Miller eager to build off opening night hat trick

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Prince Albert Raiders forward Carson Miller salutes the crowd at the Art Hauser Centre prior to last Friday’s home opener against the Regina Pats.

Carson Miller’s sophomore season in the Western Hockey League is one that he’d like to forget.

After a 19-point rookie campaign in 2016-17, Miller’s numbers dropped last year as he had eight points in 69 games as he came back from shoulder surgery.

Determined to have a better showing this season, the Yorkton forward hit the ground running last Friday as he picked up his first career hat trick in a 7-2 win over the Regina Pats.

“I really put my head down and put in a lot of work this summer,” Miller said. “I probably didn’t spent as much time with family and friends as I would have liked, especially with my high school graduation in June, but I was really focused on having a good showing this season.

“I met up with some important people to help with my shoulder rehab, along with my improving my strength and my skill development. I was out of shape coming into the start of last season as I didn’t start skating until about a month or so before the year began, so I was trying to catch back up and my confidence ended up going down a bit.”

That full summer of training was something that the Raiders brass noticed, especially as Miller scored three power play goals during the pre-season.

“To be able to get on the ice early and score some goals put him in a good frame of mind and gave him confidence, which is everything for a guy in his position,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said.

“There’s guys on our team that block shots and others that are good defensively, but we drafted Carson to be a goal scorer for us. It was a tough time last year for him coming off the injury and not being able to catch up, so it was great to see him get started on the right foot.”

As Miller enters his third season in the league, the former first round pick of the Raiders is also looking to improve his game with the knowledge he’s gained from his first two years with the club.

“As you get more experience in this league, there’s a lot of things that you learn both on the ice and off the ice,” Miller said.

“I don’t think there’s one major thing that stands out above the rest, but there’s lots you can pick up from the older guys that have graduated from the league or the players that are around my age who have gone to National Hockey League camps.”

Fresh off a weekend sweep of the Pats, the Raiders are now preparing for their first three games in three nights stretch of the season, which starts Friday at the Art Hauser Centre with a 7 p.m. clash with the Medicine Hat Tigers.

After a visit to Mosaic Place to take on the Moose Jaw Warriors Saturday, the Raiders will return home Sunday for a 6 p.m. contest with the Saskatoon Blades.

“We’re ready for it,” Miller said. “Obviously it’s a good start but we’re just taking things one game at a time.

“We know what we want to do this year, but we also know that it’s a long season. I’m looking forward to seeing what our group is like as the season goes along.”

Meger Released

On Thursday the Raiders solved their goaltending situation as they parted ways with overager Curtis Meger.

Having made the jump to the WHL last season following a year in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League with the Estevan Bruins, the 20-year-old from Regina put together an 8-10-5-1 record with a 3.43 goals against average and an .886 save percentage.

With the move, Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Ian Scott and the recently acquired Donovan Buskey will serve as the team’s netminders going forward.

Meanwhile, the Raiders are now down to a pair of overage players with forwards Sean Montgomery and Kody McDonald on the roster.

The team also has the rights to Noah Gregor, who is currently attending training camp with the American Hockey League’s San Jose Barracuda.

Pre-Game Notes

After winning their season opener over the Lethbridge Hurricanes Friday, the Tigers have dropped their last two games, with their most recent setback coming Wednesday on the road against the Edmonton Oil Kings.

The Raiders took three out of four meetings with the Tigers last year, with their most recent triumph coming by a score of 3-2 in overtime on Jan. 20, 2018 in Medicine Hat.

Quinn Olson, a sixth round pick of the Raiders in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft, has committed to play for the NCAA’s Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs for the 2020-21 season.

Olson, a 17-year-old forward from Calgary, has spent the last two years with the Alberta Junior Hockey League’s Okotoks Oilers and has 57 points in 63 career games.

WHL Roster Moves

The Swift Current Broncos were busy this week as they brought back two pieces from the Lethbridge Hurricanes and traded one of their overage forwards to the Calgary Hitmen.

On Wednesday, the Broncos claimed overage blueliner Matthew Stanley off waivers and then picked up 18-year-old forward Owen Blocker in exchange for an eighth round draft pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.

The pair were dealt with Logan Barlage and three draft picks to the Hurricanes last year for Stuart Skinner, Giorgio Estephan and Tanner Nagel.

A day later, the Broncos dealt forward Kaden Elder to the Calgary Hitmen in exchange for a third round pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.

Elder, who is from Saskatoon, had 32 points last year for the Broncos on their way to the WHL title.

Earlier in the week, the Hitmen added a top prospect to their lineup as they landed 18-year-old forward Josh Prokop.

The Edmonton native, who is the older brother of Hitmen rookie blueliner Luke, had spent the last two years with the BCHL’s Vernon Vipers and was committed to play for the NCAA’s Ohio State Buckeyes next year.

A fifth round pick by Swift Current in 2015, the Hitmen landed Prokop’s rights in a trade last season that saw the Broncos acquire Beck Malenstyn and former Raider Matteo Gennaro.

Other notable deals this week include:

  • Victoria trades goaltender Dean McNabb (2000 – 4.52 – 4-10-0-0 – .870 last year) and a ninth round pick in 2019 to Regina for an eight round pick in 2020 and a conditional fifth round pick in 2020
  • Edmonton trades forward Brendan Semchuk (99 – zero points in two games this year – 12-14-26 last year with Vancouver and Edmonton) to Kootenay for a conditional fourth round pick in 2020
  • Brandon trades forward Rylan Bettens (00 – zero points in one game this year – 7-7-14 last year) to Portland for a conditional draft pick in 2021

Ethan Leyer, a 10th round pick by the Portland Winterhawks in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, has committed to the NCAA’s St. Cloud State Huskies for the 2020-21 season.

The 16-year-old forward from St. Albert, Alta. is playing for the AJHL’s Bonnyville Pontiacs this year and has one assist in five games.

Wednesday’s Scores

  • Edmonton 3 Medicine Hat 2 (Brett Kemp Two Goals)
  • Prince George 4 Kelowna 2 (Vladislav Mikhalchuk One Goal and One Assist)

Friday’s Schedule

  • Lethbridge vs. Regina – 7 p.m.
  • Swift Current vs. Edmonton – 7 p.m.
  • Spokane vs. Kootenay – 7 p.m.
  • Calgary vs. Red Deer – 7 p.m.
  • Kelowna vs. Prince George – 8 p.m.
  • Portland vs. Tri-City – 8:05 p.m.
  • Kamloops vs. Victoria – 8:05 p.m.
  • Seattle vs. Vancouver – 8:30 p.m.