Justin Almeida has hit another level this season for the first place Moose Jaw Warriors.

After coming to Moose Jaw in a trade last season, Almeida is surpassing the expectations that the Warriors had for him when they acquired him from the Prince George Cougars.

The 18-year-old forward has 12 goals, a new career-high, and 30 points, also a new career-high, in just 24 games this season for Warriors.  He’s topped his point total from last season by two points in 46 less games than a year ago.

“He’s a real emerging star in this league and he’s going to have a heck of a second half,” said Head Coach Tim Hunter on the Country 100 Pre-Game Show earlier this week.  “We’ve given him more time to play in the top-six as oppose to the top-nine and he’s really flourished there.  You reward success, you reward hard work and you reward commitment and he’s doing all that.”

Almeida came into this season looking for a bigger role and he’s taken advantage of every opportunity given to him so far this season by the Warriors’ coaching staff.

“I wanted to play my best and it’s always a goal to do better than the year before and I’ve had confidence in myself this year, and it’s worked out so far,” said the Kitimat, B.C. product.

Almeida Saskatoon Nov21Justin Almeida lifts a backhand shot over Saskatoon goalie Nolan Maier during Tuesday's 7-6 overtime for the Warriors at Mosaic Place. (Photo: Marc Smith)

Almeida was a top-five pick in the WHL Bantam Draft by the Cougars in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, selected just one pick behind teammate Josh Brook.  However in his first two seasons on an older Prince George team, the skilled forward couldn’t find a consistent role.

The breakthrough came just before the trade deadline in January when the Warriors sent Russian forward Nikita Popugaev to the Cougars in a blockbuster deal that brought Almeida, along with other pieces, to Moose Jaw.

After the trade, Almeida scored three more goals in four less games with the Warriors as he worked his way into a big role.

Getting a bigger opportunity in Moose Jaw has been key for Almeida’s breakout this season.

“I love it here, it’s a great group of guys and our coaching staff always gives us the right game plan to go out and have a chance to win every night,” said Almeida.

Almeida had points in seven of the Warriors’ first eight games this season to come storming out of the gates, but he’s really took off since being put on a line with a couple of 20-year-olds in Warriors’ leading scorer Brayden Burke and Tanner Jeannot.

The line was put together at the tail-end of the Warriors’ U.S. Division road trip and have clicked instantly.

“He’s a smart player, he gets to the right areas, he has a real high hockey IQ, so it makes it real easy to play with him when you have a guy that’s as smart as he is out there,” said Burke.

“Our games compliment each other and it’s fun playing with those guys,” added Almeida. “They play hard and play the right way and when you play with guys like that, it makes it easier.”

In the Warriors’ five games over the past ten days, Almeida has registered multiple points in three games for three goals and 12 points during that stretch. There have only been six games out of 24 this season that Almeida hasn’t registered a point.

“The more time that you’re on the ice, the more chances you get and the opportunity has been huge and I just want to keep on going with it,” said Almeida.

The Warriors are hoping that Almeida can keep it going as well.  They return to home ice on Saturday night when the Prince Albert Raiders come to Mosaic Place.

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