.

Just like his relationship with Benning, the Savoie brothers have a strong bond.

“We’re very close,” Savoie said. “Obviously, as brothers you have to fight eventually, but our fights are kind of minimized. We used to have a rink in our basement when we were younger and we’d always be playing one-on-one, trying to beat each other on rollerblades and all that stuff. We have a really good relationship.”

Matthew looks to be a top prospect ahead of the 2022 NHL Draft.

He applied to receive exceptional status in the WHL for this season but was denied.

“As a brother, you’re going to support him no matter what,” said the older Savoie. “I kind of thought he might have had a pretty good chance of getting it, but when he didn’t he was kind of down for a little bit. So I just had to support him and let him know he’s still a great player.

“He’s a dynamic skater, really good with the puck. I think he’ll be a very good player eventually. His time will come, for sure.”

On top of these two close relationships, Savoie’s father has been someone who the player can go to for support and guidance.

“He’s supported me the whole way through, always been there for me, helped me up when I got knocked down.”

With the uncertainty around the draft, Savoie has these strong bonds in his life to lean on.

He’s done all that he can do on the ice, putting together a remarkable season in the AJHL.

“You just have to take it day by day,” he said. “There’s nothing you can really do about it. Just listen and see what happens.”

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