Josh Thorimbert does all the right things. He shrugs it off as merely an individual award and deflects the attention to his teammates. He’s focused on the playoffs, he says.
For the 17-year-old Kindersley Klippers netminder, crowned the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s rookie of the year on Thursday, it’s an extension of his relaxed demeanour on the ice.
That laid back attitude played no small part in helping Thorimbert become only the second goaltender in SJHL history - the first was Weyburn’s A.J. Whiffen two years ago - to be honoured as the league’s top rookie.
“It’s just an individual award and the main goal is to win it all,” said the Saskatoon native. “It’s always nice to get recognized for something, but I gotta thank my guys because I couldn’t have done it without them.
“If we didn’t play as well as we did all year, I never would have got (the award), so it’s all thanks to them.”
But if Thorimbert refused to toot his own horn, head coach Larry Wintoneak had no such problem.
“Good things happen to good people. He’s a kid that doesn’t cheat life. He plays hard,” said Wintoneak. “He’s a very, very grounded person and I think it comes from his background and his family.”
That characteristic shows up in Thorimbert’s poise in the Klippers’ crease. He’s been a remarkably cool customer for a starting goalie on a contending Junior A team, especially considering he was still eligible to play midget hockey this season.
Though the team got the step forward they expected from many young returnees and then some, there is no question Thorimbert is a massive reason why they are in the thick of the hunt for the league championship.
He finished the year with a record of 26-14-2-2 with a 2.66 goals-against average and a .917 save percentage, both third in the SJHL. He also placed second overall in wins and minutes played.
“He is a big part of it. He has a calm demeanour back there,” said Wintoneak. “Look at the saves he made (Friday in Game 1 against Yorkton). He’s cool, calm, collected and he made some real good pad saves when he had to. He’s just a competitor. I give credit to our scouting staff who found him.”
It doesn’t hurt that Thorimbert’s practice habits are excellent. After practice, he gets a handful of teammates to play the rebound game with him, where the goalie gets a point for each cleared rebound after a save, and a player gets a point for each goal.
“You’ve got good shooters all the time shooting against you and I think that makes you better,” said Wintoneak of the game. “It’s something he does himself. No one told him to do it, he wants to do it and we’re on the same page with that.”
Thorimbert was already a hot commodity among NCAA scouts, not to mention the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, who would welcome the puckstopper into the fold next season should he choose major junior hockey. The rookie honour is only garnering him more attention.
Blazers general manager Craig Bonner and Colorado College assistant coach Jason Lammers both showed up in Eston on Friday to watch Thorimbert in Game 1 against Yorkton, which the Klippers won 4-3 in overtime. Last year’s SJHL scoring leader, Rylan Schwartz, plays at Colorado.
“I think he’s going to get a scholarship down the line,” said Wintoneak. “He’s definitely generated more interest the last few weeks, which is good, because he’s earned it.”
Thorimbert said tuning out the attention and the pressure of choosing between junior and college isn’t a problem for him.
“Obviously when you win an award, people will look and watch you,” he pointed out. “I don’t really worry about it because I know it’s playoff time and it’s about the team first. This other stuff, I don’t even worry about talking to (recruiters).
“I just go out there and play hard for the guys. I just want to win. It’s the team first, that’s my concept, and (I don’t) worry about anything else. My worry is winning a championship with the guys on my team.”
Wingers Trevor Cameron of Notre Dame (51-18-28-46) and Marc-Andre Carre of La Ronge (43-21-22-43) were the runners-up for the rookie honour. Carre also appeared in eight games with the Lewiston Maineiacs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League during a mid-season recall.
Thorimbert, Cameron and Carre were all named to the league’s all-rookie team, along with centre Andrew Johnston (Flin Flon) and defencemen Austin Bourhis (Yorkton) and Lee Christensen (Melfort).