Rookies excited to start major junior careers this weekend

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Nolan Allan controls the puck for the Prince Albert Raiders during a game against the Regina Pats last Saturday.

As the Prince Albert Raiders hoist four banners from the 2018-19 season Friday night at the Art Hauser Centre, it will also mark the biggest night in the hockey careers for Nolan Allan and Tyson Laventure.

The pair are among a number of players that are set to start their rookie campaigns in the Western Hockey League this weekend when the Raiders play a home-and-home series with the Saskatoon Blades.

“I’m super excited for these first games,” Laventure said Thursday. “There’s going to be a great turnout here Friday and it’s going to be an awesome experience.

“To be a part of an opening night where they are raising the championship banner is going to be really special for us, especially as it’s just the second time they’ve won the title,” Allan added. “It’s going to be a memorable experience.”

While the 2003-born players are going to be in the first full seasons in the league, they both have had experience in the WHL as underage players.

Allan, who patrolled the blueline for the Saskatoon Blazers last year, had an assist in seven games during the 2018-19 campaign.

Meanwhile, Laventure made four appearances in the Raiders lineup in addition to his role in the OHA Edmonton prep team’s forward core.

“Those games were huge for me as I gained a better understanding of what to expect coming into this year,” Allan said.

“I was able to take a lot of the things that I learned from those games towards my off-season training,” Laventure said. “I did a lot of work on my cardio during the summer and I felt a lot more comfortable out there during the pre-season.”

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald
Tyson Laventure is coming off of a 56-point campaign with the OHA Edmonton Prep program last season.

Allan and Laventure also got some ice time in before the Raiders training camp as they took part in Hockey Canada’s Under-17 Development Camp.

“That week helped me a lot with my development and it was easily one of the best experiences of my life so far,” Laventure said.

“To get an invite to the camp and to be able to play against the top 2003-born players in the country was a huge honour and something that I won’t forget,” Allan added.

The other rookies on the Raiders’ opening night roster are forwards Ivan Kechkin, Cohner Saleski, Evan Herman, Ilya Usau and Cole Nagy, defencemen Landon Kosior and Braydon Clark, and goalies Brett Balas and Carter Serhyenko.

Of that group, Kechkin, Usau, Kosior and Serhyenko have yet to play in a WHL regular season contest.

The Blades, who enter the season as the third ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League’s Top 10 poll, also have several rookies in their lineup.

One of those fresh faces is forward Colton Dach, who is the younger brother of Blades star and Chicago Blackhawks prospect Kirby Dach.

“The goal through the pre-season has been to stay here in Saskatoon and show everyone what I can do,” Dach said following a two-goal showing against the Winnipeg Ice last Friday in Saskatoon.

“You get a little more comfortable and more into the groove each time you are out there, which has helped me quite a lot so far.”

The Blades, who will hold their home opener against the Raiders at the SaskTel Centre Saturday, are also welcoming forwards Jayden Wiens and Braden Plaschewsky to the WHL, in addition to blueliners Radek Kucerik and Charlie Wright, and goaltender Koen MacInnes.

Dach, Wiens, Kucerik and Wright have yet to play in a regular season game, while MacInnes made two cameo appearances in last year’s quarter-final series against the Raiders.

Pre-Game Notes

With Aliaksei Protas returning from Washington Capitals training camp Thursday, blueliners Zack Hayes (Anaheim Ducks) and Brayden Pachal (Vegas Golden Knights) were the only Raiders players still at NHL camps as of Thursday afternoon.

Second-year forward Jakob Brook is not expected to play in both games this weekend as he continues to recover from an injury he suffered at Hockey Canada’s Hlinka Gretzky Cup selection camp.

The Blades, who welcomed back Eric Florchuk from Capitals camp Thursday, are still without Kirby Dach (Chicago Blackhawks) and Chase Wouters (Anaheim Ducks).

Dach is currently undergoing concussion protocol from a hit earlier this month, while Wouters’ status with the Ducks was unknown as of press time.

Colton Dach’s debut is up in the air as he’s listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury.

Friday’s Schedule

  • Winnipeg vs. Brandon – 6:30 p.m.
  • Medicine Hat vs. Lethbridge – 7 p.m.
  • Saskatoon vs. Prince Albert – 7 p.m.
  • Moose Jaw vs. Regina – 7 p.m.
  • Spokane vs. Kamloops – 8 p.m.
  • Vancouver vs. Prince George – 8 p.m.
  • Tri-City vs. Everett – 8:30 p.m.