And not only does he bring plenty of professional hockey experience to the Caronport-based Canadian Sport School Hockey League squad, he’s from right here in Saskatchewan.
The PHA announced Tuesday that former Saskatoon Blades standout and New York Rangers prospect Sam Klassen will be joining the organization for the 2021-22 campaign.
“Sam is a great addition to our team at Prairie Hockey Academy,” said PHA president Justin Simpkins in a press release announcing Klassen’s signing. “What you will notice right away from Sam is that he cares about people and wants them to know he is present and listening to them. He is a high charactered individual who believes in mentorship and helping young men grow in maturity and integrity.”
Simpkins added that Klassen’s skill in building relationships was a key component that led to his hiring, especially given PHA’s focus on developing quality individuals as well as elite hockey players.
“We believe he is an excellent choice for our U15 Prep program, to welcome young Grade 9 student athletes into PHA and help them adjust to life at the academy,” Simpkins said.
The Watrous-born Klassen played four seasons with the Saskatoon Blades from 2006 through 2010 under current PHA director of coach development Lorne Molleken and after his overage season signed an entry-level contract with the New York Rangers.
Klassen spent the next four seasons in the Rangers’ farm system, splitting time between the AHL and ECHL. He joined the Hamburg Freezers of the German Elite League for the 2014-15 campaign and played three seasons before retiring from professional hockey.
Molleken spoke of his former charge in glowing terms.
“Sam as a player played the game of hockey with a tremendous amount of heart and desire,” Molleken said. “He was truly dedicated to be the best he could be every day. Sam was a great teammate and would do anything to help the team succeed. As a coach he will help the young players he coaches also be the best they can be.”
Klassen will be joined in Caronport by wife Jaylin and their three children and expressed excitement for the new opportunity.
“I'm thrilled to be coaching at Prairie Hockey Academy,” Klassen said. “It's a great opportunity to join an already fantastic coaching and support staff in their efforts to use the game of hockey to develop life champions. I love hockey and think it's the greatest sport on earth, but I'm excited to be a part of an organization that cares about developing the whole person, not just the hockey player.”
The U15 Prep schedule hasn’t been officially released, but look for the new campaign to begin in mid-September if pandemic restrictions allow.