Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Bukarts Inspired by Countrymen's Success

Rihards Bukarts
  Brandon forward Rihards Bukarts is part of a successful Latvian invasion in the Western Hockey League.

  Bukarts is enjoying a second straight solid season with the Wheat Kings, Edgars Kulda helped Edmonton claim the WHL and Memorial Cup titles and is back for a third season with the Oil Kings this year and Roberts Lipsberg recently returned from the ECHL to the Seattle Thunderbirds for his third season on the WHL.

  Bukarts says part of the reason more Latvians are coming to the WHL and the Canadian Hockey League is that a lot of them dream about playing in the NHL, and they know junior hockey in Canada is a good way to try and get there.

  "Every player has a dream to play in the NHL and I came to Western League because there was a big chance to get drafted to NHL," said Bukarts this week, "If you stay in Russia, I don't think scouts are going to look at you.  If you play in the KHL and MHL, I don't think scouts are interested in watching that and that's the reason a lot of guys come."

  There are only two Latvian players currently playing in the National Hockey League, Zemgus Girgensons of the Buffalo Sabres and recent callup Ronalds Kenins of the Vancouver Canucks.

  Girgensons was named a starter in the NHL All-Star game earlier this month, thanks in large part to strong online voting from his countrymen and women back home in Latvia.

  "I think every single guy in this league can watch how Zemgus works, he's probably the hardest working I've ever seen in my life," said Bukarts, "He works so hard and that's why he is where he is.  He is having a great season in the NHL.  He would not have made the all-star game if he weren't a hard-working guy...fans love him in Latvia and in Buffalo."

  Bukarts, who was named the WHL Player of the Week earlier this week, is currently second on the Wheat Kings in scoring with 23 goals and 55 points in 45 games and will take a six-game point scoring streak into Friday's home game against the Spokane Chiefs (7:30 p.m., Westman Communications Group Place).

  Bukarts has 12 goals and 25 points in 18 games since the Christmas break and seems to be back to the form from early in the 2014-2015 season, when he was among the league's scoring leaders.

  "I think I'm back in great shape, I feel 100 per cent confident in what I'm doing and I don't feel my injuries any more and that's good," said Bukarts, "I'm ready to play, get ready for playoffs.  It's going to be a long season so, we'll see."

  The 5-foot-8, 190 pound Bukarts was ranked 190th among North American skaters in the NHL Central Scouting Services mid-term rankings, but still has time to impress NHL scouts...especially if he can help the Wheat Kings to a long post-season run.

Chaff...the Wheat Kings were #3 in this CHL's Top-10 rankings that were released on Wednesday, up one spot from last week...F John Quenneville practiced without restrictions on Wednesday as he continues to make his way back from a four-game absence due to an upper body injury...Macoy Erkamps and Braylon Shmyr have been chosen the Wheat Kings RYOBI Hardest Working Players of the Month for January.

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