Leason dominant as Raiders double up Hitmen

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Prince Albert Raiders forward Brett Leason fires a shot at Calgary Hitmen goaltender Jack McNaughton while Layne Toder tries to block the attempt Tuesday at the Art Hauser Centre.

Another day, another multi-point game for Prince Albert Raiders forward Brett Leason.

After scoring twice and setting up a pair of goals in Tuesday’s 8-4 win over the Calgary Hitmen, the 19-year-old has now recorded points in all 12 of his team’s games this season and leads the Western Hockey League in scoring with 26 points.

The Calgary product also has the most goals in the league with 11 and has 15 assists to sit in a tie with Cody Glass of the Portland Winterhawks for first place.

“I’m kind of enjoying the attention a little bit,” Leason joked during the post-game media scrum.

“We played a simple game tonight and used our speed to our advantage. We had a rough second period there but we were able get things back together in the third.”

While Leason is getting a lot of attention, especially after being named the WHL Player of the Week Monday, he’s quick to point the help he’s getting from linemates Sean Montgomery and Aliaksei Protas.

“Everyone’s coming to play every night,” Leason said. “We’re all generating a lot of chances and it’s hard for other teams to stop us right now.”

Montgomery had a goal and two assists in Tuesday’s triumph, while Protas dished out a helper to put him at 11 points on the year, which is one ahead Andrej Kukuca of the Seattle Thunderbirds in the rookie scoring race.

“Sean doesn’t say much but he’s a smart player,” Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid said. “The chemistry between him and Brett has been theresince day one, and it’s really been noticeable since training camp.

“I think this is the first time that (Protas) has ever played on the wing in his life, but I don’t think he’s complaining too much as he’s been able to contribute with those guys and showcase what he can do.”

Carson Miller, Justin Nachbaur, Sergei Sapego, Jeremy Masella and Zack Hayes also scored in the win, which improved the Raiders record to a WHL best 11-1.

Donovan Buskey made his first home start Tuesday and made 20 saves.

The Hitmen, who have lost two straight games and have a 1-6-2-0 record ahead of a road game in Saskatoon Wednesday, were led on offence by captain Mark Kastelic as he scored a goal and picked up an assist.

Zach Huber, Dakota Krebs and former Raiders forward Luke Coleman also found the back of the net, while rookie netminder Jack McNaughton turned aside 30 shots.

Next up for the Raiders, who have won four straight games, is their lone meeting of the season with the 5-2-0-2 Spokane Chiefs on Saturday in a 7 p.m. clash at the Art Hauser Centre.

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald
Cohner Saleski made his first home regular season appearance in a Prince Albert Raiders uniform Tuesday.

Saleski records first WHL point

It was a memorable night for Raiders prospect Cohner Saleski, as the 17th overall pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft earned his first ever point in major junior hockey by setting up Brett Leason’s first of two goals in the opening frame.

“It was a huge relief,” Saleski said. “When I passed the puck to him (Leason) and saw him heading towards the net, I though to myself ‘I might get my first point here.’

“It was a pretty awesome feeling as I went over to celebrate with the guys.”

The 16-year-old from Saskatoon only found out Tuesday morning that he would be playing for the Raiders as forward Spencer Moe is currently day-to-day with an upper body injury.

“I was sitting in my first period class at school when I got a text saying that I needed to come to the rink,” Saleski said. “I was preparing to play for the (Prince Albert) Mintos tonight in North Battleford, but obviously that changed when I found out what was going on.”

Tuesday was Saleski’s second career game in the WHL, as he suited up in a 5-4 loss to the Saskatoon Blades on March 17 in his hometown.

“I think everything went as planned for me tonight,” Saleski said. “I feel like I’ve been progressing well with the Mintos and gaining confidence by being one of the top guys in their lineup.

“Obviously my role is different here with the Raiders, but I felt like I was able to show what I can do out there.”

It’s not yet clear if Saleski, who has seven points in six games in the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League this season, will be back in the Raiders lineup Saturday against the Chiefs.

Raider rookies headed to Under-17’s

Two members of the Raiders will have the chance to represent their country at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge next month.

First year blueliner Kaiden Guhle and freshman forward Ozzy Wiesblatt both found out Tuesday that they will be on one of three Canadian teams at this year’s tournament, which will be held in Saint John and Quispamsis, New Brunswick from Nov. 3-10.

Guhle, the first overall pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft, is still looking for his first point of his rookie campaign after recording an assist in eight games as an underage player last year.

Wiesblatt, who was a second round pick by the Raiders in 2017, has two goals and two assists in 12 games this season.

This marks the second straight year that the Raiders have sent a player to the tournament, as current Prince George Cougars defender Rhett Rhinehart won a silver medal with Canada Red last November in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, B.C.

The last time the Raiders sent multiple players to the tournament was during the 2013-14 campaign, when Brendan Guhle, Nick McBride and Matteo Gennaro all competed at the event in Sydney and Port Hawkesbury, N.S.

Guhle and McBride both won silver medals as members of the Canada Pacific team.

Post-Game Notes

With his four-point effort Tuesday, Brett Leason matched the 12-game streak that Milan Kraft put up to start the 1999-00 season.

That is the best run a Raider player has had to open a campaign dating back to 1996-97, which as far back as stats go on the WHL’s website.

Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Hitmen announced that third year forward Tristen Nielsen had requested a trade and would not be joining the team on their road trip.

The 18-year-old from Fort St. John, B.C., who was taken with the 20th overall pick by the Hitmen in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, has 43 points in 106 career games but had yet to record a point in five contests this season.

The Hitmen also lost the services of forward Riley Stotts shortly before Sergei Sapego gave the Raiders a 1-0 lead early in the first period, as the Toronto Maple Leafs prospect was rocked by a hit from Raiders blueliner Max Martin and did not return.

In addition to the aforementioned Spencer Moe, defenceman Lane Kirk and forward Kody McDonald did not dress for the Raiders.

Blueliner Devon Klassen joined Nielsen as scratches for the Hitmen, along with forwards Ryder Korczak and Bryce Bader.

Tuesday’s Scores

  • Spokane 6 Brandon 4 (Eli Zummack – Two Goals)
  • Lethbridge 6 Kootenay 3 (Jordy Bellerive – Two Goals)
  • Seattle 5 Tri-City 4 (Nolan Volcan – Two Goals and Two Assists)
  • Vancouver 6 Swift Current 2 (Bowen Byram – Two Goals and One Assist)

Around the WHL

The most eye-popping performance in Tuesday’s action came in Vancouver, as Swift Current Broncos netminder Joel Hofer made a career high 65 saves in his team’s 6-2 loss to the Giants.

On Monday, the Broncos added defenceman Austin Herron to their roster, who was a third round pick by the Moose Jaw Warriors in 2016.

The 17-year-old from Abbotsford, B.C. had a goal in eight games this year for the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles.

The Spokane Chiefs also brought in a new addition to their blueline this week as they signed 17-year-old Mike Ladyman.

A fifth round pick by the Regina Pats in 2016, the Winnipeg product had 32 points in 68 games over the last two seasons with his hometown Blues in the MJHL.

Wednesday’s Schedule

  • Spokane vs. Regina – 7 p.m.
  • Calgary vs. Saskatoon – 7 p.m.
  • Swift Current vs. Victoria – 8 p.m.