Blue line looking to be big part of Raider success

Eric Johnston of the Prince Albert Raiders. Nathan Reiter/Daily Herald.

At the outset of the 2023-24 WHL campaign, the Prince Albert Raiders are hoping for the old sports cliché ‘defense wins championships’ to be true.

The Raiders are returning all but one blueliner from last year’s team. Landon Kosior, who led all Raider blueliners in scoring with 63 points a year ago has graduated from the WHL.

Terrell Goldsmith, entering his third campaign with the Raiders, was recently selected in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft by the Arizona Coyotes in the fourth round. He says he will miss having Kosior’s presence, but feels Prince Albert has adequate talent to replace him on the roster.

“I think he was a big piece, but obviously it’s a team game, I would say we have a pretty steady blue line that is ready to play hard every night. I’m just excited to obviously get going and see what we can do this year.”

The sentiment is shared with fellow blueliner Eric Johnston. Johnston, who is also entering his third season with the Raiders, was acquired by Prince Albert as part of the trade package for Kaiden Guhle on Dec. 1, 2021.

“I think our groups are ready for the challenge. Obviously, Kosior was a great piece in our new core,” Johnston says about the loss of Kosior, “but losing him doesn’t change a lot. We had a lot of veterans back there, a lot of big D-man who can play the body and obviously got some offensive touch. So, I think it won’t all change too much.”

Expectations are high for the upcoming season within the Raider defensive core. Johnston says Prince Albert is hoping to start off the season strong on the right foot.

“It’s going to be a great year. I think it’s going to be a revenge season. Obviously, we ended the way we didn’t want to. (It was) too long of a summer for all the boys. Just coming out with a good start this year, that was the difference maker in making the playoffs last year.”

With the Raiders retaining so many members of last year’s team, Johnston says

“I think just us being veterans out there (will be a strength), We got most of the returning D-man coming back. So, I think just (being) veterans knowing what the games are like and the pace and everything. I think even our systems too, that’s going to be huge for us.”

Subhead: How They Were Built

Acquired from trade: Eric Johnston (’04, acquired from Edmonton in December 2021), Owen Boucher (’04, acquired from Winnipeg in September 2022), Easton Kovacs (’04, acquired from Seattle in November 2022)

Drafted/Listed: Doogan Pederson (’06, listed), Tyrone Sobry (’06, 9th round pick in 2021), Terrell Goldsmith (’05, 1st round pick in 2020), Justice Christensen (’05, listed), Seth Tansem (’06, second round pick in 2021)