Lo and behold, fast forward two years later, and it looks as if leaving the Moose Jaw Warriors to attend the University of Alberta for his 20-year-old season couldn’t have turned out better.
A national championship in his rookie year with the Golden Bears, with Sawchenko backstopping the team to the title in the gold medal game. A year later, another appearance in the USport final, this time settling for silver.
And finally, it all came to a head this summer when Sawchenko signed his first professional contract, earning a free agent tryout with the San Jose Sharks.
Sawchenko was back in Moose Jaw for the Warriors’ alumni golf tournament recently, with his return to the Friendly City offering a chance to re-connect with plenty of old friends.
“It’s awesome, it’s always a fun place to come back too,” he said prior to teeing off during the tournament. “I saw my billets (Lisa and Dustin Pettypiece) last night, it was great to see them and then all the familiar faces from the organization, Moose Jaw will always have a special place in my heart and it’s great to be back.”
While Sawchenko had a chance to chat with former teammates and the like on the golf course, the next time he crosses paths with past Warriors, it’ll be in a far different situation,
Sawchenko will be joined by Warriors graduate Tristin Langan and former Tribe standout Noah Gregor in the Sharks line-up during the Anaheim Ducks rookie showcase beginning Sept. 7.
And if the Ducks seem like they’ve been popping up on MooseJawToday.com quite a bit lately, it’s because one of San Jose’s opponents will be none other than 2019 first-round NHL draft pick Brayden Tracey when they face Anaheim during the six-team tournament.
So to say the least, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind for the now-22-year-old backstop.
“I was talking to my billets about how quickly it happened and the whole experience itself kind of flew by quickly,” Sawchenko said. “Now I’m heading into my first year pro and it’s pretty exciting to say the least.”
Interestingly enough, when Sawchenko first decided to head to the U of A, his original plan was to put hockey on the backburner – the grind of the Western Hockey League had wore him down to the point that focussing on his education seemed like a far better idea at the time.
“It kind of gave me a chance to take a step back and put things in perspective, to find the passion for the game again,” Sawchenko explained. “I was having a kind of a tough time here my 19-year-old year, and when I went to school I kind of didn’t worry about hockey as much and made it my second priority. But then I just fell in love with it again and it’s led to this amazing opportunity.
“The way things worked out, it was just a good time to make the move when it happened and it’s really incredible how things worked out from there.”
Sawchenko has already had a taste of professional hockey, having taken the ice during the Sharks development camp this summer.
“They have a great organization there and it’s a fun place to play, it might have taken a few years longer than I wanted but now I have this opportunity,” he said.
“It’s going to be good. Obviously there’s some expectations there, but I’m keeping them realistic. This is my first pro experience so I’m going to try and make a good impression with the team and make the most of this chance. I’ve been preparing for this for quite some time and I’m looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.”
San Jose takes on Arizona on Sept. 7 followed by Anaheim on Sept. 8 and Los Angeles on Sept. 10. Anaheim’s other contests will be against the Kings on Sept. 7 and the Las Vegas Golden Knights on Sept. 10.