They say familiarity breeds success.
In the case of Darwin Lakoduk, he’s happy to finally be on the Prince George Spruce Kings instead of lining up against them.
The 20-year-old forward made his way to the BCHL’s most northern franchise in a summer trade with the Penticton Vees for future considerations.
While Lakoduk spent half a season with the Vees, compiling 11 points in 34 games after coming over at last year’s trade deadline, he is probably most remembered as being part of the star-studded Victoria Grizzlies. It was a team that included first-round NHL Draft pick Alex Newhook where the Grizz fell in four games to the Spruce Kings in the 2019 playoffs.
The Spruce Kings went on a magical playoff run that year, going 16-1 to capture the Fred Page Cup and Doyle Cup before falling one win short at the National Junior A Championship, dropping a 4-3 decision to the host Brooks Bandits.
“It was a crazy series. You know, the Spruce Kings had one heck of a team that year and I think that’s what we need to match is the way they played a couple of seasons ago. They played with a lot of systems and they played hard and every line was going.”
“That’s why they (Spruce Kings) won it that year.”
Lakoduk recorded 12 points in 47 regular season games in 2018-19 and was pointless in 14 playoff contests in a bottom six forward role with the Grizzlies.
His offensive production soared a little higher last season where he secured 23 points in 59 games while suiting up for Victoria and Penticton.
Lakoduk admitted there were some odd feelings stepping out onto the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena ice as a member of the hometown squad after playing so many games on the opposite side.
— Prince George Spruce Kings (@SpruceKings) July 24, 2020
“It’s a bit weird, I haven’t played as many games here – just those playoff games – but it’s a good feeling. We are pretty happy to be back in our rink and it’s been good so far. We put a lot of work on and off the ice and I think it’s going to show by the next game and regular season.”
Survival of the fittest
While Lakoduk hasn’t been a Spruce King for very long, he strongly believes the team’s fitness level will pay dividends.
“We do a lot more than maybe some other teams are doing right now. I think we are putting a lot more work in, we do a lot of workouts, and everyone – including our coaches – are on board and everyone is trying to make themselves the best players they can on and off the ice. It’s a good thing as we work out three times a week and we do lots of team bonding, which is good.”
Lakoduk is of the opinion that his teammates and coaches have used the extended training camp and the gaps between games wisely.
“Our days are pretty full and we focus on recovery, we do yoga once a week, which is really good because I have never done that in junior so I think that’s a big thing and we try to keep busy as much as we can.”
“I think both guys play at a really good pace and are really skilled players. All three of us have never played together but right off the bat we have gelled and gotten along.”
No smooth ride to being a BCHL regular
Lakdouk’s road to the BCHL can be summed up as a bit of an ominous one.
After playing two years of midget with the Northern Alberta Elite 15’s as well as the U-18 Extreme Prep team, he was scouted by Spruce Kings head coach Alex Evin, who was part of the coaching staff of the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.
Lakoduk was subsequently cut by the Bulldogs and later starred with the Victoria Cougars of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League where he had 48 points in 48 games. He also chipped in 12 points in seven playoff matchups.
During the 2017-18 season, the Edmonton, Alberta native was a BCHL affiliate player for seven games – suiting up for the Cowichan Valley Capitals and the Grizzlies.
“I’m trying to be the best player I can be for (the Spruce Kings) to win and I think, in the end, everyone’s goal is to win and I think that is when personal success comes is when you are on a good team. I’ve seen it.”
Lakoduk is committed to playing NCAA hockey at American International College for the 2021-22 season.