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NHL prospect Carter Rigby has fond memories of his brief time in Osoyoos
No matter how far his hockey career takes him, Carter Rigby says he will never forget or regret his time in Osoyoos playing for the Osoyoos Coyotes.
The tough and talented teenager returned to Osoyoos last week to participate in the inaugural Coyotes Summer Conditioning Camp, which was run by current head coach and general manager Ken Law and newly-signed assistant coach Geoff Goodman.
As a raw 16-year-old, Rigby made quite the impression with the Coyotes as he played 20 games and scored several big goals, got into numerous fights and quickly became a fan favourite before suffering a serious shoulder injury and ending his season.
Due to his size and talent, Rigby was offered an opportunity to play for the Penticton Vees in the British Columbia Hockey League after his stint in Osoyoos.
Rigby had started that season playing with the Prince George Warriors in the Western Hockey League.
The Kelowna Rockets of the WHL acquired his rights two years ago and he has put up solid numbers ever since, despite continuing to battle shoulder injuries that have limited him to less than 60 games over the past two seasons.
With the training camp for the Rockets starting next weekend and coming off major shoulder surgery, Rigby said he wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to return to Osoyoos for the conditioning camp.
“Those 20 games I played in Osoyoos were honestly the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey,” said Rigby. “I honestly believe that if I didn’t come to Osoyoos and enjoy the success I had back when I was 16, I don’t think I would have ever got drafted into the WHL or ended up in Kelowna.
“I loved the billets I lived with here, I loved the town and I loved the fans. I tell all kinds of kids that I meet up with that if you’re going to play in the KIJHL, then Osoyoos should be their first choice because I honestly believe it’s the best place to play in that league.”
Rigby was having a terrific season last year with the Rockets, who were ranked in the top 10 in the Canadian Hockey League standings all season, with 21 goals and 34 points in 65 games, before he reinjured his shoulder.
Because he has suffered numerous shoulder injuries the past three years, Rigby said he knew it was time to go under the knife and have surgery with the hopes he can make a full recovery.
“Because I had put up some pretty good numbers during my two years in Kelowna, I had been talking to a lot of NHL scouts, but I didn’t get drafted this past year and I really believe it’s because of the problems I’ve had with my shoulders,” he said. “I think with a clean bill of health that I can still chase my dream of playing in the NHL.”
This coming season is a huge one considering he will be in his final year of junior eligibility, although Rigby says he will seriously consider playing beyond this coming season as an overage player if that’s in his best interest in pursuing his hockey dreams.
“This is a make it or break it season for me,” he Rigby, who was raised in Penticton and still lives there in the off season. “I obviously have to prove to a lot of people that I can stay injury free and continue to put up some good numbers.
“I have to continue working on my skating because that’s the weakest part of my game. Otherwise I just have to continue to play aggressive, physical hockey and show what I can do.”
Law said it was a pleasure to have Rigby back in town.
“Carter’s a very nice kid and he was a huge fan favourite during his brief time in Osoyoos,” said Law. “He was the type of kid who would score two big goals then fight the toughest guy on the other team and beat him up to change a game around. The fans loved him and I’m not surprised at all he has gone on to do so well in the WHL.”
Law is convinced Rigby would have been drafted by an NHL team if he hadn’t battled physical injuries the past few seasons.
“He’s a big kid who plays very physical, but he had good hands and can score goals,” he said. “He has all of the tools you need to play pro hockey. I just hope he can stay healthy to show what he can really do. If he does stay healthy, he’s still got a very good shot at doing something in the pros.”
Rigby said he hopes to return to Osoyoos as often as he can and will be returning to the summer conditioning camp in the future to get in shape in late summer no matter where his hockey career takes him.