The addition of Cole Assailly to the Cranbrook Bucks inaugural season roster was not unlike a lot of the others.
The 2003-born defenseman was recruited from the Rink Hockey Academy Nationals in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He spent the 2019-20 season in the Canadian Sport School Hockey League’s U18 Prep division — along with six of his current Bucks teammates.
Assailly was the second player brought in from Rink Academy’s U18 Nationals after his teammate AJ Vasko committed a few months prior. The 16-year-old rearguard is coming off a sensational campaign, which ultimately led to his jump to the BC Hockey League.
Assailly’s impact was felt both on his team, as well as across the CSSHL last season. He was an assistant captain in RHA’s leadership group, which also included Vasko, who was team captain.
Assailly was also recognized at the league level, as he was named CSSHL U18 Prep top defenseman.
The 2019-20 Midget Prep Division Top Defenceman:
Cole Assailly, @RINKHockeyAcad pic.twitter.com/uuTbr27Qci
— CSSHL (@CSSHL) March 2, 2020
In addition to his outstanding 2019-20 with Rink, Assailly also gained junior A experience in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. The Swan Valley Stampeders, who selected Assailly fourth overall in the 2018 MJHL Draft, brought him in for a pair of games last season.
These are just a few of Assailly’s recent accolades, so let’s take a closer look at his career to this point.
The fast track from Winnipeg to Cranbrook
In his final season before joining Rink Academy, Assailly spent the 2016-17 campaign with the Winnipeg U14 AAA Monarchs.
In 27 games that season, the 13-year-old defenseman scored two goals and added four assists. He went on to add a pair of helpers in 12 playoff contests with the Monarchs.
Assailly joined RHA the following season, playing 30 games with the Nationals U15 Prep in 2017-18. He scored one goal and assisted on 11 others, and then also chipped in with an assist in five playoff tilts.
That summer is when Assailly was the fourth overall pick by Swan Valley in the MJHL Draft.
In 2018-19, Assailly suited up for the Nationals Elite 15s squad. He registered three goals and 17 helpers in 35 games and then contributed one assist in four playoff contests.
In February 2019, Assailly earned the opportunity to play for Team Manitoba’s U16 team at the Canada Winter Games. In six games at the tournament, Assailly scored a goal and added a pair of helpers.
#TeamMB scores 40 seconds after Team NB to regain the 2 goal lead, 4-2.
🚨| Cole Assailly
🍎| Dawson Pasternak
🍎| Carson Lambos pic.twitter.com/j7A9U68pbk
— Hockey Manitoba (@hockeymanitoba) February 21, 2019
Last season, his first and only with the U18 Nationals, Assailly put up six goals and 25 points in 36 games. He added a goal and two helpers in two playoff games before the season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
His spectacular award-winning season caught the eye of many junior hockey teams, and the expansion Cranbrook Bucks were no exception.
Assailly commits to Bucks for the inaugural season
While Assailly seemed poised and ready for the next level, the Bucks were recruiting players for their debut campaign. A quality young player to fill out the roster over the next handful of seasons presented a mutually beneficial partnership.
“We are thrilled to add a defenseman with the potential that Cole has,” said Donald. “He possesses a rare combination of puck skill and skating ability that we believe can make him an elite defenseman in the BCHL. We are excited to get to work with Cole and help him pursue his goal of playing NCAA hockey.“
The Bucks are pleased to announce the commitment of Cole Assailly for the 2020-2021 season!! Full press release on our website. #JoinTheHerd
Welcome to the Bucks, Cole!https://t.co/4QnOzftRKg
— Cranbrook Bucks (@CranbrookBucks) September 16, 2020
Once the BCHL’s training season began, Assailly wasted no time making an impact with his new team.
The Bucks suited up for a game for the first time ever on Oct. 3, opening their 2020-21 BCHL training season in Trail against the Smoke Eaters. Assailly registered one assist that night, and it was a sign of things to come.
By the time Assailly and the Bucks completed their training season schedule in November, the blue-liner had seven assists in nine games.
A strong month of November saw Assailly get an honourable mention in my Bucks three stars of the month. His exceptional play during the training season also landed him on my extended training camp all-rookie team.
Assailly has three seasons of eligibility remaining after this one. Not only will he be a mainstay on the Bucks’ back end, but he will also have a big impact on the franchise’s early years.
Keep an eye on Assailly as he progresses into an elite BCHL defenseman, as Donald projected that the young blueliner would.