Prior to the Pandemic
Although they were unable to land high-end forward prospects and eventual 2020 NHL Draft picks Daniil Gushchin (who is now with the OHL’s Niagara IceDogs) and Ty Smilanic, and they dealt away starting netminder Max Paddock to the Prince Albert Raiders, the Pats’ older players made them a tough opponent all season long despite missing out on the playoffs for a second straight campaign.
Their biggest win though came in the WHL Bantam Draft Lottery, as thanks to acquiring Swift Current’s first round pick from the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the Jake Leschyshyn and Nick Henry trade in Nov. 2018, they ended up with the top pick last April and were able to land Connor Bedard, who was the first ever player to be granted exceptional status and enter the WHL a year early.
The Pats would then make another big addition during the draft itself, as they acquired Philadelphia Flyers draft pick Roddy Ross in a deal with the Seattle Thunderbirds.
While Bedard ended up being joined by a number of 2005-born players in the league this year, his impact on the Pats was massive as they had a 6-6-2-1 record prior to his departure to play for Canada at the World Under-18’s and a 3-6-0-0 mark as he competed at the tournament.
On their way to finishing fifth in the East Division hub, the 9-12-2-1 Pats increased their goals per game average from 2.90 to 3.16, while their goals against per game mark was at 4.00, which is where they’ve hovered around for the last three seasons.
The other big news for the club came just as the campaign got underway as Shaun and Gavin Sample of the Brandt Group of Companies became the principal owners of the franchise.
- Carson Denomie (14-9-23 in 24 games)
- Carter Chorney (4-8-12 in 24 games)
- Carter Massier (5-7-12 in 24 games)
- Logan Nijhoff (10-7-17 in 24 games)
- Zack Smith (7-8-15 in 20 games)
- Cade Ahrenholz (Unsigned 10th round pick in 2017 – 21-19-40 in 23 games for Lakeville South High School – Committed to Colorado College Tigers)
- Jakob Brook (0-0-0 in one game)
- Cole Carrier (1-1-2 in 18 games)
- Jan Cikhart (1-0-1 in four games for the Bili Tyrgi Liberec Under-20 team in the Czech Republic – 3-5-8 in 49 games last year with Tri-City and Regina)
- Cole Dubinsky (5-9-14 in 21 games)
- Drew Englot (2-4-6 in 24 games)
- Ty Smilanic (Unsigned 3rd round pick in 2017 – 14-7-21 in 29 games for Quinnipiac Bobcats – Florida Panthers Draft Pick)
- Easton Armstrong (1-1-2 in 23 games)
- Sloan Stanick (1-5-6 in 24 games)
- Colby Wotton (1-1-2 in 15 games)
- Brayden Barnett (9th round pick in 2019 – 1-2-3 in seven games for the Regina Pat Canadians – 5-8-13 in 41 games for the Pat Canadians in 2019-20)
- Zane Rowan (3rd round pick in 2019 – 1-5-6 in eight games for the Sioux Falls Under-16 Power)
- Borya Valis (Signed Listed Player – 10-3-13 in 13 games for the Colorado Under-16 Thunderbirds – 14-15-29 in 20 games for the Under-15 Thunderbirds in 2019-20)
- Braxton Whitehead (1-0-1 in 18 games)
- Connor Bedard (12-16-28 in 15 games)
- Tanner Howe (1-1-2 in eight games)
There’s not much more that can be written about Bedard’s freshman season that hasn’t already been said. He’s already become a must-watch attraction for junior hockey fans and is the odds-on favourite to be the top pick in the 2023 NHL Draft. If the Pats phenom and presumptive 2022 first overall pick Shane Wright of the Kingston Frontenacs aren’t wreaking havoc on Canada’s opponents at next year’s World Juniors, something has gone terribly wrong.
Besides their all-world rookie, it was the veterans that once again did the heavy lifting for the Pats offensively. Carson Denomie ended up being the linemate to Bedard for most of the season, while Logan Nijhoff, Carter Massier, Carter Chorney and Cole Dubinsky all had solid campaigns.
One player who would have had a big role for Regina this year was former Raider Jakob Brook, but his season came to a sudden halt on opening night as he suffered a broken right leg after crashing into the boards in a race for the puck with Kaiden Guhle.
- Kyle Walker (1-10-11 in 24 games)
- Ryker Evans (3-24-27 in 24 games)
- Nikita Sedov (1-2-3 in 44 games for HK Sochi in Russia – 5-10-15 in 58 games for Regina in 2019-20)
- Tom Cadieux (1-2-3 in 17 games)
- Makai Mitchell (0-0-0 in 13 games)
- Parker Berge (1-3-4 in 23 games)
- Jake Johnson (0-1-1 in nine games)
- Stanislav Svozil (Unsigned 2020 Import Draft Pick – 1-2-3 in 30 games for HC Kometa Brno in the Czech Republic)
- Marcus Taylor (0-0-0 in 10 games)
- Jacob Dewitt (0-0-0 in seven games)
- Layton Feist (5-4-9 in 21 games)
The other major breakout performer for the Pats this year was veteran blueliner Ryker Evans, who would have smashed past his previous best season-high total of 31 points if this had been a full campaign. He’s now ranked by NHL Central Scouting for next month’s draft and it wouldn’t be a surprise if a team takes him in the later rounds.
Regina’s other two top blueliners were at opposite ends of the spectrum. Overager Kyle Walker continued to be a tough opponent for teams on a nightly basis, while 2019 first round pick Layton Feist got better each time he stepped out on the ice and should move into a bigger role next year.
As a whole though, it was an interesting campaign for the Pats defensive unit, with injuries leading to a bit of a hodgepodge lineup as the year went on. Nikita Sedov would have helped out a lot if he had come over, especially as a veteran in the league, but the pandemic meant that he stayed home in Russia.
- Roddy Ross (6-8-2 with a 3.75 GAA, an .874 save percentage and zero shutouts)
- Spencer Welke (0-2-0 with a 5.03 GAA, an .859 save percentage and zero shutouts)
- Matthew Kieper (3-2-1 with a 3.59 GAA, an .893 save percentage and zero shutouts)
When the Pats acquired Ross from the Thunderbirds last April, it signaled a statement of intent that they were gunning for the post-season in Bedard’s first season with the club, but the pandemic would end up having the last say as the playoffs were cancelled for a second straight year.
While Ross got better in the final weeks of the campaign, the overager from Meadow Lake had a really rough start in a Regina uniform. The Flyers let go of his rights earlier this month and it remains to be seen where he’ll end up this fall.
Barring any moves in the upcoming weeks, it appears that 17-year-old Matthew Kieper will be moving into the starter’s role when the 2021-22 season starts. A third round pick by the Pats in 2019, the Winnipeg product showed that he can compete in the WHL already with some strong showings in the bubble.
With general manager John Paddock already announcing that Dave Struch will be returning for his fourth season as head coach, the big decision for the Pats going into this summer is how they will build the team around Bedard, especially since you can’t deal for signed younger talent anymore like they did when Sam Steel came to town a few years ago as a result of the trade rules put in place by the WHL after the wild 2018 trade deadline.
There are a few options among the drafted players that could make a major impact on the Pats roster. 2019 second round pick Samuel Huck, 2019 eighth round pick Colby Woogk and 2020 second round pick Matthew Wood (who had 13 points in 18 games as an underage player with the BCHL’s Victoria Grizlies this year) have all been mentioned as potential pieces up front, while the club is still courting 2020 import draft selection Stanislav Svozil, who might be a first round pick in next month’s NHL Draft.
In terms of assets, the Pats have the 10th overall pick in the 2021 WHL Prospect Draft, in addition to their own second and fourth round picks, along with fifth rounders that originally belong to Moose Jaw and Winnipeg. They also have their own picks in the first three rounds in 2022, along with third rounders they got from Prince Albert in the Paddock deal and from Lethbridge in the Leschyshyn and Henry trade.
At the moment, the majority of the Pats’ impact players are on the older side. If Evans doesn’t turn pro next year, the club will have to decide between their leading blueliner and forwards Chorney, Massier, Nijhoff and Smith as to who will be their three overagers.
The team already knows what they have with Bedard, Feist and Kieper, but they’ll need their other young talents to step up if they want to make a run at the playoffs, especially in what appears to be a very strong East Division. If they miss out again, Struch might not be back for a fifth season and teams will be banging down Paddock’s door to try and get Bedard in a trade ahead of the 2023 Memorial Cup, which will be held in the WHL.
Away from the ice, the Pats will also be welcoming a new face to the broadcast booth as they are currently looking for a replacement to long-time announcer Phil Andrews, who has joined the campus staff for Athletes in Action at the University of Saskatchewan.