Brad Knight was looking for more than just skill and ability when he recruited for the 2014-15 B.C. Hockey League season.
The Victoria Grizzlies’ general manager and head coach — and obviously his predecessor Craig Didmon — was also looking for character and leadership for the upcoming class. Knight believes he has it with upwards of 20 players who have worn either a ‘C’ for captaincy or ‘A’ as assistants on their previous teams.
“When we’re looking at potentially what our opening day roster looks like, which would include say 16 forwards and 10 defencemen that are all in the mix, there are probably 16 captains in that group,” said Knight. “And there’s probably a minimum of 20 guys who have all worn letters.
“That’s kind of what we’re going for here. We’ve changed the model here a bit. What I want is a team that can win in various aspects of the game, whether it’s physical, skating or scoring. I want to be able to play all teams equally.
“We’re putting together a team that maybe isn’t as flashy as say the three Fitzgeralds [Myles, Gerry and Leo] would have been. But we will be deeper and bigger, really hard to play against and physical. I think we’ll score some beautiful goals, but more so, we’re putting together a team with a tremendous amount of character, commitment in getting better every day and working as a unit.”
Among them will be locals Brendan De Jong (younger brother of Nolan, a Grizzly who is now at the University of Michigan) and Tomba Huddlestan on defence and Nick Guiney up front. Outside recruits Quinn Thompson, captain of the B.C. Major Midget League’s Vancouver Northwest Giants, and P.J. Conlon and Matthew Kennedy of Ontario prep schools Upper Canada and St. Andrew’s, respectively, are also on board.
“Huddlestan is a 1997, six-foot-two player who is smooth skating and a good puck mover,” said Knight. “De Jong is a ’98 who is six-foot-five; a really highly intelligent hockey player and very strong positionally.”
As for the latter three recruits, Knight said: “Three highly coveted players with tremendous amounts of character to not only play on the power play, but kill penalties.
“What we’re really looking for are 200-foot players. I think we’ll have 12 up front and six on the back end,” added Knight.
Among his returnees are defencemen Rory McGuire, Mitch Meek and Brandon Egli. Kevin Massy will move to the forwards along with veterans Dane Gibson (acquired via trade for Jacob Kearley), Jay Mackie, Shawn McBride, Storm Wahlrab and Cole Pickup.
“Hopefully, with Kevin we’re going to give him the opportunity to play in the top six [forwards] right off the bat and use that frame and skill-set and tenacity around the net. With him and guys like Dane Gibson, Mackie, McBride and Storm Wahlrab, we’ll have guys over six feet.
“We’ll be hard to play against and hard to handle in front of the net. And we have a compliment of great two-way players.”
Also among the returners are Garrett Forster and goaltenders Alec Dillon and Nic Renyard, although Dillon’s fate might depend on a National Hockey League club, if drafted in the NHL entry draft later this month.
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