Justin Almeida's season total of 33 goals and 78 assists in just 64 games for the WHL's Moose Jaw Warriors is all the more impressive when you realize he played nearly the entire season injured.
Almeida, the Penguins' 2018 fifth-round pick, tore the labrum in his left shoulder while playing for Canada in the 2018 Canada-Russia Series exhibition between junior players in early November.
Knowing that it was likely his final season of junior hockey, 20-year-old Almeida chose to play the remainder of the season rather than end his junior career in the fall.
“I didn’t want to end my season in November," he told the Warriors' website. "I came into the year wanting to have a great year and have a great year for our team. I knew I wanted to play right from when it happened."
The labrum is a piece of cartilage in the shoulder that helps to hold the ball of the joint in place. Almeida played nearly the entire season with a brace under his jersey. The brace protected his shoulder, but also limited the movement of his left arm. Not an easy thing to do for a left-handed shot.
Keep that in mind when watching him do stuff like this:
“What this young man accomplished — 100-point season, led the league in assists — and what he went through on a day-to-day, week-to-week basis in terms strengthening his shoulder, continuous rehab that (Warriors athletic therapist) Brooke Kosolofski did an outstanding job with, the exercises that he needed to do on a daily and weekly basis, taping, wearing a brace the entire season, it’s just really incredible," said Warriors GM Alan Millar.
The Warriors' season ended March 27 after a four game sweep by the Saskatoon Blades in the first round of the playoffs, with two games being decided in overtime. Almeida was scoreless in the series. Because of his shoulder, he won't report to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on an amateur deal to close out the season. He'll now have shoulder surgery and look to have his shoulder back to 100 percent for when he makes his professional debut next season.
“I can’t say enough about his time here, our expectations are that he’s going to be a pro player next year,” said Millar. “It’s truly been a pleasure to have him here. He’s a great person, great player and he really epitomizes what we’re all about in being a Moose Jaw Warrior.”