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Sebastian is showing his potential early

Eli Sebastian
Sebastian is eligible to play for the Gamblers for three seasons, but he’s committed to Northeastern and could head to college as soon as next year. Photo courtesy of the Green Bay Gamblers

Canadian is leading Gamblers in scoring

By Greg Bates

Sports Editor

ASHWAUBENON – Eli Sebastian has shown early in his Green Bay Gamblers career he is a well-rounded player.

The forward is leading the team in points with 19 — eight goals, 11 assists — and has netted three game-winning goals in the first 23 contests.

Sebastian’s teammates know how talented of a player they have on their side.

“In practice he rips me apart sometimes,” Gamblers goalie Kristoffer Eberly said. “He’s got a great shot. Whenever he’s coming down on me, I know he’s coming. I know kind of the spots he shoots, because he’s got a sharp shot. He’s been really good. Every time he’s got the puck, I’m super confident in him.”

The 18-year-old from Burlington, Ontario, Canada believes he’s been successful early in his United States Hockey League (USHL) tenure because he’s stuck to his style of play.

“I think just playing my game and my identity as a player,” Sebastian said. “Obviously, being a new player to the league, it took me a few games to settle in. But I’ve just been trying to work hard in practice and focus on the things I can control like my work ethic, and I feel like I’ve been doing a good job of that lately.”

The Gamblers liked what they saw in Sebastian when they selected him in the 11th round, 156th overall, of the 2022 USHL Phase II Draft. He’s lived up to high expectations.

“He’s definitely one of our smartest players,” Gamblers assistant coach Patrick McCadden said. “From a defensive standpoint, he’s always in the right spots and that translates into offense for him. He supports pucks underneath when we’re breaking out, he’s above pucks when we’re on the forecheck, which is where we want him to be. Then he ends up with the puck on his stick a lot because of it. From an offensive standpoint, he can make things happen. He’s a really smart player with the puck as well. He’s good at finding his teammates. On top of all that, he’s got a great shot and if he has an opportunity to score, it’s normally in the back of the net.

“We’re thrilled with him. He’s been a great addition to the team. Honestly, he’s exceeded our expectations. We knew he was a good player and we knew he would contribute — didn’t know it would be this much this quickly.”

Prior to coming to the Gamblers, Sebastian played for the prep school St. Andrew’s College for two seasons. Last year, he tallied 40 points — 15 goals, 25 assists — in 44 games.

Coming to the U.S. and playing in the USHL was a transition for Sebastian.

“Right off the bat it’s bigger, stronger, faster, so I think just getting up to pace with that were definitely the biggest things I had to adjust to,” Sebastian said.

McCadden saw everything click for Sebastian after having the preseason to adjust to a different style of game.

“A lot of times with players that are new to this league, it takes them 20-25 games,” McCadden said. “With Eli, it felt like it took him two or three, which is obviously good for us, good for him.

“He came from a really good program at St. Andrew’s College and he was actually committed to go play in Penticton in the BCHL, so we kind of took a flier on him in the draft. I think we took him in the 11th round just to hopefully step up a potential recruiting battle with them, and that ultimately ended up happening. Him and his family flew into Green Bay in late May and we took him around town and just kind of talked to him about our vision as a new staff and what we wanted to do with this team and the organization moving forward. We clicked with him and the family right away and about a week later they called and said they wanted to come to Green Bay and Eli wanted to be a Gambler.”

One big reason why Sebastian decided to travel south of the Canadian border for the next journey in his hockey path was because of the coaching he was going to receive in Green Bay.

“I have nothing but great things to say about them so far,” Sebastian said. “They’ve taught not only me but the whole team. They set a standard and we follow it. Our practices, they’re really hard, so I think they help prepare us for games.”

With the Gamblers, Sebastian has been able to showcase the best parts of his game.

“I think my vision and my skating are probably my two best attributes,” Sebastian said. “I think with my skating, I feel like I’m a powerful, smooth skater and I’m shifty with the puck and can make plays. Then my vision, just like finding teammates and making smart plays with the puck.”

Sebastian is eligible to play for the Gamblers for three years, but at this point he figures he will play one or two seasons.

He’s committed to play collegiate hockey at Northeastern, and he knows he needs to keep developing as a player. McCadden said his young skater needs to show consistency before he heads off to play in the tough Hockey East.

“I think pace of play has been a big thing,” Sebastian said. “I’ve been trying to focus on that — and, obviously, this league will help you do that for sure. Another thing I’ve been trying to work on a lot is like my positioning in the offensive zone, making sure I’m putting myself in good spots to receive pucks and be allies for my teammates and not kind of like overpursuing. I think those two things are probably what I’m going to be working on for most of the year getting ready for college.”

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