Considering he’s a teenager from Winnipeg, it’s not surprising that Kalen Reynolds is a fan of the Winnipeg Jets. His attention to detail when watching Jets games is slightly different, however.
“I always try to focus on Blake Wheeler whenever I’m watching Jets games,” Reynolds said. “I try to model my game after him because he’s a big guy who uses his speed and creates opportunities for himself to score, and he’s also a great leader.”
While there’s a 30-pound difference between Reynolds and Wheeler, the height is nearly identical with Reynolds being listed at 6’4’’ and 195 pounds despite turning just 16-years-old in January. The Jets captain is listed at 6’5’’ 225 pounds.
Reynolds has filled out since his second year of U15 where he was roughly 6’3’’ and 170 pounds, but despite his large frame, and leading his Winnipeg Sharks team in scoring during the 2018-19 season, he didn’t see his name listed during the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.
“I was hoping I would get drafted somewhere, but I knew if I didn’t there was still a chance I could get listed by someone,” Reynolds said. “At the end of the day it was a little disappointing, but I knew I had to work as hard as I could to catch someone’s attention.”
Reynolds scored 17 times and added 22 assists during the 2018-19 campaign and while he says he spoke to numerous WHL teams over the course of that year, it was perhaps a little foreshadowing that the Broncos were the first team to contact him that year.
After putting in the work over the summer, Reynolds received a call just a few weeks before training camp was scheduled to begin.
“It was about two weeks before camp started,” Reynolds recalled. “It was one of the best moments of the year for me. It was such a great day when I got that call from Gary Aubin. He texted me asking if I could take a call and I was just hoping it was going to be good news. It was an amazing feeling knowing that someone believed in me.”
The Broncos added Reynolds to their 50-man protected list and invited him to training camp.
Despite knowing plenty of the 2004-born Manitoba players also attending camp, it was still a bit of a nerve-wracking experience to begin with for Reynolds.
“I was very nervous to be honest,” he admitted. “I was pretty intimated by the older players who were at camp. I just wanted to fit in, I noticed as soon as I stepped on the ice I didn’t have nearly as much time with the puck as I was used to.”
Reynolds said the main thing he wanted to get out of the camp experience was the pace of play in the WHL and a better understanding of what it will take for him to play at that level. He added having prior relationships with players like Sam Court, Josh Filmon, Reid Dyck and Karson King made the experience much easier for him.
After camp was finished Reynolds returned home to Winnipeg and made the jump to the U18 level with the Winnipeg Thrashers. Despite being the only 2004-born forward on the Thrashers roster, Reynolds made his presence known with a solid campaign of 11 goals and 17 assists in 48 games.
“Honestly I was a bit nervous heading into the U18 level as well,” Reynolds admitted. “I was playing with and against guys two years older than me, and I was one of only two 15-year-olds on our team. But thankfully the older guys on my team really welcomed me. They were always pushing me to get better during practices and things like that. I think it really only took me two or three games to settle in with the team.”
Reynolds’ 28 points put him 11th amongst 2004-born forwards in the Manitoba U18 league in 2019-20, but his game developed in an all-around fashion as he was used in multiple different situations by the coaching staff.
“I was more of a penalty kill guy this past year,” he said. “I’d like to think I’m a 200-foot player, so I can be down in my own end defending or I can go to the other end and stand in front of the net to try and screen the goalie. I didn’t expect this year to go as well as it did, but I’m just looking forward to next year and trying to prove myself more than I did this past year.”
While he was drafted into the Manitoba Junior Hockey League in their 2019 bantam draft, Reynolds feels he’s best suited by playing another year with the Thrashers so he can play a bigger role than he did in 2019-20.
As for the future, Reynolds has one goal in mind.
“My goal is to make the team in the next few years,” Reynolds stated. “I know there are some things I need to work on, like constantly moving my feet on the forecheck and not waiting or hesitating on the boards. Signing and playing for the Broncos would be a dream come true for me.”