Recent Signings Provide Local FlairBy: Daniel Fink | Published: August 4th 2023
As the AHL off-season progresses through its summer months, the Manitoba Moose continue to announce the signings of players who will make up the 2023-24 depth chart. Recently the team revealed defenceman Dean Stewart, will return to the club on a one-year contract. Along with Stewart, the club announced defender Dawson Barteaux will don antlers. The following week, forward Mark Liwiski was added to the group. The common thread between the trio? All three are Manitoban.
Stewart, 25, is a product of Portage la Prairie and played in Manitoba right through junior hockey. He then travelled south of the border to play at the University of Omaha-Nebraska. The defender returned to his home province as a member of the Moose during the 2021-22 campaign, appearing in 20 games with the club. His first full season in antlers saw Stewart named the team's rookie of the year while recording 18 points (1G, 17A) in 61 games.
"I'm super-pumped about it," Stewart told Austin Siragusa in a recent interview. "Obviously staying close to home is going to be nice. It's going to be my third year in Manitoba so I'm pretty comfortable with most the guys and all the staff. So it's going to be stress free the rest of the summer."
Barteaux, 23, hails from Foxwarren and departed Manitoba after playing his U18 hockey in the province. Barteaux's 236-game WHL career did bring him back to Manitoba for 23 games, before he turned pro with the Dallas Stars organization. After 57 AHL games with the Texas Stars and 73 ECHL games representing the Idaho Steelheads, Barteaux is set to return to his home province this upcoming season.
"It's always been my dream to play hockey and to have the chance to possibly play in my home province is very exciting," said Barteaux after signing his contract. "To get that opportunity and have (the Moose) reach out, it was super exciting and I'm very happy."
Liwiski, 21, much like Stewart, spent time playing in the MJHL before moving on to the WHL for the remainder of his junior career. He totalled 96 points (52G, 44A) in 204 games split between Everett and Kelowna. Also similar to Stewart, Liwiski's first professional season saw the forward skate with the Wichita Thunder where he posted 17 points (10G, 7A) in 67 games. Now Liwiski will try to make an impact in his home province for the first time since playing for the OCN Blizzard during the 2017-18 campaign.
"It was definitely a no-brainer," Liwiski explained. "My agent reached out to me and I was obviously wanted. So it was an easy decision and obviously to go back to your home province is a dream come true. I'm very excited."
For the two newest additions to the club, some of their earliest pro hockey experiences came watching the Moose from the stands at Canada Life Centre. With NHL hockey unavailable at the time, the Moose were the top game in the province for a young Barteaux.
"I was fortunate enough to go to a few for sure. It was awesome. Obviously when I was growing up we didn't have the Jets so being able to go in (to Winnipeg) and watch some pro hockey was a highlight."
Meanwhile, Liwiski recalls watching some of the top Moose players of the previous era, including a member of the current coaching staff.
"That was the pro hockey in town at the time, so I remember me, my dad, brother and uncle going out to games. I remember (Jason) Jaffray and (Nolan) Baumgartner out there, it was always exciting. Always a good crowd there in Winnipeg."
Barteaux and Liwiski spent the bulk of their 2022-23 seasons in the ECHL and will try to follow in Stewart's footsteps in earning a full-time place in the AHL. Stewart enters his third season with the Moose and wants to keep up the momentum he built the previous campaign.
"I'm hoping to take another step. That's kind of been how pro has been going for me. Obviously my first year in Wichita (ECHL). Then the next year, take a step and play a handful of games with the Moose and then take another step last year. So hopefully for me, being one of the more 'go-to' guys next year is what I'm hoping to end up being."
With the calendar flipping into August the trio of Manitobans won't have to wait much longer to hit the ice at Moose training camp. It's there we will find out just how much local content will make up the Manitoba Moose roster for 2023-24.