The shoes of the ‘Weyburn Red Wings captain’ were big ones to fill for the 2023-24 season, and this year’s captain Max Monette has been leading by example for his team early on this year. At the time of this writing, the Wings captain leads the team in points with 18, and is tied for the team lead in both goals and assists with 7 and 11 respectively.
“When I was an 18-year-old in my first year of junior, I always looked up to the 20 year olds, and I don’t think you quite understand that role of being a full leader and being someone that the younger kids look up to until you’re in that position and I definitely feel now that I’m in that position I have a bit more responsibility in the room.”
After seeing the example set by last year’s captain Matthew Reidy, Monette knew stepping into the role of captain this year was going to be an adjustment. In his last game as a Red Wing, Reidy played just two shifts in the game on an injured leg, and still stuck his leg out to block a shot on the penalty kill.
Reidy’s example is one that Monette hopes to follow in more ways than one.
“I looked up to him a ton and saw how he held himself around the rink and away from the rink and in the community, and when Cody and the team chose me I kind of knew what I had to do, and I think I’m still learning obviously, but hopefully I’ve done a pretty good job. It’s been good so far.”
As last year’s Unsung Hero Award winner, which he shared with assistant captain Ian Maier, Monette’s game this season is much more noticeable on the offensive side. If the opposing team had their best line out for a faceoff in the Red Wings zone last season, more often than not Monette would be the faceoff man thanks to his team leading 58% at the faceoff dot throughout the season along with seeing the fourth most minutes on average of any forward for the Red Wings by the end of the season. (All stats according to InStat)
This year, Monette now leads the forward group in average time on ice and is still relied upon for defensive zone draws, but now his offence has started to show just how dangerous he can be. His 7G-11A-18P in 14 games this season already pass his point total last year through 42 games, and he’s currently riding a five game point streak that’s seen him put up 5G-6A-11P.
It was a big offseason goal for Monette to increase his offensive production this season while maintaining his defensive game, and he attributes his success this year to the trust he built with Head Coach Cody Mapes last season.
“Obviously I want my defensive game to be a huge part of my game and I still want to be really good in that aspect. I worked really hard over the summer and gained a lot of confidence just from communicating with Cody and him allowing me to take my offensive game another step forward.”
Part of Monette’s success has come from the linemates he’s been playing with through the last five games. Monette’s been centering a line between Jaxson Ruthven and Jerome Maharaj, and similar mindsets on the ice have made it easy to find chemistry in the early goings of the season.
“It’s been pretty easy. First things first, we all work, and I think that creates opportunities. We work the hardest in the d-zone which allows us to play so much in the o-zone, we get it out quick and that just allows for more offensive time. Jerome is pretty shifty and magical with the puck and so it makes my job pretty easy, and Jaxson always has a great forecheck that creates pressure on the other team when we’re in the offensive zone to force them to turn it over.”
Monette also wanted to credit the rest of the leadership group around him, and not just the ones wearing letters this year. The group of 20 year olds with the Red Wings this year is a mix of returners and new additions, and the combined veteran presence from in and out of the SJHL is something Monette sees as a positive.
“It’s been great. I love all of them, they’re all pretty top tier guys. I think we have every type of personality in that group and I think it helps a lot of the rookies. On any given day there’s always someone to talk to. I think we make it a fairly inviting environment and it’s been fun so far.”
The Red Wings to start the season are 7-4-3 through the first 14 games of the season, compared to last year’s start of 5-9-0. The atmosphere has changed around the team this season, but there’s still some parts of last year’s team that Monette sees carrying through into this year’s early success.
“Both this year and last year, all of the guys are amazing guys and I think that helps the team be better, but I think this year, we all have the same goal in mind. We all want to win, and off ice we’re just a bit more dialed in than last year and I think it’s shown on the ice too that when the game time comes around we’re ready to go.”
The Red Wings have a full 12 days between their last game on October 25 and their next, November 8 against the Kindersley Klippers that leads into a busy stretch of games in the SJHL Showcase. With Max Monette leading this team by example, the Wings will be ready to go.