Ever notice those Montreal Wanderers Stanley Cup banners in Westmount Arena? Indeed, this community has a richer pro hockey history than you might think.

Now, Westmount’s latest contribution to the sport might have his own shot at history.

Standing at 6-foot-3, 210 lbs, Yasin Cisse, 18,  is a solid forward built in the Dustin Byfuglien mould – and since Cisse was drafted by the Atlanta Thrashers shortly before Byfuglien was traded there, they might one day be teammates. But for now, Cisse is focused on trying to set himself up to crack the Thrashers roster down the road.

“It’s definitely a special feeling coming from Westmount and making it this far. It’s an honour to finally bring something back to the community,”

Yasin Cisse in action with the USHL Des Moines Buccaneers (Photo courtesy Yasin Cisse)

Cisse said. “I grew up playing for the Westmount Wings and I would play roller hockey with my neighbours almost every day; Westmount Arena was my home for 15 years.”

Cisse’s road in hockey has taken him from the cusp of Mount Royal to the banks of Iowa’s Des Moines River and maybe one day to Atlanta, Georgia.

But first was a long stretch at Westmount’s own Selwyn House School. “Selwyn House hockey was a great time and was a lot of fun. We had a great team and won the 2007 GMAA championship, which was the school’s first time winning in over 20 years. I played Selwyn hockey since Grade 4,” said Cisse, who will likely make his next hockey stop with the Boston University Terriers.

Cisse’s mother, Cathy Sucher, said her son always had the hockey bug. “We used to hear about one per cent of players make it to the NHL and we thought they were a different species. But gradually as we saw some kids we knew move up the ranks, we thought, hmm, [Yasin] is as good as those guys and is going to have good size. If they can make it, why not him?” she said.

“Then around bantam, he started getting attention from the QMJHL and prep schools, and then agents and top universities, so it kind of confirmed our hunch that he was a contender. Seeing him get drafted was an exciting moment for us, but at the same time, we have no illusions. While it’s flattering to see your son chosen, it’s just the beginning. He’ll have to work extremely hard and prove himself over and over in the coming years. We kind of allowed ourselves 24 hours to bask in the glow and then we just put it on the back burner,” Sucher added.

Thrashers scout Dan Marr believes Cisse has the right tools; now he just needs time to develop them. “[He’s a] power forward game with a good scoring touch, but he needs some development time as he missed a full season due to injuries. As well, he’s still physically maturing,” Marr said. “I would expect he needs at least a couple more years before we get a better picture of how close he is to an NHL opportunity going to Boston University will afford him the development situation he requires.”

Cisse credited his size and work ethic for his success so far. “I feel like I’ve was drafted because I’m a big solid power forward with a scoring touch and I’m not afraid to get my nose dirty. I’m disciplined both on and off the ice and I believe every team looks for those qualities,” he said “I knew that this year if any team drafted me it would be Atlanta. They put in a lot of effort getting to know me and I was thrilled to be chosen by such a great organization. I couldn’t ask for a better fit.”

For Sucher, this is just one more step the evolution of her son’s love for the sport. “Yasin played on the Westmount soccer teams and loved it, but I will always remember towards the end of September when soccer and hockey would overlap and he would be racing from the field to the rink,” she explained.

“Once the rink opened, he would spend all his time there, he just never seemed to have enough. He would scrimmage with whoever was there from little kids to grown men, then those people would leave and he would stay on and continue playing. He almost scared me sometimes because he just wouldn’t and couldn’t stop playing,” she added.

“We have a school yard across the street from our house where the same scenario would play out with street hockey – usually on roller hockey skates. I would bring big pitchers of ice water and plates of bagels and he would always be the last one to come home. Then he would skate home with the net.”

You can always reach me at noahsidel@gmail.com.

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