2018-19 WHL Season Preview: BC Division

This is the third part of a five-part series that will preview the 2018-19 campaign. The first four parts will go over each WHL division before I make my predictions in the final part.

A huge thanks to Robert Murray of the Western Hockey League who passed along the photos of many of the players from around the circuit.

All roster info is based upon what’s on the WHL website and will be updated leading into Friday’s season opener. Also, the listed college committed prospects are based upon Allan Caldwell’s database that was released earlier this summer and any stats/current team information comes from Elite Prospects.

Finally, the overview of each’s team picks for next year’s draft is courtesy of Caldwell’s database, which can also be seen on the Dub Network. 

Dylan Ferguson (Allen Douglas/Kamloops Blazers)

Kamloops Blazers

Last Season

After two straight opening round losses to the Kelowna Rockets, the Blazers finished well back of the playoff picture. Not only did they trade off veteran pieces at the deadline, but everything went bonzo gonzo in the off-season with management and coaching changes.

Forwards

Departing

  • Quinn Benjafield (98 – 19-28-47 – Edmonton Oil Kings)
  • Nick Chyzowski (97 – 20-26-46 – Waterloo Warriors)
  • Jackson Shepard (00 – 9-13-22 – Lethbridge Hurricanes)
  • Justin Sigrist (99 – 3-7-10 – GCK Lions)

Returning

  • Ryley Appelt (00 – 4-4-8)
  • Orrin Centazzo (00 – 11-15-26)
  • Carson Denomie (00 – 6-13-19)
  • Jermaine Loewen (98 – 36-28-64)
  • Luc Smith (98 – 21-23-44)
  • Brodi Stuart (00 – 16-22-38)
  • Travis Walton (99 – 3-4-7)
  • Connor Zary (01 – 11-18-29)

Arriving

  • Zane Franklin (99 – 14-24-38 – Lethbridge Hurricanes)
  • Martin Lang (01 – ’18 Import Draft – 37-22-59 – HC Plzen U18)
  • Kobe Mohr (99 – 11-17-28 – Edmonton Oil Kings)
  • Jerzy Orchard (01 – 5th in ’16 – 12-15-27 – Swift Current Legionnaires)
  • Josh Pillar (02 – 1st in ’17 – 21-29-50 – Prince Albert Mintos)
  • Kyrell Sopotyk (01 – 5th in ’16 – 4-7-11 – Prince Albert Mintos)

NHL Prospects

  • Jermaine Loewen (Dallas Stars – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • Massimo Rizzo (01 – 1st in ’16 – 13-26-39 – Penticton Vees – North Dakota Fighting Hawks)
  • Tyler Ward (99 – 11th in ’14 – 10-13-23 – Tri-City Storm – Denver Pioneers)

The Blazers are in a pretty interesting spot on offence. They have some nice overage players with Loewen and Smith coming back, while Stuart and Zary are under the radar a bit as exciting younger talents.

Although they haven’t been able to land Rizzo yet, they are bringing in Franklin via a trade to add to the top six, along with fellow additions in Mohr, Lang and Pillar. It’s not a bad group and it might surprise people with how effective it is.

Defencemen

Departing 

  • Joe Gatenby (97 – 13-46-59 – UNB Varsity Reds)
  • Brady Reagan (97 – 2-12-14)

Returning

  • Devan Harrison (00 – 1-3-4)
  • Nolan Kneen (99 – 7-30-37)
  • Tylor Ludwar (99 – 1-2-3)
  • Montana Onyebuchi (00 – 4-13-17)
  • Sean Strange (00 – 0-8-8)
  • Luke Zazula (00 – 3-3-6)

Arriving

  • Quinn Schmiemann (01 – 3rd in ’16 – 16-32-52 – Notre Dame Midget Hounds)
  • Joonas Sillanpaa (01 – 2nd in ’18 – 2-5-7 – HIFK U18)

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • N/A

While the offence looks good, the defence has some questions around it, especially with two of their top blueliners from a year ago aging out of the league. Kneen should help with the production along with Onyebuchi, but Schmiemann and Sillanpaa might be asked to do quite a lot in their first full seasons.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • N/A

Returning

  • Dylan Ferguson (98 – 2.95 – 24-28-1-3 – .907)
  • Max Palaga (00 – 3.71 – 5-7-0-1 – .875)

Arriving

  • Dylan Garand (02 – 3rd in ’17 – 2.12 – 15-5-0 – .931 – Delta Hockey Academy)
  • Rayce Ramsay (01 – Listed – 3.23 – 12-12-0 – .900 – Saskatoon Contacts)

NHL Prospects

  • Dylan Ferguson (Vegas Golden Knights – Signed)

Rights Held

  • N/A

The return of Ferguson is one of the reasons why the Blazers might surprise this season. As an understudy to Connor Ingram, Ferguson has shown flashes over the last couple of campaigns and might steal a few wins for the team this year.

There’s a bevy of netminders waiting in the wings to be the backup, but I would assume the returning Palaga leads the way here.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • Stu MacGregor (General Manager for Three Seasons – Second Stint with the Team – Previously the General Manager for Three Years (1995-98) – Scout with the Dallas Stars)
  • Don Hay (Head Coach for Four Seasons – Second Stint with the Team – Previously Head Coach for Three Years (1992-95) and an Assistant Coach for Six Years (1986-92) – Assistant Coach with the Portland Winterhawks)
  • Mike Needham (Assistant Coach for Five Seasons – Seventh Seasons with the Organization)

Returning 

  • Chris Murray (Assistant Coach – Fifth Season)
  • Aaron Keller (Assistant Coach – Second Season)
  • Dan De Palma (Goaltending Coach – Ninth Season)

Arriving

  • Matt Bardsley (General Manager – Assistant General Manager for Five Seasons with the Portland Winterhawks)
  • Serge Lajoie (Head Coach – Head Coach for Three Seasons with the Alberta Golden Bears)
  • Dan Kordic (Assistant Coach – Assistant Coach for Two Seasons with the Alberta Golden Bears)

After McGregor moved on to take an NHL scouting gig, all heck broke loose with the front office staff. The biggest departure was Hay, who the team said retired but it soon became apparent that might not have been the case. He’s back on the coaching scene with Portland, so that will be a fun subplot to follow when they cross paths.

With that said, the team has made two big hires. Bardsley has long been considered as someone who would get a general manager job in the league, while Lajoie is coming off of winning a University Cup title but found himself out of a job when Ian Herbers returned from the Edmonton Oilers.

Best Case Scenario

Thanks to Ferguson’s netminding skills and an offence with a number of weapons, the Blazers have their best campaign since a run to the Western Conference final in 2013. Not only do they get the Memorial Cup hosting duties for 2020, but they are also able to land Rizzo at last.

Worst Case Scenario

Not only do they miss out on getting the Memorial Cup and Rizzo, but Ferguson ends up struggling in his overage campaign. With a younger back-end, the Blazers find themselves far back of their provincial rivals in the race for the division crown.

Current 2019 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: Two Picks (Everett)
  • Round 2: One Pick
  • Round 3: One Pick
  • Round 4: Two Picks (Everett)
  • Round 5: One Pick
  • Round 6: One Pick
  • Round 7: Four Picks (Lethbridge, Prince Albert and Swift Current)
  • Round 8: One Pick
  • Round 9: One Pick
  • Round 10: One Pick
  • Round 11: One Pick
  • Round 12: One Pick
Nolan Foote (Marissa Baecker/Kelowna Rockets)

Kelowna Rockets

Last Season

To the shock of no one, the Rockets were able to win a division pennant for the fifth time in the last eight years. However, their playoff run came to a screeching halt in the first round after they were swept aside by the Tri-City Americans.

Forwards

Departing

  • Dillon Dube (98 – 38-46-84 – Stockton Heat – Calgary Flames – Signed)
  • Kole Lind (98 – 39-56-95 – Utica Comets – Vancouver Canucks – Signed)
  • Colum McGauley (00 – 2-0-2 – Swift Current Broncos)
  • Marek Skvrne (99 – 4-9-13)
  • Carsen Twarynski (97 – 45-27-72 – Lehigh Valley Phantoms – Philadelphia Flyers – Signed)

Returning

  • Ted Brennan (00 – 1-8-9)
  • Conner Bruggen-Cate (99 – 18-27-45)
  • Jack Cowell (99 – 10-24-34)
  • Nolan Foote (00 – 13-27-40)
  • Erik Gardiner (99 – 7-15-22)
  • Liam Kindree (00 – 8-19-27)
  • Will Kushniryk (00 – 2-3-5)
  • Leif Mattson (99 – 25-35-60)
  • Kyle Topping (99 – 22-43-65)

Arriving

  • Ryan Bowen (98 – 6-4-10 – Chilliwack Chiefs)
  • Kyle Crosbie (01 – 8th in ’16 – 14-19-33 – Edge School)
  • Ethan Ernst (02 – 3rd in ’17 – 15-20-35 – Notre Dame Midget Hounds)
  • Mark Liwiski (01 – Everett’s 3rd in ’16 – 14-11-25 – OCN Blizzard)
  • Dallon Wilton (01 – 3rd in ’16 – 25-27-52 – Eastman Selects

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • Ethan Bowen (02 – 2nd in ’17 – 9-25-34 – Fraser Valley Thunderbirds – Chilliwack Chiefs – North Dakota Fighting Hawks)
  • Michael Gildon (01 – 4th in ’16 – 12-11-23 – US NTDP – Ohio State Buckeyes)
  • Jordan Sandhu (99 – 4th in ’14 – 10-21-31 – Vernon Vipers – Arizona State Sun Devils)

In losing three players that topped the 35-goal plateau last season, the Rockets will look to a few different faces to lead the way up front. Mattson and Topping are the prime suspects given their play last season, though Foote might have a big breakout campaign in his draft year and the likes of Burggen-Cate and Cowell could be under-the-radar candidates.

If they were to land Bowen, whose older brother Ryan is returning to the league after stints in Moose Jaw and Lethbridge, that might help out things quite a bit as he was thought to be a first round pick before his draft year. The same goes for their 2018 first round pick Trevor Wong, who has committed to the Denver Pioneers.

Defencemen

Departing

  • Gordie Ballhorn (97 – 6-32-42 – Saskatchewan Huskies)
  • Cal Foote (98 – 19-51-70 – Syracuse Crunch – Tampa Bay Lightning – Signed)
  • James Hilsendager (97 – 6-18-24 – Regina Cougars)

Returning

  • Braydyn Chizen (98 – 6-13-19)
  • Kelvin Hair (00 – 0-0-0)
  • Kaedan Korczak (01 – 3-13-16)
  • Kyle Pow (00 – 0-3-3)
  • Libor Zabransky (00 – 2-17-19)

Arriving 

  • Cayde Augustine (01 – Listed – 11-7-18 – Airdrie CFR Bisons)
  • Devin Steffler (00 – Listed – 5-13-18 – OHA Europe)
  • Lassi Thomson (00 – ’18 Import Draft – 12-15-27 – Ilves U20)

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • Colby Bukes (99 – 6th in ’14 – 4-24-28 – Muskegon Lumberjacks – Minnesota State Mavericks)

Like the offence, the defence is also losing three big pieces and will need to have new faces step up. Since he didn’t sign with Minnesota, Chizen should help in that process and Korczak looks to be the next player in the long line of star Rockets defenders. Thomson is thought of as a potential high pick in the NHL Draft, so he’ll be someone to watch as the season gets underway.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • Brodan Salmond (98 – 3.67 – 13-10-0-1 – .880 – Moose Jaw Warriors)

Returning

  • Roman Basran (01 – 2.28 – 6-2-0-0 – .926)
  • James Porter Jr. (00 – 3.27 – 22-9-4-1 – .895)

Arriving

  • N/A

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • N/A

With Salmond not come back as an overager, two talented youngsters are set to duke it out for the starting duties. Porter Jr. played in more games last season, but Basran was impressive before injuries ended his campaign.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • N/A

Returning

  • Bruce Hamilton (General Manager and Owner – 27th Season)
  • Jason Smith (Head Coach – 3rd Season)
  • Travis Crickard (Assistant Coach – 5th Season)
  • Kris Mallette (Assistant Coach – 5th Season)
  • Adam Brown (Goaltending Coach – 3rd Season)

Arriving 

  • N/A

Everything’s the same in Kelowna, with Smith entering his third season following a rotating door in the coaching chair prior to his arrival. Given the program’s consistency, it’s hard to see any changes on the horizon.

Best Case Scenario

With new faces taking over the roles left by the graduating veterans, the Rockets are once again the class of the BC Division and set themselves up for another playoff run ahead of being the hosts for the 2020 Memorial Cup.

Worst Case Scenario

In addition to not getting the Memorial Cup hosting gig, the Rockets slide in the standings as they come to grips with so many key weapons moving on. They still make the playoffs, but aren’t anywhere near a major contender.

Current 2019 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: One Pick
  • Round 2: One Pick
  • Round 3: No Picks
  • Round 4: One Pick
  • Round 5: Two Picks (Prince Albert)
  • Round 6: One Pick
  • Round 7: One Pick
  • Round 8: No Picks
  • Round 9: One Pick
  • Round 10: One Pick
  • Round 11: One Pick
  • Round 12: One Pick
Taylor Gauthier (Keith Hershmiller/Regina Pats)

Prince George Cougars

Last Season

After loading up the year prior and crashing out in the first round, the Cougars began their rebuilding stage. Although Nikita Popugaev bailed to Europe early in the year, the team was able to deal away Josh Anderson, Dennis Cholowski, Jesse Gabrielle and Kody McDonald for assets on their way to finishing at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.

Forwards

Departing

  • Chance Adrian (99 – 1-2-3 – Lloydminster Bobcats)
  • Pavel Azhgirei (00 – 1-1-2 – Team Belarus)
  • Jared Bethune (97 – 21-48-69 – Queen’s Golden Gaels)
  • Aaron Boyd (97 – 14-24-38 – Carleton Ravens)
  • Matthew Mosher (00 – 0-0-0 – Nanaimo Clippers)
  • Brogan O’Brien (97 – 17-24-41 – Carleton Ravens)

Returning

  • Ethan Browne (01 – 1-11-12)
  • Ilijah Colina (00 – 11-20-31)
  • Josh Curtis (98 – 9-27-36)
  • Kjell Kjemhus (01 – 2-2-4)
  • Max Kryski (00 – 8-2-10)
  • Jackson Leppard (00 – 15-21-36)
  • Josh Maser (99 – 28-21-49)
  • Vladislav Mikhalchuk (99 – 14-19-33)
  • Liam Ryan (00 – 2-3-5)

Arriving

  • Conor Bowie (01 – Portland’s 7th in ’16 – 27-27-54 – NEBC Trackers)
  • Brendan Boyle (01 – Listed – 18-22-40 – Okanagan Rockets)
  • Mitch Kohner (02 – 10th in ’17 – 5-3-8 – Lakeville North High)
  • Mike MacLean (98 – 2-2-4 – Seattle Thunderbirds)
  • Reid Perepeluk (00 – 6th in ’15 – 8-18-26 – Kamloops Storm)
  • Matej Toman (01 – ’18 Import Draft – 8-6-14 – HC Ceske Budejovice U20)
  • Tyson Upper (01 – Listed – 11-18-29 – Edge School)

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • Bobby Brink (01 – Listed – 13-31-44 – Minnetonka High School – Sioux City Musketeers – Denver Pioneers)
  • Stanley Cooley (02 – 3rd in ’17 – 13-17-30 – Notre Dame Midget Hounds – Spruce Grove Saints – Northeastern Huskies)
  • Zach Michaelis (02 – 4th in ’17 – 16-34-50 – Elk River High School – Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks)
  • Colin Schmidt (00 – 11th in ’15 – 12-27-39 – Wayzata High School – Waterloo Black Hawks – Minnesota Golden Gophers)

With all three of the graduating overagers being forwards, it’s important for the Cougars to have their young talent fill in those holes on offence.

Although he’s not a younger guy, Maser almost had 30 goals last year, while players like Colina and Leppard look to make more steps in their game along with deadline pickups Browne and Kjemhus.

Defencemen

Departing

  • N/A

Returning

  • Austin Crossley (99 – 4-5-9)
  • Joel Lakusta (98 – 9-33-42)
  • Cameron MacPhee (99 – 2-2-4)
  • Cole Moberg (00 – 2-9-11)
  • Rhett Rhinehart (01 – 3-2-5)
  • Jack Sander (00 – 2-1-3)
  • Ryan Schoettler (99 – 8-15-23)

Arriving

  • Tyson Phare (02 – 1st in ’17 – 20-19-39 – Yale Hockey Academy)

NHL Prospects 

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • Ben Brinkman (00 – Listed – 10-30-40 – Edina High School – Minnesota Golden Gophers)
  • Christian Miller (01 – Listed – 8-16-24 – Greenway High School – St. Cloud State Huskies)

While everyone’s back, it’s still a rather unheralded blueline in Prince George. Since the Cougars don’t have any NHL prospects to deal away, Lakusta might prove to be a nice asset for a team looking to pick up a veteran blueliner come deadline day.

Phare is an interesting piece to keep an eye on. While he was drafted as a forward, he ended up playing on the blueline for most of last season and can be swapped into either role if needed.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • Tavin Grant (98 – 3.74 – 13-17-4-1 – .892)

Returning

  • Isaiah DiLaura (00 – 3.94 – 3-3-0-2 – .888)
  • Taylor Gauthier (01 – 3.96 – 8-18-1-2 – .885)

Arriving

  • N/A

NHL Prospects 

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • N/A

With a gold medal for Canada at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup in his back pocket, Gauthier’s time to lead the way in goal for the Cougars is now. The first goaltender taken in the 2016 WHL Draft with the 10th overall pick, Gauthier was selected ahead of players like Kaedan Korczak, Braden Schneider, Massimo Rizzo and Dylan Cozens, so it’s safe to say there’s a bit of an expectation to match up those guys.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • Todd Harkins (General Manager for Four Seasons – Head Coach for West Van Academy Bantam Varsity Team)

Returning

  • Richard Matvichuk (Head Coach – Three Seasons)
  • Steve O’Rourke (Associate Coach – Three Seasons)
  • Shawn Chambers (Assistant Coach – Three Seasons)

Arriving

  • Mark Lamb (General Manager – Was Head Coach for Tucson Roadrunners in 2016-17)
  • Taylor Dakers (Goaltending Coach – Was Goaltending Coach for Five Seasons with the Red Deer Rebels)

As Harkins moves on, Lamb returns to the WHL after a stint in the AHL. Before he left, he was the general manager and head coach for Swift Current and he brought in a number of pieces during the 2015-16 season that ended up playing key parts in the Broncos rise up the standings to their WHL title run last spring.

It’ll be interesting to see if he stays in the management role or if he decides to make changes and hire his own guy, or put himself in the role, if Matvichuk struggles. It might seem odd, but the next team we’ll bring up in this preview decided to change direction after a new general manager came in.

Best Case Scenario

With the younger talent getting a chance to shine, the Cougars surprise many during the course of the season and contend for a playoff spot. They also end up landing hyped prospect Matthew Savoie in the WHL Draft, as they own Swift Current’s first round pick from the Anderson trade at last year’s deadline.

Worst Case Scenario

It’s still another long campaign for the Cougars as they remain at the bottom of the Western Conference standings and continue to rebuild with Lamb now coaching the team after Matvichuk is canned. To make matters worse, they end up missing out on winning the WHL Draft Lottery.

Current 2019 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: Two Picks (Swift Current)
  • Round 2: Two Picks (Portland)
  • Round 3: No Pick
  • Round 4: One Pick
  • Round 5: No Pick
  • Round 6: One Pick
  • Round 7: One Pick
  • Round 8: One Pick
  • Round 9: One Pick (Saskatoon)
  • Round 10: One Pick
  • Round 11: One Pick
  • Round 12: One Pick
Bowen Byram (Chris Relke/Vancouver Giants)

Vancouver Giants

Last Season

Tyler Benson was healthy and Ty Ronning was scoring goals for fun as the Giants returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. They had a chance to advance to the quarter-final round for the first time in eight years, but ended up losing in overtime in Game 6 and then fell 4-3 at home to the Victoria Royals the following night.

Forwards

Departing

  • Tyler Benson (98 – 27-42-69 – Bakersfield Condors – Edmonton Oilers – Signed)
  • Tyler Popowich (00 – 8-6-14 – Retired)
  • Ty Ronning (97 – 61-23-84 – Hartford Wolf Pack – New York Rangers – Signed)

Returning

  • Aidan Barfoot (01 – 5-2-7)
  • Jared Dmytriw (98 – 15-11-26)
  • Owen Hardy (99 – 11-12-23)
  • Tyler Ho (00 – 1-8-9)
  • Dawson Holt (99 – 12-22-34)
  • Davis Koch (98 – 22-36-58)
  • James Malm (99 – 19-47-66)
  • Cyle McNabb (00 – 1-7-8)
  • Milos Roman (99 – 10-22-32)
  • Hunor Torzsok (00 – 1-1-2)
  • Brayden Watts (99 – 17-22-39)

Arriving

  • Evan Patrician (01 – 7th in ’16 – 13-19-32 – Calgary Midget Flames)
  • Justin Sourdif (02 – 1st in ’17 – 23-50-73 – Valley West Hawks)
  • Lukas Svejkovsky (01 – 2nd in ’16 – 5-6-11 – Wenatchee Wild)
  • Yannik Valenti (00 – ’17 Import Draft – 25-10-35 – Jungalder Mannheim U19)

NHL Prospects

  • Milos Roman (Calgary Flames – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • Harrison Blaisdell (01 – 2nd in ’16 – 9-12-21 – Chilliwack Chiefs – North Dakota Fighting Hawks)
  • Shane Lavelle (01 – Listed – 18-13-31 – Chaska High School – Wisconsin Badgers)
  • Keaton Mastrodonato (00 – Listed – 20-22-42 – Alberni Valley Bulldogs – Canisius Golden Griffins)
  • Devlin McCabe (00 – 7th in ’15 – 16-17-33 – Lincoln Stars – Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs)
  • Cole Shepard (02 – 2nd in ’17 – 19-34-53 – Delta Hockey Academy – Penticton Vees – Harvard Crimson)

Although Benson and Ronning are gone, the Giants still have some good weapons on the roster. A full season from Roman will be a major help, while Koch and Malm might sneak into the top scorers in the league with an increase in production. They did lose Popowich though, who was the third overall pick three years ago and only had 23 points in two WHL campaigns.

Sourdif has put up a ton of points over the last few years and should have a solid rookie campaign to lead the new faces. It’s worth noting though that Blaisdell and Shepard would be huge additions to the team if they ever come over, but that seems a bit unlikely at this point.

Defencemen

Departing

  • Marcus Kichton (99 – 0-1-1)
  • Brennan Riddle (97 – 1-11-12 – Regina Cougars)
  • Darian Skeoch (97 – 2-4-6)

Returning

  • Matt Barberis (98 – 3-27-30)
  • Kaleb Bulych (00 – 1-8-9)
  • Bowen Byram (01 – 6-21-27)
  • Bailey Dhaliwal (99 – 0-1-1)
  • Alex Kannok-Leipert (00 – 5-16-21)
  • Dylan Plouffe (99 – 9-31-40)

Arriving

  • Parker Hendren (01 – 7th in ’16 – 9-26-35 – Regina Pat Canadians)
  • Joel Sexsmith (02 – Swift Current’s 1st in ’17 – 3-13-16 – Edge School)

NHL Prospects

  • Alex Kannok-Leipert (Washington Capitals – Unsigned)

Rights Held 

  • Max Gildon (99 – 3rd in ’14 – 8-15-23 – New Hampshire Wildcats – Florida Panthers – Unsigned)
  • Jack Judson (00 – 10th in ’15 – 5-15-20 – Vernon Vipers – Arizona State Sun Devils)
  • Jack Lagerstrom (00 – 11th in ’15 – 15-34-49 – Shattuck St. Mary’s – Penticton Vees – Cornell Big Red)

If Jack Hughes is far and away the best forward prospect in the 2019 draft pool, then Byram is the clubhouse leader to be the first blueliner selected in June. Sweden’s Philip Broberg, Finland’s Anntoni Honka and Matthew Robertson of the Edmonton Oil Kings all have a case, but it looks like the runner-up for the 2018 WHL Rookie of the Year award will be making his way on the stage fairly early in Vancouver.

Besides Byram, there’s some interesting pieces on the Giants blueline. Barberis and Plouffe have helped to contribute on offence in recent years, while Kannok-Liepiert will look to build off of being drafted by the Capitals this summer. The addition of Sexsmith at last year’s trade deadline is a big move for the future, as he’s another young talent to add in the mix with Byram.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • N/A

Returning

  • Trent Miner (01 – 4.20 – 3-4-0-0 – .885)
  • David Tendeck (99 – 3.02 – 25-16-3-2 – .912)

Arriving

  • N/A

NHL Prospects

  • David Tendeck (Arizona Coyotes – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • N/A

Of the top five goalies in save percentage in the WHL last year, only two of them are coming back to the league. One of them is Griffin Outhouse of the Victoria Royals, who was second with a .914 mark, and the other is Tendeck, who was fourth with a .912 mark. Granted, they were all well back of Carter Hart’s .947 save percentage last year, but I digress.

Having made huge strides from his rookie campaign and being drafted by the Coyotes this summer, Tendeck should have another impressive campaign if his upward trend continues. After they dealt Todd Scott to Edmonton in January to bring in Koch, Miner was called up for the backup role. The former first rounder might not play a lot, but he’s a good guy to have in the wings in case Tendeck falters.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • Glen Hanlon (General Manager for Two Seasons – Was also an Assistant Coach from 2011-13 – Head Coach for DVTK Jegesmedvek)
  • Jason McKee (Head Coach for Two Seasons)
  • Dean Chynoweth (Associate Coach For One Season – Assistant Coach for Carolina Hurricanes)

Returning

  • Paul Fricker (Goaltending Coach – Eighth Season)

Arriving

  • Barclay Parneta (General Manager – Assistant General Manager for Three Seasons and Scout for Eight Seasons with the Tri-City Americans)
  • Michael Dyck (Head Coach – Head Coach with Lethbridge Midget Hurricanes for One Season – Previously an Assistant Coach with the Giants from 2002-05)
  • Jamie Heward (Associate Coach – Assistant Coach and Director of Player Development with the Swift Current Broncos for Six Seasons)

With Hanlon leaving the team, the Giants brought in a long-time WHL executive in Parneta to take over as general manager. Despite McKee doing a solid job the last two years, and the Giants having a rotating door of coaches after Don Hay left, Parneta decided to change course behind the bench and bring in his own guy.

Dyck’s been around the WHL and has a previous stint with the Giants, so that familiarity might help out. The addition of Heward is a nice one a hockey operations staff that has a ton of experience at this level.

Best Case Scenario

A strong offensive showing and excellent goaltending from Tendeck leads the Giants to their first division crown since 2010 and their best playoff run since that season. Although the Vancouver Canucks miss out on getting Jack Hughes, they get a nice consolation prize by drafting Byram on draft day.

Worst Case Scenario

The losses of Benson and Ronning are too much to overcome and Tendeck takes a step back. The Giants fail to get out of the first round yet again as the fans wonder why McKee was let go in the first place.

Current 2019 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: No Picks
  • Round 2: Three Picks (Saskatoon and Swift Current)
  • Round 3: One Pick
  • Round 4: One Pick
  • Round 5: Two Picks (Tri-City)
  • Round 6: One Pick
  • Round 7: One Pick
  • Round 8: One Pick
  • Round 9: One Pick
  • Round 10: One Pick
  • Round 11: One Pick
  • Round 12: One Pick
Griffen Outhouse (Jonathan Howe/Victoria Royals)

Victoria Royals

Last Season

The additions of Noah Gregor and Tanner Kaspick made the Royals an intriguing team to watch over the second half. Although they made it to the second round for the fourth time in five years, they were swept aside by the Tri-City Americans.

Forwards

Departing

  • Braydon Buziak (98 – 5-10-15 – Battlefords North Stars)
  • Jeff De Wit (98 – 11-9-20 – Red Deer Rebels)
  • Noah Gregor (98 – 29-36-65 – San Jose Barracuda – San Jose Sharks – Signed – Rights Traded to the Prince Albert Raiders)
  • Andrei Grishakov (99 – 19-20-39 – Lada Togliatti)
  • Tanner Kaspick (98 – 25-39-64 – San Antonio Rampage – St. Louis Blues – Signed)
  • Matthew Phillips (98 – 48-64-112 – Stockton Heat – Calgary Flames – Signed)
  • Tyler Soy (97 – 36-56-92 – San Diego Gulls)

Returning 

  • Tarun Fizer (01 – 2-5-7)
  • Dante Hannoun (98 – 25-54-79)
  • D-Jay Jerome (99 – 0-1-1)
  • Dino Kambeitz (00 – 11-7-18)
  • Igor Martynov (99 – 18-25-43)
  • Kaid Oliver (00 – 6-19-25)
  • Lane Zablocki (98 – 12-19-31)

Arriving

  • Brandon Cutler (00 – 6-5-11 – Red Deer Rebels)
  • Logan Doust (01 – Saskatoon’s 9th in ’16 – 6-10-16 – Vancouver NW Giants)
  • Tyus Gent (01 – 4th in ’16 – 21-24-45 – Delta Hockey Academy)
  • Tyler Lees (00 – 2-1-3 – Saskatoon Blades)
  • Phillip Schultz (00 – ’18 Import Draft – 5-7-12 – Rodovre Mighty Bulls)
  • Tanner Sidaway (99 – 1-4-5 – Regina Pats)
  • Ty Yoder (02 – 5th in ’17 – 44-30-74 – Northern Alberta Xtreme)

NHL Prospects

  • Lane Zablocki (Detroit Red Wings – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • Elan Bar-Lev-Wise (01 – 6th in ’16 – 22-39-61 – Burnaby Winter Club – Vernon Vipers – Ohio State Buckeyes)
  • Ben Berard (99 – 7th in ’14 – 29-38-67 – Powell River Kings – Cornell Big Red)
  • Angus Crookshank (99 – Listed – 22-23-45 – Langley Rivermen – New Hampshire Wildcats – Ottawa Senators – Unsigned)
  • Sean Donaldson (01 – Listed – 36-30-66 – Burnaby Winter Club – Trail Smoke Eaters – UConn Huskies)
  • Luke Mylymok (01 – 4th in ’16 – 32-29-61 – Notre Dame Midget Hounds – Green Bay Gamblers – Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs)
  • Hunter Strand (02 – Prince Albert’s 6th in ’17 – 40-27-67 – Alaska Oilers – US NTDP – Notre Dame Fighting Irish)

With Gregor, Kaspick, Phillips and Soy all moving on, the Royals have a ton of holes on offence that will take some time to fill. They do have some returning guys that will help though, as Zablocki appears to be coming back for another junior season and Hannoun might be a sleeper pick for the league’s scoring title.

If they were able to convince Bar-Lev-Wise, Mylymok or Strand to come over to the WHL and forgo their NCAA commitments, that would help the team out immensely. At this point though, it might be a reliance on the older players in the early stages.

Defencemen

Departing 

  • Jared Freadrich (98 – 12-20-32 – Portland Winterhawks)
  • Kade Jensen (97 – 7-10-17 – Mount Royal Cougars)
  • Chaz Reddekopp (97 – 7-24-31 – Ontario Reign – Los Angeles Kings – Signed)

Returning

  • Ralph Jarratt (98 – 2-13-15)
  • Mitchell Prowse (00 – 1-17-18)
  • Matthew Smith (00 – 3-10-13)
  • Scott Walford (99 – 2-30-32)

Arriving

  • Remy Aquilon (01 – Listed – 1-12-13 – Okanagan Rockets)
  • Parker Malchuk (01 – Listed – 13-19-32 – Yellowhead Midget AAA Chiefs)
  • Jameson Murray (99 – 1-5-6 – Everett Silvertips)

NHL Prospects 

  • Scott Walford (Montreal Canadiens – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • Luke Bast (00 – 6th in ’15 – 8-23-31 – Brooks Bandits – North Dakota Fighting Hawks)
  • Michael Benning (02 – 7th in ’17 – 14-35-49 – Northern Alberta Xtreme – Sherwood Park Crusaders – Denver Pioneers)
  • Daniel Hilsendager (00 – Listed – 9-21-30 – Lloydminster Bobcats – Tri-City Storm – Western Michigan Broncos)
  • K’Andre Miller (00 – Saskatoon’s 9th in ’15 – 4-12-16 – US NTDP – Wisconsin Badgers – New York Rangers – Unsigned)
  • Luke Reid (01 – 2nd in ’16 – 2-16-18 – Penticton Vees – Chicago Steel – North Dakota Fighting Hawks)

Like the offence, there’s a bit of a sea change taking place on defence as three of the Royals top blueliners are leaving town. Having Walford back should help though and there’s a chance of Prowse and Smith making big leaps.

However, there are some gaping holes that could be filled if any of Bast, Benning, Hilsendager, Miller or Reid were to come over instead of going to the NCAA. Just the presence of one of those players could change the outlook of this team tremendously.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • N/A

Returning

  • Dean McNabb (00 – 4.52 – 4-10-0-0 – .870)
  • Griffen Outhouse (98 – 3.08 – 35-17-4-1 – .914)

Arriving

  • Brock Gould (01 – Listed – 2.60 – 14-4-0 – .901 – Rink Hockey Academy)

NHL Prospects 

  • N/A

Rights Held 

  • N/A

Outhouse has been under the shadow of Carter Hart and Stuart Skinner among others for the last couple of years, but he now enters his final season of junior hockey as possibly the best netminder in the WHL. If there’s any goaltender that can steal a game, it’s this guy.

McNab didn’t have a great year, but he should still be the backup and could end up being the starter if Outhouse is dealt, which leaves Gould as the next man up on the depth chart.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • N/A

Returning

  • Cameron Hope (General Manager – Seventh Season)
  • Dan Price (Head Coach – Second Season)
  • JF Best (Assistant Coach – Second Season)
  • Doug Bodger (Assistant Coach – Third Season)
  • Lynden Sammartino (Goaltending Coach – Fourth Season)

Arriving

  • N/A

Everything’s the same in the hockey operations department, which is probably a good thing, especially as the Royals seem set to enter a new era after this season with many top players graduating.

Best Case Scenario

With two of the top overagers in the league, the Royals surprise many throughout the course of the campaign and earn home ice for the opening round of the playoffs.

Worst Case Scenario

In addition to postponing their Memorial Cup bid until 2023, the Royals fall back in the standings early and trade away their top players. They end up finishing at the bottom of the division and a youth movement begins in full force.

Current 2019 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: One Pick (Saskatoon)
  • Round 2: Two Picks (Red Deer)
  • Round 3: One Pick (Prince Albert)
  • Round 4: Three Picks (Brandon and Regina)
  • Round 5: No Pick
  • Round 6: No Pick
  • Round 7: No Pick
  • Round 8: No Pick
  • Round 9: One Pick
  • Round 10: Three Picks (Everett and Portland)
  • Round 11: One Pick
  • Round 12: One Pick

 

Thierman Financial