After missing almost the entire WHL East Division hub season in Regina after suffering a hand injury in just the second game of the campaign, Prince Albert Raiders captain Kaiden Guhle is back in action this week.
The Montreal Canadiens defensive prospect is currently taking part in Hockey Canada’s National Junior Team Development Camp, which runs until Wednesday at the Seven Chiefs Sportsplex on the Tsuut’ina Nation near Calgary.
Guhle, who was part of Canada’s silver medal side at last year’s tournament in Edmonton, recorded an assist during Saturday’s scrimmage on a goal by Halifax Mooseheads forward Zachary L’Heureux.
He was paired up with Olen Zellweger of the Everett Silvertips for that game and then joined forces with Brandt Clarke of the Barrie Colts on Sunday night.
The camp continues on Tuesday as members of the junior camp will team up with players from Hockey Canada’s Under-18 camp for scrimmages.
Heading into the last two days of games, L’Heureux and Justin Sourdif (Vancouver Giants) have recorded three points for the Under-20 squad, while Mason McTavish (Peterborough Petes) and Cole Perfetti (Saginaw Spirit) have two points each.
Matthew Savoie, who is expected to join the Winnipeg Ice on a full-time basis this fall, has enjoyed an impressive week at the Under-18 camp with eight points.
Matthew Poitras of the Guelph Storm and Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats are right behind him on the scoring chart with six and five points respectively.
Raiders forward and San Jose Sharks prospect Ozzy Wiesblatt earned an invite to this week’s events, but was unable to attend the camp.
Uchacz dealt to Rebels
The Western Hockey League announced on Friday that 18-year-old forward Kai Uchacz, who was dropped from the Seattle Thunderbirds roster after he and a teammate made racist remarks towards another player on the team in March, had been acquired by the Red Deer Rebels for a second round pick in the 2021 WHL Prospects Draft and had been granted permission by the league to play during the 2021-22 campaign.
“I take full responsibility for my actions and I deeply regret my decision making in the past,” Uchacz said in a prepared statement that was released by the league.
“I have taken this time away from hockey to learn and grow as a person and have expanded my knowledge about this topic and how impactful it is. I thank the WHL for taking the time to work with me and believe in me as a person. I am thankful for the opportunity to play again.”
The 10th overall pick in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft had eight points in 52 games for the Thunderbirds in the 2019-20 season and had an assist in three contests last year for the AJHL’s Spruce Grove Saints.
“We only considered this (trade) if four things occurred. The player was removed from the league for a prolonged period of time. Through that, he took a mandated level of education and training by a third-party professional. They endorsed his reinstatement based on his progress,” Rebels general manager Brent Sutter said in an interview with Byron Hackett of the Red Deer Advocate on Friday.
“There was a punishment that he had to sit out the season. He’s a young kid, he made a mistake and as far as we’re concerned with everything that we know, we traded for the changed person. There’s zero-tolerance with us regarding diversity and inclusion.
“We want to be part of the solution with how we deal with individuals who go down the wrong path and help him through this.”
When the Thunderbirds announced that the players were being released on March 26, their identities and the player they had directed the racist remarks to were not revealed.
That remained the case until the Uchacz trade was announced on Friday.
Later that day, Norton Sports Management president Scott Norton expressed his displeasure with Uchacz’s reinstatement and revealed that client Mekai Sanders was the target of the racist remarks.
“We are very disappointed that the Western Hockey League has not issued a statement or any disciplinary actions following the racially motivated situation which occurred on the Seattle Thunderbirds during the 2020/2021 season,” Norton said in a statement.
“We appreciate the actions of General Manager Bil LaForge and the Thunderbirds management during the season, but a league which claims “Zero tolerance” should have stepped up and dealt with the individuals as well.”
The identity of the second player that was released by the Thunderbirds has not been made public.
Around the WHL
Two of the top veteran forwards in the Western Hockey League have earned opportunities in the American Hockey League for next season, as Brett Kemp of the Medicine Hat Tigers and Sasha Mutala of the Tri-City Americans have signed contracts with the Ontario Reign and the Colorado Eagles.
Kemp, who is from Yorkton, wrapped up his time in the WHL this spring with 31 points in 23 games to lead the Tigers in scoring.
Mutala paced the Americans on offence during the shortened season with 20 points in 19 games.
A fifth round pick by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2019 NHL Draft, the Vancouver product was back in the draft pool last month after not inking a deal with the club and was expected to be back with the Americans for his overage campaign before signing with the Eagles.
Meanwhile, the Swift Current Broncos made an addition to their coaching staff on Friday as they hired Devan Praught to serve as an assistant coach.
Praught had spent the last five seasons at the bench boss for the Notre Dame Hounds Under-18 program, which captured the Telus Cup in 2018.
He will be filling a vacancy left open by the departure of Brandin Cote, who is now the associate coach for the Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey program and will be moving into the head coach role after Mike Babcock concludes his interim stint in that role.