Speed, skill, and heart are three attributes at the top of many peoples list when building the ideal hockey player. Second year forward Justin Szeto has all three checked off and then some. After recording 29 points (11 goals, 18 assists) in 53 games last season during his rookie campaign, he knew coming into this year that expectations of him would be much greater. Through nine games, the Vancouver native has been a regular contributor recording eight points (5 goals, 3 assists) and has been clutch with two game winning goals.
“It has been a good start for the team and myself early on. Coming into this year, I wanted to continue to grow and mature not just as a player, but as a person as well. 2014-15 was a great learning experience for me being a younger guy on a good team and I felt I learned a lot from the great leaders we had,” said Justin Szeto.
Szeto grew up playing in the Vancouver Minor Hockey Association, but made the switch to the Burnaby Winter Club in peewee. In 2012-13, he played for the Greater Vancouver Canadians at the Major Midget level and a season later, made the move to Vancouver Northwest Giants. It was that year he broke out in a big way registering 77 points and led the league in assists with 52. It was later that season when he committed to play for the Rivermen and shortly after, experienced a lifelong dream committing to Harvard University for the fall of 2016.
“Going the BCHL route and getting an education has always been a main focus of mine. I grew up in a family where getting good grades was essential, and I am so happy it paid off. I just finished submitting my application to Harvard and cannot wait to go there next fall. I am looking to study either economics or government,” said Szeto.
Rivermen Head Coach and General Manager Bobby Henderson remembers the first time he watched Szeto play and was really impressed with what he saw.
“I loved the energy that he played with every shift. One of the games that I watched him closely in, I was so entertained every time he was out there, and I remember thinking to myself that is the type of player we want on our roster. This year, we expected him to take a big step production wise and he has done that out of the gates and has also been great defensively for us.”
Standing at 5 foot 9, Szeto has heard plenty of negativity about his small stature during his career. Blocking out the critics is something he has learned to do over time and believes the game is changing.
“Players in the NHL are getting a lot smaller now a days and it’s nice to see the little guys having success like Tyler Johnson and Joe Pavelski. It really does not matter how big and strong you are. I believe as long as you have the heart and will to play big, it makes up for the size,” continued Szeto.
Sifting through his stats page, it is evident that he is known as a playmaking, pass first type player. However, this season that trend has changed with the number of goals being greater than the assists column, and admits he has made more of an effort to shoot.
“I have been looking to get the puck on net more often this season and so far it’s paying off. I definitely consider myself more of a set-up man and I have been fortunate to have played with some talented scorers over my career that’s for sure. Sharing the puck with my teammates is something I am always looking to do, but when I have a chance to shoot I am going to take it more often.”