Carson Bjarnason's first season as a work-horse has come to a close.

The Brandon Wheat Kings goalie is disappointed that the team wasn't able to reach the postseason but notes there was a lot to learn from a year like this one. The Carberry product says this definitely wasn't how they planned to end the season but as a young team, Bjarnason is confident they can bounce back.

"There's always those flaws and little things in the room that you try to clean up but sometimes that just doesn't happen, which is unfortunate," Bjarnason explains. "With our group, hopefully, being a little more mature next year and having a couple of older guys back, I think we'll be good."

Bjarnason played twice as many games this year as he did in 2021-22, going from 23 (his previous career high) to 47. He was sixth in the Western Hockey League in minutes played and placed eighth in total saves. 

While the Wheat Kings didn't have the best record overall, 26-33-9, when Bjarnason was in net, they played significantly better. Brandon only won five of their 21 games that Bjarnason didn't play in, and the Wheat Kings had a 0.500 win percentage with him in the crease.

With two seasons at the WHL level under his belt, the goaltender plans to become more vocal next season.

"Making sure the young guys know what it's about is going to be important. Practice habits matter, and you have to take care of the room," Bjarnason continues. "At the end of the day, it's about being a professional. A lot of things you don't realize will carry over to your everyday life. Doing all the little things is just as important as the big things."

Bjarnason wants to make a conscious effort to come to the rink with the right attitude every day in 2023-24 and hopes the help lead Brandon on a playoff run.

With this season being wrapped up, the 17-year-old will now shift his focus for the next few months.

"There's a Team Canada event coming up, and I'm hoping to go to that overseas. After that, it's straight training, on and off the ice, just as much as each other," says Bjarnason. "I'm going to the NHL Draft Combine in Buffalo and trying to get in shape for that and do the best I can there."

NHL Central Scouting had Bjarnason as the #1 ranked North American goalie prospect for the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. He was very honoured when he first saw his name at the top of the list but notes everything regarding the draft is just now starting to settle in.

"During the season, it was always in the back of my mind but I didn't realize how little I paid attention to it. It was just a side thing, and I had work to do first, and I was just going to focus on it later. Now that it's creeping up pretty fast, I'm trying to enjoy everything. You work hard to try and get a better result in the end, and you always want to think you did enough but you always want to push for more."

Bjarnason earned a spot on the Wheat Kings as a 16-year-old undrafted rookie. He says if you told him then that he'd be preparing for the NHL draft at the end of the following season, he probably would've laughed.

"I probably would've thought it wasn't realistic. It's the dream of all the kids playing hockey once you realize you can make it. Not only can you make it, you can make it far, and try to be one of the better ones in your class. It'd be pretty unbelievable if you told me, and I'd try to believe it but probably wouldn't. Now that it's happening, it's surreal."

The Carberry native has had a few conversations with NHL general managers and team officials. He notes the first one was shell-shocking but Bjarnason has learned to just be himself, and good things will happen.

Bjarnason has exactly three months to prepare for the opening night of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft on June 28.