Sean Montgomery and Kaiden Guhle are on opposite ends of the spectrum heading into the 2018-19 Western Hockey League season.
For Montgomery, Friday’s curtain raiser against the Regina Pats at the Art Hauser Centre will be his last as a member of the Prince Albert Raiders as the 20-year-old forward embarks on his final campaign of junior hockey.
“It’s gone by quickly,” Montgomery said. “I can’t believe this is my last home opener here.
“You are always excited when this time of the year comes around. It’s always a big game to start off the season and everyone in the room wants to come away with the win.”
Meanwhile, Guhle is gearing up for his first full campaign in the WHL as the 16-year-old blueliner makes the jump to major junior hockey after two years with the Okanagan Hockey Academy Edmonton program.
“I’m pretty excited to see how many fans show up and what Prince Albert is going to be like for our first game,” Guhle said.
“Obviously there’s going to be a lot of people in the rink for the home opener, but I’m just going to treat it like it’s another game. I want to go out there, have some fun and play my game.”
Guhle, the first overall pick in last year’s Bantam Draft, already has regular season experience under his belt with the Raiders as he was called up for eight contests last year.
Fellow rookie Ozzy Wiesblatt suited up for one game and scored a goal back in January as an underage player, while forwards Jakob Brook and Aliaksei Protas can both get their first taste of WHL action if they draw into the lineup Friday.
“All of the veterans in the locker room have been a big help to us younger guys,” Guhle said. “You can tell that everyone here is willing to answer any questions that we have for them.”
“I think the biggest advice we can give them is to enjoy the experience,” Montgomery said. “You just have to go out there and do what you brought here to do on the ice.”
Defenceman Lane Kirk is also classified as a rookie by the WHL, but played in three games during the 2016-17 season before spending the last two years with the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Swan Valley Stampeders.
After losing their first three games, the Raiders wrapped up their exhibition slate with a pair of wins, including a 5-2 triumph over the Pats in Regina last Friday night.
“I think the pre-season was really good for us,” Guhle said. “Everyone got better in each game and I think we’re in a good spot going into opening night.”
“Those first few games weren’t our best showings,” Montgomery added. “However, we really improved our play once we got our chemistry going again, which I think the fans could see here when beat the Blades (by a score of 5-2) Saturday.”
As the Raiders begin their campaign with a home-and-home series against the Pats, they will try and end a lengthy winless streak against last year’s Memorial Cup runner-up.
The Raiders have lost 15 straight regular season matchups with their East Division rivals, with their last triumph coming in Regina on Sept. 23, 2016.
Their most recent victory over the Pats at the Art Hauser Centre came on Feb. 12, 2016, in a streak that now dates back nine games.
“They’ve obviously lost some pieces from the last couple of years, but they are still a good team,” Montgomery said.
“Regina’s dominated us lately, but we’re looking to get off to a good start this weekend and changing that around.”
Friday’s contest will begin at 7 p.m. with pre-game ceremonies, which will include a tribute to late Raiders prospect Adam Herold and the Humboldt Broncos.
The two sides will then square off again at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Brandt Centre in Regina.
The Raiders found out Thursday afternoon that blueliner and newly minted captain Brayden Pachal will be coming back to town after attending the Calgary Flames training camp.
The Toronto Maple Leafs returned goaltender Ian Scott to the team earlier this week, which led to the Raiders reassigning goaltender Brett Balas and releasing forward Mackenzie Belinski.
Forward and assistant captain Parker Kelly remains with the Ottawa Senators at their training camp.
The Pats found out Thursday that goaltender Max Paddock is returning to the club after being at the San Jose Sharks training camp, while forwards Nick Henry and Jake Leschyshyn are back with the team after being with the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights respectively.
Overage defenceman Cale Fleury is still with the Montreal Canadiens as he tries to earn a pro contract with the club
Regina blueliner Parker Gavlas is currently serving a five-game suspension after receiving a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct for a check to the head on Saskatoon Blades forward Josh Paterson in an exhibition game last Thursday.
Overager defender Brady Pouteau will also be out of the Pats lineup this weekend as he is sidelined until at least October following off-season shoulder surgery.
Rookie forward Cole Dubinsky and blueliner Ryker Evans were both listed as day-to-day with injuries on the WHL’s weekly roster report.
Dubinsky, who was a fourth round pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, missed the entire pre-season due to an ankle sprain suffered prior to training camp.
CHL Top 10
Wednesday saw the Canadian Hockey League announce their pre-season top 10 rankings, which was led by the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Halifax Mooseheads, who will serve as the hosts for the 2019 Memorial Cup.
The Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights were in second, while the Lethbridge Hurricanes enter the campaign as the top team from the WHL in third.
The Spokane Chiefs and Portland Winterhawks found themselves ranked sixth and seventh respectively and the Vancouver Giants received a honourable mention.
The weekly rankings are selected by a panel of National Hockey League scouts.
Wheat Kings deal Myskiw
The most notable trade ahead of the new season took place Wednesday as the Brandon Wheat Kings dealt goaltender Dylan Myskiw to the Edmonton Oil Kings for a conditional fifth round pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.
The Oil Kings needed a netminder as expected starter Todd Scott and prospect Sebastian Cossa have been both sidelined with injuries, which left sophomore Boston Bilous as the only healthy goaltender on their depth chart.
Myskiw, a 19-year-old from Winnipeg, was acquired by the Wheat Kings from the Victoria Royals last September and put together an 11-5-2-0 record with a 3.41 goals against average and a .887 save percentage last season.
He also suited up for the bulk of the Wheat Kings’ run to the quarter-finals in 2018 as he posted a 5-4 mark with a 3.51 goals against average and a .989 save percentage.
With the trade, Brandon will enter the campaign with 19-year-old Czech Republic product and Vegas Golden Knights prospect Jiri Patera as their starting goaltender, while soon to be 17-year-old Ethan Kruger will serve as the backup.
After not being picked during June’s NHL Draft, Calgary Hitmen blueliner Egor Zamula signed an entry-level deal with the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday.
The 18-year-old Russian, who attended the Flyers training camp on an amateur tryout contract, had seven assists in 38 games with the Regina Pats to start off last season.
He was then claimed off waivers by the Hitmen in January and had two goals and nine assists in 31 games.
Zamula also represented his country at the World Under-18 Hockey Championship, where he had a goal and an assist in five games.
Meanwhile, the Portland Winterhawks received some unexpected firepower to their lineup Thursday as Danish forward Joachim Blichfeld was returned to the team by the San Jose Sharks.
The potential overage candidate has spent the last two seasons with the Winterhawks and has put up 114 points in 119 games.
With Blichfeld’s return, Portland could end up with four import players on their roster if Finnish blueliner Henri Jokiharju doesn’t make the Chicago Blackhawks.
The US Division team, which will eventually need to cut down to two European skaters, drafted forwards Michal Kvasnica (Czech Republic) and Dean Schwenninger (Switzerland) in June.
The Winterhawks also now have four overagers in their lineup as Blichfeld joins fellow forward Connor MacEachern and blueliners Brendan De Jong and Jared Freadrich.
- Moose Jaw at Brandon – 6:30 p.m.
- Saskatoon at Swift Current – 7 p.m.
- Red Deer at Edmonton – 7 p.m.
- Medicine Hat at Lethbridge – 7 p.m.
- Kelowna at Kamloops – 8 p.m.
- Prince George at Victoria – 8 p.m.
- Everett at Vancouver – 8:30 p.m.