Heading into his second season with the Gander Flyers, Harbour Grace native Brett Shute was presented with a bit of a decision to make.
He could either return to the central Newfoundland town and the Central West Senior Hockey League or head home to again put on the red, white and blue jersey of his hometown CeeBees. The CeeBees had recently been reinstated to Avalon East Senior Hockey League (AESHL) and would give the 22-year-old the opportunity to play at home.
Shute admits the pull to go back to Harbour Grace was there. It's understandable that he'd entertain the idea of taking his considerable skill set to the AESHL, considering it's where he's from.
He grew up playing minor hockey in the CeeBees' minor hockey system before heading to Amherst, N.S, for four years playing with the Ramblers in the Maritime Junior Hockey League.
However, the pull of the provincial senior league was too much.
"The thought was definitely there," said Shute. "I enjoyed my first season in the league and the caliber of hockey. Gander was good to me and I like it there.
"I'm having a lot of fun and we've got a good team here."
The Flyers are winners of three straight heading into last weekend's action against the Corner Brook Royals and sit in a tie for second place in the four-team league with the Clarenville Caribous with 15 points. Both teams are just one point up on the fourth-place Royals.
"We expect to keep the ball rolling here. We want to keep building on that and take second spot," said Shute. "Grand Falls-Windsor is pretty out of reach now, but we're primed for that second spot and we'll see what we can do."
Finding his way
While Shute mentioned he's having fun playing on the provincial circuit, looking at his numbers you can tell he's starting to produce in the purple and gold as a result.
Through 15 games, the left-winger has six goals and five assists. That's good for 11 points and fifth in team scoring. In 2014, Shute put up just nine points in 19 contests.
It was only a matter of time before he started producing at a healthy clip. Shute has scored at every level. In major midget with the Tri Pen Frost, he put up 45 points in 51 games, after which he notched 126 points in 199 games with the Ramblers.
'A hot start for Harbour Grace native'
He's getting used to the level of play in a league filled with a mixture of ex-pros, junior hockey standouts and players with experience overseas.
"I'm getting a little bit more comfortable, I guess you could call it, with a year under my belt," said Shute. "Last year, I didn't really expect to going in but ... this year, we're back on track and I feel like I'm doing my part and contributing to the team. I'm just a little bit more confident this year, I guess."
A good fit
Flyers president and general manager Garry White believes that Shute has "fit like a glove" with his club over the past two seasons.
He likes what he's seeing on the ice and in the dressing room from the youngster.
"(Shute) is well-liked and well-respected in the dressing room," said White. "I've noticed a big change in him from last year to this year. We've given him the opportunity to play on the first and second lines and he's produced with us.
"He's getting more confident every day."
Shute has been getting regular minutes in all situations with the Flyers. He's played even strength, penalty kill and powerplay, proving he can fill any role with the club.
"(Shute) is working with a coach this year that in the past has been noted to take players from the third and fourth lines and given them the opportunity to see what we can get," said White. "He did it this year with Brett, put him up there with some of our big wigs and he's holding his own. He plays well in front of the net and he's scored a few key goals for us.
"He's not afraid of anything. He's gritty, strong on his skates and strong on his stick. He's quite capable of playing the role he's playing."
For the most part, that role has been skating on a line with the sublimely talented Jordan Escott and NHL veteran Aaron Asham.
The pair makes life a little easier for Shute.
"I'm just playing off them. I'm just trying to make the best of the opportunity," he said. "Sometimes, I just make the pass and the puck is in the back of the net."