Dykstra heading home for school
Camrose Kodiaks forward Matt Dykstra has committed to the NAIT Ooks of the ACAC for next season. File photo/Camrose Canadian
While many students are leaving home for the first time to go to college, Matt Dykstra is going home for college.
The Camrose Kodiaks' 21-year-old forward announced this past week he has accepted an offer to play for the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Ooks in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference.
For someone who has been on the road for hockey since he was 15, he has had his fair share of adventures out on the road.
"It was a nice opportunity for me to join an organization that has obviously been very good in the last few years and basically ever since they've been around," said Dykstra. "It's also a nice opportunity to live at home as well, that was very attractive."
The Ooks are the ACAC's flagship hockey club, with an unparalleled degree of success over their history, this includes advancing to the championship round in each of the last seven seasons, though they have lost to the MacEwan Griffins the past two seasons.
Dykstra spent only one season with the Kodiaks after being acquired by the club from the Sherwood Park Crusaders to complete a trade from August 20, 2016 that sent Tanner Younghans to Sherwood Park.
Dykstra provided leadership and scoring for the Kodiaks, finishing with 40 points (18 goals, 22 assists) in 60 games as he was shuffled throughout the lineup as the club dealt with injuries.
It was a season of learning for the veteran forward who took on a leadership role with the club.
"I got a lot of knowledge from (Kodiaks head coach and general manager) Boris (Rybalka) on different aspects of the game that I hadn't even learned and I was 20 years old," he said. "It just goes to show there's a lot more you can learn from different people every day and Bo really helped me out, learning new things through him."
Rybalka says he saw Dykstra be a positive influence on the younger Kodiaks core, and it will be interesting as he goes from being an older player to one of the youngest on the Ooks.
"Young guys always look up to the old guys, like when you have kids, kids pay attention to everything," he said. "Now he makes the next step, not just in his hockey career but life-wise. College is always interesting, those young guys still look up to the vets but you're an old man now."
He was fourth round draft pick by the Victoria Royals in the 2012 Western Hockey League bantam draft, an organization he played 20 games for over three seasons, ending his NCAA eligibility. However, at six-foot-two, 188 pounds, a lot of the attributes that made him an attractive WHL prospect carry over to the ACAC level and should help him adapt early.
"The biggest thing is he has a calm demeanor to his game, I thought he was one of our better forwards during our playoff run," said Rybalka. "He's got the speed and he's got the size, and at the next level those are two valuable things."
The Kodiaks have had a mostly calm off-season this year after overhauling their blue-line a year ago. They have signed a few prospects like …. and traded for Daysland's Damon Zimmer from the Spruce Grove Saints a couple of weeks ago. While Rybalka is not ruling out any more moves, he likes the way the team is looking, especially coming out of summer camp June 22-24.
"There's probably two or three spots (open)," he said. "When I look at what was on ice, and there were some guys who couldn't make it and they'll be back, I'm very happy. The competition was good and the guys came back in good shape. Now when you bring them back for main camp the level really goes up."
Main camp opens Aug. 24 at Encana Arena.