AMHERST, N.S. – When the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers broke training camp in early September there were very few who figured a rookie defenceman would become a key contributor during a four-month period in which the club fought through a slate of injuries.
In fact, Alex Wynter was a healthy scratch in the season opener at home on Sept. 15. He made his debut on Sept. 20 and hasn’t looked back since.
“It has gone very well,” Wynter said. “I really didn’t know what to expect when the season began, with this being my rookie season, but I think I’ve fit in very well.”
A graduate of the successful Moncton Flyers major midget hockey program, Wynter has focused on playing hard and looking for ways to improve his game at the junior A level in hopes of potentially getting a shot at the Rimouski Oceanic lineup next fall.
“While it would be nice to move up to the Q, it’s not something I’m worrying about now. My focus right now is on doing what I can to help the hockey team now. If I did get the opportunity next year, I’d like to go because it has always been a dream of mine to play there,” said Wynter, drafted in the ninth round of the 2017 QMJHL draft, 148th overall. “If it doesn’t happen, I’d also be happy playing here with the Ramblers and be a leader in the next few year and play some minutes. Amherst is a great place to play.”
The 18-year-old defenceman, taken 15th overall by the Ramblers in the 2017 draft, is not known for his offence, with a goal and five assists in 26 games and 32 penalty minutes. What he has become as a gritty, shot-blocking defenceman that’s tough in front of his own team’s net – someone who brings back memories of Lucas Sangster, who spent four years on the Ramblers blueline before graduating last spring.
Wynter’s goal of staying in the lineup caught the attention of others earlier this season. The 6’2” Moncton native was invited as a member of Team Eastlink South to a prospects tournament in Ontario.
It was from that, Wynter got an opportunity to tryout for Team Canada East for the 2018 World Junior A Challenge out west in December. While he didn’t crack the lineup, Wynter said he learned a lot from just attending the camp and playing at the all-star challenge in Trenton, Ont.
“I felt when I got back I gained some confidence and was playing a lot better,” Wynter said. “There were some really good coaches there and I picked up a lot of things that have helped my game.”
Wynter said he has become a better defenceman on the penalty kill – something that he was already pretty good at coming out of midget. He has also worked on moving the puck up the ice quickly. Going into the second half, Wynter hopes to play top four minutes down the stretch, especially on the penalty kill.
While the injury bug that hit the Ramblers hard during the first part of the season not only gave Wynter a chance to play – especially during the prolonged absence of Thomas Ashe and Linden Namagoose – it also brought the team closer together at a time when it could’ve collapsed.
“We really have something great going on inside that dressing room. We get along very well and like hanging out together,” Wynter said. “Even when guys are out of the lineup, they’re still there to support the team. When you’re in the lineup you want to win for each other and for the guys who are out.”
Wynter said it has been great playing with some of his former Flyer teammates this year including Thomas Ashe, Cole Darrach and Cole Waugh as well as Julian Hebert and Alex Hayes, who’ve played as affiliates with the Ramblers.
He has played on the same team as Darrach since Atom AA.
With the resumption of the schedule, Wynter said the focus is on finishing as high as possible in the Eastlink South Division standings with a long playoff run leading up to the Fred Page Cup – being hosted by the Ramblers from May 1 to 5.
“Our goal is winning the Fred Page Cup,” he said. “It’s something I really want to be part of. It’s up to us to buy into what the coaches are telling us and coming together as a team. I’m hoping I can hold my spot in lineup and have a role in the Fred Page Cup.”
With the league trading deadline coming up on Jan. 10, Wynter knows it will be tough to see friends potentially moved in trades, but it’s part of the game.