2018-19 WHL Season Preview: US Division

This is the fourth 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. 

Riley Sutter (Chris Mast/Everett Silvertips)

Everett Silvertips

Last Season

As Carter Hart turned into a goaltending god, the Silvertips strengthened their squad by landing Garrett Pilon and Ondrej Vala from the Kamloops Blazers. The Silvertips then went on to their first league final since their expansion season in 2004 but ended up losing in six games to the Swift Current Broncos.

Forwards

Departing

  • Patrick Bajkov (97 – 33-67-100 – Springfield Thunderbirds – Florida Panthers – Signed)
  • Matt Fonteyne (97 – 35-53-88 – San Jose Barracuda)
  • Spencer Gerth (98 – 5-5-10 – Trinity Western Spartans)
  • Ethan O’Rourke (99 – 6-12-18 – Swift Current Broncos)
  • Garrett Pilon (98 – 34-46-80 – Hershey Bears – Washington Capitals – Signed)

Returning

  • Akash Bains (99 – 2-5-7)
  • Dawson Butt (00 – 1-2-3)
  • Connor Dewar (99 – 38-30-68)
  • Martin Fasko-Rudas (00 – 6-9-15)
  • Bryce Kindopp (99 – 24-12-36)
  • Luke Ormsby (99 – 2-4-6)
  • Sean Richards (98 – 20-29-49)
  • Bronson Sharp (99 – 1-2-3)
  • Riley Sutter (99 – 25-28-53)
  • Reece Vitelli (01 – 2-8-10)

Arriving

  • Jackson Berezowski (02 – 2nd in ’17 – 14-18-32 – Yorkton Maulers)
  • Gage Goncalves (01 – Listed – 30-41-71 – Fraser Valley Thunderbirds)
  • Peter Melcher (01 – ’18 Import Draft – 17-10-27 – MHC Martin U18)
  • Conrad Mitchell (01 – 7th in ’16 – 6-4-10 – Leduc Midget Oil Kings)
  • Jalen Price (01 – Medicine Hat’s 3rd in ’16 – 18-23-41 – Campbell River Storm)

NHL Prospects

  • Connor Dewar (Minnesota Wild – Unsigned)
  • Riley Sutter (Washington Capitals – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • Carson Dimoff (99 – 7th in ’14 – 8-10-18 – Sioux Falls Stampede – St. Lawrence Saints)
  • Dylan Holloway (01 – 6th in ’16 – 11-16-27 – Okotoks Oilers – Wisconsin Badgers)
  • Demetrios Koumontzis (00 – 8th in ’15 – 20-21-41 – Edina High School – Arizona State Sun Devils – Calgary Flames – Unsigned)
  • Ryan Robinson (01 – 7th in ’17 – 19-23-42 – Dallas Stars U16 – Fargo Force – Arizona State Sun Devils)
  • Ryan Savage (00 – 4th in ’15 – 8-7-15 – Omaha Lancers – Miami Redhawks)
  • Austin Spiridakis (02 – 12th in ’17 – 7-9-16 – St. Albert Midget Raiders – Quinnipiac Bobcats)
  • Brett Stapley (99 – Listed – Calgary’s 7th in ’14 – 27-32-59 – Vernon Vipers – Denver Pioneers – Montreal Canadiens)

The Silvertips do lose three of their key weapons with Bajkov, Fonteyne and Pilon all graduating, but they still have some strong pieces at their disposal. Richards might have an impressive overage campaign after nearly getting 50 points last season, while Dewar and Sutter should increase their offensive production in the second year of the post Kevin Constantine era.

Keen observers of Canada’s squad at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup will recognize Holloway, who was the lone Junior A player to make the team. He’s not eligible for the NHL Draft until 2020, so it will be interesting to see if the Silvertips new coaching style will help them land a top prospect. It will be a nice change for the club as they missed out getting the likes of Nick Henry, Auston Matthews, Tyson Jost and Casey Mittelstadt in recent years.

Defencemen

Departing

  • Kevin Davis (97 – 10-55-65 – Colorado Eagles)
  • Jameson Murray (99 – 1-5-6 – Victoria Royals)
  • Ondrej Vala (98 – 7-21-28 – Texas Stars – Dallas Stars – Signed)

Returning

  • Jacob Christiansen (99 – 6-25-31)
  • Gianni Fairbrother (00 – 2-3-5)
  • Ian Walker (00 – 1-7-8)
  • Kyle Walker (00 – 1-5-6)
  • Wyatte Wylie (99 – 6-25-31)

Arriving

  • Dylan Anderson (02 – 4th in ’17 – 3-10-13 – Fraser Valley Thunderbirds)
  • Sahvan Khaira (98 – 6-20-26 – Swift Current Broncos)
  • Alex Moar (01 – 5th in ’16 – 6-17-23 – Prince Albert Mintos)
  • Ronan Seeley (02 – 1st in ’17 – 5-26-31 – Lethbridge Midget Hurricanes)

NHL Prospects

  • Wyatte Wylie (Philadelphia Flyers – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • Matt Anderson (99 – 10th in ’14 – 1-5-6 – Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs)
  • Nathan Knoepke (99 – 9th in ’14 – 0-14-14 – Sioux City Musketeers – Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks)

Although they lose Davis and Vala, the Silvertips still have some solid options on the blueline. A local product, Wylie got drafted this past season by the Flyers, while Christiansen matched him in point production.

They also brought in Khaira from the Broncos after having to face him in the WHL final. One of the toughest blueliners in the league, especially come playoff time, his addition should be a great one to help mentor the younger defenders.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • Carter Hart (98 – 1.60 – 31-6-1-3 – .947 – Lehigh Valley Phantoms – Philadelphia Flyers – Signed)

Returning 

  • Dustin Wolf (01 – 2.25 – 13-6-0-0 – .928)

Arriving

  • Blake Lyda (02 – 4th in ’17 – 2.46 – 13-6-5 – .931 – Edmonton Minor Midget Canadians)

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • N/A

Despite losing the winner of the last three WHL goaltender of the year awards, the Silvertips already have their starter mapped out as Wolf got a lot of playing time this past season when Hart was away at the World Juniors. He also impressed for the United States at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, so he might end up being a sleeper candidate to be the top goalie in the league in the next couple of years.

With Lyda behind him on the depth chart, it will be a young goaltending tandem in Everett this season, but that’s to be expected after Hart ran the show like he did for so long.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • Mitch Love (Assistant Coach for Seven Seasons – Head Coach with the Saskatoon Blades)
  • Shane Clifford (Goaltending Coach for Five Seasons – Goaltending Coach with the Erie Otters)

Returning

  • Gerry Davidson (General Manager – Seventh Season)
  • Dennis Williams (Head Coach – Second Season)

Arriving 

  • Harry Mahood (Assistant Coach – Previously Assistant Coach with the Bloomington Thunder in 2014-15)
  • Louis Maas (Assistant Coach – Previously Assistant Coach for Three Seasons with the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves)
  • James Jensen (Goaltending Coach – Previously Goaltending Coach with the Los Angeles Jr. Kings)

Love’s been considered for a number of coaching gigs in the last couple of years and he finally took the plunge in trying to lead the Blades back to the playoffs. This marks the second season of the Williams tenure, and it will be interesting to see how the Silvertips play going forward, especially with Hart now gone.

Best Case Scenario

Wolf picks up where Hart left off in goal for the Silvertips, while the veterans continue their development and increase their point totals, leading the new look lineup to another division crown.

Worst Case Scenario

A drop-off ensues as Wolf struggles in his first season as a starter. As a result, the likes of Dewar and Sutter are dealt at the deadline as the Silvertips sneak into the post-season.

Current 2019 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: No Picks
  • Round 2: One Pick
  • Round 3: Two Picks (Kelowna)
  • Round 4: No Picks
  • Round 5: One Pick
  • Round 6: No Picks
  • Round 7: One Pick
  • Round 8: One Pick
  • Round 9: One Pick
  • Round 10: No Pick
  • Round 11: One Pick
  • Round 12: One Pick
Cody Glass (Portland Winterhawks)

Portland Winterhawks

Last Season

Widely tipped to be one of the main threats to contend for the WHL crown, the Winterhawks had a few ups and downs during the season despite finishing a handful of points behind the Silvertips in the divisional race. They were pushed to seven games in the first round by Spokane before falling in five games to Everett.

Forwards

Departing

  • Kieffer Bellows (98 – 41-33-74 – Bridgeport Sound Tigers – New York Islanders – Signed)
  • Skyler McKenzie (98 – 47-40-87 – Manitoba Moose – Winnipeg Jets – Signed)
  • Alex Overhardt (97 – 15-25-40)

Returning

  • Joachim Blichfeld (98 – 24-32-56)
  • Lane Gilliss (99 – 7-13-20)
  • Cody Glass (99 – 37-65-102)
  • Jake Gricius (99 – 13-11-24)
  • Ryan Hughes (99 – 17-24-41)
  • Ty John Kolle (00 – 7-7-14)
  • Conor MacEachern (98 – 3-12-15)
  • Lukus MacKenzie (99 – 2-11-13)
  • Mason Mannek (00 – 10-12-22)
  • Reece Newkirk (01 – 8-3-11)

Arriving 

  • Haydn Delorme (00 – Listed – Vancouver’s 9th in ’15 – 6-8-14 – Coquitlam Express)
  • Jaydon Dureau (01 – 8th in ’16 – 32-42-74 – Regina Pat Canadians)
  • Robbie Fromm-Delorme (02 – 7th in ’17 – 7-10-17 – The Governor’s Academy)
  • Cross Hanas (02 – 4th in ’17 – 17-19-36 – Dallas Stars U16)
  • Seth Jarvis (02 – 1st in ’17 – 32-28-60 – Rink Hockey Academy)
  • Michal Kvasnica (00 – ’18 Import Draft – 6-10-16 – HC Frydek-Mistek)
  • Dean Schwenninger (01 – ’18 Import Draft – 13-24-37 – Zug U17)

NHL Prospects

  • Joachim Blichfeld (San Jose Sharks – Signed)
  • Cody Glass (Vegas Golden Knights – Signed)

Rights Held

  • Judd Caulfield (01 – 10th in ’16 – 5-16-21 – US NTDP – North Dakota Fighting Hawks)
  • Cole Guttman (99 – 8th in ’14 – 6-5-11 – Dubuque Fighting Saints – Denver Pioneers – Tampa Bay Lightning – Unsigned)
  • Jack Jensen (00 – Listed – 20-18-38 – Eden Prairie High School – Minnesota Golden Gophers – Minnesota Golden Gophers)
  • Brannon McManus (99 – 4th in ’14 – 7-2-9 – Minnesota Golden Gophers)
  • Joe Miller (02 – Listed – 12-25-37 – Blake High School – Minnesota Golden Gophers)
  • Ryan Poehling (99 – Listed – 14-17-31 – St. Cloud State Huskies – Montreal Canadiens – Unsigned)
  • Scott Reedy (99 – 4th in ’14 – 7-8-15 – Minnesota Golden Gophers – San Jose Sharks – Unsigned)
  • Aidan Thompson (02 – 7th in ’17 – 8-15-23 – Colorado Thunderbirds – Denver Pioneers)
  • Chase Yoder (02 – 11th in ’17 – 14-20-34 – Dallas Stars U16 – US NTDP – Providence Friars)

As a number of pieces depart to the pro ranks, the offence officially becomes the Cody Glass show. A threat to lead the league in scoring, Glass should be one of the best players in the WHL and a leader for Canada at the World Juniors, unless he’s able to crack the Golden Knights lineup.

With the likes of Bellows and McKenzie graduating, you can expect the team to want guys like Gricius and Hughes to step up their scoring as they need to replace a pair of 40-goal snipers. There’s also a lot of young talent coming in, including yet another Winnipeg prospect in Seth Jarvis.

Portland also received an unexpected surprise Thursday as Blichfeld was reassigned by the San Jose Sharks. Not only does it give the team another weapon on offence, but it also means the Winterhawks have to figure out what to do on the import front as they could have as many as four Europeans on the roster when October arrives.

Defencemen

Departing

  • Dennis Cholowski (98 – 14-52-66 – Grand Rapids Griffins – Detroit Red Wings – Signed)
  • Keoni Texeira (97 – 9-24-33 – Wichita Thunder)

Returning

  • Brendan De Jong (98 – 6-19-25)
  • Clay Hanus (01 – 0-6-6)
  • Henri Jokiharju (99 – 12-59-71)
  • John Ludvig (00 – 2-5-7)
  • Matthew Quigley (99 – 2-20-22)

Arriving

  • Nick Cicek (00 – 7th in ’15 – 6-10-16 – Winnipeg Blues)
  • Jared Freadrich (98 – 12-20-32 – Victoria Royals)
  • Ryan Miley (00 – Listed – 0-1-1 – Sioux Falls Stampede U18)
  • Kade Nolan (01 – 01 – 4th in ’16 – 3-15-18 – Notre Dame Midget Hounds)
  • Nick Perna (01 – Listed – 3-8-11 – Dallas Stars U16)

NHL Prospects

  • Brendan De Jong (Carolina Hurricanes – Unsigned)
  • Henri Jokiharju (Chicago Blackhawks – Signed)

Rights Held

  • Slava Demin (00 – 6th in ’15 – 9-36-45 – Wenatchee Wild – Denver Pioneers – Vegas Golden Knights – Unsigned)
  • Drew Helleson (01 – Listed – 2-16-18 – US NTDP – Boston College Eagles)
  • Ryan Helliwell (02 – 3rd in ’17 – 6-35-41 – Burnaby Winter Club – Langley Rivermen – Notre Dame Fighting Irish)
  • Ryan Johnson (01 – Listed – 12-33-45 – Anaheim Jr. Ducks U16 – Sioux Falls Stampede – Minnesota Golden Gophers)
  • Tyler Kleven (02 – 10th in ’17 – 9-7-16 – Fargo Davies High School – US NTDP – North Dakota Fighting Hawks)
  • Clayton Phillips (99 – Listed – 0-0-0 – Minnesota Golden Gophers – Pittsburgh Penguins – Unsigned)

The biggest question about the Winterhawks defence has to do with Jokiharju and whether or not he ends up starting his pro career with the Blackhawks after training camp. If he’s back in the league, he’s a favourite for the top blueliner honours. If he’s playing elsewhere, Portland’s blueline takes a major hit.

The addition of Fredrich to play with another overager in De Jong will help, but some of the younger faces will be expected to try and replace the offence that Cholowski and Texieria brought. If they were somehow able to get Demin away from the NCAA ranks, that might be a big piece for the future.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • Cole Kehler (97 – 2.77 – 30-16-1-4 – .909 – Ontario Reign – Los Angeles Kings – Signed)

Returning

  • Shane Farkas (99 – 2.79 – 14-6-0-1 – .913)

Arriving

  • Dante Giannuzzi (02 – 5th in ’17 – 3.24 – 13-9-0 – .890 – Rink Hockey Academy)

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • Aaron Randazzo (01 – Listed – 1.62 – 19-2-0 – .920 – Notre Dame Midget Hounds – Dubuque Fighting Saints – St. Cloud State Huskies)
  • Ty Taylor (99 – Listed – 1.87 – 23-5-3 – .931 – Vernon Vipers – New Hampshire Wildcats – Tampa Bay Lightning – Unsigned)

After coming over from the BCHL two years ago, Farkas has bided his time under Kehler and is set to take over the starting duties at last. There will be a talented youngster behind him looking to steal some playing time in Giannuzzi, but it’s Farkas’ job to lose.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • Matt Bardsley (Assistant General Manager for Five Seasons – General Manager with the Kamloops Blazers)
  • Danny Flynn (Assistant Coach for One Season – Scout with the Columbus Blue Jackets)

Returning

  • Mike Johnston (General Manager and Head Coach – Eighth Season)
  • Kyle Gustafson (Associate Coach – Sixteenth Season – Also First Season as Assistant General Manager)
  • Tyler Love (Goaltending Coach – Tenth Season)

Arriving 

  • Don Hay (Assistant Coach – Head Coach with Kamloops Blazers for Four Seasons)

With Bardsley crossing the border to take a GM job, Gustafson has earned himself a new title to go along with his coaching gigs. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Johnson give him more of a role in the future, but that’s a long way off.

Meanwhile, the winningest coach in WHL history is now joining the Winterhawks bench as Hay joins the team after being thrown to the curb in Kamloops. Him and Johnson should be a great duo as they’ve forgotten more about that game than most people will ever know.

Best Case Scenario

With Glass and Jokiharju turning in two of the best campaigns in recent memory, the Winterhawks reach the top of the US Division and enjoy their best campaign since making the conference final in 2015.

Worst Case Scenario

Jokiharju ends up starting his pro career in Chicago and Glass surprisingly makes the Golden Knights roster. As such, a younger Winterhawks squad spins their wheels and go out of the playoffs in rather quiet fashion.

Current 2019 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: One Pick
  • Round 2: No Picks
  • Round 3: Two Picks (Kootenay)
  • Round 4: One Pick
  • Round 5: One Pick
  • Round 6: One Pick
  • Round 7: One Pick
  • Round 8: One Pick
  • Round 9: One Pick
  • Round 10: No Pick
  • Round 11: One Pick
  • Round 12: One Pick
Jarret Tyszka (Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds)

Seattle Thunderbirds

Last Season

A year after winning their first WHL championship, the Thunderbirds ended up falling to the bottom of the US Division standings. They still made the playoffs as the second wildcard, but were ousted by the archrival Silvertips in five games.

Forwards

Departing

  • Blake Bargar (98 – 11-13-24 – Wenatchee Wild)
  • Holden Katzalay (00 – 0-2-2)
  • Mike MacLean (98 – 2-2-4 – Prince George Cougars)
  • Nikita Malukhin (00 – 5-4-9)
  • Sami Moilanen (99 – 22-23-45 – Tappara)
  • Donovan Neuls (97 – 22-54-76 – Saskatchewan Huskies)

Returning

  • Zack Andrusiak (98 – 36-38-74)
  • Tyler Carpendale (00 – 3-2-5)
  • Dillon Hamaliuk (00 – 15-24-39)
  • Samuel Huo (01 – 3-3-6)
  • Jaxan Kaluski (99 – 3-2-5)
  • Noah Philp (98 – 14-36-50)
  • Nolan Volcan (98 – 32-44-76)
  • Matthew Wedman (99 – 17-30-47)

Arriving

  • Graeme Brkys (01 – 8th in ’16 – 11-8-19 – Spruce Grove Saints)
  • Keegan Craik (01 – Prince George’s 5th in ’16 – 13-16-29 – Delta Hockey Academy)
  • Jared Davidson (02 – Listed – 18-25-43 – SSAC Minor Midget Bulldogs)
  • Andrej Kukuca (99 – ’18 Import Draft – 41-26-67 – HK Dukla Trencin U20)
  • Payton Mount (02 – 1st in ’17 – 22-27-49 – Delta Hockey Academy)
  • Cody Savey (01 – Listed – 2-3-5 – Campbell River Storm)

NHL Prospects 

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • Cameron Berg (02 – 9th in ’17 – 4-3-7 – Omaha Lancers U16 – Omaha Lancers – Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks)
  • Baker Shore (99 – 6th in ’14 – 23-25-48 – Chicago Steel – Harvard Crimson)

Although they lose Neuls and Moilanen is leaving for Europe a year early, the Thunderbirds do have a nice trio of overage forwards to rely on offensively with Andrusiak, Philp and Volcan. Wedman almost cracked the 50-point plateau last year and should do so this season, while Mount is worth keeping an eye for this year’s rookie class.

Another piece to watch that might help with the offence is Kukuca, as he’s a veteran player and has put up a ton of points the last couple of years in Slovakia.

Defencemen

Departing 

  • Turner Ottenbreit (97 – 9-38-47 – Colorado Eagles)
  • Austin Strand (97 – 25-39-64 – Ontario Reign – Los Angeles Kings – Signed)
  • Tyson Terretta (00 – 0-1-1 – Retired)

Returning

  • Reece Harsch (99 – 10-15-25)
  • Jake Lee (01 – 4-6-10)
  • Cade McNelly (01 – 0-0-0)
  • Jarret Tyszka (99 – 8-32-40)
  • Owen Williams (00 – 0-6-6)

Arriving

  • Tyrel Bauer (02 – 2nd in ’17 – 3-8-11 – Airdrie CFR Bisons)
  • Simon Kubicek (01 – ’18 Import Draft – 9-10-19 – HC Ceske Budejovice U18)
  • Payton McIsaac (00 – Listed – Saskatoon’s 2nd in ’15 – 2-8-10 – Sherwood Park Crusaders)

NHL Prospects

  • Jarret Tyszka (Montreal Canadiens – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • Layton Ahac (01 – 3rd in ’16 – 6-22-28 – Prince George Spruce Kings – Ohio State Buckeyes)
  • Mike Koster (01 – Listed – 14-41-55 – Chaska High School – Minnesota Golden Gophers)

Only Harsch and Tyszka remain from the 2017 championship blueline, and Tyszka might be a target for teams looking to add a veteran player at the deadline. Lee is another draft eligible player worth keeping an eye on, but it feels like the depth is lacking a little bit after that.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • Dorrin Luding (99 – 3.78 – 9-15-1-0 – .884 – Saskatoon Blades)
  • Carl Stankowski (00 – 0.00 – 0-0-0 – N/A – Injured Last Season – Calgary Hitmen)

Returning

  • Liam Hughes (99 – 3.15 – 16-12-5-1 – .909)

Arriving

  • Cole Schwebius (01 – 10th in ’16 – 2.95 – 14-12-3 – N/A – Okanagan Rockets)
  • Eric Ward (01 – Listed – 4.58 – 4-14-3 – .892 – Edmonton Midget Canadians)

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • N/A

The 2017 Memorial Cup round robin in Windsor proved to be the last time that Stankowski ever played for the Thunderbirds. After his incredible playoff run as a rookie, he missed the entire 2017-18 season with injuries and medical issues, which played a part in his trade to the Hitmen last month.

With his departure, and the trade of Luding to Saskatoon, Hughes is the outright starter with no clear backup behind him. He had decent numbers last year though and should have another solid campaign.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • Russ Farwell (General Manager for 25 Seasons – Vice President of Hockey Operations)

Returning

  • Matt O’Dette (Head Coach – Second Season)
  • Kyle Hagel (Assistant Coach – Second Season)
  • Castan Sommer (Assistant Coach – Second Season)
  • Ian Gordon (Goaltending Coach – Sixth Season)

Arriving 

  • Bill LaForge (General Manager – Director of Player Personnel with the Everett Silvertips for Four Seasons)

After selling his ownership stake last year, Farwell is taking a step back from the general manager duties as LaForge moves over from the in-state rivals. The rest of the coaching staff is back too, which is good for a squad set to enter a new era.

Best Case Scenario

They aren’t a flashy bunch, but the Thunderbirds lean on their veteran players to earn the third seed in the US Division and are a thorn in the side to Portland and Spokane throughout the campaign.

Worst Case Scenario

Languishing at the bottom of the standings, the Thunderbirds deal their older guys away and start a youth movement. As a result, they miss out on the post-season for the first time since 2012.

Current 2019 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: One Pick
  • Round 2: Two Picks (Regina)
  • Round 3: One Pick (Medicine Hat)
  • Round 4: No Picks
  • Round 5: One Pick (Prince George)
  • Round 6: No Picks
  • Round 7: One Pick
  • Round 8: Two Picks (Calgary)
  • Round 9: No Picks
  • Round 10: One Pick
  • Round 11: One Pick
  • Round 12: One Pick
Jaret Anderson-Dolan (Larry Brunt/Spokane Chiefs)

Spokane Chiefs

Last Season

Although they didn’t have Kailer Yamamoto for the whole season due to him making the Edmonton Oilers out of training camp, the Chiefs had one of the best offences in the league and cracked the 40-win mark for the first time since 2014. They fell in seven games to the Winterhawks in the first round, but it was still the best result for the squad in a number of years.

Forwards

Departing

  • Cedric Chenier (00 – 2-4-6)
  • Hudson Elyniuk (97 – 31-55-86 – Toronto Marlies)
  • Milos Fafrak (99 – 9-10-19 – Team Slovakia)
  • Zach Fischer (97 – 22-14-36 – Stockton Heat)
  • Riley McKay (99 – 4-9-13 – Saskatoon Blades)
  • Kailer Yamamoto (98 – 21-43-64 – Edmonton Oilers)

Returning

  • Jaret Anderson-Dolan (99 – 40-51-91)
  • Carter Chorney (01 – 2-0-2)
  • Jake McGrew (99 – 19-19-38)
  • Ethan McIndoe (99 – 21-21-42)
  • Luke Toporowski (01 – 10-13-23)
  • Riley Woods (98 – 25-32-57)
  • Eli Zummack (00 – 15-26-41)

Arriving 

  • Erik Atchison (02 – 5th in ’17 – 8-6-14 – Arizona Bobcats U16)
  • Adam Beckman (01 – 5th in ’16 – 44-34-78 – Battlefords Stars)
  • Jack Finley (02 – 1st in ’17 – 11-22-33 – Okanagan Rockets)
  • Connor Gabruch (01 – Listed – 14-16-30 – Saskatoon Blazers
  • Sean Gulka (00 – Victoria’s 9th in ’15 – 12-13-25 – Langley Rivermen)
  • Michael King (00 – 8-7-15 – Kootenay Ice)
  • Cordel Larson (01 – 9th in ’16 – 12-28-40 – Notre Dame Midget Hounds)

NHL Prospects

  • Jaret Anderson-Dolan (Los Angeles Kings – Signed)
  • Jake McGrew (San Jose Sharks – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • Joseph Cassetti (99 – 6th in ’14 – 8-10-18 – Waterloo Black Hawks – Merrimack Warriors)
  • Jake Hale (01 – 10th in ’16 – 3-1-4 – Dubuque Fighting Saints – Sioux City Musketeers – Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs)
  • Carter Jones (99 – Listed – 15-30-45 – Trail Smoke Eaters – Bemidji State Beavers)
  • Ethan Leyh (01 – 8th in ’16 – 10-21-31 – Langley Rivermen – Wisconsin Badgers)

While they lose Yamamoto to the pro ranks along with overagers Elyniuk and Fischer, the Chiefs still have one of the most dynamic forwards in the league with Anderson-Dolan, who should contend for both the scoring title and a spot on Canada’s World Junior team.

Besides him, there’s a strong supporting cast with the likes of McGrew, McIndoe, Toprowski, Woods and Zummack setting the scene for a great top six. Plus, there’s some exciting newcomers set to join the squad. Beckman was a dominant force in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA ranks last year on a sub-par team, while Gulka got a chance to play with the Chiefs after his BCHL season ended.

Defencemen

Departing

  • Dalton Hamaliuk (98 – 4-12-16 – Moose Jaw Warriors)
  • Tyson Helgesen (97 – 6-23-29 – Mount Royal Cougars)

Returning

  • Jeff Faith (98 – 5-12-17)
  • Luke Gallagher (00 – 1-3-4)
  • Filip Kral (99 – 9-26-35)
  • Matt Leduc (00 – 1-4-5)
  • Nolan Reid (98 – 14-22-36)
  • Ty Smith (00 – 14-59-73)

Arriving 

  • Egor Arbuzov (01 – ’18 Import Draft – 8-5-13 – CSKA Moscow U17)
  • Tyson Feist (01 – Listed – 2-15-17 – Spokane Braves)
  • Bobby Russell (00 – 1-6-7 – Kootenay Ice)

NHL Prospects

  • Filip Kral (Toronto Maple Leafs – Unsigned)
  • Ty Smith (New Jersey Devils – Signed)

Rights Held

  • Jake Harrison (99 – 4th in ’14 – 8-2-33 – West Kelowna Warriors – Michigan Wolverines)

Smith is among the best blueliners in the country and will be in the mix for a World Junior spot as well, while Kral will also have a solid campaign after being drafted by Toronto. There are a pair of overagers on the backend to make for a solid top four, but the depth after that is something that will be decided upon in the early stages of the campaign.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • Donovan Buskey (00 – 3.56 – 10-10-0-0 – .871 – Prince Albert Raiders)

Returning 

  • Bailey Brkin (99 – 4.02 – 11-14-2-0 – .883)
  • Dawson Weatherill (99 – 3.09 – 26-12-3-3 – .893)

Arriving 

  • N/A

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held 

  • N/A

The biggest question mark with the Chiefs is in goal. Weatherill had good numbers in the playoffs but is expected to take that next step entering his third season in the league, ala a guy like Ian Scott. Brkin, who has been in a bevy of locales over the last couple of years in junior hockey, is the backup after Buskey was traded to Prince Albert and top prospect Campbell Arnold was sent down. Simply put, this is Weatherill’s job to lose.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • N/A

Returning

  • Scott Carter (General Manager- Third Season)
  • Dan Lambert (Head Coach – Second Season)
  • Scott Burt (Assistant Coach – Sixth Season)
  • Adam Deadmarsh (Assistant Coach – Second Coach)
  • Ryan Cyr (Goaltending Coach – Eighth Season)

Arriving

  • N/A

There are no changes with the Chiefs and that’s probably a good thing. The team has a bit of a different approach with Lambert in charge compared to Don Nachbaur and that should be really apparent this season.

Best Case Scenario

With two of the best players in the WHL on their roster and a breakout campaign from Weatherill in goal, the Chiefs are a well-oiled machine in the US Division and enjoy their best season since winning the Memorial Cup in 2008.

Worst Case Scenario

Weatherill stumbles in goal and the team is forced to find a replacement. The Chiefs make it to the playoffs again but are nowhere near a title threat.

Current 2019 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: One Pick
  • Round 2: No Picks
  • Round 3: One Pick
  • Round 4: Two Picks (Saskatoon)
  • Round 5: No Picks
  • Round 6: One Pick
  • Round 7: One Pick
  • Round 8: One Pick (Lethbridge)
  • Round 9: One Pick
  • Round 10: One Pick
  • Round 11: One Pick
  • Round 12: One Pick
Michael Rasmussen (Robert Murray/WHL)

Tri-City Americans

Last Season

Although they had a bevy of talent at their disposal, and added Jake Bean from Calgary at the deadline, the Americans were all over the map in the second half and made the playoffs as a wild card. Everything finally clicked in the post-season as they swept aside Kelowna and Victoria to reach the conference final, where they lost in six games to Everett.

Forwards

Departing

  • Morgan Geekie (98 – 30-54-84 – Charlotte Checkers – Carolina Hurricanes – Signed)
  • Maxwell James (97 – 7-14-21 – UBC Thunderbirds)
  • Jordan Topping (97 – 38-42-80 – Grand Rapids Griffins)

Returning

  • Parker Aucoin (98 – 19-21-40)
  • Paycen Bjorklund (00 – 2-2-4)
  • Connor Bouchard (01 – 2-6-8)
  • Brett Clayton (98 – 4-6-10)
  • Isaac Johnson (99 – 17-31-48)
  • Sasha Mutala (01 – 11-15-26)
  • Kyle Olson (99 – 4-14-18)
  • Michael Rasmussen (99 – 31-28-59)
  • Riley Sawchuk (99 – 15-9-24)
  • Nolan Yaremko (98 – 22-34-56)

Arriving 

  • Matt Dorsey (99 – 11th in ’18 – 4-7-11 – Wenatchee Wild)
  • Krystof Hrabik (99 – ’18 Import Draft – 5-10-15 – HC Benatky Nad Jizerou)
  • Kaden Kohle (02 – 1st in ’17 – 12-14-26 – Tisdale Trojans)
  • Blake Stevenson (01 – 4th in ’16 – 5-5-10 – Calgary Canucks)

NHL Prospects

  • Kyle Olson (Anaheim Ducks – Unsigned)
  • Michael Rasmussen (Detroit Red Wings – Signed)

Rights Held 

  • Ignat Belov (01 – Listed – 8-8-16 – Westminster Prep – UConn Huskies)
  • Ryder Donovan (00 – Listed – 11-42-53 – Duluth East High School – North Dakota Fighting Hawks)
  • Ben Helgeson (00 – Listed – 18-13-31 – Hill-Murray School – Vernon Vipers – Wisconsin Badgers)
  • Jaxon Nelson (00 – 7th in ’15 – 8-9-17 – Sioux Falls Stampede – Omaha Lancers – Minnesota Golden Gophers)
  • Ryan O’Reilly (00 – 5th in ’15 – 21-13-34 – Madison Capitols – Fargo Force – Denver Pioneers – Detroit Red Wings – Unsigned)
  • Zachary Okabe (01 – 9th in ’16 – 22-35-57 – Grande Prairie Storm – St. Cloud State Huskies)
  • Bram Scheerer (99 – Listed – 12-9-21 – Minnesota Magicians – Colorado College Tigers)

Although the Americans lose two big weapons up front in Geekie and Topping, Rasmussen should do more than enough to make up for that, unless he makes the Detroit Red Wings.

Even if he doesn’t return, or is traded at the deadline, there’s still some solid performers up front with the likes of Aucoin, Johnson, Mutala and Yaremko. The offence should be the least of Tri-City’s concerns.

Defencemen

Departing

  • Jake Bean (98 – 12-36-48 – Charlotte Checkers – Carolina Hurricanes – Signed)
  • Liam Belcourt (00 – 0-1-1 – Nanaimo Clippers)
  • Dylan Coghlan (98 – 17-46-63 – Chicago Wolves – Vegas Golden Knights – Signed)
  • Juuso Valimaki (98 – 14-31-45 – Stockton Heat – Calgary Flames – Signed)

Returning

  • Anthony Bishop (98 – 0-16-16)
  • Mitchell Brown (01 – 2-6-8)
  • Danny Gatenby (98 – 0-5-5)
  • Roman Kalinichenko (00 – 1-9-10)

Arriving

  • Riley Bruce (99 – Listed – Regina’s 5th in ‘14 – 10-7-17 – OCN Blizzard)
  • Tom Cadieux (02 – 2nd in ’17 – 5-11-16 – Saskatoon Blazers)
  • Bryan McAndrews (01 – 5th in ’16 – 5-6-11 – Okanagan Hockey Academy)
  • Jarod Newell (02 – 4th in ’17 – 2-20-22 – Northern Alberta Xtreme)
  • Samuel Stewart (00 – Listed – 2-13-15 – Neepawa Natives)

                                                                                 NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • Ethan Frisch (00 – Listed – 5-20-25 – Moorhead High School – Green Bay Gamblers – North Dakota Fighting Hawks)
  • Dylan Samberg (99 – Listed – 1-12-13 – Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs – Winnipeg Jets – Unsigned)

On the other hand, the defence’s offensive output should sound some alarm bells with just three goals among the returning blueliners. It’s a young defence so there will be a chance to grow a bit, plus there’s a outside chance that Coghlan could return for his overage campaign. With that said, when you lose the likes of Bean and Valimaki, it’s tough to overcome in one season.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • Patrick Dea (97 – 3.17 – 22-14-7-0 – .913 – UBC Thunderbirds)

Returning

  • Beck Warm (99 – 3.58 – 16-11-1-1 – .889)

Arriving

  • Talyn Boyko (02 – 3rd in ’17 – 3.72 – 6-12-0 – .891 – Pursuit Of Excellence)

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • Matthew Thiessen (00 – Listed – 2.06 – 28-3-1 – .923 – Steinbach Pistons – Dubuque Fighting Saints – Maine Black Bears – Vancouver Canucks – Unsigned)

The goaltending was something that people wondered about with the Americans ahead of last season, but Dea was certainly up to the task after coming over from Edmonton. Now it’s Warm’s turn to move into a full-time role and he’s sure to have a number of busy nights, especially with an unproven backup behind him.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • Mike Williamson (Head Coach for Four Seasons)

Returning

  • Bob Tory (General Manager – Nineteenth Season – Fifteenth Season as Owner)
  • Brian Pellerin (Associate Coach – Fifth Season)
  • Eli Wilson (Goaltending Coach – Second Season)

Arriving

  • Kelly Buchberger (Head Coach – Assistant Coach with the New York Islanders for One Season)

As Williamson leaves for a yet to be determined future, Buchberger begins his first head coaching gig in a decade as he last ran things for the AHL’s Springfield Falcons in 2007-08. He has a good support staff around him though, so that should help in the transition.

Best Case Scenario

A strong offensive core and Warm’s goatlending allow the Americans’ young defence to settle in. The team improves a lot in the second half and battle for home ice advantage.

Worst Case Scenario

The defence is a hot mess from the word go and the Americans end up trading Rasmussen at the deadline, which leads them to missing out on a wildcard spot.

Current 2019 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: No Picks
  • Round 2: One Pick
  • Round 3: Two Picks (Saskatoon)
  • Round 4: One Pick
  • Round 5: One Pick (Red Deer)
  • Round 6: One Pick
  • Round 7: Two Picks (Kootenay)
  • Round 8: One Pick
  • Round 9: One Pick
  • Round 10: One Pick
  • Round 11: One Pick
  • Round 12: One Pick

Thierman Financial