Prior to the Pandemic
While they weren’t the juggernaut squad that won the Ed Chynoweth Cup in 2019, the Raiders were again in the mix to contend for a league title, especially after they had acquired Max Paddock from the Regina Pats at the trade deadline. They were on the verge of winning back-to-back division titles for the first time since entering the WHL when the season ended.
Although overagers Zack Hayes, Jeremy Masella and Brayden Watts had all aged out, the Raiders were planning to be in the mix once again this season, especially with the amount of talent set to return.
While the playoffs never happened as a result of the pandemic, the Raiders roster ended up being quite a bit different than what the team had envisioned. Washington Capitals prospect Aliaksei Protas and fellow forward Ilya Usau both spent the year in the KHL with Dinamo Minsk, while Montreal Canadiens prospect and team captain Kaiden Guhle was lost for the season with a hand injury after just a pair of contests.
On their way to finishing fourth in the East Division with a 9-11-3-1 mark, the Raiders averaged 2.91 goals per game, which was the first time they were below the three goal-a-night mark since 2016-17. Their goals against average per game also jumped up to 3.37 after only giving up 2.50 and 2.29 goals per game during the prior two seasons.
- Spencer Moe (2-7-9 in 22 games)
- Justin Nachbaur (9-6-15 in 22 games)
- Kyle Crosbie (0-0-0 in six games)
- Matthew Culling (3-4-7 in 24 games)
- Michael Horon (4-7-11 in 23 games)
- Eric Pearce (7-9-16 in 24 games)
- Aliaksei Protas (2-5-7 in 16 games for the Hershey Bears – 10-8-18 in 58 games for Dinamo Minsk – 31-49-80 in 58 games for Prince Albert in 2019-20 – Washington Capitals prospect)
- Reece Vitelli (7-15-22 in 24 games)
- Ilya Usau (3-3-6 in 56 games for Dinamo Minsk – 22-30-52 in 58 games for Prince Albert in 2019-20)
- Logan Danis (1-2-3 in 13 games)
- Evan Herman (8-6-14 in 20 games)
- Ozzy Wiesblatt (7-21-28 in 23 games – San Jose Sharks Prospect)
- Myles Hillman (Unsigned 9th round pick in 2018 – 2-5-7 in 10 games for the Drumheller Dragons – Committed to the Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks)
- Tyson Laventure (5-3-8 in 23 games)
- Logan Linklater (1-4-5 in 22 games)
- Brett Moravec (Unsigned 5th round pick in 2018 – 4-8-12 in 15 games for Calgary Canucks – Committed to the Wisconsin Badgers)
- Uladzisalu Shyla (Signed 2020 import draft pick – 10-12-22 in 38 games for Team Belarus Under-18 program)
- Niall Crocker (0-4-4 in 23 games)
- Dallyn Peekeekoot (4-2-6 in 15 games)
- Harrison Lodewyk (2nd round pick in 2020 – 2-2-4 in five games for the Red Deer Under-18 Chiefs – 12-21-33 in 31 games for the Red Deer Under-15 Rebels in 2019-20)
With Protas and Usau competing in the KHL, Ozzy Wiesblatt became the main cog on offence for the Raiders. In addition to leading the team in scoring, the San Jose Sharks first round pick also had three points in six games in the AHL this year for the San Jose Barracuda and will more than likely be in the mix for a spot on Canada’s World Junior team next winter.
While the season was nowhere near a full-length campaign, Reece Vitelli was on pace to smash his previous best total of 27 points in a season as he was second in team scoring with 22 points in 24 games. Eric Pearce also enjoyed a career year offensively, while overager Justin Nachbaur and sophomore Evan Herman were key contributors on a regular basis.
The most pleasant surprise for the team had to be 16-year-old Dallyn Peekeekoot, who was a 10th round pick by the Raiders in 2019. He’s already established himself as a physical force on offence and will more than likely have an entire section of fans from Ahtahkakoop First Nation cheering him on when the Raiders return to the Art Hauser Centre.
- Remy Aquilon (1-15-16 in 24 games)
- Kaiden Guhle (1-1-2 in two games – Montreal Canadiens Prospect)
- Landon Kosior (4-0-4 in 21 games)
- Nolan Allan (1-1-2 in 16 games)
- Tayem Gislason (0-3-3 in 23 games)
- Adam McNutt (1-2-3 in 22 games)
- Tre Fouquette (1-1-2 in six games)
- Graydon Gotaas (1-3-4 in 19 games)
- Terrell Goldsmith (2-0-2 in 14 games)
With Guhle on the sidelines, Remy Aquilon stepped up in a major way to take over the offensive side things on defence. He smashed through his previous best season-high point total of six, finished tied with Pearce for third in team scoring and was named the Raiders’ top blueliner.
Although they didn’t put up a ton of points, sophomores Landon Kosior and Nolan Allan were key players on the blueline as well. Allan solidified himself as an early round pick in next month’s NHL Draft with his play for Canada at the World Under-18’s, while Kosior had a bit of bad luck following him around this year as he probably could have had more than just a quartet of points.
Of the five rookies that suited up for the Raiders defence in Regina, 16-year-old Terrell Goldsmith may have made the biggest impression. Despite only playing in 14 games, the Fort St. James, B.C. product earned the team’s rookie of the year honours and looks to have a bright future ahead of him.
- Max Paddock (7-6-1 with a 2.87 GAA, a .903 save percentage and two shutouts – Committed to the Acadia Axemen)
- Carter Serhyenko (2-5-3 with a 3.99 GAA, a .858 save percentage and zero shutouts)
- Max Hildebrand (13th round pick in 2019 – 2-1-0 with a 1.67 GAA, a .944 save percentage and one shutout for the Saskatoon Under-18 Contacts – 14-5-1 with a 2.81 GAA, an .896 save percentage and one shutout for the Rink Hockey Academy Elite 15’s in 2019-20)
As a result of the pandemic, Max Paddock will never take to the ice for a WHL playoff game, which is a darn shame given how well he’s played over the last few years. He had another strong season in his final campaign with the Raiders and should be among the best netminders in U Sports upon his arrival at Acadia.
It was a tough sophomore season for Carter Serhyenko, but the 18-year-old from Saskatoon has shown that he can be a solid netminder in the WHL over the last two years. With rookie Max Hildebrand yet to play in any games, the starting job looks like it’s Serhyenko’s to lose.
While the Raiders probably won’t enter next season among the favourites to win the title, any team that has two first round NHL draft picks is going to be in the mix. With Guhle returning, the defence could again be among the best in the WHL, which should allow Serhyenko to put up better numbers.
The overall offensive depth should be better as well, though that might depend on if Usau returns to Prince Albert. If he does come back, the club will have to decide if he, Vitelli, Pearce, Matthew Culling or Michael Horon would be in the overage trio, which would more than likely include Aquilon.
While they dropped slightly from 10th to 14th in the opening round of December’s WHL Prospect Draft after last month’s lottery, the Raiders will enter the event with their own picks in the second and third rounds, a second and fourth round pick from Everett that they got in the Cole Fonstad trade, plus a fourth round pick from Red Deer that was acquired for Cohner Saleski. They also have their own picks in the first, second, fourth and fifth rounds for 2022, in addition to a conditional third round pick from Everett that was also in the Fonstad trade.
Another trip to the post-season seems likely for the Raiders, though where they stack up among the other top teams in the Eastern Conference remains to be seen. If they find themselves battling it out just to get into the post-season though, other general managers in the league might start calling Curtis Hunt to see if they can acquire one of Guhle or Wiesblatt.
No matter what happens with the team, there will be a new voice calling the action at the Art Hauser Centre as Trevor Redden announced on June 15 that he would be stepping down from his play-by-play role after four seasons.