Prior to the Pandemic
After a solid start to the season, things went completely pear-shaped for the Warriors after a 7-3 road loss to the Swift Current Broncos in mid-November. Daemon Hunt missed nearly three months of action after getting his arm cut by a skate, Tim Hunter was let go as head coach in early January and both Adam Evanoff and Brayden Tracey were dealt to the Victoria Royals at the trade deadline.
That led to newly promoted bench boss Mark O’Leary having a young roster to work with during the final two months of the season, as Moose Jaw ended up at the bottom of the East Division standings.
While they matched their sixth place showing in the East Division in the Regina hub, there was a lot to like about the 8-13-3-0 Warriors, especially when their high-end talent was on full display during their two-month stay at the Brandt Centre.
The offence increased their goal per game output from 2.35 to 2.95, while the goals against per game dropped from a gaudy 4.69 average in 2019-20 to 3.95 this season.
Off the ice, it was the end of an era for the club as long-time general manager Alan Millar was named Hockey Canada’s director of player personnel prior to the start of the campaign. Jason Ripplinger, who had been the assistant general manager in Moose Jaw since 2017, was promoted to Millar’s position in April.
- Brad Ginnell (2-5-7 in 19 games)
- Riley Krane (5-7-12 in 24 games)
- Tate Popple (6-10-16 in 24 games)
- Logan Doust (2-4-6 in 19 games)
- Martin Lang (4-1-5 in 22 games for HC Plzen in the Czech Republic – 15-28-43 in 57 games with Kamloops and Moose Jaw in 2019-20)
- Calder Anderson (3-7-10 in 21 games)
- Cade Hayes (4-5-9 in 18 games)
- Bryden Kiesman (0-1-1 in 11 games)
- Ryder Korczak (3-13-16 in 17 games)
- Kade Runke (1-0-1 in 15 games)
- Eric Alarie (10-10-20 in 19 games)
- Atley Calvert (2-7-9 in 24 games)
- Trey Fechko (Unsigned 9th round pick in 2018 – 9-15-24 in 20 games for Edina High School – Signed with the Coquitlam Express for next year – Committed to the Arizona State Sun Devils)
- Josh Hoekstra (2-2-4 in 17 games)
- Riley Niven (0-1-1 in 14 games)
- Martin Rysavy (Unsigned 2020 import draft pick – 3-6-9 in 19 games for HC Prerov in the Czech Republic)
- Jagger Firkus (6-8-14 in 23 games)
- Thomas Tien (Signed 11th round pick in 2019 – 2-0-2 in four games for the St. George’s School Under-18 Prep – 33-44-77 in 34 games for the St. George’s School Elite 15’s in 2019-20)
- Ben Riche (Signed 2nd round pick in 2020 – 2-5-7 in seven games for the Regina Pat Canadians – 34-37-71 in 29 games for the Prairie Storm Under-15 team in 2019-20)
- Brayden Yager (7-11-18 in 24 games)
While they were without a key veteran piece in Lang, who was the leading scorer for the Czech Republic at the World Juniors in Edmonton over Christmas, the Warriors still had some good depth to their offence with seven forwards reaching the double-digit plateau in points.
Eric Alarie and Ryder Korczak are both likely to be selected in the early rounds of next month’s NHL Draft thanks to their strong showings, overager Tate Popple and sophomore Calder Anderson both would have easily had career years if there was a full season, as would have sophomore Calder Anderson, and 2019 fourth round pick Jagger Firkus was a pleasant surprise in his rookie campaign.
The most exciting piece of course is Brayden Yager, who got to join the Warriors a year earlier than expected. The third overall pick in the 2020 WHL Bantam Draft finished in a tie for second in team scoring and is arguably the most talented prospect the club has had since Brayden Point.
- Nolan Jones (0-1-1 in 14 games)
- Daemon Hunt (8-10-18 in 23 games – Minnesota Wild prospect)
- Cole Jordan (3-7-10 in 23 games)
- Cory King (2-2-4 in 16 games)
- Braden Miler (0-0-0 in 12 games)
- Lucas Brenton (1-2-3 in 23 games)
- Corson Ceulemans (Unsigned 5th round pick in 2018 – 4-7-11 in eight games for the Brooks Bandits – 5-30-35 in 44 games for the Bandits in 2019-20 – Committed to the Wisconsin Badgers)
- Max Wanner (0-4-4 in 17 games)
- Carson Brisson (Unsigned 5th round pick in 2019 – 0-2-2 in six games for Camrose Kodiaks – 1-9-10 in 29 games for the Leduc Under-18 Oil Kings in 2019-20 – Committed to the Denver Pioneers)
- Denton Mateychuk (2-7-9 in 16 games)
After missing most of last season due to the aforementioned arm injury, Hunt came back in a big way for the Warriors as the team captain put his name into the discussion of the top blueliners in the WHL with an impressive campaign.
One player who was under the radar this season was Cole Jordan, as he’s started to work his way into the NHL draft discussion after setting a career high in points and becoming a good secondary option on the blueline besides Hunt.
Like Yager, Denton Mateychuk was super impressive in his rookie season. The 11th overall pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft would have easily reached double digits in points but his year ended early as he joined up with Canada’s gold medal winning Under-18 side in the middle of April.
The Warriors would love to try and land Brooks Bandits blueliner Corson Ceulemans, who is expected to be a first round pick at this year’s NHL Draft. If he were to come to Moose Jaw instead of joining the NCAA’s Wisconsin Badgers, that would help them move up the standings.
- Boston Bilous (4-4-2 with a 3.81 GAA, an .865 save percentage and one shutout)
- Carl Tetachuk (Acquired from the Lethbridge Hurricanes – 5-7-3 with a 4.11 GAA, an .878 save percentage and zero shutouts)
- Brett Mirwald (4-9-1 with a 3.54 GAA, an .895 save percentage and zero shutouts)
- Kyle Kelsey (Signed 5th round pick in 2019 – 12-7-1 with a 2.96 GAA, a .921 save percentage and two shutouts with the Burnaby Winter Club Elite 15’s in 2019-20)
- Jackson Unger (Signed 3rd round pick in 2020 – 2-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA , a .935 save percentage and zero shutouts for the Edge School Under-18 Prep team – 11-6-3 with a 2.45 GAA, a .927 save percentage and two shutouts with the Calgary Under-15 Bisons in 2019-20)
With Brock Gould being dealt to the Portland Winterhawks in February, Boston Bilous became the starter for the Warriors, though he would end up splitting time in the bubble with rookie Brett Mirwald. While Bilous had some solid showings, it was Mirwald that had the better numbers when the season ended, despite having a worse record.
While he didn’t play in any games, the Warriors also brought 2020 third round pick Jackson Unger to Regina after signing him in March. The 16-year-old from Calgary was considered to be one of the top netminders available in last year’s draft and will be a big piece for the team as they move forward.
Not included on this depth chart anymore is Jesper Wallstedt, who the Warriors selected in the 2019 CHL Import Draft. The 18-year-old from Sweden, who could be picked in the top ten of the 2021 NHL Draft next month, had his rights dealt to the Winterhawks on June 7 for a sixth round pick in 2023.
The Warriors find themselves in an intriguing spot as they head into the 2021-22 campaign. While they have a number of high-end talents on their roster, they are in a potentially loaded East Division and might find themselves battling it out just to be in the wild card discussion, which might mean that teams could be calling them to pry away Hunt or Korczak at the trade deadline.
That scenario could change depending on what they do in the off-season, with the first big move coming on June 10 as the club acquired overage netminder Carl Tetachuk from the Lethbridge Hurricanes. A solid veteran in between the pipes, he would seem to be taking over the starting job next season with Bilous probably going elsewhere and Mirwald serving as the backup.
Although they don’t have the fourth overall pick in this year’s WHL Draft after dealing it to Brandon in 2018 as part of the Kale Clague blockbuster, the Warriors were able to get Saskatoon’s first round selection (16th overall) from Victoria in the Tracey trade.
Moose Jaw also has their own picks in the second, third and fourth round, plus Calgary’s second round pick that they acquired in 2019 for Jett Woo. They also own Victoria’s second and fourth round selections in 2022 as part of the Tracey deal, and a third round pick from Kelowna that they got for Jadon Joseph in 2019.
What Ripplinger does over the next few months will be interesting to watch. If more high-end talent joins the roster, they could be in the mix for an East Division title. However, if things aren’t going that well, it might signal the start of some big trades to try and build around Yager and Mateychuk.