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Storm rookie named top in AJHL

Zachary Okabe has made an impression in his first year on the Grande Prairie Storm. The 17 year old forward has been named the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Rookie of the Year, earning him the Dick White Trophy.

“I was just kind of playing my game, and obviously towards the end of the season I started thinking about [winning] it,” he says. “I’m really appreciative that I got recognized.”

In his first season in the league, Okabe racked up 57 points, thanks to 22 goals and 35 assists in 58 games. That puts him second overall among rookie scorers, and 26th in the AJHL with an average of a point a game.

He believes the work he put in last summer helped set him up for success in a new league, along with keeping a positive attitude.

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“Buying into the team system and the team game, and just always working hard and showing what I’m capable of,” he explains. “I think it all came together in the end, and my teammates and my coaches’ support helped so much throughout the season.”

Okabe came to Grande Prairie from Shawnigan Lake Midget Prep on Vancouver Island, and not long after committed to play for the University of Vermont Catamounts. Storm head coach Matt Keillor says the team is proud of what he’s accomplished so far.

“He works extremely hard and is a humble person. His incredible skillset on the ice and his efforts away from the rink in school have really set him up for future success. We are honoured that Zachary’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed and we can’t wait to see what his future holds.”

The plan is to keep that work ethic into the off-season, continuing to work throughout the summer. Okabe also hopes to take on more of a leadership role with the team next season.

“Since it will be my second year with my team and in the league, just being more of an example for players and someone that can be respected on and off the ice around the town and on the team. Maybe I’ll go for MVP next year.”

Up next for Okabe and the Storm is the first round of the playoffs against the Sherwood Park Crusaders. Game one of the best-of-five quarterfinal goes Wednesday, March 7th at home in Revolution Place.

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