PENTICTON, BC –The Penticton Vees Jr. ‘A’ Hockey Club is pleased to announced three local commitments from Penticton-based, Okanagan Hockey Academy (OHA), for the upcoming 2015-2016 season. Defensemen Griffin Mendel (99) and Sam Jones (97), and forward Taylor Ward (98) will swap red for Vees blue this fall, as they’ve committed to the team for the upcoming BCHL season.
President, General Manager and Head Coach Fred Harbinson, “OHA has been a tremendous partner for the Vees over many years now. We are fortunate to have such a high performance program so geographically close to the team. We’ve never had so many OHA players join our squad in one year, and I believe the pipeline to the Vees in future years looks equally exciting.”
Added Harbinson, “We have made it a priority to add more local talent to our program. We want Vees fans to be proud of our local players, and with Cody DePourcq now graduated, we are very pleased to have three such talented and dedicated South Okanagan kids – both on the ice and in the classroom – joining our program.”
Mendel, 16, and his teammates won the Canadian Sports Schools Hockey League (CSSHL) Prep Division championship this past spring with the OHA Prep White team. At 6’2″, the rear-guard is known as a responsible, intelligent defenseman (a Penticton High School straight-A student) who can play in all situations, and possesses a heavy shot from the point. Griffin was a first-round selection in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft, going 11th overall to the Kootenay Ice. Mendel’s potential has caught the eye of many top NCAA Division l programs, and he appeared in two games this past season with the Vees as an Affiliate Player.
Jones, who turns 18 in November, also played next door for OHA Prep Red, in the CSSHL. Jones, a local Penticton product, averaged over a point per-game on the blue-line this past season, amassing 31 points in 28 games. Jones was the highest scoring defenseman on OHA Red, and finished 2nd in CSSHL Prep League scoring. The 6’2 blue-liner is known as a strong skater, who like Mendel, has a hard shot from the point. Also a Penticton High school high achieving student, the Vees coaching staff is very keen on Jones’ upside.
Ward won a CSSHL championship with Mendel on OHA White this past season, and finished second in team scoring with 50 points in 28 games. The 17-year-old forward had a team-best 41 assists and possesses a strong hockey IQ. Ward parlayed his regular season success into the CSSHL playoffs, where he showed strong, two-way forward habits and helped OHA Prep White to a Prep Division Championship. Those traits should come as no surprise, as his father Dixon Ward played over 500 games in the NHL with Vancouver, Los Angeles, Toronto, Buffalo and the New York Rangers. Taylor has caught the eye of several NCAA Division I programs, and scored his first career BCHL goal this past season with the Vees in a game against West Kelowna.