September 18, 2013, Calgary, AB (ISN) – The Western Hockey League’s 48th season begins on Thursday, September 19th, as fans gear up for another exciting winter of WHL hockey.
The Edmonton Oil Kings were the toast of the Eastern Conference for the second year in a row in 2012-13, but couldn’t pull of a Championship repeat as they were bested by the Portland Winterhawks in the 2013 WHL Championship series. Can the Oil Kings find it in them to top the Eastern Conference for a third straight year? Or, will another Club rise to the challenge and dethrone the Oil Kings?
Star power abounds in the East, with all eyes on Kootenay Ice forward Sam Reinhart, who is in the conversation to go 1st overall in the 2014 NHL Draft. Reinhart will have some healthy competition in the East with sophomores like Brandon’s Jayce Hawryluk, Calgary’s Jake Virtanen, Moose Jaw’s Brayden Point and Red Deer’s Conner Bleackley all looking to turn heads this season.
Which team will emerge as the Beasts of the East during the 2013-14 WHL regular season? Which players will stand out and take the Eastern Conference by storm?
Here’s a look at the WHL Eastern Conference:
Brandon Wheat Kings
General Manager/Head Coach: Kelly McCrimmon
2013 pre-season: 3-1-0-0
2012-13 Record: 24-40-4-4, 56pts (6th in East Div., 12th in Eastern Conf.) GF: 189 GA: 284
2012-13 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 16.2% (18th); PK: 71.7% (22nd)
2013 Playoffs: Did not qualify
2012-13 Top Scorers:
Tim McGauley 66gp-17g-28a-45pts
Ryan Pulock 61gp-14g-31a-45pts
Jayce Hawryluk 61gp-18g-25a-43pts
Up Front: The Wheat Kings aim to get themselves back into the post-season after missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1999-00 season. Coming back are many of their young forwards who should be able to improve their output, including 17-year-old Jayce Hawryluk and 18-year-old Tim McGauley. Both made big impacts for the team last season, and both will be counted on to take their game up a notch. 19-year-old Richard Nejezchleb is also back after putting up 11 goals and 24 points in 35 games in his injury-shortened rookie campaign in 2012-13. The Czech winger could be a major contributor to the Wheat Kings’ attack. Latvian rookie Rihards Bukarts has produced during pre-season play while 17-year-olds John Quenneville and Ryley Lindgren will also be given the opportunity to add to the team’s offense. 16-year-old Braylon Schmyr, the Wheat Kings’ first round pick in 2012, has the talent to develop into a top offensive player for the team as well, having scored in his WHL debut as a 15-year-old last season.
On The Blue Line: Top blue liners Ryan Pulock and Eric Roy are both expected back to lead the Wheat Kings’ defence corps. Pulock, a New York Islanders first rounder in June, arguably boasts the hardest shot in the WHL and is a dominant force at both ends of the ice. Roy, a Calgary Flames prospect, provides the team with another excellent offensive weapon. As good as Pulock and Roy are offensively, both will need to be key in helping the Wheaties improve their 22nd-ranked penalty killing unit from last year. Veteran rearguard Nick Walters is back, bringing his physical, shutdown abilities to the Wheat Kings, while 20-year-old Rene Hunter will also add a solid defensive presence and leadership. Towering 18-year-old Taylor Green was brought in from Seattle during the off-season. The 6’7″, 224-lb defender adds another big frame to the back end.
Goaltending: 19-year-old Curtis Honey and 17-year-old Jordan Papirny, both Edmonton, AB, products, form the goaltending tandem for Brandon this year. Honey got into 33 games last season, posting a 10-16-3 record with an .895 save percentage. He should be able to improve on those numbers with a more experienced, improved defence in front of him. Papirny, a first-round pick in 2011, got a taste of WHL action last season with three appearances, and is future-starter material for the Wheat Kings.
Player to Watch: Jayce Hawryluk
A second-round pick, 32nd overall, in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, Hawryluk played a major role for the Wheat Kings as a 16-year-old rookie last year, notching a team-leading 18 goals while finishing 10th among all WHL rookies with 43 points. The 5’10”, 190-lb product of Roblin, MB, a hard-working forward with good hockey sense and skill, Hawryluk enjoys playing a physical, gritty game while also being a go-to guy for creating offense and scoring big goals. His play certainly caught the attention of many as he earned a spot on Canada’s U-18 team, winning Gold at the Memorial for Ivan Hlinka tournament in August, and also found himself on NHL Central Scouting’s futures list for the 2014 NHL Draft.
Moose Jaw Warriors
General Manager: Alan Millar
Head Coach: Mike Stothers
2013 pre-season: 2-3-0-0
2012-13 Record: 25-36-4-7, 61pts (4th in East Div., 10th in Eastern Conf.) GF: 182 GA: 249
2012-13 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 20.3% (11th); PK: 78.9% (15th)
2013 Playoffs: Did not qualify
2012-13 Top Scorers:
Sam Fioretti 72gp-32g-43a-75pts
Brayden Point 67gp-24g-33a-57pts
Morgan Rielly 60gp-12g-42a-54pts
Up Front: The Warriors will be aiming to improve upon what was the 12th-ranked offense in the WHL Eastern Conference last season. With many of their key forwards returning, Moose Jaw has the personnel to increase their offensive totals. Veteran Sam Fioretti, the team’s leading scorer, is looking to build on his 32-goal, 75-point effort last season. Brayden Point enjoyed an outstanding rookie campaign, leading all 16-year-olds in scoring with 24 goals and 57 points. The Calgary product is set for a big year as a go-to guy for the Warriors in 13-14. The Warriors greatly bolstered their attack with the addition of 20-year-old Todd Fiddler, who netted 42 goals for Spokane in 2012-13. 19-year-old Tanner Eberle and 18-year-old Torrin White should be able to provide consistent offense as well while Miles Warkentine brings a physical, hard-working element to the mix up front.
On The Blue Line: 19-year-old Travis Brown heads up the list of returning defencemen for Moose Jaw. Brown, a Chicago Blackhawks prospect, ate up a lot of minutes for the Warriors last year, netting nine goals and 39 points in 70 games. With the departure of Morgan Rielly and Kendall McFaull, expect Brown to step into a big leadership role this season. 19-year-old Tyler Bell will also take on a big role this season while 20-year-old two-way rearguard Zach Hodder was acquired from Medicine Hat to add experience and depth. Expect sophomore Kirk Johnson to absorb more minutes as well.
Goaltending: Justin Paulic returns to take over the No. 1 job for the Warriors. The Thompson, MB, product played 57 games for the Warriors last season, posting 21 of the team’s 25 victories while showing he can handle a heavy workload. The trade of 18-year-old Daniel Wapple to Medicine Hat means that 16-year-old Zach Sawchenko will step into the back-up role. A second-round pick in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft, Sawchenko represents the future in the Warriors’ net.
Player to Watch: Brayden Point
Entering his second season in the WHL, expectations are high for Calgary, AB, native Brayden Point. After all, leading all 16-year-old rookies in goals and points does set the bar higher for the 5’9″, 160-lb center. A shifty, skilled player with great vision and a knack for finding open space, Point is one of the more exciting players to watch. His offensive talent has garnered plenty of attention, earning him a spot on Canada’s Under-18 team for the 2013 Memorial for Ivan Hlinka tournament where he helped lead the team to Gold. Though the Warriors do have a couple veteran scorers in their arsenal, expect Point to be among the top point-getters in Moose Jaw this season.
Prince Albert Raiders
General Manager: Bruno Campese
Head Coach: Cory Clouston
2013 pre-season: 3-1-0-0
2012-13 Record: 37-28-3-4, 81pts (2nd in East Div., 5th in Eastern Conf.) GF: 234 GA: 233
2012-13 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 15.4% (22nd); PK: 80.0% (11th)
2013 Playoffs: Lost in four games to Red Deer in first round
2012-13 Top Scorers:
Mark McNeill 65gp-25g-42a-67pts
Leon Draisaitl 64gp-21g-37a-58pts
Anthony Bardaro 70gp-25g-32a-57pts
Up Front: The Raiders may have lost Mark McNeill and Anthony Bardaro, two of their top scorers from the 2012-13 season, but they return a healthy cast of forwards who should help the Club offensively. German forward Leon Draisaitl is back and looking to make a big impact in his NHL draft-eligible campaign. The 18-year-old should see a jump up from the 21 goals and 58 points he managed as a rookie. Speedy sniper Mike Winther has the potential to hit the 40-goal plateau while fellow 19-year-olds Dakota Conroy and Jayden Hart will aim to build on solid offensive results last season. The Raiders are hoping 17-year-old Reid Gardiner, the eighth overall pick from the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, takes a big step forward in his production this season while 19-year-old Chance Braid adds to the Club’s collection of veteran forwards.
On The Blue Line: 18-year-old Josh Morrissey has emerged as a top-pairing rearguard for the Raiders, having netted 15 goals and 47 points with a +15 rating as a sophomore last season. The Winnipeg Jets’ first rounder not only brings valuable offense and strong puck movement, but can play a physical game as well. Expect Morrissey to have a big year for the Raiders. 20-year-olds Evan Morden and Dylan Busenius provide veteran leadership and the ability to eat up plenty of ice time. Busenius, a former first round Bantam Draft pick, also adds an offensive element to the Raiders’ blue line. 16-year-old rookie Brendan Guhle comes in with high expectations. The third overall pick from the 2012 Bantam Draft, Guhle has size and great skating ability, and should develop into a top defenceman over time.
Goaltending: The Raiders acquired 20-year-old veteran Cole Cheveldave from the Kamloops Blazers to take over the starting job in goal. Cheveldave enjoyed two strong seasons in Kamloops, posting 70 victories and 10 shutouts in 111 career regular-season games, and also helped the Blazers reach the Western Conference Championship series last year. He gives the Raiders a bona fide No. 1 presence in goal. 16-year-old rookie Nick McBride will take on the back-up role as he gets his first WHL experience.
Player to Watch: Leon Draisaitl
Seen by many as one of the best prospects to ever come out of Germany, Draisaitl showed last season why he is so highly regarded by netting 21 goals and 58 points as a WHL rookie. The second overall pick from the 2012 CHL Import Draft boasts excellent playmaking ability with his great vision and hockey sense. His big frame allows him to protect the puck and carry the puck through traffic. Draisaitl’s game isn’t flashy, but it’s very effective. He knows where to be on the ice, and has a willingness to go to the front of the net. The 6’1″, 209-lb center also displays a strong work ethic and compete level. Expect Draisaitl to turn the heads of scouts this season and force his way into the conversation of possible first-round picks for the 2014 NHL Draft.
General Manager: Chad Lang
Head Coach: Malcolm Cameron
2013 pre-season: 1-3-0-1
2012-13 Record: 25-38-4-5, 59pts (5th in East Div.,11th in Eastern Conf.) GF: 193 GA: 269
2012-13 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 20.7% (13th); PK: 77.9% (12th)
2013 Playoffs: Did not qualify
2012-13 Top Scorers:
Lane Scheidl 72gp-41g-39a-80pts
Morgan Klimchuk 72gp-36g-40a-76pts
Chandler Stephenson 46gp-14g-31a-45pts
Up Front: The Pats look to create more offense this season and improve upon what was the 10th-ranked attack in the Eastern Conference in 2012-13. Losing their top scorer, Lane Scheidl, creates a big hole to fill, though. Fortunately, the Pats will have the services of 18-year-old Morgan Klimchuk and 19-year-old Chandler Stephenson, who will be relied on heavily to fill the net. Klimchuk, a Calgary Flames prospect, broke out last season with 36 goals and 76 points, and has the potential to be among the top scorers in the WHL. Stephenson looks to rebound from an injury-shortened season where he still managed almost a point per game. Also back are veterans Dyson Stevenson and Trent Ouellette, who will both factor heavily into the Pats’ offense. Stevenson add a strong physical, gritty presence and Ouellette looks to build on his 30-point effort last year. 19-year-old Braden Christoffer enjoyed a strong finish to last season, and could step into a much bigger role up front.
On The Blue Line: If the Pats are to get themselves back into the post-season, improvements on the defensive side will be a high priority. 20-year-old Luke Fenske is hoping to put an injury-shortened campaign behind him and lead the Pats’ defence corps. The Penticton, B.C., native brings solid two-way play and will be valuable in the locker room. Also back is 19-year-old Kyle Burroughs, who will look to build on his 33-point output from last season. 18-year-old Colby Williams is also expected to contribute some offense while 17-year-old Griffin Mumby is in line for a bigger role. 19-year-old Russian rearguard Dmitry Sinitsyn enjoyed a strong pre-season, showing he can contribute at both ends of the ice, and could take on important minutes on the Pats’ blue line.
Goaltending: With the departure of Matt Hewitt, the No. 1 job in the Pats’ goal will belong to a new face this year. 19-year-olds Dawson MacAuley and Teagan Sacher have a combined 33 games of WHL experience between them, and are battling to see who gets the majority of the workload. Sacher got into 26 games as Hewitt’s back-up last season, posting an 8-13-2 record, while MacAuley, a former second-round pick of the Medicine Hat Tigers, posted a 2.52 goals-against average and a .896 save percentage in pre-season play.
Player to Watch: Dmitry Sinitsyn
The Pats’ first pick, 16th overall, in the 2013 CHL Import Draft, Sinitsyn may be Russian by birth, but he’s spent the last few years in North America, playing last season in the NCAA. A skilled and heady defender who skates well, Sinitsyn also boasts good puck-handling ability and good vision. The 6’2″, 205-lb rearguard can also take care of his own end and play a physical game, making him a versatile player who can be used on the power play and in key defensive situations. With the Pats aiming for defensive improvements, expect the Dallas Stars prospect to log plenty of ice time on the blue line.
General Manager: Lorne Molleken
Head Coach: Dave Struch
2013 pre-season: 1-1-1-1
2012-13 Record: 44-22-2-4, 94pts (1st in East Div., 2nd in Eastern Conf.) GF: 280 GA: 221
2012-13 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 21.4% (7th); PK: 84.7% (3rd)
2013 Playoffs: Lost in four games to Medicine Hat in first round
2012-13 Top Scorers:
Josh Nicholls 71gp-47g-38a-85pts
Matej Stransky 72gp-40g-45a-85pts
Brenden Walker 72gp-33g-43a-76pts
Up Front: Having undergone a major overhaul during the off-season, the Blades will sport a much different look right across the board heading into the 2013-14 campaign. Gone are top scorers Josh Nicholls, Matej Stransky, Brenden Walker and Shane McColgan, along with veteran Lukas Sutter, leaving plenty of room for new faces to take on major responsibilities. 20-year-old veterans Nathan Burns and Collin Valcourt will step into key roles up front this season. Burns put up 20 goals and 51 points last year while Valcourt notched 24 goals. Expect veterans Brett Stovin and Nick Zajac to take big steps forward in the Blades’ offensive plans, while sophomore Matt Revel will also need to take on a larger role in the attack. Russian rookie Nikita Scherbak has the offensive skill to fill a scoring role on what will be a much different Blades’ team this year.
On The Blue Line: 20-year-old veteran Graeme Craig is the elder statesman on what will be a young Blades’ blue line. Craig, a solid defensive defenceman with size, will take on big minutes and help the many young Blades’ defenders along. 18-year-olds Kevin Pochuk and Ayrton Nikkel, and 17-year-old Nelson Nogier have a combined 209 games of WHL experience among them. All three will be required to take on more responsibility on the blue line. Nogier brings size and a strong overall game to the Blades, and could turn some heads with an expanded role this season. Czech rearguard David Nemecek and Nanaimo, B.C., product Ryan Coghlan bring good size to the mix.
Goaltending: The departure of Andrey Makarov leaves the door open for a new starting netminder in Saskatoon. 18-year-old Alex Moodie got into 15 games as Makarov’s back-up last season, and has the experience of the 2013 MasterCard Memorial Cup tournament under his belt. The Blades acquired veteran Troy Trombley from Tri-Cities to add some experience in goal. Trombley performed admirably for the Ams last season, helping fill the goaltending void when starter Eric Comrie was injured.
Player to Watch: Matt Revel
With the Blades having graduated most of their top players from last season, the door is wide open for second-year forward Matt Revel to step in and take up a key role in the offense. The 17-year-old from Abbotsford, B.C., posted seven goals and 19 points in 61 games while playing behind a plethora of veterans in 2012-13, but has the talent to be a top offensive producer at the WHL level. The 5’11”, 177-lb center can skate well, and boasts strong puck skills and offensive creativity, making him a prime candidate for a top-six role up front. Having proved he can put up huge numbers in the BC Major Midget League, Revel is now hoping to enjoy a breakout season in the WHL and help the rebuilding Blades win games.
Swift Current Broncos
General Manager / Head Coach: Mark Lamb
2013 pre-season: 4-4-0-0
2012-13 Record: 36-29-3-4, 79pts (3rd in East Div., 6th in Eastern Conf.) GF: 206 GA: 193
2012-13 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 21.5% (5th); PK: 83.6% (6th)
2013 Playoffs: Lost in five games to Calgary in first round
2012-13 Top Scorers:
Adam Lowry 72gp-45g-43a-88pts
Coda Gordon 70gp-17g-42a-59pts
Graham Black 68gp-24g-26a-50pts
Up Front: The graduation of 2012-13 WHL Player of the Year Adam Lowry leaves some big shoes for the Broncos to fill, both on the ice and in the leadership department. Yet, with several key forwards back, and some promising young talent ready to make the jump to the WHL, the Broncos should have a competitive group up front. Veterans Coda Gordon, a Calgary Flames prospect, and Graham Black, a New Jersey Devils prospect, are both back to pace the offense. Both should be able to contribute consistent scoring up front this season. The Broncos also acquired 20-year-old Connor Sanvido from Seattle to bolster their scoring. Talented 18-year-old Jay Merkley enjoyed a strong pre-season, and could be in line for a breakout campaign, while veteran Colby Cave will be tasked with improving on the 21 goals he netted last year. 2012 first-round Bantam pick Glenn Gawdin comes in with high expectations, and has shown through pre-season play that he has offensive skill.
On The Blue Line: Though they may be a young group, the Broncos possess some solid performers on their back end. 18-year-old Dillon Heatherington, a Columbus Blue Jackets prospect, will shoulder a heavy workload this season, especially with the graduation of top rearguards Reece Scarlett and Richard Nedomlel. Also expected to take on a bigger role is 17-year-old Brycen Martin. The Calgary, AB, product showed tremendous potential last season, netting 19 points in 67 games. 18-year-old rookie Julius Honka, a product of Jyaskyla, Finland, has the ability to produce offense from the blue line while fellow 18-year-old Bobby Zinkan could also add another two-way presence. The addition of 17-year-old Jordan Harris from Prince George adds yet another talented, young defender to the mix.
Goaltending: 20-year-old Eetu Laurikainen returns as the Broncos’ main man in net. The Finnish netminder enjoyed a tremendous rookie campaign last year, posting 30 wins, a 2.32 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage in 60 games, helping backstop the Broncos to a playoff berth. He should provide the Broncos with top-quality goaltending. 18-year-old Landon Bow is also back, having served as Laurikainen’s back-up last season, while 16-year-old Travis Child looks to push for a spot in the goaltending tandem as well.
Player to Watch: Brycen Martin
The second overall pick in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, Martin enjoyed a strong debut as a 16-year-old last season, picking up two goals and 19 points in 67 games. An offensive-minded defenceman who moves the puck very well and makes good decisions, Martin is at home on the power play. Though disappointed after being cut from Canada’s Under-18 team in August, Martin enjoyed a great pre-season, showing he’s ready to take his game to the next level heading into his NHL Draft-eligible year. Having earned a spot on NHL Central Scouting’s futures list for the 2014 Draft, expect a lot of eyes to be on the Calgary, AB, product throughout the 2013-14 campaign.
General Manager: Mike Moore
Head Coach: Mike Williamson
2013 pre-season: 4-2-0-0
2012-13 Record: 46-21-1-4, 97pts (2nd in Central Div., 3rd in Eastern Conf.) GF: 266 GA: 204
2012-13 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 19.9% (12th); PK: 81.5% (9th)
2013 Playoffs: Lost in seven games to Edmonton in Eastern Conference championship series
2012-13 Top Scorers:
Cody Sylvester 68gp-41g-49a-90pts
Brooks Macek 70gp-32g-48a-80pts
Brady Brassart 65gp-35g-43a-78pts
Up Front: The Hitmen have a few holes to fill up front with the graduation of three of their top forwards, Cody Sylvester, Brooks Macek and Victor Rask. Yet, with 35-goal man Brady Brassart returning, along with veterans Greg Chase and Zane Jones, and sophomore Pavel Padakin, the Hitmen have scoring options. Chase, an Edmonton Oilers prospect, should step into a bigger role while Padakin has the skill to play an integral offensive role as well. 17-year-old Jake Virtanen could see the biggest jump in production this season. The skilled power forward is coming off a 2012-13 rookie year that saw him net 16 goals and 34 points while posting a +25 rating. Russian rookie Radel Fazleev has shown good offensive instincts in pre-season play while Chase Clayton and Calder Brooks are capable of adding scoring depth.
On The Blue Line: The Hitmen return several key veterans who helped the Club to the fourth-best defensive record in the Eastern Conference last season. 20-year-old Jaynen Rissling provides a strong presence in the defensive zone and valuable leadership skills, having the experience of a WHL Championship with the Hitmen in 2010, while fellow veterans Jesse Zgraggen and Kenton Helgesen have plenty of experience between them. Expect 17-year-old Josh Thrower to take up more ice time and contribute at both ends of the ice this season. Sophomore Colby Harmsworth will also look for an expanded role in the team’s defensive plans.
Goaltending: With 19-year-old Chris Driedger returning, the Hitmen will have solid goaltending this season. The Ottawa Senators prospect posted 36 victories and a .911 save percentage in 54 games last season. 18-year-old Mack Shields is also back after getting into 21 games as a rookie in 2012-13. Shields, who posted 10 victories as Driedger’s backup, attended the Florida Panthers’ rookie camp this fall.
Player to Watch: Jake Virtanen
The first overall pick from the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, Virtanen is what many describe as a ‘Bull in a China Shop’. The 6’1″, 210-lb winger has great size and strength to go with a powerful skating stride, making him very tough to handle. Coupled with his offensive abilities, including a heavy, accurate shot, Virtanen can make life incredibly difficult on opposing defenders and goaltenders. Having put up 16 goals and 34 points on a deep Hitmen team last season, expectations are very high for the Abbotsford, B.C., product. Expect Virtanen to become a major force in the Hitmen lineup this season as he heads towards the 2014 NHL Draft.
Edmonton Oil Kings
General Manager: Randy Hansch
Head Coach: Derek Laxdal
2013 pre-season: 1-4-0-0
2012-13 Record: 51-15-2-4, 108pts (1st in Central Div., 1st in Eastern Conf.) GF: 278 GA: 155
2012-13 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 28.6% (1st); PK: 87.5% (2nd)
2013 Playoffs: Lost in six games to Portland in WHL Championship series
2012-13 Top Scorers:
Michael St. Croix 72gp-37g-55a-92pts
Dylan Wruck 68gp-22g-63a-85pts
Henrik Samuelsson 69gp-33g-47a-80pts
Up Front: The Oil Kings lose a lot of the firepower that has kept them at the top of the WHL standings over the last two seasons. The departure of Michael St. Croix, Dylan Wruck, T.J. Foster, Stephane Legault and Trevor Cheek leave some big holes up front. Returning center Curtis Lazar, an Ottawa Senators first rounder, will take on a primary scoring role this season. Having already proved himself with seasons of 20 and 38 goals, Lazar could be in line for a huge season this year as a top-line contributor. Also expected back is 19-year-old Henrik Samuelsson, who scored 33 goals and 80 points last season. The Phoenix Coyotes prospect also adds some truculence to the Oil Kings’ lineup. Latvian Edgars Kulda and Brandon Baddock, both sophomores, are expected to take on a bigger job in the offense while 17-year-old Lane Bauer put up huge numbers over his previous two seasons in Alaska.
On The Blue Line: The Oil Kings will also lose many of their top defencemen from last season with the departure of names like Keegan Lowe, Martin Gernat and David Musil. 19-year-old stalwart Griffin Reinhart could return, but could also stick with the New York Islanders. However, with the departures, the door is open for younger players to step in and take up big roles. 20-year-old Cody Corbett will shoulder a heavy workload as the elder statesman. Corbett put up an impressive 42 points last season, and will be charged with leading the defence corps at both ends of the ice. Veteran Ashton Sautner is also back and ready for more responsibility. 19-year-old Stephen Schmoorkoff will likely see more ice time while promising sophomore Dysin Mayo will also be asked to step into a greater role. The Oil Kings are also excited with what 17-year-old former first-round Bantam pick Aaron Irving can bring to the mix.
Goaltending: With Laurent Brossoit bound for the professional ranks, the starting job in Edmonton belongs to Tristan Jarry. Having backed up Brossoit in each of the last two seasons, Jarry is more than ready for the starting job. The 18-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins prospect is coming off a 2012-13 season where he posted a WHL-leading 1.61 goals-against average and a stellar .936 save percentage in 27 games. 19-year-old Tyler Santos has made a strong case to take on the back-up role with his outstanding pre-season, while 16-year-old Patrick Dea could also factor into the goaltending mix.
Player to Watch: Tristan Jarry
A third-round pick in the 2010 WHL Bantam draft, Jarry has bided his time over his first two WHL seasons while playing behind one of the League’s best in Laurent Brossoit. Yet, with his outstanding performance in 27 games last year, Jarry has emerged as a top netminder in the WHL and given the Oil Kings the confidence of knowing their goaltending situation is in great shape with Brossoit’s departure. Drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round of the 2013 NHL Draft, Jarry possesses all the traits that have the Pens believing he’s a future starter. With good size, great movement and solid fundamentals, Jarry should emerge as one of the WHL’s top goaltenders over the course of the 2013-14 season.
General Manager: Jeff Chynoweth
Head Coach: Ryan McGill
2013 pre-season: 1-4-0-0
2012-13 Record: 35-35-2-0, 72pts (5th in Central Div., 8th in Eastern Conf.) GF: 203 GA: 221
2012-13 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 19.2% (13th); PK: 77.6% (16th)
2013 Playoffs: Lost in five games to Edmonton in first round
2012-13 Top Scorers:
Sam Reinhart 72gp-35g-50a-85pts
Jaedon Descheneau 69gp-30g-48a-78pts
Brock Montgomery 58gp-31g-17a-48pts
Up Front: The Ice have a solid core of young players returning who helped the team make a valiant push into the playoffs last season, led by Sam Reinhart and Jaedon Descheneau. Reinhart has already established himself as a star, following up his 2011-12 WHL Rookie of the Year campaign with 85 points as a 17-year-old last season, and has the ability to hit triple digits this year. Descheneau broke out for 30 goals and 75 points playing alongside Reinhart, and was a huge reason the Ice battled their way into the post-season. 20-goal man Luke Philp is also back. He netted 20 goals and 45 points in his first full season in the WHL. 17-year-old Collin Shirley is in line for a much bigger role in the Ice attack after netting nine goals and 23 points as a rookie in 2012-13. Veteran Levi Cable will be asked to chip in more as a 19-year-old this year.
On The Blue Line: Veteran Jagger Dirk leads what will be a younger, less experienced group on the Ice blue line. Dirk, a 20-year-old with 241 games of WHL seasoning, will have to absorb a large chunk of ice time and provide strength at both ends of the ice for Kootenay. Having posted 37 points last year, Dirk has the ability to contribute on offense. 18-year-olds Tanner Faith and Matt Thomas also return from the 2012-13 edition of the Club. Both are in line for more responsibility this season, as is 18-year-old Clint Filbrandt, acquired in the off-season from Tri-Cities. 16-year-old rookie Troy Murray comes in with solid pedigree – he’s the younger brother of former Everett Silvertips’ star Ryan Murray – and the raised expectations that come with being a first-round Bantam pick.
Goaltending: The Ice will have solid goaltending with the return of 19-year-old Mackenzie Skapski. The New York Rangers prospect played in 65 games last season, posting 34 wins, including seven shutouts, and a .910 save percentage. A workhorse in the Ice goal, Skapski will be counted on to help out what will be a young defence corps. 18-year-old Wyatt Hoflin is also back to serve as Skapski’s back-up. Hoflin got into 16 games last season.
Player to Watch: Sam Reinhart
Reinhart knows expectations are high for him this season. Being in the conversation about possible No. 1 overall picks in the 2014 NHL Draft means the youngest Reinhart brother will have all eyes on him during the 2013-14 campaign. Reinhart, though, is a player who always rises to the challenge, establishing himself as a star performer and leader for an Ice team that made an incredible run to a playoff spot in 2012-13. Blessed with tremendous hockey sense, vision and skill, Reinhart is a dynamic offensive player who is just as comfortable playing set-up man as he is finishing. He’s also a responsible defender who can be used in key situations. Count on Reinhart to shine again for Kootenay this season, and continue to make his case to be the first overall pick in 2014.
General Manager: Brad Robson
Head Coach: Drake Berehowsky
2013 pre-season: 3-1-0-1
2012-13 Record: 28-34-3-7, 66pts (6th in Central Div.,9th in Eastern Conf.) GF: 212 GA: 253
2012-13 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 16.1% (20th); PK: 76.6% (18th)
2013 Playoffs: Did not qualify
2012-13 Top Scorers:
Russell Maxwell 66gp-22g-33a-55pts
Jaimen Yakubowski 66gp-32g-18a-50pts
Sam McKechnie 72gp-26g-17a-43pts
Up Front: The ‘Canes have a group of forwards returning who are capable of helping the team make the post-season for the first time since 2009. Veterans Sam McKechnie, Russell Maxwell, Jamal Watson and Jaimen Yakubowski all hit at least the 20-goal mark last season – Yakubowski led the way with 32 – and all are returning. 6’6″ winger Axel Blomqvist also returns after attending camp with the Winnipeg Jets. Blomqvist netted 33 points in 59 games last year, and will be a big part of the team’s offense. In 20-year-old Brady Ramsay, the ‘Canes get offense, leadership and toughness. 17-year-old Reid Duke could make a much bigger impact up front this season after enjoying a 24-point rookie campaign. Giorgio Estephan, the ‘Canes’ first-round pick in the 2012 Bantam Draft, finished third in League scoring in the Alberta Midget AAA League last year, and could make a difference to the offense even as a 16-year-old.
On The Blue Line: The ‘Canes will be young on the blue line, with Adam Henry being the only defender over 18-years-old. Macoy Erkamps, an 18-year-old from Delta, B.C., led all ‘Canes’ blue liners in scoring last season with 35 points in 72 games. Having steadily improved over his first two years in Lethbridge, expect Erkamps to take on a big role in the defence corps. Ryan Pilon, the third overall pick of the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, is set to see a big increase in his responsibilities. Pilon impressed with five goals and 28 points in 57 games as a rookie. 17-year-olds Lenny Hackman and Joel Topping are also back for their respective sophomore campaigns.
Goaltending: Last year, the Hurricanes’ net belonged to veteran Ty Rimmer, who appeared in 65 of the team’s 72 games. This season, they turn to 20-year-old Corbin Boes to take over the top job. Acquired from the Brandon Wheat Kings in the off-season, Boes has 117 games under his belt and also boasts valuable playoff experience. Christopher Tai returns for his second season with the ‘Canes. Tai, a 17-year-old Delta, B.C., native, has been solid during pre-season play, showing he’s ready to take on a bigger workload.
Player to Watch: Ryan Pilon
The first of two top-5 picks for the Hurricanes in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft – the other being Reid Duke – Pilon is expected to become a major impact player for the ‘Canes’ over the next few seasons. Already standing 6’2″ and checking in at 212 pounds, Pilon is a physically intimidating presence in the defensive zone. Yet, Pilon’s skill set extends beyond his size. The Duck Lake, SK, product is a strong two-way force who can shut down opposing forwards, move the puck effectively, and generate offense. His play as a 16-year-old rookie, finishing third among the team’s blue liners in scoring, showed he is a defender to be reckoned with. Coming off a Gold medal win with Canada’s Under-18 team this summer, Pilon looks to step into a much larger role among the young Hurricanes’ defence corps.
Medicine Hat Tigers
General Manager / Head Coach: Shaun Clouston
2013 pre-season: 2-4-0-0
2012-13 Record: 36-33-2-1, 75pts (4th in Central Div., 7th in Eastern Conf.) GF: 243 GA: 244
2012-13 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 21.3% (9th); PK: 80.4% (10th)
2013 Playoffs: Lost in four games to Edmonton in second round
2012-13 Top Scorers:
Curtis Valk 71gp-46g-45a-91pts
Hunter Shinkaruk 64gp-37g-49a-86pts
Elgin Pearce 71gp-29g-46a-75pts
Up Front: The Tigers return their top two scorers from last season, Hunter Shinkaruk and Curtis Valk, who will be tasked with leading the attack again. Shinkaruk, selected 24th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2013 NHL Draft, has piled up 86 goals and 177 points over his last two campaigns, and will again be a challenger for the WHL’s top scorer. Valk is coming off a 2012-13 season that saw him break out for 45 goals and 91 points. In addition, the Tigers will look to 19-year-olds Miles Koules and Logan McVeigh for scoring. Both scored 19 times and topped the 40-point mark last year. Boston Leier, a 20-year-old from Saskatoon, SK, aims to build on an 18-goal, 52-point effort last year while Trevor Cox should also see a bigger role in 2013-14. 20-year-old veteran Jacob Doty can provide secondary offense and play a physical role for the team.
On The Blue Line: 20-year-old Dylan Bredo moves back to the blue line full-time this season. The Edmonton, AB, product had spent most of his WHL career as a forward, but boasts the skating and puck-moving ability to be a very effective two-way presence among the defence. Kyle Becker, a 19-year-old from Langley, B.C., put up four goals and 21 points in his first full WHL season last year, and will play a big role at both ends of the ice for the Tigers, while veteran tower-of-strength rearguard Tyler Lewington holds things together in the defensive zone and provides good puck movement. 18-year-olds Spenser Jensen and Ty Stanton are both in line for more responsibility.
Goaltending: 19-year-old Czech netminder Marek Langhamer looks to be the top man in the Tigers’ net this season after getting into 30 games last season while playing behind veteran Cam Lanigan. Langhamer, a Phoenix Coyotes prospect, is an athletic netminder who boasts good reflexes and movement in the net. Expect Langhamer to see plenty of work this year. The Tigers acquired 18-year-old goaltender Daniel Wapple from the Moose Jaw Warriors during the pre-season to solidify their goaltending position.
Player to Watch: Hunter Shinkaruk
Shinkaruk is already a bona fide star in the WHL, having scored 100 goals and 219 points over his first three seasons in the League. The Calgary, AB, product boasts high-end skill, speed, offensive creativity, and a passion for playing the game, making him one of the most exciting players to watch. Drafted in the first round of the 2013 NHL Draft by the Vancouver Canucks, Shinkaruk still has some lofty goals to achieve at the Major Junior level. The 5’11”, 179-lb winger will set his sights on not only earning a spot on Canada’s National Junior team, but playing a key role for Canada in December and January. In Medicine Hat, Shinkaruk partners with veteran Curtis Valk to form one of the WHL’s most dangerous duos. Look for Shinkaruk to, once again, challenge for a WHL scoring title in 2013-14.
Red Deer Rebels
General Manager / Head Coach: Brent Sutter
2013 pre-season: 3-3-0-0
2012-13 Record: 39-26-5-2, 85pts (3rd in Central Div., 4th in Eastern Conf.) GF: 208 GA: 204
2012-13 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 17.0% (17th); PK: 84.0% (3rd)
2013 Playoffs: Lost in five games to Calgary in second round
2012-13 Top Scorers:
Rhyse Dieno 48gp-27g-32a-59pts
Turner Elson 64gp-26g-31a-57pts
Mathew Dumba 62gp-16g-26a-42pts
Up Front: Last season, the Rebels charged their way to a fourth-place finish in the Eastern Conference on the back of an airtight defence. This year, the team looks to be a bit more potent up front, with many of their key offensive players returning with another year of experience under their belts. Rhyse Dieno, a 20-year-old from Davidson, SK, broke out for 59 points in 48 games after joining the Rebels in November. It’s a good bet he’ll put up big numbers for Red Deer with a full season to work with. Also returning are veterans Brooks Maxwell and Dominik Volek, who both will be counted on heavily to carry the offensive load. 17-year-old Conner Bleackley is a player who the Rebels believe will take on a much bigger role. Having put up nine goals and 18 points in a more limited role as a rookie, Bleackley’s big frame and heavy shot will be put to more use this year. 20-year-old Lukas Sutter aims for a bounce-back season, offensively. In addition to his physical presence, the Winnipeg Jets prospect has shown he can score, having netted 28 goals just two years ago in Saskatoon.
On The Blue Line: With many of their top defenders set to return, the Rebels should be very strong on the back end. 19-year-old veterans Brady Gaudet and Matt Dumba should both be back. Gaudet is a strong two-way defender who is effective at both ends of the ice. Dumba, a Minnesota Wild first rounder, is well-known for his physical play as well as his tremendous offensive gifts. Expect those two to log plenty of minutes. Also back are defensive stalwart Kayle Doetzel and top 2013 NHL Draft prospect Haydn Fleury. A 17-year-old from Carlyle, SK, Fleury has the tools, both offensive and defensive, to develop into a top WHL defenceman. Riley Boomgaarden and veteran Devan Fafard are also returning, providing strong depth to the Rebels’ defence corps.
Goaltending: With veteran Patrik Bartosak returning, the Rebels’ goaltending should be near impenetrable. The 2013 WHL and CHL Goaltender of the Year, Bartosak was outstanding in the Rebels’ cage last season, posting 33 wins, a 2.26 goals-against average and a stellar .936 save percentage. The 20-year-old from Koprivnice, Slovakia, rounded out his strong season by getting drafted by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2013 NHL Draft. Expect Bartosak to be among the WHL’s top netminders again this season. 16-year-old Taz Burman, a second-round pick in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft, looks to gain experience as Bartosak’s back-up.
Player to Watch: Haydn Fleury
The Rebels’ second-round pick in the 2011 Bantam Draft, Fleury has created a buzz as one of the top defensive prospects in the WHL. The Carlyle, SK, native impressed as a rookie last year, netting four goals and 19 points in 66 games on a deep Rebels’ blue line, and also helped Canada’s Under-18 team win Gold in August. With a 6’3″, 198-lb frame, Fleury has the size to play a physical role. Yet, it’s his excellent skating, vision and puck movement skills that separate him from many. One of 14 WHL players named to NHL Central Scouting’s preliminary watch list for the 2014 NHL Draft, Fleury can expect plenty of attention as he takes on a larger role in the Rebels’ defensive scheme.