Since he joined the Saskatoon Blazers on a full time basis to begin the 2020 season, Boston Buckberger has been filling the opposition’s net from the blue line.
The 17-year-old defenceman has tallied 46 points over his last 47 games played, attracting a look from some NCAA schools, including Denver, Maine, Cornell and Wisconsin.
Wisconsin eventually won out, with Buckberger announcing his commitment to the school earlier this past week.
“Education has just been really important to me and my family,” Buckberger said. “Playing like four years of college (hockey) and having that opportunity to get an education while playing that high level of hockey, and having an opportunity of playing pro some day, I guess that (idea) was just really cool to me.”
Although he’s enjoyed many personal successes during his tenure with the Blazers his dominant run in U-18 didn’t begin in AAA, as a rookie Buckberger played with the AA Saskatoon River Kings.
“It was really important for his development,” Blazers Head Coach Scott Scissons explained. “He got more touches, he got more playing time.”
“I was kind of under-sized in bantam,” Buckberger said. “So, playing that first year of AA just really helped.
Although the defenceman was listed by the Kamloops Blazers in 2019 he elected to play collegiate hockey. This route offers him what Scissons’ called a ‘longer runway’ allowing Buckberger additional time to continue to grow as a player.
Just having more time to develop and get stronger, and play to the best of my abilites,” Buckberger said.
Scissons’ a WHL alumni sees the positive in both routes, but also acknowledges a specific advantage for Buckberger that he saw first hand as an NHL rookie.
“I remember going to my first pro camp at 18,” Scissons said. “(I was) 18 and seeing these 22 – 23-year-old college kids coming in and going, this isn’t fair.”
Having a former professional player as a coach has been greatly beneficial for Buckberger’s growth in AAA, and it partly played into his decision to commit to the Badgers where he’ll be guided by another former pro in Tony Granato.
“It’s just so surreal talking to him,” Buckberger said of his future coach. “Even like (with) my dad, we were just like, we’re actually talking with Tony Granato, like, he played with Gretzky. I knew that playing for him someday I could develop to reach my full potential.”
Besides just his family and friends the rearguard also had his coach to lean on to help with the decision making process.
“Just being able to call, and text (Scissons), he just made it a lot easier,” Buckberger said. “He helped me look at the big picture, and find out where would be the best fit for me.”
When Buckberger finally laces up his skates for the Badgers he’ll become just the fourth Saskatoon native, and first defenceman to play for the team in the past 54 years.
However, a few friendly faces await him in Madison, as the Saskatoon to Wisconsin pipeline on the women’s hockey team has been open since 2015.
First, current National Team forward Emily Clark played from 2015-19′, winning a National Championship in her final year.
Current Badgers junior forward Sophie Shirley was a rookie on that championship team, and her younger sister, sophomore Grace as since joined.
That connection allowed the Buckbergers insight into what life is like at Wisconsin.
“My mom talked to the Shirley’s dad, I believe,” Buckberger said. “He just had nothing but good things to say about Wisconsin, and the girls experience.”
As for his thoughts on potentially being the trend setter on local boys joining the Wisconsin men’s team.
“I hope so,” he chuckled. “Obviously I believe in college hockey after making my decision, that would be really cool.”