To say the 2016-17 WHL season was a tough one for Cameron Hebig would be an understatement.
“You sit out, and it’s so frustrating,” said the Saskatoon-born centre, who missed what would’ve been his 19-year-old season with an injury. “Sitting out that year, you kind of fall off people’s radar, and I definitely look forward to getting back out there.”
Without their top forward in the lineup, the Blades missed the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season, finishing five points shy of eighth place in the Eastern Conference. Despite being given a clean bill of health from doctors at the end of the regular season, Hebig still won’t get into too many details about the extent of his injury.
“I was seeing a neurologist, and you know the brain heals and the body heals,” said the 20-year-old. “I had worked hard at my physio, and I think that helped a lot, and I'm feeling 100 per cent now.”
Hebig has been training five days a week over the summer and is seeing progress as he prepares to make his return to the WHL.
“He's been with us since the spring. He's been able to participate in all kind of stuff,” said his strength and conditioning coach Blaine White. “It took him a long while to get to that point throughout the year, but since the spring he's been pretty good, he's been doing all the activities with us.”
There’s no guarantee Hebig will be on the team when the regular season begins, as the WHL allows only three overage players per team and he’ll join three other 20-year-old players when he reports to Blades training camp. But he enters the new season with a new perspective, and says he’ll be grateful just to be able to play the game he loves.
“We're lucky to play this game, and I'm going to work hard, and hopefully I'm put in a good situation where I'll make the most of it. [Blades’ management will] have a decision to make. As of right now I'm with the Blades, so all I can do right now is control me, and control how I show up to camp, and control how I play.”
The Blades preseason schedule begins Aug. 31.