Prior to the Pandemic
After the team got used to life under new head coach Manny Viverios, the Chiefs caught fire after the trade deadline as they rattled off a 21-5 record and were enjoying a 10-game win streak when the 2019-20 campaign ended early.
The Viverios era only lasted for one season, however, as he moved up to the AHL to become the bench boss for the Henderson Silver Knights. With his departure, associate coach Adam Maglio earned a promotion after arriving in town a year earlier following a successful run in the BCHL with the Prince George Spruce Kings.
To say that this year’s Chiefs side was streaky would be a bit of an understatement. They started off the season with an 0-4-2-1 mark, had a nice run where they won six of their next nine contests and ended the campaign on a five-game losing skid.
The up and down nature of Spokane’s season is also noticeable in the stats department. After hovering around the four goal per night mark for the last three years, the Chiefs averaged just 2.61 goals per game in 2020-21, which was their lowest since a 2.68 average in 2005-06.
At the other end of the rink, the 6-10-4-1 Chiefs saw their goals against per game jump up from 2.79 in 2019-20 to 3.76. That marks their highest average since they gave up 3.77 goals per night during the 2016-17 season.
- Eli Zummack (9-13-22 in 21 games)
- Adam Beckman (17-10-27 in 21 games – Minnesota Wild Prospect)
- Bear Hughes (9-15-24 in 35 games for the Fargo Force – 16-31-47 for the Chiefs in 2019-20 – Washington Capitals Draft Pick)
- Cordel Larson (3-8-11 in 17 games)
- Luke Toporowski (1-3-4 in six games – 14-19-33 in 32 games for the Sioux Falls Stampede)
- Erik Atchison (3-6-9 in 14 games)
- Jack Finley (Missed the season due to a shoulder injury but was listed on the stat sheet for the Chiefs season finale – 19-38-57 in 61 games for the Chiefs in 2019-20 – Tampa Bay Lightning Prospect)
- Reed Jacobson (5-7-12 in 21 games)
- Mitch Kohner (0-0-0 in six games – Loaned to the Chiefs by Prince George – 8-6-14 in 59 games for the Cougars in 2019-20)
- Ty Cheveldayoff (1-1-2 in 18 games)
- Copeland Fricker (2-3-5 in 20 games)
- Grady Lane (0-2-2 in 20 games)
- Owen MacNeil (0-5-5 in 21 games)
- Brandon Reller (0-1-1 in 20 games)
- Blake Swetlikoff (6-5-11 in 21 games)
- Benjamin Thornton (1-0-1 in 10 games)
- Kooper Gizowski (2nd round pick in 2020 – 1-4-5 in six games for the Maple Leaf Athletic Club Under-18 Team – 27-24-51 in 29 games for the Northern Alberta Xtreme Under-15 Prep Team in 2019-20)
- Jake Gudelj (4th round pick in 2020 – 0-1-1 in five games for the Delta Hockey Academy Under-17 Prep Team – 19-16-35 in 30 games for the West Van Academy Bantam Prep team in 2019-20)
The overall depth up front for the Chiefs took a big hit before the season began with veterans Bear Hughes and Luke Toporowski suiting up in the USHL, while Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Jack Finley didn’t even get to play a game as a result of a shoulder injury.
Despite those losses, Spokane’s two big weapons performed as expected as Minnesota Wild prospect Adam Beckman showed the form that helped him capture the league MVP a year earlier, while overager Eli Zummack wrapped up his time in the WHL by winning the Brad Hornung Trophy for most sportsmanlike player.
The offence was also aided by a breakout campaign by 19-year-old Reed Jacobson, who went from having 11 points in 50 games in his rookie season to posting 12 points in 21 contests in his sophomore campaign. They also received a strong 11-point showing from rookie Blake Swetlikoff, who joined the team on a full-time basis after spending the last two years with his hometown Regina Pat Canadians.
- Matt Leduc (1-7-8 in 21 games)
- Bobby Russell (2-10-12 in 21 games)
- Jordan Chudley (0-1-1 in 16 games)
- Mac Gross (1-0-1 in 16 games)
- Raegan Wiles (1-9-10 in 21 games)
- Chase Friedt-Mohr (1-1-2 in 12 games)
- David Jircek (Unsigned 2020 Import Draft Pick – 3-6-9 in 34 games for HC Plzen in the Czech Republic)
- Graham Sward (1-0-1 in 11 games)
- Garrett Brown (Unsigned 4th round pick in 2019 – 5-5-10 in 14 games for the San Jose Jr. Sharks Under-16 team – Committed to the Denver Pioneers)
- Logan Cunningham (0-0-0 in 14 games)
- Saige Weinstein (0-0-0 in five games)
Coming into the shortened season, the Chiefs blueline was their biggest question mark as Noah King and Filip Kral both aged out and two-time WHL defenceman of the year winner Ty Smith made the jump to the NHL with the New Jersey Devils.
With Graham Sward only playing half of the season due to an injury, overager Bobby Russell became the anchor for the defence, while Raegan Wiles went from posting zero points in his rookie campaign to becoming the team’s second leading scorer on the backend.
- Lukas Parik (15-8-4 with a 3.35 GAA, an .867 save percentage and one shutout for the Dubuque Fighting Saints – 22-7-2 with a 2.73 GAA, a .917 save percentage and one shutout for the Chiefs in 2019-20 – Signed with the Ontario Reign for next season – Los Angeles Kings Draft Pick)
- Campbell Arnold (2-5-2 with a 3.97 GAA, an .886 save percentage and zero shutouts)
- Mason Beaupit (3-5-2 with a 3.24 GAA, a .916 save percentage and zero shutouts)
- Paxton Geisel (Unsigned 9th round pick in 2019 – 14-22-0 with a 3.37 GAA, an .892 save percentage and one shutout – Committed to the Denver Pioneers)
- Manny Panghli (1-0-1 with a 3.55 GAA, an .886 save percentage and zero shutouts)
The Chiefs goaltending was also affected by the pandemic with Lukas Parik electing to play in the USHL after suiting up for the Czech Republic at the World Juniors.
Campbell Arnold was back in goal after suffering a season-ending knee injury in December 2019, but 2018 fourth round draft pick Mason Beaupit ended up leading the way between the pipes with several strong outings, with his best being a 48-save performance in a 4-3 overtime win over the Portland Winterhawks.
The Chiefs enter next season as a team in transition. With Beckman starting his pro career in the Wild system and Zummack aging out, the offence will now be led by Hughes, Toporowski and Finley, with the youngsters needing to step up and provide solid secondary scoring.
The starting goaltending job seems to be heading in Beaupit’s direction, but the defence in front of him will still be fairly young, though it does have some upside with Sward and 2020 first round pick Saige Weinstein.
The blueline’s fortunes could improve though if Spokane can land 2020 import draft selection David Jiricek, who played for the Czech Republic at this year’s World Juniors and is already being considered as a top 10 pick for the 2022 NHL Draft.
While the focus for Chiefs fans during the first couple of months of the year will be with their on-ice product, their biggest moment of the campaign will be December’s WHL Prospects Draft, especially after they jumped up from sixth to first in the first round in the Draft Lottery.
Saskatoon Contacts forward Berkly Catton, who is expected to play for Shattuck St. Mary’s next year, is widely considered to be the best player available from the 2006 crop. However, forwards Jordan Gavin of St. George’s School and Macklin Celebrini of Shattuck St. Mary’s both had monster seasons and could work their way into the first overall pick discussion over the next few months.
As for the rest of the draft, the Chiefs also have their own pick in the second, third and fourth rounds, plus a trifecta of fifth round selections they acquired from deals with Swift Current, Regina and Edmonton over the last couple of years.
No matter who the Chiefs take first overall, that is who the side is going to be built around over the next couple of years. As a result, it wouldn’t be a total shock to see them try and gain more assets for the future and deal someone like Finley if they are on the fringes of the playoff picture in the Western Conference.