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A Season to Savour: Mistissini Allstar looks towards NHL dream

BY Joshua Janke Apr 16, 2024

It is hockey playoff season, and Israel Mianscum is proving that he is the real deal. In the 2021-2022 season, #24 from Mistissini was becoming a household name, as the sharpshooter totaled 20 goals and 21 assists for 41 points. Last season, Mianscum established himself as a point-per-game player, reaching the 30-goal milestone for the first time while racking up a generous 31 assists in the process for a total of 61 points in 65 games.

However, with key players being traded away from his team before the start of the 2023-2024 season, there were large gaps and question marks throughout the Sherbrooke Phoenix roster. As one of the few remaining team veterans and in his last year in the QMJHL, the pressure and expectations for Mianscum continued to grow, with hockey analysts wondering if Mianscum would experience a decrease in scoring with less talent surrounding him on the ice. Some QMJHL trade analysts even guessed as to whether he would be traded to a stronger playoff contender before the trade deadline.

Mianscum was Sherbrooke’s surest bet this season, leading the team and exceeding all expectations with career-highs in goals (35) and assists (52) for a whopping 87 points in 61 games played. Just last week, the team clinched a playoff spot, meaning Mianscum’s season is far from over, with playoffs beginning at the start of April. 

His father, Louie Mianscum, remembers the season’s start and how his son was fueled by the expectations required of him as a team leader on a young team facing older, more experienced teammates, some who even played for the Phoenix with Israel just last season. Ever since he was a child, Israel showed perseverance on his path to the pros.

“When he moved out at 11 years old to follow his passion for hockey, we made it our goal to still attend as many games as we could, do as much as we could to support him because it is not easy for a young player to move out at that age, to be away from the community. He is so strong for all he has done to accomplish his dream.”

“It’s a big year for him, being 20 years old and in his last year. It is almost time for the next step, but I know that right now, his focus is completely locked in on the upcoming playoffs,” his father says.

“I remember him meeting with the GM at the season’s start, how there was talk about it being a rebuilding year. They wanted to know how he felt about playing for a team with fewer playoff chances.”

“He said he was going to give it his all, on and off the ice.”

Led by Mianscum, the Phoenix surpassed expectations by qualifying for the playoffs with home-ice advantage and high hopes for a long run with Mianscum ready to leave everything out on the ice in his final games for the team.

Former head coach Stéphane Julien says he is thankful for the five years Israel dedicated to the team.

“It does not happen often that a player can play his first and last game in the league with the same team. Over the years, he has become part of the team’s leadership group and has improved in school and the French language as well.

“He should be proud of who he is and where he comes from. I am sure that today, there are many young hockey players in Mistissini who dream of one day being someone like Israel Mianscum.”

Mianscum says that he does not get distracted by individual standings and focuses instead on his training, his game, and helping his team.

“I just try to win games for my team, and if I can do that – producing on offense or blocking shots. I feel like this year, I’ve been helping a lot on offense. I just want to play for my team and succeed as a team,” he says.

Jonathan Deschênes has been an assistant coach with the Sherbrooke Phoenix for the last three seasons and said he’s seen a lot of personal growth in Mianscum over that time.

“I think for him it was a matter of confidence … the more the years went by, the more he felt comfortable playing,” Deschênes said, adding Mianscum is the type of player who is always working hard.

“He’s a beast on the ice. He has an NHL shot already. I feel like he works really hard and is learning how to work hard properly. So stuff like how you take care of your body, how you eat. I feel like he got better at all the things that make a pro hockey player,” Deschênes said.

In his last 10 games, Mianscum has been producing at an elite level, averaging 2 points per game in this span, with seven goals, 12 assists, and a +7 rating to his name while playing on the team’s top line and powerplay unit.

“As soon as we play in Val-d’Or, Rouyn-Noranda, Chicoutimi, we have a lot of fans that are there for Israel. They’re really invested in him … he’s a hero for some kids over there and it’s really, really nice to see,” says coach Deschênes.

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Joshua Janke lives in Montreal and is studying English Literature at Mcgill University. He is passionate about writing, social justice, and creating art.