Prior to the Pandemic
Willie Desjardins’ return as head coach and general manager resulted in a change of fortunes for the Tigers as they were one of the top offences in the WHL and were on a six-game win streak when the 2019-20 campaign came to a halt.
The COVID-19 pandemic also meant that long-time voice of the Tigers Bob Ridley had to wait until the second contest of this season to reach the 4,000 games mark in his illustrious career. You can bet there will be a huge celebration for Ridley’s accomplishment when fans are able to return to the recently-rebranded Co-op Place.
With a 14-8-0-1 record, the Tigers solidified themselves in second spot in the Central Division standings, though their only blemish was being the lone Alberta-based side that was unable to beat the juggernaut Edmonton Oil Kings during the shortened season.
The Tigers averaged 3.78 goals per game during the spring, which was down from the 4.20 mark they set in 2019-20. Their goals against per game also jumped up slightly from a 2.88 mark to an even three.
- Ryan Chyzowski (11-18-29 in 23 games – Signed with the Toronto Marlies for next season)
- Brett Kemp (12-19-31 in 23 games)
- Jonathan Brinkman (0-5-5 in 27 games for the Aalborg Pirates in Denmark – 13-14-27 in 56 games for the Tigers in 19-20)
- Corson Hopwo (14-8-22 in 23 games)
- Nick McCarry (7-5-12 in 20 games – Signed off of waivers by the Kamloops Blazers)
- Lukas Svejkovsky (12-10-22 in 20 games – Pittsburgh Penguins Draft Pick)
- Noah Danielson (3-6-9 in 20 games)
- Samuel Deckhut (Unsigned 12th round pick in 2017 – 5-16-21 in 28 games for Salisbury School in 2019-20 – Committed to the St. Lawrence Saints)
- Oskari Kuntonen (Unsigned 2020 import draft pick – 0-4-4 in two games for the KooKoo Under-20 team – 16-30-46 in 39 games for the Pelicans Under-18 team in 2019-20)
- Scout Truman (Unsigned 2nd round pick in 2017 – 5-16-21 in 42 games for the Des Moines Buccaneers – Committed to the UMass-Lowell River Hawks)
- Caleb Willms (1-2-3 in 8 games)
- Ashton Ferster (0-0-0 in 10 games)
- Teague Patton (2-2-4 in 18 games)
- Cole Sillinger (24-22-46 in 31 games for the Sioux Falls Stampede – 22-31-53 in 48 games for the Tigers in 2019-20)
- Brayden Boehm (1-2-3 in 15 games)
- Carlin Dezainde (1-3-4 in 13 games)
- Cayden Glover (0-1-1 in 15 games)
- Tyler MacKenzie (1-1-2 in 19 games)
- Oren Shtrom (5-9-14 in 22 games)
- Oasiz Wiesblatt (2-3-5 in 22 games)
- Andrew Basha (5th round pick in 2020 – 0-3-3 in six games for the Calgary Under-18 Royals – 24-33-57 in 33 games for the Calgary Under-15 Royals in 2019-20)
- Shane Smith (0-0-0 in one game)
Although captain James Hamblin had aged out into the AHL, the Tigers offence was still solid with nearly all of their top players coming back and contributing.
Overager Brett Kemp kept up the impressive pace he showed to start the year in the SJHL with the Yorkton Terriers to lead the team in scoring, while fellow 20-year-old and new captain Ryan Chyzowski parlayed a 29-point campaign into a pro contract with the Toronto Marlies.
After recording a hat trick in the season opener against the Red Deer Rebels, Corson Hopwo would end up potting 14 goals and was one away from setting a career high in lamp-lighters, while Pittsburgh Penguins draft pick Lukas Svejkovsky kept up the strong play he showed after being acquired from Vancouver last December.
Among the new faces up front, the top newcomer ended up being Oren Shtrom, as the third round pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft earned the team’s rookie of the year after finishing sixth in team scoring.
What makes the Tigers offensive performances even more impressive is the fact that it was done without Cole Sillinger. The potential top 10 pick in next month’s NHL Draft ended up going on loan to the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede in January and would go on to lead the team in scoring on his way to earning the league’s top rookie honours. He’ll be back in Medicine Hat this fall and will make the team’s scoring attack even scarier.
- Cole Clayton (9-21-30 in 23 games – Signed with the Cleveland Monsters for next season)
- Daniel Baker (0-8-8 in 23 games)
- Eric Van Impe (4-9-13 in 22 games)
- Damon Agyeman (0-0-0 in two games – Traded to the Victoria Royals)
- Tyler Bates (Unsigned 11th round pick in 2017 – 0-3-3 in 11 games for the Brooks Bandits – 1-3-4 in 23 games for the Bandits in 2019-20 – Committed to the Colorado College Tigers)
- Talon Zakall (Unsigned 13th round pick in 2017 – 4-6-10 in 19 games for the Merritt Centennials – Committed to the Dartmouth Big Green)
- Aidan Brook (0-1-1 in 17 games)
- Dru Krebs (0-11-11 in 23 games)
- Rhett Parsons (1-0-1 in 20 games)
- Luke Rybinski (0-1-1 in 3 games)
- Ben Bonni (6th round pick in 2019 – 1-2-3 in four games for the Winnipeg Under-18 Thrashers – 8-10-18 in 42 games with the Thrashers in 2019-20)
- Ryan Nolan (3rd round pick in 2019 – 0-1-1 in six games for the South Alberta Hockey Academy Under-18 team – 0-6-6 in 30 games for the Calgary Under-18 North Stars in 2019-20)
- Henry Smith (2nd round pick in 2019 – 0-2-2 in four games with the Delta Hockey Academy Under-18 prep team – 0-2-2 in five games for the Delta Hockey Academy Under-18 prep team in 2019-20)
- Reid Andresen (1-4-5 in 11 games)
- Josh Van Mulligen (2nd round pick in 2020 – 0-0-0 in six games for South Alberta Hockey Academy Under-18 Team – 13-14-27 in 31 games for the SEAC Under-15 Tigers in 2019-20)
In addition to Hamblin, the Tigers also saw blueliners Parker Gavlas and Dylan Plouffe graduate from the WHL last year, but their returning players did more than enough to make up for their departures.
Cole Clayton’s final year in Medicine Hat was easily his best, as he matched his previous season-high in points in a third of the games. While he missed out on being a finalist for the WHL’s top blueliner honours, the league’s leading defensive scorer has earned a pro contract with the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters for his efforts.
While they weren’t as dominant as Clayton, Eric Van Impe and Dru Krebs were both on pace for career years if this has been a normal season and should be the key faces on the backend going into this fall.
The Tigers also got a glimpse of their future in 2020 first round pick Reid Andresen. The Saskatoon product had a goal and four assists in just 11 games and will be among a bevy of talented youngsters to watch over the next few years.
- Garin Bjorklund (10-7-1 with a 2.60 GAA, a .921 save percentage and one shutout – Washington Capitals Draft Pick)
- Beckett Langkow (4-1-0 with a 3.35 GAA, a .903 save percentage and zero shutouts)
- James Venne (Signed Listed Player – 2-0-0 with a 1.50 GAA, a .949 save percentage and one shutout for the Saskatoon Under-18 Blazers – 7-7-3 with a 3.39 GAA, a .910 save percentage and zero shutouts for the Saskatoon Under-18 Riverkings in 2019-20)
With Mads Sogaard staying home in Denmark before earning a NHL deal with the Ottawa Senators, Garin Bjorklund officially moved into the starting role and didn’t disappoint. The Washington Capitals draft pick improved upon his numbers from his rookie season and might be an under the radar candidate for the WHL goaltender of the year honours next year.
Although he only played five times, Beckett Langkow did well in his first year in the league as he picked up four wins, which should give the 17-year-old some extra confidence heading into his sophomore campaign.
While their three leading scorers are all aging out of the league and the overage situation still needs to be sorted out, the Tigers should easily be among the top teams in the Eastern Conference come next fall, especially with the return of Sillinger to an already potent offence.
The depth on the blueline might not be a strong as some other teams, but the defence has fared well thus far since Desjardins came back and it would be foolish to bet against them. They aren’t as scary as the Central Division favourite Oil Kings at the moment, but a lot can change over the course of the season.
When it comes to their future, the Tigers got some luck in last month’s WHL Prospects Draft Lottery, as they moved up from the 15th pick to eighth overall in the first round. They also have their own picks in the second and third round, along with Saskatoon’s second round pick (acquired in 2018 for Max Gerlach), Lethbridge’s third round pick (which was acquired from Vancouver as part of the Svejkovsky and Plouffe for Tyler Preziuso and Trevor Longo deal in 2019) and Everett’s fifth round pick (acquired in 2018 for Jalen Price).
In addition to those selections, they also have all of their picks for the 2022 WHL Draft, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the team make some moves with the assets they have at their disposal.