In the mire of the Royals’ recent rejig adding high-profile WHLers Alex Forsberg and Greg Chase, life has been less flashy for 16-year-old Dante Hannoun.
The kid from North Delta has quietly turned into a responsible fourth line centre, and is in the midst of an ideal rookie season in the WHL.
It didn’t start out that way, as there were no guarantees Hannoun, the Royals’ 11th overall pick in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, would pan out as a guaranteed starter with 20 games remaining in the regular season.
“It was a struggle to teach him at the beginning but he’s improved a lot,” said assistant coach Enio Sacilotto. “He’s faster, stronger and more confident since the start of the season.”
Gifted players such as Hannoun aren’t forced to be as defensively responsible at the younger levels, where their skill level allows them to compensate for mistakes, Sacilotto said. Not only do they have to learn that part of the game, they have to do it while adjusting to the pace and structure of the WHL game.
“It’s just moving my feet, always, that’s been the biggest thing from the start, otherwise I won’t be playing,” Hannoun said. “The first half of the season I was a little nervous, but now I know what to expect. I’m better prepared and getting ready for the playoffs.”
The Grade 11 Vic High student scored his first goal versus the Kamloops Blazers on Sept. 27 and his second didn’t come until Dec. 28 against the Prince George Cougars. But there’s no worry, said Sacilotto. He’s just another 16 year old who will find his offensive game in time.
“Right now it’s just a focus on defence and if you find those open spots offensively, you tackle them,” Hannoun said.
Over the course of the recent three-game road trip to Washington, Hannoun centred Jack Palmer, Jared Dmytriw and Brandon Fushimi, though it fluctuates as players cycle through the lineup.
Last week, Hannoun made his first appearance for the Royals in Portland, where he played Winterhawks great Nic Petan. The two are first cousins. Petan, property of the Winnipeg Jets, let Hannoun win a face-off – the first and last time the Royals’ rookie will get any favours against the Winterhawks.
Dante’s big brother Demico (1995) is committed to Michigan Tech (NCAA Div. 1) next year. He has 35 points in 42 games with the powerhouse Penticton Vees, dominating the B.C. Hockey League with a record of 37-7-4.
– The Royals’ have three 1998-born players on the roster, forwards Dante Hannoun and Jared Dmytriw, and defenceman Ralph Jarratt.