Prior to the Pandemic
For the second straight season, the Broncos dealt off every asset in sight, which led to them finishing the year with an 18-game losing streak and at the bottom of the league standings.
To make matters worse, the 2020 first round pick that they dealt to the Lethbridge Hurricanes in January 2018 to acquire Stuart Skinner, Giorgio Estephan and Tanner Nagel ended up winning the draft lottery. However, the Regina Pats now had that selection as part of the Jake Leschyshyn and Nick Henry trade in November 2018 and would use it to take Connor Bedard.
Though to be fair to the Broncos, they were able to win a title after making that trade, while the Hurricanes crashed out in the first round of their playoff push.
While the pandemic resulted in the Broncos returning to the East Division and a renewal of rivalries with their provincial foes, a victory proved elusive to start the campaign in Regina as their winless streak extended to 23 straight games with a 0-5 start.
They were one defeat away from tying the 1983-84 Winnipeg Warriors for the longest losing streak in WHL history, but Swift Current returned to the win column in style on March 22 with an impressive 5-2 result over the Prince Albert Raiders.
Although they were at the bottom of the division standings for a third straight year with a 6-16-2-0 record, this Broncos side was different than the last two squads. They were in most contests and had a variety of weapons to keep teams honest, which resulted in a three goals per game average that easily surpassed their 2.04 and 1.98 marks over the previous two seasons.
The team also saw one of their staff members earn a big promotion at the end of the campaign, as assistant coach Brandin Cote was named the associate coach for the Saskatchewan Huskies and will be moving into the head coach role after Mike Babcock finishes his interim stint in that position.
- Michael Farren (9-14-23 in 24 games – Committed to the Carleton Ravens for next season)
- Aiden Bulych (6-11-17 in 23 games)
- Eric Houk (3-1-4 in 23 games)
- Cole Nagy (7-9-16 in 23 games)
- Jordan Borysiuk (2-3-5 in 19 games)
- Vladislav Demidovich (Signed 2020 Import Draft Pick – 13-19-32 in 25 games for Yunior Minsk and Shakhter Soligorsk in Belarus)
- Bode Hagan (3-4-7 in 19 games)
- Raphael Pelletier (4-5-9 in 15 games)
- Cohner Saleski (2-0-2 in 15 games)
- Carter Stebbings (4-5-9 in 15 games)
- Carter Halamandaris (0-2-2 in 16 games)
- Braeden Lewis (2-4-6 in 19 games)
- Caleb Wyrostok (5-6-11 in 22 games)
- Joshua Davies (6-3-9 in 20 games)
- Josh Filmon (2-0-2 in 17 games)
- Connor Hvidston (7th round pick in 2019 – 6-6-12 in seven games for the Yorkton Under-18 Maulers – 14-14-28 in 43 games for the Maulers in 2019-20)
- Karson King (0-1-1 in one game)
- Mathew Ward (6-16-22 in 23 games)
- Brady Birnie (0-0-0 in four games)
- Van Eger (4th round pick in 2020 – 1-2-3 in six games for the Notre Dame Under-18 Hounds – 18-18-36 in 30 games for the Under-15 Hounds in 2019-20)
- Rylan Gould (2nd round pick in 2020 – 1-2-3 in two games for the Winnipeg Under-18 Wild – 32-54-86 in 36 games for the Winnipeg Under-15 Monarchs in 2019-20)
The veteran players proved their worth for the Broncos this year, as Aidan Bulych and Cole Nagy were consistent producers during their sophomore seasons, while Michael Farren was an incredible waiver wire pickup by head coach and director of hockey operations Dean Brockman as he put together a great overage campaign.
The most exciting player up front though was Mathew Ward, as the rookie from Kamloops nearly led the club in scoring and was in contention for the league’s assist title during the first few weeks of the season. In a year that saw a bevy of talented rookies across the league, the 14th overall pick in the 2019 WHL Draft is one that’s worth watching going forward.
Another key factor in the Broncos improvement was their overall depth. Caleb Wyrostok, Josh Davies, Raphael Pelletier and Carter Stebbings all had strong showings during the season and should move into bigger roles next year.
One player that hardcore WHL enthusiasts might note is absent from this depth chart is 2018 third round pick Finlay Williams. After two strong seasons in the BCHL with the Prince George Spruce Kings and the Penticton Vees, the 18-year-old is expected to join the NCAA’s Michigan Wolverines this fall.
- Kaleb Bulych (1-4-5 in 24 games – Committed to the Carleton Ravens for next season)
- Owen Williams (5-10-15 in 24 games)
- Alex Moar (0-3-3 in five games)
- Oliver Fatul (Unsigned 2020 import draft pick – 0-0-0 in 15 games for Vlci Zilina in Slovakia)
- Chase Lacombe (0-1-1 in 13 games)
- Sam McGinley (1-5-6 in 22 games)
- Devin Aubin (1-3-4 in 21 games)
- Daylan Weigel (0-1-1 in four games)
- Cale Ashcroft (Saskatoon’s unsigned 4th round pick in 2019 – 3-8-11 in 19 games for the Sherwood Park Crusaders – Committed to the Denver Pioneers)
- Tyson Jugnauth (Unsigned 1st round pick in 2019 – 4-13-17 in 20 games for the West Kelowna Warriors – Committed to the Wisconsin Badgers)
- Owen Pickering (2-7-9 in 23 games)
- Grayson Burzynski (2nd round pick in 2020 – 0-0-0 in two games for the Winnipeg Under-18 Wild – 19-39-58 in 36 games for the Winnipeg Under-15 Monarchs in 2019-20)
- Liam Saxberg (3rd round pick in 2020 – 0-4-4 in three games for the Winnipeg Under-18 Bruins – 19-28-47 in 36 games for the Winnipeg Under-15 Warriors in 2019-20)
With Hendrik De Klerk not returning, Alex Moar season’s ending early due to an injury and other blueliners being sidelined over the course of the campaign, the Broncos defence ended up being a patchwork product at times, though there were some highlights along the way.
Overager Owen Williams, who was picked up off the waiver wire just weeks before the campaign, would have set career numbers if had this been a full year as he was just four points of his previous season-best total when the 24-game schedule ended.
On the other end of the spectrum, 17-year-old Owen Pickering could end being a steal for the Broncos as he had nine points in his rookie season after being a ninth round pick by the club in 2019.
- Isaac Poulter (3-12-1 with a 4.41 GAA, an .879 save percentage and zero shutouts)
- Reid Dyck (3-4-1 with a 4.10 GAA, an .881 save percentage and zero shutouts)
- Joey Rocha (5th round pick in 2020 – 8-7-0 with a 3.35 GAA, an unknown save percentage and zero shutouts with the North Island Under-15 Silvertips in 2019-20)
Since becoming the full-time starter in January 2019 after Joel Hofer was traded to the Portland Winterhawks, Poulter has been an absolute workhorse in goal for Swift Current. His overall stats took a hit this year when compared to his first two seasons, but his efforts allowed the Broncos to stay in games nearly every night.
After an impressive start to the 2020-21 campaign in the MJHL with the Winkler Flyers, Dyck put together several strong showings in his rookie season in the WHL, especially in a 3-2 shootout win over Saskatoon where he made 33 saves. It wouldn’t be a total shock if the third round pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft moves into the starting role full time next year.
Depending on how close to normal things are when the 2021-22 season begins, the Broncos will more than likely be moving back to the Central Division, where they’ll have to deal with two really strong foes in the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Medicine Hat Tigers.
However, if the cards play out right for the Broncos, they might make the leap into the playoff discussion if the young players continue to develop. The blueline might have to be strengthened through trades, the Import Draft or by landing one of the prospects currently committed to the NCAA, but the goaltending and forwards should be enough pieces to keep teams honest.
Another factor in the Broncos favour is the fact that they own two first round picks in December’s Prospects Draft. While their own pick fell from third to sixth in the lottery, the selection they acquired from Portland in the Hofer trade rocketed up the board from 14th to seventh.
Although they are currently without picks in rounds five through nine, Swift Current does have their own picks in rounds two, three and four this year, in addition to owning their own selections in the first four rounds in 2022 and Everett’s second rounder as part of a 2020 trade deadline move involving Kasper Puutio and Ethan Regnier.
A return to being a legit title contender may still be a few years away, but the young talent that Brockman has brought in should have Broncos fans excited to see their club in action when they return to the Credit Union iPlex after a couple of lean seasons.