At the young age of 16, Jarod Hilderman has packed up his bags and headed two provinces over to British Columbia to play for the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League.
The decision was a no-brainer for Hilderman because of the Vees’ impressive track record of graduating players to the American college ranks.
“I didn’t have to think about it much when they told me I made the team,” said Hilderman, who grew up in Yorkton. “They are a great organization and I’m really happy to be here. It’s a great opportunity for me.”
The Vees are ultimately the New York Yankees of the junior ‘A’ ranks in Canada. Year after year, they are one of the top teams in the running for the RBC Cup. Their dominance is because of their second-to-none success at recruiting high-end talent. They have had elite NHL prospects roll through their program such as Zac Dalpe, who was picked 45th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2008, Ryan Johansen, who was selected fourth overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2010, and Adam Tambelleni, who was drafted 65th overall by the New York Rangers in 2013.
Hilderman spent last year in Wilcox playing for Notre Dame’s ‘AA’ midget club. The defenceman could have returned to the program for two more seasons, but he decided to take a pass because he felt he had a better opportunity to succeed to Penticton.
“The Vees were my best option,” said Hilderman, who scored 10 goals and 22 points in 31 games with Notre Dame last year. “They are the best team I could have made this year, so I chose to play for them.”
The process of joining the Vees was straightforward for Hilderman. Following attending their spring camp, he was told he made the team.
“They told me I made the team and I said I wanted to stay. It all happened pretty fast,” he said.
Not having to go through Saskatchewan’s cold and longer winters was a bonus for Hilderman’s decision to stick in Penticton.
“It will be nice to live in a place that’s a little bit warmer,” he said. “It’s really beautiful country here. I’m looking forward to living here.”
As for Hilderman’s long-term future, he believes he will pursue the NCAA route after a couple seasons with the Vees.
“My plan is to do the American college route,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to get to play hockey and get a college education.”
Since playing the Western Hockey League would make Hilderman ineligible to play in the NCAA, it seems he won’t be joining the Swift Current Broncos, who drafted him in the 2012 bantam draft, in the future.
“Unless the WHL and NCAA work out an agreement, I don’t think I will play in the WHL,” said Hilderman. “I believe I can play for a very good team in Penticton that can get me to the next level, so I see this as my best option.”