Haliburton County Huskies defenceman Jack Staniland is seeking redemption as he prepares for his final year of junior hockey in the Highlands.

The 20-year-old right shot is looking to make up for lost time after having his sophomore season cut short by a broken leg last spring. He watched from the sidelines as his teammates were swept by the Wellington Dukes in the second round of the OJHL playoffs, leaving him with a sense of unfinished business.

Returning to S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena last week, Staniland had an extra spring in his step after being named an alternate captain for the 2023/24 season. It’s the culmination of years of hard work for the near six-foot blueliner, who has grown from prodigious talent in his rookie season to become one of head coach Ryan Ramsay’s most trusted lieutenants on the ice.

Staniland is the first to admit, though, that he had some help along the way.

“I sat beside [former Huskies captain] Nathan Porter during my first year here. He really took me under his wing and showed me what it takes to lead and be a voice inside the locker room. I learned a lot from him,” Staniland said.

Asked how being handed the ‘A’ will change things this season, Staniland said, “my mindset is still the same. We’ve got a job to do – we want to win a championship. That’s our goal. For me, I know I need to be a little louder in the room, use my voice on the ice and try to be a calming influence. I want to step up, help settle players down and remind them of the expectations that come with being a Husky.”

In two seasons in the Highlands, Staniland has played 106 games and tallied seven goals and 31 assists. The highly dependable puck carrier enjoys driving play from the blueline. While he has impressed in spells, the Port Perry native feels he has more levels to his game and can’t wait to showcase those.

“Ryan likes us to play a fast, physical game. I took that in stride last season, which really helped my development. Now, I’m ready to push on again and be a difference maker. I want to lead by example and show guys what’s expected, but also express myself and show what I can do,” Staniland said.

He’ll be in the lineup Aug. 24 as the blue and white travel south to take on the Stouffville Spirit in pre-season action. The Huskies will welcome the Renfrew Wolves to S.G. Nesbitt Memorial Arena for a home exhibition Aug. 27, before the Spirit visit Sept. 2. The team kicks off the regular season Sept. 8 with a road tilt against the Lindsay Muskies in the ‘Battle of Hwy. 35’ and has its home opener the next night, Sept. 9, against the Pickering Panthers.

“I’m counting down the days. Stepping out onto the ice in this rink, with the crowd in there, it’s a hard feeling to describe. The fans create such a great atmosphere. It’s a great place to play hockey,” Staniland said.

He’ll be in familiar surroundings away from the rink again, billeting in Haliburton with the Boice family, as he’s done for the past two seasons.

While this will be Staniland’s final year in the OJHL, he’s hoping it’s just the beginning of his hockey adventure.

“I want to play at the highest level possible, sticking around in the game past this season is my primary goal. I’d like to play in the NCAA,” he said, noting he’s had discussions with several colleges south of the border.

He believes the Huskies provide him with the best platform for future success.

“This is home away from home for me. It’s a top class organization and I know the coaches are going to push us to be our absolute best again this season. I feel like there’s a little something to prove, but we’ll thrive on that pressure,” he said. “I think we’re in a great position to have a big year.”