It was while skating and working out with the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s Battlefords North Stars in North Battleford that Vernon’s Kevin-Thomas (KT) Walters felt comfortable.
Walters spent nearly a week with the 2019 reigning league champions. He liked the North Stars, the North Stars liked Walters, signing the North Okanagan Knights (Kootenay International Junior B Hockey League) forward for 2020-21.
“I really liked how everybody in the organization was so friendly, they all welcomed me right away,” said Walters, who just turned 18, a meat department employee at Canada Safeway. “I’m super excited to continue my career with the North Stars.”
Walters has spent the past two seasons with the Knights, compiling career totals of 32 goals and 34 assists for 66 points, and 65 career penalty minutes. He had 18-16-34 in 46 games with North Okanagan in 2019-20, helping the team into the playoffs, where they lost in five games to the Okanagan-Shuswap Division champion Kelowna Chiefs.
The league then suspended the post-season due to COVID-19.
“I really enjoyed my time with the Knights,” said Walters. “The league is a great stepping stone to getting to the next level if that’s what you want to do.”
Walters, a five-foot-nine, 165-pound forward, got a taste of Junior A hockey when he was called up for five games by the B.C. Hockey League’s Coquitlam Express, who would win the league’s regular-season title, in January 2020. Walters had one goal (against the Trail Smoke Eaters) and one assist.
“Those five games proved to me I could play at the Junior A level, and I want to carry that over into the SJHL,” said Walters, who has been busy during the pandemic staying in shape by working out at his home gym, rollerblading and shooting a lot of pucks.
The North Stars are getting a player in Walters that thinks the game well, according to head coach and general manager Brayden Klimosko.
“He wants to get to the next level and he’s a down-to-earth kid that’s going to get a great chance to play with our veterans,” said Klimosko. “All of the conversations we’ve had with hm have been positive. We’re excited to have him join our club.”
The North Stars finished first overall in the 2019-20 SJHL regular-season, and were leading the Nipawin Hawks three games to one in a first-round best-of-seven playoff series when the league shut down due to COVID-19.
Walters praised his parents, Kevin and Lynnelle, for helping him with his hockey goals.
“They always got up to get me to early-morning practices and have supported me my whole career,” he said. “They tell me to play my game and they never put any pressure on me.”
He also thanked Knights head coach Dean McAmmond and Greater Vernon Minor Hockey president Sandy Moger – both former NHL players – for helping him reach the next level of junior hockey.