Max Patterson was looking forward to his third season in Cranbrook, B.C., playing for the Kootenay ICE this preseason , when he was suddenly traded to the Swift Current Broncos less than two weeks before the regular season began.
Patterson, who was originally drafted by the ICE in the fourth round of the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, had a pretty successful 16-year-old season back in 2015-16, potting seven goals and adding three assists for 10 points in 64 games. He appreciated the approach that the ICE took with him as he got used to playing at a higher level.
“The pace and the speed is way higher and the physicality and strength of some of the guys. It was great, they eased me into it pretty well so that was good,” Patterson said.
In 2016-17, Patterson increased his output by scoring eight times and adding seven assists for 15 points in 63 games.
The 1999-born right wing from Kamloops, B.C. was rated as a “C” prospect by NHL Central Scouting early this year, which was a pleasant surprise for him.
“I was a bit surprised, because I feel like I have not played hockey as good as I can but it does not mean too much this early.”
With the ICE seemingly making an effort to go with a younger roster this season, they moved Patterson on September 10th to Swift Current for goaltender Baily Brkin and a conditional fifth round pick in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft. Patterson did not expect to be traded, but is trying to put a positive spin on it.
“I was a bit surprised but it’s always nice getting to go to a team that wants you and traded for you. I try to look at it as a positive.”
Helping him look at the trade as a positive, has been the start that the Broncos are off to this year. Swift Current has gone 13-3-1-0 over their first 17 games. This is a change for Patterson, whose ICE squads over the past two seasons, failed to make the playoffs.
“It’s way better winning and it’s a better atmosphere. You get sick of losing really quick. It’s nice to come to a winning environment.”
With being on such a talented team though, the ice time is not as plentiful as it had been in Kootenay. It has helped him find a role on the team with the second best record in the Eastern Conference.
“I think I’ve played more physical as it has gone on. With the quality players here, you can learn from them and take some of the things that they do and put it into your game.”
The obvious player for him to watch and learn from is the league-leading scorer Tyler Steenbergen, who has an astounding 26 goals in his first 17 games.
“I try to look at how he gets open in spots and how he gets the puck off so quick and how he always gets scoring opportunities with his feet.”
Patterson feels like he has something that will help him get open like Steenbergen does and that is his 6-foot-five, 205 pound frame. “I definitely want to play with more physicality in my game and get myself some more space.”
The proof that he is finding himself open more this year lies in the 30 shots on net that he has. That is an average of 1.76 a game.
“I still need to get more pucks to the net and use my shot a bit more than I have. I need to have a shot-first mentality. I need to do a better job of that.”
Patterson has just one goal and three assists for four points to start the year, but he feels like something he worked hard on in the off-season will help him get open more and thus improve his statistical output.
“I targeted my skating. I know that I need to improve that and my foot speed.”
It can sometimes take a little while to get used to living in a new area. Patterson had lived pretty much his whole life in B.C., but has found the people of Swift Current extremely welcoming, making the move easier on him.
“It’s a bit different but I have noticed that the people here and have been awesome. Everyone is really nice and caring. That has been a positive. People are nice in B.C. too, but that has been a really nice thing about being in Swift Current.”
As he gets more familiar and comfortable in his role in Swift Current, Patterson should provide the Broncos with a big forward, who can kick in some added offense. Come playoff time, he could make a real big difference by providing some always needed secondary scoring.