WHL players added to Junior A rosters

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Cole Fonstad flashes a smile as he was introduced to the crowd during a Canada Russia Series game at the Art Hauser Centre in November 2019.

With the Western Hockey League campaign not starting until Jan. 8, 2021, players in the league are now keeping busy by playing for Junior A teams.

The Everett Silvertips announced on Friday that five of their players have been loaned out to British Columbia Hockey League and Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League clubs until Dec. 20, when they will return to the Silvertips ahead of the 2020-21 WHL season.

The players that will be heading to Junior A programs are 18-year-old blueliner Dylan Anderson (Cowichan Valley Capitals), 20-year-old defenceman and Montreal Canadiens draft pick Gianni Fairbrother (Nanaimo Clippers), 18-year-old forward Jackson Berezowski (Yorkton Terriers) and overage forwards Cole Fonstad (Estevan Bruins) and Ethan Regnier of Prince Albert (Melfort Mustangs).

Berezowski and Fonstad, who played for the Raiders until he was traded last October, will be playing for their hometown teams, while Regnier will be playing for the club that selected him in the first round of the 2015 SJHL Bantam Draft.

Melfort Mustangs announcer Mat Barrett reported on Friday that in addition to Regnier, the team will also be adding 18-year-old Regina Pats forward Zack Smith and 19-year-old Swift Current Broncos blueliner and Prince Albert product Alex Moar to their roster.

Smith, who is the younger brother of former Spokane Chiefs star blueliner and New Jersey Devils prospect Ty, spend the last year-and-a-half with the Mustangs before he joined the Pats lineup last October.

Moar was originally the sixth overall pick in the 2016 SJHL Bantam Draft by the La Ronge Ice Wolves but has spent the last two seasons in the WHL with the Silvertips and the Broncos.

Over the last couple of weeks, affiliated players with WHL clubs have been playing in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, as Winnipeg Ice and Moose Jaw Warriors top prospects Conor Geekie and Denton Mateychuk have been suiting up on a full-time basis for the Virden Oil Capitals and the Steinbach Pistons respectively.

Winnipeg Ice forward Matthew Savoie, who split time between the WHL and the Rink Hockey Academy last year, has played for the AJHL’s Sherwood Park Crusaders in their pre-season contests.

There have also been goaltenders who have suited up for teams under emergency situations due to injuries.

Jack McNaughton of the Calgary Hitmen and Taylor Gauthier of the Prince George Cougars have both played for the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers, while Kelowna Rockets netminders Roman Basran and Cole Schwebius are both expected to suit up for the BCHL’s West Kelowna Warriors this weekend.

Meanwhile, Regina Pats forward Connor Bedard made his debut for the HV71 Under-20 program in Sweden earlier this week.

The 15-year-old is the first player to received exceptional status and will enter the WHL a year early.

Around the WHL

The Lethbridge Hurricanes added to their blueline on Friday as they acquired 19-year-old Zach Ashton from the Seattle Thunderbirds for a conditional seventh round pick in the 2021 WHL Draft.

Ashton, who was originally a third round pick by the Saskatoon Blades in 2016 and was traded to the Thunderbirds in January 2019 for defenceman Reece Harsch, has 10 points in 78 career WHL games.

He also suited up in four playoff contests for the Thunderbirds in 2019.