Prior to the Pandemic
After missing the playoffs during the final four seasons in Cranbrook, B.C., the Ice showed a rapid improvement upon their move to Winnipeg. Despite losing Connor McClennon to a collarbone injury and only having Peyton Krebs for half the year, the Ice were challenging for the East Division title when the 2019-20 campaign ended.
Even with Michael Teply starting his pro career in the AHL, Matthew Savoie suiting up in the USHL and potential 2021 NHL Draft first round pick Carson Lambos being lost for the season after just two games, the Ice improved in their sophomore trip around in the East Division as they earned a runner-up result for the second straight year with an 18-5-0-1 mark.
Their offence jumped up from an average of 3.66 goals per game to a 4.16 mark, which surpassed the previous franchise high of 3.97 in the 2000-01 campaign.
The Ice’s defence also stepped up their game as they cut their goals against average mark from 3.28 to 2.91, which is their lowest since a 2.90 average back in 2014-15, which is the last time the team competed in the post-season.
- Jackson Leppard (2-8-10 in 24 games)
- Anderson MacDonald (2-0-2 in 16 games)
- Nino Kinder (0-2-2 in 27 games for the Berlin Ice Bears in Germany – 11-10-21 in 49 games for Ice in 2019-20)
- Peyton Krebs (13-30-43 in 24 games – Vegas Golden Knights prospect)
- Cole Muir (5-4-9 in 24 games)
- Henri Nikkanen (Unsigned 2020 import draft pick – 7-13-20 in 47 games for Jukurit in Finland – Winnipeg Jets draft pick)
- Jakin Smallwood (13-9-22 in 24 games)
- Michal Teply (0-5-5 in 18 games for Rockford IceHogs – 29-34-63 in 53 games for Ice in 2019-20 – Chicago Blackhawks prospect)
- James Form (3-0-3 in 17 games)
- Carter Loney (Victoria’s unsigned 10th round pick in 2017 – 8-11-19 in 47 games for the Sioux City Musketeers – Committed to the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs)
- Connor McClennon (14-19-33 in 24 games – Philadelphia Flyers draft pick)
- Michael Milne (6-6-12 in 14 games)
- Owen Pederson (13-18-31 in 24 games)
- Carter Savoie (Regina’s unsigned 9th round pick in 2017 – 13-7-20 in 24 games for the Denver Pioneers – Edmonton Oilers draft pick)
- Kevin Anderson (Unsigned 9th round pick in 2018 – 0-2-2 in five games for the Notre Dame Hounds – 13-40-43 in 43 games for the Notre Dame Under-18 Hounds in 2019-20 – Committed to Princeton Tigers)
- Chase Bertholet (2-6-8 in 18 games)
- Skyler Bruce (3-8-11 in 24 games)
- Rhys Raeside (0-1-1 in four games)
- Evan Waldie (0-0-0 in nine games)
- Brayden Edwards (6th round pick in 2019 – 4-1-5 in five games for the Yale Hockey Academy Under-18 Prep Team – 14-15-29 in 36 games for Yale Under-18 Prep in 2019-20)
- Evan Friesen (Signed Listed Player – 3-2-5 in six games for the Winnipeg Blues – 7-10-17 in 35 games for the Rink Hockey Academy Under-16 team in 2019-20)
- Conor Geekie (9-14-23 in 24 games)
- Rieger Lorenz (Unsigned 4th round pick in 2019 – 2-1-3 in seven games for the Okotoks Oilers – 37-35-72 in 35 games for Edge School Under-18 Prep Team in 2019-20 – Committed to the Denver Pioneers)
- Hayden Pakkala (7th round pick in 2019 – 2-2-4 in five games for the Okotoks Under-18 Oilers – 34-58-92 in 35 games for the Okotoks Under-16 Oilers in 2019-20)
- Matthew Savoie (21-17-38 in 34 games for the Dubuque Fighting Saints and 3-3-6 in four games for the Sherwood Park Crusaders – 0-7-7 in 22 games for the Ice and 19-33-52 in 22 games for the Rink Hockey Academy Under-18 Prep Team in 2019-20)
- Zach Benson (10-10-20 in 24 games)
- Ty Fraser (5th round pick in 2020 – 1-1-2 in five games for the Lethbridge Under-18 Hurricanes – 15-17-32 in 28 games for the Lethbridge Under-15 Golden Hawks in 2019-20)
- Aiden Oiring (3rd round pick in 2020 – 1-4-5 in six games for the Calgary Under-18 Royals – 28-45-73 in 32 games for the Calgary Under-15 Royals in 2019-20)
After being held off the scoresheet in the season opener against the Brandon Wheat Kings, all Krebs did was rattle off a 23-game point streak on his way to leading the WHL in scoring and earning the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as player of the year. Although a post-season game never happened during his time with the Ice due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Okotoks product became the first person to be the top choice in the WHL Draft and also earn the league’s top player honours.
McClennon showed no ill effects from his collarbone injury a year prior as he cracked the 30-point plateau, while fellow veterans Owen Pederson and Jakin Smallwood enjoyed strong campaigns in the Regina bubble and Mikey Milne was nearly a point per game after missing the first half of the year due to an injury.
The Ice also may have had the best one-two punch of rookie talent in the WHL this year as 2019 second overall pick Conor Geekie and 2020 first round choice Zach Benson ended up fourth and sixth in team scoring. While Geekie was expected to contribute right away, Benson’s showing makes his 14th overall selection last spring look like an absolute steal.
- Mike Ladyman (3-12-15 in 20 games)
- Nolan Orzeck (0-4-4 in 10 games)
- Anson McMaster (0-2-2 in 24 games)
- Jake Sanderson (Unsigned 4th round pick in 2017 – 2-13-15 in 22 games for the North Dakota Fighting Hawks – Ottawa Senators Draft Pick)
- Benjamin Zloty (1-16-17 in 24 games)
- Carson Lambos (0-0-0 in two games)
- Karter Prosofsky (1-11-12 in 22 games)
- Brandt Young (0-0-0 in 17 games)
- Owen Boucher (0-1-1 in 20 games)
- Ashton Cumby (4th round pick in 2020 – 0-2-2 in four games for the Lloydminster Under-18 Bobcats – 13-9-22 in 30 games for the Lloydminster Under-15 Bobcats in 2019-20)
- Omen Harmacy (8th round pick in 2020 – 2-13-15 in 35 games for the Shattuck St. Mary’s Under-15 team – 9-19-28 in 52 games for the Shattuck St. Mary’s Under-14 team in 2019-20)
With Reece Harsch graduating from the league and 2020 trade deadline pickup Dawson Barteaux moving up to the pro ranks, there were some question marks coming into the year about the overall strength of the Ice’s blueline, which took a bigger hit once Lambos’ season ended.
Following a 27-point showing as a rookie, Benjamin Zloty moved into the top defenceman role with ease as he posted 17 points in 24 contests. Mike Ladyman surpassed the 13 points he had in 2019-20 with a 15-point campaign and Saskatoon’s Karter Prosofsky saw his offence jump rapidly from the single assist he earned in 34 games as a rookie, in addition to having some of the best flow in the league.
- Carl Stankowski (5-2-0 with a 3.41 GAA, an .880 save percentage and zero shutouts)
- Eugen Rabcan (Unsigned 2020 import draft pick – 2.20 GAA, a .935 save percentage and zero shutouts in five games (record was unavailable) for HC 19 Humenne in Slovakia)
- Gage Alexander (6-3-0 with a 2.23 GAA, a .917 save percentage and one shutout)
- Daniel Hauser (7-0-1 with a 3.10 GAA, an .898 save percentage and zero shutouts)
When Liam Hughes graduated from the WHL last spring, the Ice goaltending situation was a bit of a mystery. Gage Alexander showed flashes as a rookie, but only played in seven games, while Daniel Hauser had yet to suit up for a contest after being picked in the sixth round in 2019.
In a normal season, the Ice may have tried to sign import pick Eugen Rabcan or gone after a netminder in the trade market. With those options not readily available, Winnipeg answered those experience concerns by signing Carl Stankowski, who won a league championship with Seattle in 2017 and had spent last season with the BCHL’s Penticton Vees.
The trio split time between the pipes in Regina, with Alexander leading the way with some sparkling numbers that might get him picked in July’s NHL Draft. Hauser was solid in his rookie campaign and will surely get better with more reps next year, while Stankowski was able to round out his junior career with a win over the Pats in the same building where hoisted the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
While Krebs will more than likely be vying for a spot on the Vegas Golden Knights roster, the Ice’s offence shouldn’t miss a beat with Savoie finally joining the club on a full-time basis and all of the other key pieces set to return.
With Lambos coming back to the blueline and Alexander showing he can be a strong starter in this league, the stage seems set for the Ice and the Brandon Wheat Kings to square off all year long for the East Division title, though the Saskatoon Blades might have something to say about that if they get Tristen Robins back from San Jose.
While the Ice do have the 18th overall pick in December’s WHL Prospect Draft, they currently aren’t scheduled to pick again until they use a quartet of selections in the sixth round. While Winnipeg does have a first, third and fifth round pick of their own in 2022, they might have to dip into the 2023 and 2024 draft choices in order to land a big player this year.