2019-20 WHL Season Preview: BC Division

This is the third of a five-part series that will preview the 2019-20 Western Hockey League campaign. The first four parts will go over each of the divisions before I make my predictions in the final part.

A huge thanks goes to Robert Murray of the WHL, Brett Smith of the Prince Albert Raiders and Marc Smith of CTV Regina for sending along photos of the players from around the circuit, in addition to the ones that I took over the course of last season. 

Another thanks goes to Guy Flaming of The Pipeline Show as he chatted with the general managers and or head coaches of the 22 WHL teams (well, except the Winnipeg Ice because of reasons) in the lead-up to the upcoming campaign. Those interviews were a valuable resource in putting this together.

All roster info is based upon what’s on the WHL website and will be updated leading into Friday’s 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 team’s picks for next year’s draft is courtesy of Caldwell’s database, which can also be seen on the Dub Network website.

Connor Zary (Allen Douglas/Kamloops Blazers)

Kamloops Blazers

Last Season

After coming back from seven points down in the final days of the regular season, the Blazers picked up a 5-1 win over the Kelowna Rockets in a tiebreaker game to sneak into the playoffs, where they lost a back-and-forth six-game affair to the Victoria Royals.

Forwards

Departing

  • Jermaine Loewen (98 – 28-18-46)
  • Jerzy Orchard (01 – 1-2-3 – Merritt Centennials)
  • Travis Walton (99 – 1-2-3 – Nanaimo Clippers)

Returning

  • Ryley Appelt (00 – 5-5-10)
  • Orrin Centazzo (00 – 18-33-51)
  • Zane Franklin (99 – 28-40-68)
  • Martin Lang (01 – 11-22-33)
  • Kobe Mohr (99 – 9-18-27)
  • Josh Pillar (02 – 7-15-22)
  • Kyrell Sopotyk (01 – 13-5-18)
  • Brodi Stuart (00 – 20-18-38)
  • Connor Zary (01 – 24-43-67)

Arriving

  • Caedan Bankier (03 – 3rd in ’18 – 27-26-53 – Burnaby Winter Club)
  • Reese Belton (02 – 5th in ’17 – 43-44-87 – Winnipeg Wild)
  • Daylan Kuefler (02 – 10th in ’17 – 18-18-36 – Red Deer Chiefs)
  • Matthew Seminoff (03 – 5th in ’18 – 19-33-52 – Burnaby Winter Club)
  • Logan Stankoven (03 – 1st in ’18 – 49-52-101 – Thompson Blazers)

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • Josh Doan (02 – 9th in ’17 – 17-19-36 – Phoenix Jr. Coyotes – Chicago Steel – Arizona State Sun Devils)
  • Massimo Rizzo (01 – 1st in ’16 – 11-29-40 – Penticton Vees – Coquitlam Express – North Dakota Fighting Hawks – Carolina Hurricanes – Unsigned)

Although Loewen is moving on, the Blazers still have a lot coming back on offence. Franklin is a contender to win the scoring title as one of the top overagers in the WHL, and there’s also some solid veterans with Zary, Centazzo, Stuart and Lang leading the way.

The biggest piece though is the arrival of Stankoven, who dominated the BC midget ranks this past season and put up 15 points in six pre-season games. If he continues that form, he should easily win the WHL’s Rookie of the Year award.

Defencemen

Departing

  • Jackson Caller (99 – 3-3-6 – Vernon Vipers)
  • Jeff Faith (98 – 1-3-4)
  • Joonas Sillanpaa (01 – 1-4-5 – HIFK U20)

Returning

  • Montana Onyebuchi (00 – 5-15-20)
  • Quinn Schmiemann (01 – 5-23-28)
  • Sean Strange (00 – 1-7-8)
  • Luke Zazula (00 – 3-24-27)

Arriving

  • Inaki Baragano (01 – ’19 Import Draft – 6-16-22 – Lausanne U20)
  • Ethan Brandwood (02 – 7th in ’17 – 7-19-26 – South Island Royals)
  • Trevor Thurston (02 – 4th in ’17 – 7-17-24 – Delta Hockey Academy)

NHL Prospects

  • Quinn Schmiemann (Tampa Bay Lightning – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • N/A

Although the younger pieces are a bit of a mystery at this point, Onyebuchi, Schmiemann and Zazula are a good core to build around. They might not be as strong as some of the other teams in the league, but this is a defence worth keeping an eye out for.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • Dylan Ferguson (98 – 3.01 – 17-24-5 – .908 – Chicago Wolves – Vegas Golden Knights – Signed)

Returning

  • Dylan Garand (02 – 2.94 – 11-7-3 – .902)

Arriving

  • Rayce Ramsay (01 – Listed – 2.73 – 16-7-2 – .923 – Humboldt Broncos)

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • N/A

Even with Ferguson’s graduation, the Blazers are in a good spot between the pipes. Garand, who was one of two goalies for Canada’s silver medal side at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, was a key contributor in the team’s run to the playoffs when Ferguson was hurt late in the season. Meanwhile, Ramsay had a strong year in the SJHL for the Broncos, which gives Kamloops an excellent one-two punch if needed.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • Serge Lajoie (Head Coach for One Season – Head Coach for OHA Edmonton Prep Program)
  • Dan Kordic (Assistant Coach for One Season)
  • Aaron Keller (Assistant Coach for Two Seasons)

Returning

  • Matt Bardsley (General Manager – Second Season)
  • Darryl Sydor (Associate Coach – Second Season)
  • Chris Murray (Assistant Coach – Sixth Season)
  • Dan De Palma (Goaltending Coach – Tenth Season)

Arriving

  • Shaun Clouston (Head Coach – General Manager for Seven Seasons and Head Coach for Nine Seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers)

There’s another change behind the bench in Kamloops, but this might be one that puts the Blazers back in the mix as one of the top programs in the league. A change of scenery could be good for Clouston after a long stint with the Tigers, and he’s only involved with the coaching side of things after holding both the general manager and head coach jobs in Medicine Hat.

Best Case Scenario

Thanks to a strong offence and good goaltending, the Blazers not only contend for a division title but they are also a sleeper pick to win the entire league.

Worst Case Scenario

It takes some time for everything to gel under Clouston and the Blazers are nowhere near the Giants in the BC Division race. They make the playoffs with ease, but the real rise up the standings takes place next year.

Current 2020 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: One Pick
  • Round 2: Two Picks (Regina)
  • Round 3: Three Picks (Kelowna and Spokane)
  • Round 4: One Pick (Lethbridge)
  • Round 5: One Pick
  • Round 6: Three Picks (Everett and Spokane)
  • Round 7: One Pick
  • Round 8: One Pick
  • Round 9: One Pick
  • Round 10: One Pick
  • Round 11: One Pick
  • Round 12: One Pick
Kaedan Korczak (Marissa Baecker/Kelowna Rockets)

Kelowna Rockets

Last Season

Although they landed the Memorial Cup hosting duties for 2020, the rest of the Rockets campaign was a mess. Jason Smith was the first coach in the league to be fired after a poor start and they lost a tiebreaker game to the Kamloops Blazers to miss the playoffs for only the second time in franchise history. They also became the first team not to make the post-season the year before hosting the Memorial Cup.

Forwards

Departing

  • Ted Brennan (00 – 2-2-4)
  • Conner Bruggen-Cate (99 – 5-9-14 – Seattle Thunderbirds)

Returning

  • Kyle Crosbie (01 – 7-4-11)
  • Ethan Ernst (02 – 1-5-6)
  • Michael Farren (00 – 3-9-12)
  • Nolan Foote (00 – 36-27-63)
  • Liam Kindree (00 – 7-27-34)
  • Mark Liwiski (01 – 11-6-17)
  • Leif Mattson (99 – 22-41-63)
  • Alex Swetlikoff (01 – 6-8-14)
  • Kyle Topping (99 – 23-46-69)
  • Dallon Wilton (01 – 4-5-9)

Arriving

  • Dillon Hamaliuk (00 – 11-15-26 – Seattle Thunderbirds)
  • Deegan Mofford (01 – 3rd in ’16 – 19-17-36 – Red Deer Chiefs)
  • Pavel Novak (02 – ’19 Import Draft – 29-16-45 – Motor Ceske Budejovice U19)
  • Jake Poole (02 – 6th in ’17 – 40-41-81 – Yellowhead Chiefs)
  • Trevor Wong (03 – 1st in ’18 – 12-30-42 – Greater Vancouver Canadians)

NHL Prospects

  • Nolan Foote (Tampa Bay Lightning – Signed)
  • Dillon Hamaliuk (San Jose Sharks – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • Ethan Bowen (02 – 2nd in ’17 – 19-20-39 – Chilliwack Chiefs – North Dakota Fighting Hawks)
  • Michael Gildon (01 – 4th in ’16 – 13-16-29 – US NTDP – Ohio State Buckeyes)
  • Daniil Gutik (01 – ’19 Import Draft – 5-8-13 – Loko Yaroslavl)

The Rockets do have some good veterans up front with Foote, Mattson and Topping coming back, but what happens with their other returning players will be one of the keys to their success. They’ll need a number of them to step up on offence in order to prevent a rent-a-player philosophy at the trade deadline.

As for the new faces, Hamaliuk had a strong start last year in Seattle before suffering a season-ending injury, Wong put up some crazy good numbers in bantam and Novak is coming off of a good showing at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup for the Czech Republic. The Rockets are also holding out hope that they can get Gutik, who was considered by some to be the best European player not to be picked in last year’s NHL Draft.

Defencemen

Departing

  • Matt Barberis (98 – 1-3-4 – Carleton Ravens)
  • Dalton Gally (98 – 0-10-10 – Norfolk Admirals)
  • Schael Higson (98 – 4-23-27)
  • Lassi Thomson (00 – 17-24-41 – Ilves – Ottawa Senators – Signed)

Returning

  • Cayde Augustine (01 – 2-4-6)
  • Kaedan Korczak (01 – 4-29-33)
  • Devin Steffler (00 – 0-7-7)

Arriving

  • Elias Carmichael (03 – 2nd in ’18 – 3-11-14 – Burnaby Winter Club)
  • Sean Comrie (00 – Brandon’s 2nd in ’15 – 0-1-1 – Denver Pioneers)
  • Jake Lee (01 – 3-21-24 – Seattle Thunderbirds)
  • Carson Sass (99 – 3-7-10 – Red Deer Rebels)

NHL Prospects

  • Kaedan Korczak (Vegas Golden Knights – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • Jayden Lee (01 – 10th in ’16 – 6-30-36 – Powell River Kings – Quinnipiac Bobcats)

This is easily the biggest question mark for the Rockets heading into the season. They lost three players to graduation and Thomson went to Finland a year early, though there’s still a chance that he arrives at some point in the season.

Korczak is back for another campaign and they made a couple of moves at the draft to get Lee from the Thunderbirds and land Comrie away from the NCAA, but it still feels like they are a long way off. They did add an overage in Sass this week, but even that seems like a puzzling move as he could have been picked up off of waivers earlier in the summer.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • N/A

Returning

  • Roman Basran (01 – 2.79 – 20-19-4 – .906)
  • James Porter Jr. (00 – 3.32 – 8-13-14 – .899)

Arriving

  • Cole Schwebius (01 – 3.89 – 5-8-2 – .886 – Seattle Thunderbirds)

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • N/A

Putting aside his adventures in goaltending from the third period of March’s tiebreaker game, Basran has show flashes of being a top-level netminder over the last two years. He’ll need to show that he’s the guy in between the pipes or an upgrade will be made ahead of May’s tournament.

The backup job is still up for grabs at the moment. Porter has returned for a third season, but Schwebius came over with Hamaliuk and Lee and put up excellent numbers in exhibition play.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • N/A

Returning

  • Bruce Hamilton (General Manager and Owner – Twenty-Eighth Season)
  • Adam Foote (Head Coach – Second Season)
  • Kris Mallette (Assistant Coach – Sixth Season)
  • Adam Brown (Goaltending Coach – Fourth Season)

Arriving

  • Vernon Fiddler (Assistant Coach – Development Coach with the Dallas Stars Last Season)

After becoming the head coach partway through last season, Foote’s first full year behind the bench will be an intriguing one as he leads a Rockets team that is set to host the Memorial Cup for the first time since 2004. It’s also going to be interesting to see how Hamilton builds the roster, as it seems further behind what the likes of Regina and Red Deer had ahead of their hosting duties.

Best Case Scenario

It takes a bevy of trades, but everything starts to click for the Rockets after the deadline as they contend for the Western Conference title and enter the Memorial Cup as a strong host side.

Worst Case Scenario

Despite a number of deals, nothing clicks for the Rockets and they exit the post-season early. All sorts of questions ensue in the short-term and the long-term as the Rockets prepare for the Memorial Cup and its aftermath.

Current 2020 Draft Situation

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

Prince George Cougars

Last Season

The rebuild continued in Prince George as the Cougars missed the playoffs for a second straight year. They also saw a coaching change during the campaign as a massive losing streak resulted in Richard Matvichuk being fired.

Forwards

Departing

  • Josh Curtis (98 – 13-1-27 – Queen’s Golden Gaels)
  • Mike MacLean (98 – 5-2-7 – Concordia Stingers)
  • Vladislav Mikhalchuk (99 – 25-25-50 – Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod)

Returning

  • Connor Bowie (01 – 3-2-5)
  • Brendan Boyle (01 – 0-3-3)
  • Ethan Browne (01 – 9-22-31)
  • Ilijah Colina (00 – 6-6-12)
  • Mitch Kohner (02 – 0-2-2)
  • Jackson Leppard (00 – 10-19-29)
  • Josh Maser (99 – 30-12-42)
  • Reid Perepeluk (00 – 2-5-7)
  • Matej Toman (01 – 9-11-20)
  • Tyson Upper (01 – 5-12-17)

Arriving

  • Craig Armstrong (03 – 1st in ’18 – 12-16-28 – Edge School)
  • Blake Eastman (03 – 2nd in ’18 – 23-12-35 – OHA Edmonton)
  • Davin Griffin (02 – Prince Albert’s 5th in ’17 – 26-20-46 – Saskatoon Contacts)
  • Filip Koffer (01 – ’19 Import Draft – 10-28-38 – HC Dynamo Pardubice U19)
  • Fischer O’Brien (03 – Lethbridge’s 5th in ’18 – 2-5-7 – Cariboo Cougars)

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • Stanley Cooley (02 – 3rd in ’17 – 8-11-19 – Spruce Grove Saints – Northeastern Huskies)
  • Zach Michaelis (02 – 4th in ’17 – 20-26-46 – Elk River High School – Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks)
  • Ty Mueller (03 – 3rd in ’18 – 10-24-34 – Airdrie Bisons – Sherwood Park Crusaders – Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks)
  • Colin Schmidt (00 – 11th in ’15 – 8-19-27 – Jamestown Rebels – Union Dutchmen)

There’s not a lot of depth with the Cougars on offence but they do have some good pieces. Maser is coming off of an under the radar 30-goal campaign, while Browne, Leppard, Toman could all increase their point totals. Koffer might help out as a veteran import player, while big things are expected out of Armstrong as he enters the WHL.

Defencemen

Departing

  • Joel Lakusta (98 – 5-20-25 – Alberta Golden Bears)

Returning

  • Cole Beamin (01 – 0-2-2)
  • Austin Crossley (99 – 3-6-9)
  • Cole Moberg (00 – 13-27-40)
  • Rhett Rhinehart (01 – 5-19-24)
  • Jack Sander (00 – 2-5-7)
  • Ryan Schoettler (99 – 4-28-32)

Arriving

  • Joe Kennedy (01 – Listed – 2-2-4 – Stouffville Spirit)
  • Aiden Reeves (02 – Listed – 5-17-22 – Okanagan Rockets)
  • Ethan Samson (03 – 3rd in ’18 – 7-17-24 – Delta Hockey Academy)

NHL Prospects

  • Cole Moberg (Chicago Blackhawks – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • Ben Brinkman (00 – Listed – 1-6-7 – Minnesota Golden Gophers – Dallas Stars – Unsigned)
  • Aidan Hreschuk (03 – 5th in ’18 – 19-15-34 – Los Angeles Jr. Kings – US NTDP – Boston College Eagles)
  • Christian Miller (01 – Listed – 2-14-16 – Greenway High School – St. Cloud State Huskies)
  • Hudson Thornton (03 – 2nd in ’18 – 17-30-47 – Rink Hockey Academy – Chilliwack Chiefs – Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs)

The defence is a spot of strength for the Cougars coming into this season. Schoettler is another underrated overage blueliner in the league, while Moberg broke out last season and was picked by Chicago in June. Big things will also be expected out of Rhinehart this year, as he’s eligible for the 2020 NHL Draft.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • Isaiah DiLaura (00 – 3.40 – 4-10-2 – .890 – Prince George Cougars)

Returning

  • Taylor Gauthier (01 – 3.25 – 15-30-6 – .899)

Arriving

  • Tyler Brennan (03 – 1st in ’18 – 2.69 – 12-5-1 – .909 – Rink Hockey Academy)

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • N/A

After not being selected at the 2019 NHL Draft, you can bet that Gauthier will enter this season with a huge chip on his shoulder. He’s proven that he can steal games in the past and he’s played for Canada on the international stage, which could put him on track to have an impressive season.

Meanwhile, another first round pick is arriving in Brennan as he takes over the backup job from the recently traded DiLaura. If he has a good rookie year, it will be interesting to see how the Cougars brass approaches their goaltending situation heading into the 2020-21 campaign.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • Steve O’Rourke (Associate Coach for Three Seasons – Now Serving as the Director of Player Development)
  • Shawn Chambers (Assistant Coach for Three Seasons)

Returning

  • Mark Lamb (General Manager and Head Coach – Second Season in Both Roles – Took Over as Head Coach on an Interim Basis Last Year)
  • Taylor Dakers (Goaltending Coach – Second Season)

Arriving

  • Jason Smith (Associate Coach – Was the Head Coach of the Kelowna Rockets for three seasons)

There was a long search to find the permanent head coach, which almost saw two vacancies for the Cougars as Lamb was courted to be an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oilers, but he’s now permanently in both roles like he was in Swift Current. The Cougars also made a nice hire in Smith, who was fired after a tough start in Kelowna last season.

Best Case Scenario

The young core for the Cougars begins to make waves as they are in the playoff mix for the first time since 2017.

Worst Case Scenario

The Cougars are a year away from being a year away and they miss out on the playoffs again. There’s a silver lining though with a pair of first round picks arrive next season in defenceman Keaton Dowhaniuk and forward Koehn Ziemmer, plus the team has a chance to land another high-end talent in the draft lottery.

Current 2020 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: Two Picks (Portland)
  • Round 2: One Pick
  • Round 3: Three Picks (Portland and Winnipeg)
  • Round 4: One Pick
  • Round 5: One Pick
  • Round 6: One Pick
  • Round 7: Two Picks (Seattle)
  • Round 8: One Pick
  • Round 9: One Pick
  • Round 10: One Pick
  • Round 11: One Pick
  • Round 12: One Pick
Justin Sourdif (Lucas Chudleigh/Apollo Multimedia)

Vancouver Giants

Last Season

In what was their best campaign in almost a decade, the Giants cruised to the BC Divison title and reached the league final for the first time since 2007. They came back from a 3-1 deficit to force a Game 7 but lost in heartbreaking fashion to the Prince Albert Raiders in overtime.

Forwards

Departing

  • Aidan Barfoot (01 – 4-0-4)
  • Jared Dmytriw (98 – 15-23-38)
  • Dawson Holt (99 – 6-13-19 – Regina Pats)
  • Jadon Joseph (99 – 22-31-53 – Moose Jaw Warriors)
  • Davis Koch (98 – 28-50-78 – Iserlohn Roosters)
  • Yannik Valenti (00 – 4-5-9 – Adler Mannheim)

Returning

  • Owen Hardy (99 – 9-12-21)
  • Tristen Nielsen (00 – 14-21-35)
  • Evan Patrician (01 – 1-8-9)
  • Milos Roman (99 – 27-33-60)
  • Justin Sourdif (02 – 23-23-46)
  • Lukas Svejkovsky (01 – 9-17-26)
  • Brayden Watts (99 – 12-26-38)

Arriving

  • Sergei Alkhimov (01 – 13-14-27 – Regina Pats)
  • Justin Lies (03 – 3rd in ’18 – 13-16-29 – Rink Hockey Academy)
  • John Little (02 – 3rd in ’17 – 10-16-26 – Salmon Arm Silverbacks)
  • Zack Ostapchuk (03 – 1st in ’18 – 13-15-28 – Northern Alberta Xtreme)
  • Krz Plummer (02 – 3rd in ’17 – 17-22-39 – Delta Hockey Academy)
  • Cole Shepard (02 – 2nd in ’17 – 7-17-24 – Penticton Vees)
  • Jackson Shepard (00 – 5-17-22 – Lethbridge Hurricanes)

NHL Prospects

  • Milos Roman (99 – 27-33-60 – Calgary Flames – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • Harrison Blaisdell (01 – 2nd in ’16 – 33-25-58 – Chilliwack Chiefs – North Dakota Fighting Hawks – Winnipeg Jets – Unsigned)
  • Brendan Budy (00 – Red Deer’s 4th in ’15 – 11-20-31 – Tri-City Storm – Langley Rivermen – North Dakota Fighting Hawks)
  • Shane Lavellle (01 – Listed – 18-19-37 – Chaska High School – Wisconsin Badgers)
  • Keaton Mastrodonato (00 – Listed – 20-32-52 – Alberni Valley Bulldogs – Canisius Golden Griffins)
  • Devlin McCabe (00 – 7th in ’15 – 7-18-25 – Sioux City Musketeers – Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs)
  • Cam Mitchell (01 – Listed – 15-20-35 – Spruce Grove Saints – Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks)

Although they lose two players to graduation and they dealt Holt and Joseph to the Pats and Warriors respectively, there are still some pieces coming back in Nielsen and Sourdif, in addition to Roman returning as a double-slot player as he looks to earn a pro contract with the Flames.

The Shepard brothers are both arriving, with Cole being a huge pickup as he left the Vees and a commitment to the NCAA’s Harvard Crimson to join the Giants. Another new member of the roster is Alkhimov, who had a decent rookie campaign on a Pats side that was nowhere near playoff contention.

The Giants looked to have added another good piece in Budy as a result of trade that saw them deal 2002-born defenceman and former Swift Current Broncos first round pick Joel Sexsmith to the Red Deer Rebels. However, Budy elected to return to the BCHL after putting up a point per game in the USHL last season following a brief stint with the NCAA’s Denver Pioneers.

Defencemen

Departing

  • Parker Hendren (01 – 1-1-2 – Everett Silvertips)
  • Dallas Hines (98 – 8-18-26)

Returning

  • Seth Bafaro (00 – 6-6-12)
  • Kaleb Bulych (00 – 3-7-10)
  • Bowen Byram (01 – 26-45-71)
  • Nic Draffin (01 – 1-0-1)
  • Alex Kannok-Leipert (00 – 5-14-19)
  • Dylan Plouffe (99 – 8-27-35)

Arriving

  • Tanner Brown (02 – 2nd in ’17 – 6-15-21 – Delta Hockey Academy)
  • Jacob Gendron (02 – 6th in ’17 – 11-14-25 – Cariboo Cougars)

NHL Prospects

  • Bowen Byram (Colorado Avalanche – Signed)
  • Alex Kannok-Leipert (Washington Capitals – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • Jack Judson (00 – 10th in ’15 – 6-26-32 – Vernon Vipers – Arizona State Sun Devils)
  • Samuel Knazko (02 – ’19 Import Draft – 2-15-17 – TPS U20)
  • Jack Lagerstrom (00 – 11th in ’15 – 4-18-22 – Penticton Vees – Tri-City Storm – Cornell Big Red)

While Hines ages out, everyone else from last year’s defence can come back. Naturally, Byram is the big piece and it remains to be seen if he’ll return for his third season with the Giants or if the Avalanche will unleash the terrifying tandem of him and Cale Makar to an unsuspecting NHL audience.

Having Kannok-Leipert and Plouffe back once again is a good base to build around, but the presence of Byram alone puts this team in the discussion of being the top side in the WHL and as a legit Memorial Cup contender.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • N/A

Returning

  • Trent Miner (01 – 1.98 – 24-5-2 – .924)
  • David Tendeck (99 – 2.48 – 24-10-3 – .911)

Arriving

  • Braedy Euerby (02 – 5th in ’17 – 16-8-0 – .893 – Delta Hockey Academy)

NHL Prospects

  • Trent Miner (Colorado Avalanche – Unsigned)
  • David Tendeck (Arizona Coyotes – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • ­N/A

So who is the starter going to be? Besides what happens with Bryam, that’s the biggest question with the Giants, especially since both are drafted by NHL teams and they split time last season before Tendeck took over for the playoffs.

Given the overage situation, it would seem like Tendeck would be the odd man out, but it’s hard to see a team that he could go to at this stage. If Miner does become the starter, it will be a battle between a pair of prospects from the Delta Hockey Academy for the backup job.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • Jeff Battah (Assistant Coach for One Season)

Returning

  • Barclay Parneta (General Manager – Second Season)
  • Michael Dyck (Head Coach – Second Season)
  • Jamie Heward (Associate Coach – Second Season)
  • Paul Fricker (Goaltending Coach – Ninth Season)

Arriving

  • Dave Chyzowski (Assistant Coach – Worked with the Kamloops Blazers for the last 14 Seasons and was most recently their Director of Sales and Marketing)

Dyck was rewarded for his efforts with the Giants by serving as Canada’s head coach at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup this summer. There will be more honours and opportunities coming his way if the Giants keep up their success.

Best Case Scenario

With a great lineup from top to bottom, which includes an improved offence and the return of Byram, the Giants get one more win than they did last year as they win their first title since 2006.

Worst Case Scenario

Byram sticks with Colorado and the Giants make the wrong choice in deciding who should stay between Miner and Tendeck. They are in the mix in the Western Conference, but they miss out on a second straight trip to the league final.

Current 2020 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: One Pick
  • Round 2: One Pick
  • Round 3: One Pick (Calgary)
  • Round 4: One Pick
  • Round 5: One Pick
  • Round 6: One Pick (Moose Jaw)
  • Round 7: No Picks
  • Round 8: One Pick
  • Round 9: One Pick
  • Round 10: One Pick
  • Round 11: One Pick
  • Round 12: One Pick
Kaid Oliver (Victoria Royals)

Victoria Royals

Last Season

Although they may have benefited from a weak BC Division, the Royals did make their fifth trip to the quarter-final round in six years. Griffen Outhouse stood on his head for his team, but he could only do so much as the Royals were swept aside by the Giants.

Forwards

Departing

  • D-Jay Jerome (99 – 23-19-42 – Lethbridge Hurricanes)
  • Dino Kambeitz (00 – 9-16-25 – Lethbridge Hurricanes)
  • Igor Martynov (99 – 11-31-42 – Dinamo Minsk)
  • Kody McDonald (98 – 20-22-42 – Carleton Ravens)
  • Tanner Sidaway (99 – 7-5-12 – Cowichan Valley Capitals)

Returning

  • Brandon Cutler (00 – 14-24-38)
  • Logan Doust (01 – 6-2-8)
  • Tarun Fizer (01 – 13-21-34)
  • Sean Gulka (00 – 1-8-9)
  • Carson Miller (00 – 14-16-30)
  • Kaid Oliver (00 – 27-22-49)
  • Philip Schultz (00 – 19-17-36)
  • Ty Yoder (02 – 4-2-6)

Arriving

  • Alex Bolshakov (02 – 4th in ’17 – 5-3-8 – Everett Jr. Silvertips)
  • Graeme Bryks (01 – 1-7-8 – Seattle Thunderbirds)
  • Keanu Derungs (02 – ’19 Import Draft – 5-9-14 – Kloten U20)
  • River Fahey (01 – 2-4-6 – Winnipeg Ice)
  • Riley Gannon (02 – Listed – 21-29-50 – Nanaimo Buccaneers)
  • Gary Haden (99 – 31-34-65 – Saskatoon Blades)

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • Elan Bar-Lev-Wise (01 – 6th in ’16 – 7-19-26 – Vernon Vipers – Ohio State Buckeyes)
  • Sean Donaldson (01 – Listed – 5-8-13 – Prince George Spruce Kings – Nanaimo Clippers – UConn Huskies)
  • Luke Mylymok (01 – 4th in ’16 – 10-15-25 – Green Bay Gamblers – Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs)
  • Hunter Strand (02 – Prince Albert’s 6th in ’17 – 8-5-13 – US NTDP – Notre Dame Fighting Irish)

Despite losing three players who cracked the 40-point plateau, the Royals enter the season with a sleeper forward core. Schultz, Oliver, Cutler, Fizer and Miller are all capable of finding the back of the net and could put up good numbers. Plus, the team also landed a strong overager in Haden in a trade with the Blades during the summer.

Defencemen

Departing

  • Remy Aquilon (01 – 0-4-4 – Prince Albert Raiders)
  • Jake Kustra (99 – 0-2-2 – Swift Current Broncos)
  • Ralph Jarratt (98 – 6-9-15)
  • Parker Malchuk (01 – 0-1-1 – Saskatoon Blades)
  • Jameson Murray (99 – 3-16-19)
  • Scott Walford (99 – 9-38-47 – Saskatoon Blades)

Returning

  • Mitchell Prowse (00 – 3-18-21)
  • Matthew Smith (00 – 1-7-8)

Arriving

  • Nolan Bentham (03 – 1st in ’18 – 7-11-18 – Yale Hockey Academy)
  • Carson Golder (02 – Listed – 5-9-14 – Pursuit of Excellence)
  • Jacob Herauf (00 – 1-15-16 – Red Deer Rebels)
  • Nolan Jones (01 – 2-10-12 – Lethbridge Hurricanes)
  • Noah Lamb (02 – 6th in ’17 – 4-12-16 – Knights of Columbus Pats)
  • Will Warm (99 – 0-2-2 – Edmonton Oil Kings)

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • Luke Bast (00 – 6th in ’15 – 7-28-35 – Brooks Bandits – Waterloo Black Hawks – North Dakota Fighting Hawks)
  • Michael Benning (02 – 7th in ’17 – 10-51-61 – Sherwood Park Crusaders – Denver Pioneers)
  • Daniel Hilsendager (00 – Listed – 2-8-10 – Omaha Lancers – Western Michigan Broncos)
  • K’Andre Miller (00 – Saskatoon’s 9th in ’15 – 5-17-22 – Wisconsin Badgers – New York Rangers – Unsigned)
  • Luke Reid (01 – 2nd in ’16 – 2-17-19 – Chicago Steel – North Dakota Fighting Hawks)

A program will most certainly be required for those attending Royals games in the early stages of the season as their blueline is dramatically different from last year.

They’ve brought in some solid pieces from trades and the team is very excited about Bentham, but it will probably take a little bit before everything starts to click, unless they were able to land one of Benning or Reid ahead of their NHL Draft year.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • Griffen Outhouse (98 – 2.81 – 27-16-2 – .913 – Alberta Golden Bears)

Returning

  • Brock Gould (01 – 3.77 – 7-14-2 – .873)

Arriving

  • Shane Farkas (99 – 2.71 – 30-12-6 – .906 – Portland Winterhawks)

NHL Prospects

  • ­N/A

Rights Held

  • N/A

It’s a tough task to replace someone like Outhouse, but the arrival of Farkas should help ease that process. He was the odd man out in Portland as soon as Joel Hofer arrived and he’ll look to have another strong season as he tries to earn a pro contract.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • N/A

Returning

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

Arriving

  • N/A

With the Royals consistently making the playoffs, it’s hard to see the need for any major changes for the time being, especially as they are looking to bid for the Memorial Cup in 2023.

Best Case Scenario

Thanks to some breakout performances on offence and a great season from Farkas, the Royals not only make the playoffs again, but they also end up being in the mix for the BC Division title.

Worst Case Scenario

Farkas has a rough year with a younger defence in front of him and the offence struggles to score goals as the Royals miss out on the post-season for the first time since 2009 when the franchise was based in Chilliwack.

Current 2020 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: One Pick
  • Round 2: No Picks
  • Round 3: Two Picks (Prince Albert)
  • Round 4: One Pick
  • Round 5: One Pick (Regina)
  • Round 6: Two Picks (Brandon and Lethbridge)
  • Round 7: One Pick (Prince Albert)
  • Round 8: Two Picks (Regina)
  • Round 9: No Picks
  • Round 10: One Pick
  • Round 11: One Pick
  • Round 12: One Pick