Dawson Leedahl doesn’t want to think about the end.
The sun is setting on the Regina Pats’ forward’s minor hockey career. He’s what the league and its fans call a ‘20’. They’re the oldest players in the game and usually, have spent the longest time in the league. Teams are only allowed three of them on their roster in a season.
Leedahl is actually 21, by virtue of a March birthday, and he joins Adam Brooks and Chase Harrison as the three players the Pats know won’t return to the team next year.
This playoff run, the one the Pats are in the midst of, could be Leedahl’s last hurrah and his team is down and nearly out.
The number one team in the country has fallen behind 3-1 to the Swift Current Broncos in their round two playoff match up.
And yesterday might have been the last time Leedahl walked into the rink for practice.
“I try not to think about that too much. (I’m) having good thoughts, thinking we’re going to win and keep it going because I’m sure not ready to be done.”
Leedahl has certainly done everything he could in the last few games to keep things going.
In Tuesday’s game four, Leedahl scored all four of the Pats’ goals including the equalizer with just 21 seconds left in the third period to force what would become triple overtime loss.
If sheer willpower could have won that game Leedahl had it, though he mostly brushed off the suggestion he put the team on his back that night.
“A little bit,” he admitted modestly, “but I know lots of other people contributed to that.”
Leedahl does have the benefit of being on the same line as the league’s top point scorer and one of its best rookies.
Sam Steel and Nick Henry, he said, have played a big part in the season that he’s had.
Leedahl came to the Pats in a summer trade with the Everett Silvertips. On the west coast, he was the captain of the defensive-minded club. He had 12 goals and 15 assists in his last season there before the Saskatoon native returned home to Saskatchewan.
Anyone who has seen Leedahl play this year might not believe those were his past numbers. This season he tripled his goals, and nearly quadrupled his assists, notching 35 and 54 respectively. Numbers Leedahl said he always knew he had in him.
“They really showed me to play a defensive game more than an offensive (one),” he said of the Silvertips. “Which isn’t bad, but it’s nice to come here and be able to put up numbers and get lots of points.”
Leedahl faces uncertain future
His spectacular numbers and play in the post-season are what he hopes might inspire an NHL team to give him a shot.
Leedahl is undrafted, so when the Pats season ends, so too, could his hockey career. That perhaps provided him a little extra motivation for him to put up the game and the numbers that he has.
“This year the doors opened up a bit,” Leedahl said of his shot at the professional ranks. “With (head coach) John (Paddock), he has lots of connections and knows lots of stuff about the NHL. It’s been good that way, getting a little exposure.”
Leedahl also said that the recent signing of 21-year-old Reid Duke of the Brandon Wheat Kings by the Las Vegas Golden Knights gave him some hope of what could come for him.
“It’s pretty cool, another 21-year-old in a little bit similar situation as me. It’s encouraging,” Leedahl said.
Duke was drafted by the Minnesota Wild, but he didn’t sign a pro contract with the club before the deadline to do so. It left Duke in a situation similar to Leedahl, finishing up a career without an NHL team to turn to.
Leedahl’s goals post-WHL are simple, really, he just wants to keep playing the game he learned to play as a three-year-old on his backyard rink in Saskatoon.
“Get a pro contract, play pro hockey somewhere, make some money and see the world while doing it,” he said simply.
But first, he’d really like to win game five.
Puck drop between the Broncos and the Pats is Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Brandt Centre.