Southwest Manitoba is most notably known for three things, small towns, farming, and hockey.
Once the leaves change colour and the wind turns cool in the southwest corner of the province, you'd be hard-pressed to find a busier place than your local community rink.
As teams around the WHL continue preparations for the 2019/2020 season, one trend continues to unfold. The number of players born and raised in Southwestern Manitoba on WHL rosters continues to increase every year.
Not surprisingly, the Brandon Wheat Kings lead the way as of Monday with six players on the roster from the southwest corner, while Moose Jaw isn't far behind with four.
While some of the players still taking part in pre-season practices and games will not make the final cut due to age limitations, the impact small-town minor hockey systems are having on the WHL level is immense.
"The door to the rink was always open, and if it wasn't...you knew someone who had a key," chuckled Glenboro native Zach Wytinck. "Looking back at it, growing up in a small town was really beneficial to me. You could go on the ice whenever you wanted and people in town made it a priority to make sure the ice was available and ready for all us kids."
For a prime example, you don't have to look too far, just open the scorebook from Friday night's pre-season opener between Brandon and Winnipeg. In that game, all five Brandon goal scorers played their minor hockey in the Brandon Minor Hockey system.
"In Brandon, you can't get farther than five minutes from a hockey rink or sheet of ice," said Connor Gutenberg. "There is always ice available to us kids whether it's indoors or outside. There are great coaches and great people in charge of it that really put their focus on us before themselves."
Below is a full list of players born and raised in Southwestern Manitoba who are still active on WHL pre-season rosters.
OTHER BWK NEWS FROM MONDAY'S PRACTICE
-Stelio Mattheos skated with his former club today. The 20-year-old is recovering from off-season cancer treatment. He has been held out of Carolina Hurricanes training camp as a result.
-The club re-assigned Nate Danielson (Northern Alberta Xtreme), Rylan Roersma (Lethbridge U18 Hurricanes), and Tyson Zimmer (OHA-Penticton)
*Players born in 2004 are not eligible to play full time this season*
*This list was compiled on September 9th*
Brandon Wheat Kings (6)
Ty Thorpe (02) - Brandon, MB
Nolan Ritchie (02) - Brandon, MB
Lynden McCallum (00) - Brandon, MB
Connor Gutenberg (99) - Brandon, MB
Chad Nychuk (01) - Rossburn, MB
Zach Wytinck (99) - Glenboro, MB
Calgary Hitmen (1)
Layne Toder (00) - Elkhorn, MB
Kelowna Rockets (2)
Mark Liwiski (01) - Dauphin, MB
Jake Poole (02) - McCauley, MB
Lethbridge Hurricanes (2)
Calen Addison (00) - Brandon, MB
Rylan Thiessen (01) - Brandon, MB
Medicine Hat Tigers (2)
Cayden Glover (04) - Brandon, MB
Aiden Brook (03) - Roblin, MB
Moose Jaw Warriors (4)
Calder Anderson (02) - Brandon, MB
Tate Popple (00) - Brandon, MB
Daemon Hunt (02) - Brandon, MB
Jordan Cole (02) - Brandon, MB
Portland Winterhawks (1)
Tyson Kozak (02) - Souris, MB
Prince Albert Raiders (1)
Jakob Brook (02) - Roblin, MB
Red Deer Rebels (2)
Zak Smith (01) - Austin, MB
Dawson Barteaux (00) - Foxwarren, MB
Regina Pats (2)
Sloan Stanick (03) - Rapid City, MB
Max Paddock (00) - Brandon, MB
Saskatoon Blades (2)
Tristan Robins (01) - Brandon, MB
Parker Malchuk (01) - Birtle, MB
Spokane Chiefs (2)
Grady Lane (03) - Virden, MB
Jordan Chudley (01) - Souris, MB
Swift Current Broncos (1)
Garrett Sambrook (00) - Medora, MB
Tri-City Americans (1)
Landon Roberts (02) - Souris, MB
Vancouver Giants (1)
Trent Miner (01) - Brandon, MB
Winnipeg ICE (2)
Cole Muir (01) - Vista, MB
Connor Geekie (04) - Strathclair, MB