Junior "A" teams have taken notice of how Matt Dawson has been playing beyond his years on the Delta Ice Hawks' blueline.
The 16-year-old from Tsawwasssen has made the huge jump this season from Midget "A" minor hockey to lining up against 20-yearolds at the junior "B" level.
Now Dawson is getting his feet wet in the B.C. Hockey League too as an affiliate of the Surrey Eagles.
He played a pair of games for the Eagles last weekend, marking the second time he has been called up this season. The plan is to make the move permanent next September.
"Right now, I just want to be focusing on what I am doing here," said Dawson outside the Ice Hawks dressing room. "As long as I work hard over the summer, I will have a good chance (at making the jump). But I will have to earn it."
Cracking the Ice Hawks roster was an impressive enough feat for the Grade 11 South Delta secondary student.
The defending Pacific International Junior Hockey League champions are loaded with experience and talent at the back end, including 20-yearold all-stars Alex Martin and Ryan Cuthbert. Add in fellow veterans Ryan Mana and David Rudin and there doesn't appear to be a significant role for a raw rookie who is listed at 5-foot-9 and 160-pounds.
Yet, it's Dawson's excellent vision and mobility that has him as a regular on the first unit power play.
"He moves up the ice really well and is a good fit for our system too," said Ice Hawks head coach Dave McLellan. "We need guys who can play a possession type game and can break trapping teams with speed.
Matty fits the profile of the players we have had in the program the last few years."
Dawson is now used to older players trying to intimidate him. The line brawl incident in Abbotsford last month was ignited by the Pilots taking a run at him. Dawson just returned to the line-up from an injury and McLellan says he will be used in the "right situations" down the stretch.
"I think we do have to monitor him a bit," he said. "We have done a good job instilling confidence in him by, for the most part, putting him in right situations to be successful. That's letting him play with his natural ability. Matty is a good athlete and you can see that on the ice."
Dawson watched his older brother TJ play for the Ice Hawks a number of years ago and suiting up for his hometown junior team had been the goal for sometime. He participated in the club's spring programs and began practicing with the team by his second-year of Bantam.
"I always wanted to play for this organization and I know I have done well to achieve that," Dawson said. "It's definitely been an adjustment but I have a good veteran group around me who have really taught me a lot. Now I want to help them win another championship."
Icing... Two other South Delta Minor grads - Mitch Walter and Michael Olson-Eyre - each had a goal and an assist in a 5-2 win over the North Vancouver Wolf Pack on Tuesday night. Kody Botterill, Aaron Merrick and Daniel Delblanco also scored.
Scott Lapp made 18 saves.
The Hawks visit Ridge Meadows tonight then begin a pivotal stretch if they are going to reel in the Richmond Sockeyes for first place in the Tom Shaw Conference. They host Aldergrove on Tuesday (7: 15 p.m.) then face the Sockeyes next Thursday at Minoru Arena.
Delta (26-8-1-2) sit four points back of Richmond (29-7-1-0).