(This article was originally published on Dec. 28, 2020.)
Akito Hirose is a respected and well-rounded player who established his junior roots in Salmon Arm. He rode with the team for his entire junior career, which spanned four seasons from 2016-20.
He had developed his skills playing with the Silverbacks and was able to put together an impressive junior career which saw him land a scholarship at Minnesota State University – Mankato to play NCAA Division I hockey.
This is a huge transitional period for Hirose as usually jumping leagues requires players to get comfortable at the new level of play. The jump from junior to college is no exception as players are stronger, faster, and the intensity of the game sets a new standard of play.
You go from U18 minor hockey to junior where you’re facing off against fellow first-year rookies, NCAA committed players, and everyone in between. There is a pretty wide skill gap.
In college, that gap tightens as these committed players are now rookies, and are facing many players who are drafted and already looking to make the jump into their pro careers.
CSSHL and @edgeschool alum Akito Hirose has committed to attend and play NCAA hockey at Minnesota State University – Mankato.
READ –> https://t.co/AIyQdrCah7
— CSSHL (@CSSHL) September 13, 2018
It will be interesting to see how Hirose adjusts his game with the jump in play, but I feel it will only help him grow as a player. Basing it off of his jump from U18 into junior it appears Hirose’s game is formed under pressure, and the jump will help take his game to the next level.
The path to the BCHL
Hirose began his hockey aspirations playing Blackfoot Minor Hockey in Calgary, Alberta, and eventually took his skills to further develop them at the Edge school for athletes.
Here, Hirose played both his bantam years at the AAA level. His second bantam season saw him land just under a point per game with 59 points in 60 games.
This proved Hirose was ready to move on, and continued his career at Edge playing for the Elite 15s. His jump into U18 was matched with his maturity at the level of play, as he recorded 27 points in just 30 games at the Elite 15 level, which are outstanding numbers for a defenseman.
Hirose went on to play the following year of U18 hockey at the prep level for Edge, his abilities proved consistent as he recorded 27 points in 31 Canadian Sport School Hockey League games and 11 points in 18 Midwest Prep Hockey League games.
Hirose’s game not only showed that he was a defenseman who could put up points offensively, but was starting to feel comfortable at the U18 level.
Instead of staying for his third year of CSSHL hockey, he decided to challenge himself and further his career, so he made his way to Salmon Arm.
Akito in Salmon Arm
The Hirose’s are a staple name in Salmon Arm, with his older brother Taro first carving his career path through the city, and Akito quickly followed the same path.
He played his rookie season in Salmon Arm in 2016-17, and only recorded 10 points in 44 outings, which is respectable for a rookie blueliner.
This wasn’t acceptable for Hirose though, as he knew he needed to up his game during the following years to find a scholarship on his table.
His hard work over the next couple of years proved he had what it took to play junior A in Salmon Arm and beyond. 2017-18 saw him triple his rookie numbers and finish with 32 points in 55 games. The following season, Hirose had 29 points in 52 games.
Hirose was showing his point grabbing ability as a defenseman, one who wasn’t afraid to jump up on the rush. His shifty style was only matched by his confidence when controlling the play with his puck possession.
Next up is the Defensive Award for the league's Top Defenceman. This year's winner is Akito Hirose of the Salmon Arm Silverbacks!
The 4-year BCHL veteran led all blueliners in scoring with 51 PTS and finished tied for 3rd among all skaters with 42 assists. pic.twitter.com/f6pCLRuroV
— BCHL (@BCHockeyLeague) February 26, 2020
It was Hirose’s final season that really showed his confidence at the BCHL level. In 2019-20 in Salmon Arm, he led the BCHL in goals, assists, and points from a defenseman by posting an outstanding 51 points in 57 games.
After the season, Hirose was nominated for the CJHL Top Defenseman Award, after winning the award at the BCHL level.
As Hirose prepares for his first season with Minnesota State University – Mankato, he is off to a great start after being named Western Collegiate Hockey Association rookie of the week for the games of Dec. 16 – 19. Heading into the WCHA’s winter break, he had three assists in five games overall.
The future looks bright for Hirose, and he is an interesting player to follow in his college career as he continues to work on his game in search of a pro contract.