2019-20 WHL Season Preview: US Division

This is the fourth 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.

Dustin Wolf (Chris Mast/Everett Silvertips)

Everett Silvertips

Last Season

Dustin Wolf picked up where Carter Hart left off in goal and the Silvertips made a number of moves to capture their fourth division title in the last five years. However, they also suffered their fourth quarter-final exit in that span by losing to the Spokane Chiefs in five games.

Forwards

Departing

  • Zack Andrusiak (98 – 38-26-64 – Idaho Steelheads)
  • Akash Bains (99 – 5-4-9 – Surrey Eagles)
  • Connor Dewar (99 – 36-45-81 – Iowa Wild – Minnesota Wild – Signed)
  • Robbie Holmes (99 – 12-14-26 – Regina Pats)
  • Riley Sutter (99 – 14-27-41 – Hershey Bears – Washington Capitals – Signed)

Returning

  • Jackson Berezowski (02 – 11-4-15)
  • Dawson Butt (00 – 9-8-17)
  • Martin Fasko-Rudas (00 – 15-16-31)
  • Gage Goncalves (01 – 1-14-15)
  • Justyn Gurney (00 – 1-4-5)
  • Bryce Kindopp (99 – 39-34-73)
  • Conrad Mitchell (01 – 1-4-5)
  • Max Patterson (99 – 14-25-39)
  • Jalen Price (01 – 7-3-10)
  • Reece Vitelli (01 – 11-16-27)

Arriving

  • Michal Gut (02 – ’19 Import Draft – 14-20-34 – Pirati Chomutov U19)
  • Jack Lambert (03 – Listed – 6-4-10 – Everett Jr. Silvertips)
  • Brendan Lee (02 – Listed – 11-15-26 – Colorado Thunderbirds)
  • Jacob Wright (02 – Listed – 17-35-52 – Fraser Valley Thunderbirds)

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • Kent Johnson (02 – 10th in ’17 – 20-26-46 – Trail Smoke Eaters – Michigan Wolverines)
  • Demetrios Koumontzis (00 – 8th in ’15 – 4-16-20 – Arizona State Sun Devils – Calgary Flames – Unsigned)
  • Peter Melcher (01 – ’18 Import Draft – 9-8-17 – HK Martin U18)
  • Ryan Robinson (01 – 7th in ’16 – 4-9-13 – Bismarck Bobcats – Des Moines Buccaneers – Arizona State Sun Devils)
  • Ryan Savage (00 – 4th in ’15 – 17-19-36 – Muskegon Lumberjacks – Miami Redhawks)
  • Austin Spiridakis (02 – 12th in ’17 – 6-5-11 – Alberni Valley Bulldogs – Quinnipiac Bobcats)
  • Alex Young (01 – 8th in ’16 – 34-40-74 – Canmore Eagles – Colgate Raiders)

With Sutter and Dewar turning pro, Andrusiak aging out of the league and Holmes being traded back to Regina, there’s quite a lot of scoring that needs to be filled from the roster.

The overage situation may determine if Patterson stays, but Kindopp is expected to lead the way with the likes of Fasko-Rudas and Vitelli being breakout candidates. Gut is a talent worth keeping an eye out for, especially after a strong showing for the Czech Republic at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.

Defencemen

Departing

  • Sahvan Khaira (98 – 3-23-26)
  • Artyom Minulin (98 – 1-17-18 – Metallurg Magnitogorsk)
  • Ian Walker (00 – 1-9-10 – Studying Engineering at the University of British Columbia)

Returning

  • Jacob Christiansen (99 – 12-32-44)
  • Gianni Fairbrother (00 – 10-26-36)
  • Ronan Seeley (02 – 1-8-9)
  • Wyatte Wylie (99 – 11-36-47)

Arriving

  • Dylan Anderson (02 – 4th in ’17 – 5-22-27 – Yale Hockey Academy)
  • Ty Gibson (03 – 3rd in ’18 – 5-7-12 – South Island Royals)
  • Parker Hendren (01 – 1-1-2 – Vancouver Giants)
  • Aidan Sutter (02 – Listed – 7-28-35 – Thompson Blazers)
  • Olen Zellweger (03 – 2nd in ’18 – 8-19-27 – OHA Edmonton)

NHL Prospects

  • Gianni Fairbrother (Montreal Canadiens – Unsigned)
  • Wyatte Wylie (Philadelphia Flyers – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • N/A

A lot of what happens on defence depends on the overagers. Christiansen and Wylie are expected to lead the way, though they either one of them could be dealt to recoup some assets in the draft pick department. Fairbrother and Seeley are also good pieces on the blueline, but it might not be as strong as in years past.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • Max Palaga (00 – 1.65 – 6-1-1 – .942 – Vernon Vipers)

Returning

  • Dustin Wolf (01 – 1.69 – 41-15-4 – .936)

Arriving

  • Braden Holt (03 – 12th in ’18 – 2.52 – 5-2-0 – .917 – Honeybaked U15)
  • Keegan Karki (00 – Listed – 3.06 – 0-2-0 – .889 – Corpus Christi Ice Rays)

NHL Prospects

  • Dustin Wolf (Calgary Flames – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • N/A

Thankfully, Wolf was picked in the seventh round of the NHL Draft in June or WHL Twitter would have burned to the ground. He should only get better in his second season as a starter and he’s more than likely going to be battling it out with Florida Panthers first round pick Spencer Knight for the starting duties for the United States at the World Juniors.

The Silvertips also made an interesting off-season move by bringing in Karki, who was once committed to the North Dakota Fighting Hawks and was ranked fifth in North American goalies ahead of the 2018 NHL Draft. He ended up not being selected though and suffered through an injury plagued campaign last season.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • Harry Mahood (Assistant Coach for One Season)

Returning

  • Gerry Davidson (General Manager – Eighth Season)
  • Dennis Williams (Head Coach – Third Season)
  • Louis Maas (Assistant Coach – Second Season)
  • James Jensen (Goaltending Coach – Second Season)

Arriving

  • Mike Lysyj (Assistant Coach – Assistant Coach with the RPI Engineers for one season)

Other than a switch with the assistants, everything else is the same for the Silvertips. Given his success over the last two seasons, it wouldn’t be a shock to hear Williams’ name be linked for a few pro gigs in the coming years.

Best Case Scenario

The veteran players lead the way and Wolf becomes the best netminder in the WHL as the Silvertips once again compete for a Western Conference title.

Worst Case Scenario

Wolf takes a step back and the Silvertips can’t overcome the loss of their veterans on offence as they suffer another early playoff exit.

Current 2020 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: One Pick
  • Round 2: No Picks
  • Round 3: No Picks
  • Round 4: No Picks
  • Round 5: No Picks
  • Round 6: One Pick (Regina)
  • Round 7: One Pick
  • Round 8: One Pick
  • Round 9: One Pick
  • Round 10: One Pick
  • Round 11: One Pick
  • Round 12: One Pick
Joel Hofer (Portland Winterhawks)

Portland Winterhawks

Last Season

Although they had two of the best offensive players in the league with Joachim Blichfeld and Cody Glass, the Winterhawks were never quite on the same level as the Silvertips. Although they made a big splash at the deadline to acquire Joel Hofer from Swift Current, the Winterhawks crashed out in the opening round to the Chiefs in five games.

Forwards

Departing

  • Joachim Blichfeld (98 – 53-61-114 – San Jose Barracuda – San Jose Sharks – Signed)
  • Haydn Delorme (00 – 1-3-4 – Traded to the Regina Pats but was Cut during Training Camp)
  • Cody Glass (99 – 15-54-69 – Chicago Wolves – Vegas Golden Knights – Signed)
  • Michal Kvasnica (00 – 8-12-20 – HC Ocelari Trinec)
  • Josh Paterson (99 – 24-30-54 – Alberta Golden Bears)

Returning

  • Jaydon Dureau (01 – 12-17-29)
  • Robbie Fromm-Delorme (02 – 3-11-14)
  • Lane Gilliss (99 – 15-19-34)
  • Jake Gricius (99 – 27-34-61)
  • Cross Hanas (02 – 8-14-22)
  • Seth Jarvis (02 – 16-32-39)
  • Mason Mannek (00 – 11-14-25)
  • Reece Newkirk (01 – 23-36-59)

Arriving

  • Kishaun Gervais (01 – 9th in ’16 – 7-12-19 – Yorkton Terriers)
  • Gabe Klassen (03 – 1st in ’18 – 31-23-54 – Prince Albert Mintos)
  • Simon Knak (02 – ’19 Import Draft – 14-11-25 – Kolten U20)
  • Tyson Kozak (02 – 6th in ’17 – 26-46-72 – Southwest Cougars)
  • Jack O’Brien (03 – Listed – 29-57-86 – Little Caesars U15)
  • James Stefan (03 – Listed – 49-46-95 – Little Caesars U15)

NHL Prospects

  • Reece Newkirk (New York Islanders – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • Bobby Brink (01 – Listed – 35-33-68 – Sioux City Musketeers – Denver Pioneers – Philadelphia Flyers – Unsigned)
  • Judd Caulfield (01 – 10th in ’16 – 6-19-25 – US NTDP – North Dakota Fighting Hawks – Pittsburgh Penguins – Unsigned)
  • Tyler Haskins (03 – Listed – 8-7-15 – Chicago Mission – Michigan Wolverines)
  • Jack Jensen (00 – Listed – 31-21-52 – Eden Prairie High School – Omaha Lancers – Minnesota Golden Gophers)
  • Matthew Michael Knies (02 – Listed – 24-13-37 – Phoenix Jr. Coyotes – Tri-City Storm – Minnesota Golden Gophers)
  • Ethan Leyer (02 – 10th in ’17 – 9-8-17 – Bonnyville Pontiacs – Whitecourt Wolverines – St. Cloud State Huskies)
  • Chaz Lucius (03 – 4th in ’18 – 39-23-62 – Gentry Academy – US NTDP – Minnesota Golden Gophers)
  • Joe Miller (02 – Listed – 16-33-49 – Blake School – Minnesota Golden Gophers)
  • Aidan Thompson (02 – 7th in ’17 – 6-16-22 – Colorado Thunderbirds – Neponset Valley River Rats – Denver Pioneers)
  • Chase Yoder (02 – 11th in ’17 – 5-4-9 – US NTDP – Providence Friars)

Although Blichfeld and Glass have both moved on to the pro ranks and Paterson left a year early to play U Sports, there is still a lot coming back up front in Portland.

Gricius is the big piece when it comes to the older players, but there’s a lot of younger faces like Newkirk, Hanas, Jarvis and Klassen that could find themselves in bigger roles. The addition of Brink would be a massive one for the offence, but it seems unlikely that he’s going to leave Denver at this point.

Defencemen

Departing

  • Brendan De Jong (98 – 7-20-27 – Wichita Thunder)
  • Jared Freadrich (98 – 15-33-48 – Alberta Golden Bears)

Returning

  • Nick Cicek (00 – 0-13-13)
  • Clay Hanus (01 – 8-19-27)
  • John Ludvig (00 – 5-13-18)
  • Kade Nolan (01 – 0-1-1)
  • Nick Perna (01 – 1-9-10)
  • Matt Quigley (99 – 1-10-11)

Arriving

  • Jonas Brondberg (01 – ’19 Import Draft – 2-2-4 – Vaxjo Lakers U18)
  • Kurtis Smythe (02 – Saskatoon’s 2nd in ’17 – 7-7-14 – Delta Hockey Academy)

NHL Prospects

  • John Ludvig (Florida Panthers – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • Max Burkholder (03 – 10th in ’18 – N/A – Chaska/Chanhassen Bantam AA – Colorado College Tigers)
  • Slava Demin (00 – 6th in ’15 – 4-10-14 – Denver Pioneers – Vegas Golden Knights – Unsigned)
  • Ethan Edwards (02 – 8th in ’17 – 2-23-25 – Northern Alberta Xtreme – Spruce Grove Saints – Michigan Wolverines)
  • Drew Helleson (01 – Listed – 4-7-11 – US NTDP – Boston College Eagles – Colorado Avalanche – Unsigned)
  • Ryan Helliwell (02 – 3rd in ’17 – 0-12-12 – Langley Rivermen – Notre Dame Fighting Irish)
  • Ryan Johnson (01 – Listed – 6-19-25 – Sioux Falls Stampede – Minnesota Golden Gophers – Buffalo Sabres – Unsigned)
  • Tyler Kleven (02 – 10th in ’17 – 2-1-3 – US NTDP – North Dakota Fighting Hawks)

Although they lost two overage players on the back-end, Hanus and Ludvig should have good campaigns to help offset their losses.

With that said, there might not be a high-end youngster waiting in the wings behind those two. If they were able to land one of Demin, Helleson or Johnson, that would help improve their defensive depth quite a bit.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • Shane Farkas (99 – 2.71 – 30-12-6 – .906 – Victoria Royals)

Returning

  • Joel Hofer (00 – 3.72 – 15-29-3 – .906)

Arriving

  • Isaiah DiLaura (00 – 3.40 – 4-10-2 – .890 – Prince George Cougars)
  • Dante Giannuzzi (02 – 5th in ’17 – 2.50 – 3-1-0 – .919 – Rink Hockey Academy)

NHL Prospects

  • Joel Hofer (St. Louis Blues – Signed)

Rights Held

  • Aaron Randazzo (01 – Listed – 3.23 – 10-8-0 – .880 – Dubuque Fighting Saints – Odessa Jackalopes – St. Cloud State Huskies)

With some many picks being dealt for him in January when they acquired him from Swift Current, it was obvious that Hofer would be the guy this year, especially when Farkas was dealt at the WHL Draft.

While Hofer is solidified as the starter, the backup spot has yet to be set in stone, especially after DiLaura was acquired from Prince George on Tuesday.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • N/A

Returning

  • Mike Johnston (General Manager and Head Coach – Ninth Season)
  • Kyle Gustafson (Associate Coach – Seventeenth Season – Second Season as Assistant General Manager)
  • Don Hay (Assistant Coach – Second Season)
  • Andy Moog (Goaltending Coach – Third Season)

Arriving

  • N/A

Nothing has changed in Portland. In the words of Twitter legend Fake Mike Johnston…Kiss the Ring.

Best Case Scenario

Although they lose their two biggest weapons on offence, the returning faces step up and Hofer is great in goal as the Winterhawks once again contend for a title.

Worst Case Scenario

The goal scoring dries up and Hofer struggles in between the pipes. The Winterhawks exit out of the post-season early yet again and the trade they made to get Hofer from Swift Current looks worse by the day.

Current 2020 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: No Picks
  • Round 2: One Pick (Swift Current)
  • Round 3: No Picks
  • 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: One Pick
  • Round 11: One Pick
  • Round 12: One Pick
Henrik Rybinski (Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds)

Seattle Thunderbirds

Last Season

Although they traded their top scorer in Zack Andrusiak to Everett in January and they lost Dillon Hamaliuk to a season-ending injury in December, the T-Birds were red-hot in the second half after the arrival of goaltender Roddy Ross from the AJHL. Not only did they make the playoffs once again, but they also pushed the eventual Western Conference champion Vancouver Giants to six games in the first round.

Forwards

Departing

  • Graeme Bryks (01 – 1-7-8 – Victoria Royals)
  • Dillon Hamaliuk (00 – 11-15-26 – Kelowna Rockets)
  • Noah Philip (98 – 26-49-75 – Alberta Golden Bears)
  • Sean Richards (98 – 16-22-38)
  • Cody Savey (01 – 0-1-1)
  • Nolan Volcan (98 – 27-30-57 – Alberta Golden Bears)

Returning

  • Tyler Carpendale (00 – 6-16-22)
  • Jared Davidson (02 – 2-2-4)
  • Keltie Jeri-Leon (00 – 8-16-24)
  • Jaxan Kaluski (99 – 6-13-19)
  • Andrej Kukuca (99 – 25-32-57)
  • Payton Mount (02 – 5-16-21)
  • Henrik Rybinski (01 – 8-39-47)
  • Matthew Wedman (99 – 40-37-77)

Arriving

  • Conner Bruggen-Cate (99 – 5-9-14 – Kelowna Rockets)
  • Lucas Ciona (03 – 2nd in ’18 – 12-15-27 – Northern Alberta Xtreme)
  • Michael Horon (01 – Everett’s 9th in ’16 – 30-31-61 – Lethbridge Midget Hurricanes)
  • Alex Morozoff (01 – 8-7-15 – Red Deer Rebels)
  • Matthew Rempe (02 – Listed – 4-8-12 – Spruce Grove Saints)
  • Conner Roulette (03 – 2nd in ’18 – 41-47-88 – Winnipeg Thrashers)
  • Mekai Sanders (03 – 9th in ’18 – 3-1-4 – Compuware U16)
  • Kai Uchacz (03 – 1st in ’18 – 16-15-31 – Okotoks Midget Oilers)
  • Brendan Williamson (02 – Listed – 12-28-40 – Fraser Valley Thunderbirds)

NHL Prospects

  • Henry Rybinski (Florida Panthers – Unsigned)
  • Matthew Wedman (Florida Panthers – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • Cameron Berg (02 – 9th in ’17 – 3-7-10 – Omaha Lancers – Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks)
  • Tim Stutzle (02 – ’19 Import Draft – 23-32-55 – Jungadler Mannheim U20 – Adler Mannheim)
  • Winter Wallace (02 – Listed – 30-36-66 – Shattuck St. Mary’s – Michigan State Spartans)

Despite losing three overagers and Hamaliuk, there’s still a number of good pieces in Seattle on offence. Wedman will be in the mix for the top overagers in the league if he doesn’t turn pro, while Rybinski and Mount should increase their production in their second campaign for the team.

There’s a lot of new faces as well, with Roulette possible being a sleeper for the Rookie of the Year award after an impressive showing at the Under-17 summer camp. Another huge piece, if he were to ever come over, is Stutzle as he could be a top-10 pick at the 2020 NHL Draft.

Defencemen

Departing

  • Jake Lee (01 – 3-21-24 – Kelowna Rockets)
  • Jarret Tyszka (99 – 8-22-30 – UBC Thunderbirds)

Returning

  • Zach Ashton (01 – 1-2-3)
  • Tyrel Bauer (02 – 2-12-14)
  • Simon Kubicek (01 – 9-19-28)
  • Cade McNelly (01 – 1-1-2)
  • Owen Williams (00 – 6-13-19)

Arriving

  • Luke Bateman (02 – 4th in ’17 – 10-14-24 – Thompson Blazers)
  • Hunter Donohoe (00 – 0-3-3 – Red Deer Rebels)

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • Layton Ahac (01 – 3rd in ’16 – 4-28-32 – Prince George Spruce Kings – Ohio State Buckeyes – Vegas Golden Knights – Unsigned)
  • Mike Koster (01 – Listed – 19-40-59 – Chaska High School – Tri-City Storm – Minnesota Golden Gophers – Toronto Maple Leafs – Unsigned)
  • Kirby Proctor (01 – Lethbridge’s 3rd in ’17 – 1-17-18 – Des Moines Buccaneers – Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks)

Not only did they lose Lee in the trade with the Rockets, but Tyszka also left the major junior ranks a year early. While having Kubicek back is nice, there’s a lot of questions marks on the rest of the backend and there seems to be no high-end players waiting in the wings, unless they were to land one of Ahac or Koster.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • Cole Schwebius (01 – 3.89 – 5-8-2 – .886 – Kelowna Rockets)

Returning

  • Roddy Ross (00 – 2.76 – 16-5-3 – .919)

Arriving

  • Blake Lyda (02 – Everett’s 4th in ’17 – 3.97 – 1-3-1 – .895 – CAC Midget Canadians)

NHL Prospects

  • Roddy Ross (Philadelphia Flyers – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • N/A

Ross was rewarded for his incredible rise through the ranks by being picked at the NHL Draft, but it will be interesting to see just how good he can be as he enters his first full campaign in the league. There’s a couple of youngsters waiting to play behind him on the depth chart, though they might have to wait a year or two before taking over.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • N/A

Returning

  • Bill LaForge (General Manager – Second Season)
  • Matt O’Dette (Head Coach – Third Season)
  • Kyle Hagel (Assistant Coach – Third Season)
  • Castan Sommer (Assistant Coach – Third Season)
  • Ian Gordon (Goaltending Coach – Seventh Season)

Arriving

  • N/A

With an eye towards the future, it makes a lot of sense that things are staying the same in Seattle, especially as hockey is about to get bigger in the area with the NHL heading there in the coming years.

Best Case Scenario

With exciting young pieces and some good under the radar talent, the Thunderbirds are able to work their way up the standings in a tight US Division.

Worst Case Scenario

Ross regresses after his breakout rookie campaign and everything else on the team is just average as the Thunderbirds miss out on the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

Current 2020 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: One Pick
  • Round 2: One Pick
  • Round 3: No Picks
  • Round 4: One Pick
  • Round 5: One Pick
  • Round 6: One Pick
  • Round 7: No Picks
  • Round 8: Two Picks (Saskatoon)
  • Round 9: One Pick
  • Round 10: One Pick
  • Round 11: One Pick
  • Round 12: One Pick
Adam Beckman (Marc Smith)

Spokane Chiefs

Last Season

It took a bit for everything to click, especially in goal, but the Chiefs were impressive when the games mattered most as they shoved aside Portland and Everett to reach the Western Conference final for the first time since 2011, where they lost to the Giants.

Forwards

Departing

  • Jaret Anderson-Dolan (99 – 20-23-43 – Ontario Reign – Los Angeles Kings – Signed)
  • Kaden Hanas (99 – 0-3-3 – Drumheller Dragons)
  • Luc Smith (98 – 28-25-33 – Alberta Golden Bears)
  • Riley Woods (98 – 29-46-75 – Toronto Marlies)

Returning

  • Erik Atchison (02 – 1-1-2)
  • Adam Beckman (01 – 32-30-62)
  • Jack Finley (02 – 9-10-19)
  • Connor Gabruch (01 – 3-3-6)
  • Michael King (00 – 3-10-13)
  • Cordel Larson (01 – 7-7-14)
  • Jake McGrew (99 – 31-23-54)
  • Ethan McIndoe (99 – 16-24-40)
  • Luke Toporowski (01 – 21-28-49)
  • Eli Zummack (00 – 15-53-68)

Arriving

  • Bear Hughes (01 – Listed – 41-25-66 – Spokane Braves)
  • Reed Jacobson (02 – 6th in ’17 – 26-29-55 – Swift Current Legionnaires)
  • Grady Lane (03 – 8th in ’18 – 5-7-12 – Southwest Cougars – Winkler Flyers)
  • Owen MacNeil (03 – 2nd in ’18 – 8-11-19 – Calgary Midget Royals)
  • Brandon Reller (03 – Listed – 4-9-13 – Maple Grove High School)
  • Blake Swetlikoff (03 – 3rd in ’18 – 10-19-29 – Regina Pat Canadians)

NHL Prospects

  • Adam Beckman (Minnesota Wild – Unsigned)
  • Jake McGrew (San Jose Sharks – Signed)

Rights Held

  • Jake Hale (01 – 10th in ’16 – 7-8-15 – Minnesota Magicians – Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs)
  • Ethan Leyh (01 – 8th in ’16 – 15-27-42 – Langley Rivermen – Quinnipiac Bobcats)

Even though Anderson-Dolan and the two overagers are gone, the Chiefs still have some exciting talent on offence, especially with Beckman, Toporowski and Zummack all returning.

They will be missing McIndoe, who was almost a point per game player in the playoffs, to start the season with an injury, but they are going to get McGrew back from San Jose. As fans of Portland and Prince Albert will know from the returns of Blichfeld and Noah Gregor, a signed overage Sharks prospect is someone worth watching.

Defencemen

Departing

  • Egor Arbuzov (01 – 4-9-13)
  • Nolan Reid (98 – 17-34-51)

Returning

  • Luke Gallagher (00 – 0-2-2)
  • Noah King (99 – 5-9-14)
  • Filip Kral (99 – 10-26-36)
  • Matt Leduc (00 – 1-5-6)
  • Bobby Russell (00 – 5-9-14)
  • Ty Smith (00 – 7-62-69)

Arriving

  • Jordan Chudley (01 – 0-2-2 – Winnipeg Ice)
  • Matvei Startsev (02 – ’19 Import Draft – 4-8-12 – Rus Moskva U17)
  • Graham Sward (03 – 1st in ’18 – 7-19-26 – Fraser Valley Thunderbirds)
  • Raegan Wiles (02 – Listed – 7-9-16 – Calgary Midget North Stars)

NHL Prospects

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

Rights Held

  • Kieran Ruscheinski (01 – Listed – 7-4-11 – Calgary North Stars – Salmon Arm Silverbacks – Montreal Canadiens – Unsigned)
  • Cole Teleki (02 – Listed – 5-9-14 – Dallas Stars U16 – Lawrence Academy – Providence Friars)

Out of all the teams in the league, this might be the one spot where the return of a single player could change things in a hurry. Despite winning the CHL defenceman of the year award, there’s still a chance that Smith could be sent back by the Devils, which could set the stage for an incredible debate between him and Bowen Byram for who is the best blueliner in the league.

If he doesn’t come back, things become pretty interesting. The Chiefs already know that Kral will be returning as a dual-slot player, but the rest of the defence will need to step up their production if Smith stays in New Jersey, especially since Reid has aged out.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • Bailey Brkin (99 – 2.75 – 27-11-3 – .914 – Moose Jaw Warriors)
  • Reece Klassen (99 – 3.28 – 18-8-9 – .895)
  • Dawson Weatherill (99 – 4.33 – 6-6-2 – .862)

Returning

  • N/A

Arriving

  • Campbell Arnold (02 – 2nd in ’17 – 3.24 – 12-15-0 – .913 – Spokane Braves)
  • Mason Beaupit (03 – 4th in ’18 – 3.32 – 10-12-3 – N/A – Valley West Giants)
  • Lukas Parik (01 – ’19 Import Draft – 2.85 – 15-17-0 – .917 – Bili Tygri Liberec U20)

NHL Prospects

  • Lukas Parik (Los Angeles Kings – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • Matthew Davis (01 – Listed – 2.03 – 26-7-2 – .914 – Spruce Grove Saints – Denver Pioneers)

Although Brkin carried the load in the playoffs, the Chiefs decided to keep Klassen around, until he was waived on Wednesday. As a result, it looks like Parik will be taking over the starting duties and he’ll be expected to lead the way immediately.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • Dan Lambert (Head Coach for Two Seasons – Assistant Coach with the Nashville Predators)
  • Scott Burt (Assistant Coach for Six Seasons – Assistant Coach with the Idaho Steelheads)
  • Ryan Cyr (Goaltending Coach for Eight Seasons – Director of Goalie Development with the Winnipeg Ice)

Returning

  • Scott Carter (General Manager – Fourth Season)
  • Adam Deadmarsh (Assistant Coach – Third Season)

Arriving

  • Manny Viverios (Head Coach – Assistant Coach with the Edmonton Oilers for one season)
  • Adam Maglio (Associate Coach – Head Coach with the Prince George Spruce Kings for two seasons)
  • Dustin Donaghy (Assistant Coach – An assistant coach with the Nanaimo Clippers from 2016-2018)

With Lambert moving up to the NHL just days after inking a contract extension, the Chiefs were able to land Swift Current’s former bench boss as Viverios was on the market after another regime change in Edmonton. He’s not involved with any of the trades this time, so don’t expect the Chiefs to suddenly go beyond all-in like the Broncos did in 2018.

The Chiefs also made a great hire by bringing on Maglio, who helped turn the Spruce Kings into a great squad in the BCHL and led them to the National Junior A Championship final in May, where they lost to the Brooks Bandits of the AJHL.

Best Case Scenario

With the surprise return of Smith doing wonders for the blueline, the Chiefs ride an excellent offence to contend in the Western Conference once again.

Worst Case Scenario

Although the goal scoring is there, the defence is a mess after Smith sticks with the Devils and Parik struggles in goal. As a result, the Chiefs end up being in a battle for a wildcard spot.

Current 2020 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: One Pick
  • Round 2: One Pick
  • Round 3: No Picks
  • Round 4: One Pick
  • Round 5: One Pick
  • Round 6: Two Picks (Prince Albert and Victoria)
  • Round 7: One Pick (Saskatoon)
  • Round 8: Two Picks (Kelowna)
  • Round 9: One Pick
  • Round 10: One Pick
  • Round 11: One Pick
  • Round 12: One Pick
Sasha Mutala (Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald)

Tri-City Americans

Last Season

Although they didn’t get Michael Rasmussen back from the Detroit Red Wings, the Americans were able to ride workhorse goalie Beck Warm and their other veterans to make the playoffs, but they were no match for the Silvertips.

Forwards

Departing

  • Parker AuCoin (99 – 42-42-84 – Carleton Ravens)
  • Isaac Johnson (99 – 12-20-32 – Winnipeg Ice)
  • Riley Sawchuk (99 – 20-33-53 – Edmonton Oil Kings)
  • Nolan Yaremko (98 – 28-38-66 – Mount Royal Cougars)

Returning

  • Paycen Bjorklund (00 – 5-5-10)
  • Connor Bouchard (01 – 7-24-31)
  • Krystof Hrabik (99 – 21-30-51)
  • Samuel Huo (01 – 6-10-16)
  • Kaden Kohle (02 – 0-1-1)
  • Will Kushniryk (00 – 3-0-3)
  • Sasha Mutala (01 – 20-21-41)
  • Kyle Olson (99 – 21-49-70)
  • Blake Stevenson (01 – 8-6-14)

Arriving

  • Parker Bell (03 – 5th in ’18 – 11-21-32 – North Island Silvertips)
  • Nick Bowman (00 – Listed – 16-18-34 – Sherwood Park Crusaders)
  • Jan Cikhart (02 – ’19 Import Draft – 18-13-31 – Bili Tygri Liberec U19)
  • Booker Daniel (01 – Listed – 17-21-38 – Cariboo Cougars)
  • Tyson Greenway (03 – 4th in ’18 – 11-7-18 – St. Albert Raiders)
  • Nikita Krivokrasov (00 – Listed – 7-6-13 – Corpus Christi IceRays)
  • Edge Lambert (01 – Listed – 21-14-35 – Grande Prairie Midget Storm)
  • Landon Roberts (02 – 6th in ’17 – 13-7-20 – Southwest Cougars)

NHL Prospects

  • Sasha Mutala (Colorado Avalanche – Unsigned)

Rights Held

  • Ignat Belov (01 – Listed – 16-10-26 – Westminster Prep – Cedar Rapids Roughriders – UConn Huskies)
  • Ryder Donovan (00 – Listed – 12-25-37 – Duluth East High – Wisconsin Badgers – Vegas Golden Knights – Unsigned)
  • Ben Helgeson (00 – Listed – 4-13-17 – Vernon Vipers – Wisconsin Badgers)
  • Jaxon Nelson (00 – 7th in ’15 – 19-21-40 – Omaha Lancers – Minnesota Golden Gophers)
  • Ryan O’Reilly (00 – 5th in ’15 – 14-17-31 – Green Bay Gamblers – Denver Pioneers – Detroit Red Wings – Unsigned)
  • Zachary Okabe (01 – 9th in ’16 – 31-27-58 – Grande Prairie Storm – St. Cloud State Huskies)
  • Riley Stuart (02 – 5th in ’17 – 12-17-29 – Phoenix Jr. Coyotes – Dubuque Fighting Saints – Arizona State Sun Devils)

Graduations and trades have led to some big losses, but Olson and Hrabik are both back and Mutala should be set for a huge campaign. The rest of the roster is pretty interesting up front, with a lot of young faces and the ghosts of WHL past looking for a fresh start.

Defencemen

Departing

  • Riley Bruce (99 – 0-1-1)
  • Aaron Hyman (98 – 10-40-50 – Ryerson Rams)
  • Roman Kalinchenko (00 – 2-7-9 – CSKA Moscow)

Returning

  • Mitchell Brown (01 – 4-12-16)
  • Tom Cadieux (02 – 0-4-4)
  • Bryan McAndrews (01 – 0-1-1)
  • Jarod Newell (02 – 1-1-2)
  • Dom Schmiemann (99 – 3-12-15)
  • Sam Stewart (00 – 0-18-18)

Arriving

  • Ian Ferguson (02 – Listed – 3-3-6 – Dallas Stars U16)
  • David Homola (01 – ’19 Import Draft – 4-14-18 – HC Ocelari Trinec U19)
  • Marc Lajoie (03 – 1st in ’18 – 11-24-35 – Northern Alberta Xtreme)
  • Jayden Platz (00 – Listed – 0-9-9 – Sherwood Park Crusaders)

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • Ethan Frisch (00 – Listed – 4-13-17 – Fargo Force – North Dakota Fighting Hawks)
  • Luke Mittelstadt (03 – Listed – 3-25-28 – Eden Prairie High School – Minnesota Golden Gophers)

With Hyman gone, there’s a lot of offence that needs to be found on the back end. Lajoie comes in as a first round pick and Brown was close to reaching the 20-point plateau a year ago, but they are still pretty young and there’s a lot of guys that need to step up.

Goaltenders

Departing

  • N/A

Returning

  • Talyn Boyko (02 – 5.30 – 2-5-1)
  • Beck Warm (99 – 2.94 – 32-23-5)

Arriving

  • Mason Dunsford (03 – 6th in ’18 – 2.60 – 16-5-2 – Burnaby Winter Club)

NHL Prospects

  • N/A

Rights Held

  • Matthew Thiessen (00 – Listed – 3.01 – 18-18-8 – Dubuque Fighting Saints – Maine Black Bears – Vancouver Canucks – Unsigned)

Warm played a ton last year and will probably have to do so again if the Americans are going to make the playoffs. However, there will probably be a push to have Boyko play some more as he’s the goalie of the feature once Warm leaves.

Coaching Staff and Management

Departing

  • N/A

Returning

  • Bob Tory (General Manager – Twentieth Season – Sixteenth Season as Owner)
  • Kelly Buchburger (Head Coach – Second Season)
  • Brian Pellerin (Associate Coach – Sixth Season)
  • Eli Wilson (Goaltending Coach – Third Season)

Arriving

  • N/A

This is going to come across like a broken record, but this is another team where they are electing to say the course with their staff. It’s as if keeping people around is good for the future of your franchise.

Best Case Scenario

With Olson and Mutala forming a one-two punch and Warm stealing games, the Americans are able to avoid the Wild Card battle and get the third seed in the US Division.

Worst Case Scenario

Warm can only do so much in goal as the Americans struggle mightily and miss out on the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Current 2020 Draft Situation

  • Round 1: One Pick
  • Round 2: No Picks
  • Round 3: One Pick
  • Round 4: One Pick
  • Round 5: No Picks
  • 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