WHL 50th SEASON PREVIEW: EASTERN CONFERENCE

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Calgary, AB – The Western Hockey League’s 50th Season begins tomorrow in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan as the Warriors host the Regina Pats, live on the WHL on Shaw with a pre-game show beginning at 6:30 p.m. MT. As fans gear up for another exciting year of WHL hockey, we preview the WHL’s Eastern Conference.

The Brandon Wheat Kings enjoyed a terrific season which saw the franchise claim the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as the top Club in the regular season before becoming WHL Eastern Conference Champions in the 2015 WHL Playoffs. Is this the Wheat Kings’ year, or will another team emerge?The WHL’s Eastern Conference also boasts impressive talent. From NHL prospects that could return including Moose Jaw’s Brayden Point and Calgary’s Jake Virtanen, to draft-eligible stars such as Regina’s Sam Steel, to promising young rookies including Brandon’s Stelio Mattheos and Lethbridge’s Jordy Bellerive, the Eastern Conference is sure to excite during the 50th Season.

Here’s a look at the WHL’s Eastern Conference:

Central Division


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Calgary Hitmen
General Manager: Mike Moore
Head Coach: Mark French
2015 Pre-Season: 7 GP, 7-0-0-0
2014-15 Record: 45-22-1-4, 95pts (1st in Central Division) GF: 289  GA: 203
2014-15 Power Play / Penalty Killing Ranking: PP: 21.7% (8th); PK: 82.6% (3rd)
2015 WHL Playoffs: Lost in five games to Brandon in Eastern Conference Championship Series
2014-15 Top Scorers:
Adam Tambellini               71gp-47g-39a-86pts
Connor Rankin                  72gp-32g-47a-79pts
Travis Sanheim                  67gp-15g-50a-65pts

The Calgary Hitmen enjoyed a terrific 2014-15 regular season and took significant strides by reaching the Eastern Conference Championship Series before being eliminated by the Brandon Wheat Kings. Head Coach Mark French guided the Club to a Central Division crown and enters his second season behind the Hitmen bench with a roster poised to compete among the elite Clubs in the WHL. Veterans Jake Virtanen and Chase Lang should lead a strong offence that also includes Calgary Flames prospect Pavel Karnaukhov in the mix, if returned from NHL camps. The Hitmen scored 289 goals last season, good enough for third-best in the WHL. With talents like Mike Winther, Radel Fazleev, and Elliott Peterson also in the mix, the Hitmen have plenty of offensive options. The Hitmen boast a deep defensive unit that includes the possible return of team captain Travis Sanheim and rookie standout Jake Bean. Sanheim led all WHL defencemen in scoring last season with 65 points (15g-50a) and also notched 18 points (5g-13a) in 17 post-season contests.  A deep defensive unit will get deeper with the return of Ben Thomas and possibly 20-year-old Flames prospect Keegan Kanzig. Goaltending looks to be the job of Brendan Burke, but Kyle Dumba is another goaltending prospect that boasts the bloodlines for success.

Player to Watch: Jake Bean

A 17-year-old product of Calgary, AB, Bean appeared in 51 games for the Calgary Hitmen and made the most of them. Bean was productive on both sides of the ice as he collected 39 points (5g-34a) to go along with a plus-20 rating.  The 6-1 182 lb two-way defender established himself as an impact player as the season went on and drew the attention of NHL scouts. Bean was listed in the 2015-16 NHL Central Scouting Future’s List and is eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft. Bean has the qualities to continue to develop his presence in the WHL and will play a big role with the Hitmen in 2015-16. 

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Edmonton Oil Kings
General Manager: Randy Hansch
Head Coach: Steve Hamilton
2015 pre-season: 5 GP, 2-3-0-0
2014-15 Record: 34-31-4-3, 75pts (5th in Central Division) GF: 217  GA: 204
2014-15 Power Play / Penalty Killing Ranking: PP: 18.5% (17th); PK: 84.8% (1st)
2015 WHL Playoffs: Lost in five games to Brandon in Round 1 
2014-15 Top Scorers:
Brett Pollock                      70gp-32g-30a-62pts
Lane Bauer                         71gp-25g-30a-55pts
Dysin Mayo                        72gp-14g-37a-51pts
Ashton Sautner                 72gp-12g-39a-51pts

The Edmonton Oil Kings’ streak of three consecutive WHL Championship appearances ended last season with a first round exit to the Brandon Wheat Kings. The Oil Kings are striving towards an improvement after capturing the Ed Chynoweth Cup in 2012 and 2014. Brett Pollock and Lane Bauer will lead the offence after strong 2014-15 seasons in which they recorded 62 points (32g-30a) and 55 points (25g-30a) respectively. Brandon Baddock, if he returns, and Andrew Koep will provide depth for the Oil Kings and will likely need to be relied on if the Oil Kings want to reach the next level. The graduation of Ashton Sautner certainly leaves a big hole to fill when it comes to the Oil Kings’ backend. However, the Oil Kings have a strong defensive unit that may include the return of Arizona Coyotes’ prospect Dysin Mayo and veteran Ben Carroll. This is also a defensive unit that posted the League’s best penalty kill efficiency last season, converting at an 84.8% rate. With the graduation of long-time goaltender Tristan Jarry, the starting goaltending job is up for grabs as Patrick Dea and rookies Alec Dillon and Carter Phair look to take the reins.

Player to Watch: Brett Pollock

A 19-year-old from Sherwood Park, AB, Pollock led all skaters for the Oil Kings in point production with 62 points (32g-30a) which marks a point increase every season since he first entered the League in 2012. The Dallas Stars prospect will be expected to carry an even larger offensive workload this season in Edmonton with the departure of Edgars Kulda. Pollock was chosen by the Dallas Stars in the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft.

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Kootenay Ice
General Manager: Jeff Chynoweth
Head Coach: Luke Pierce
2015 Pre-Season: 6 GP, 2-3-1-0
2014-15 Record: 37-31-1-3, 78pts (4th in Central Division) GF: 245  GA: 248
2014-15 Power Play / Penalty Killing Ranking: PP: 19.9% (15th); PK: 81.8% (6th)
2015 WHL Playoffs: Lost in seven games to Calgary in Round 1
2014-15 Top Scorers:
Luke Philp                           71gp-30g-52a-82pts
Jaedon Descheneau         70gp-34g-47a-81pts
Sam Reinhart                     47gp-19g-46a-65pts

The Kootenay ICE are coming off a 2014-15 campaign that saw them finish above .500 for a WHL-record 16th consecutive year.  This success was largely due to the dominant performances of Luke Philp, Jaedon Descheneau and Sam Reinhart. The trio combined to score 83 goals and 228 points en route to a playoff berth for the 17th consecutive season. With Reinhart likely not returning to the ICE, some of the young forwards will need to make strides to make up for Reinhart’s production. WHL graduates Tim Bozun and Levi Cable are also not returning to the ICE for the 2015-16 season which indicates that Descheneau and Philp will be relied on heavily to produce offence. The ICE will look to Zak Zborosky and Matt Alfaro to fill the scoring void. Defensively, Tyler King will be counted on to log big minutes for the ICE while third-year defenceman Troy Murray will likely see a larger role on the back end. 20-year-old Wyatt Hoflin may be back as the starting goaltender for the ICE after leading all WHL goaltenders in games played last season with 67. Hoflin has posted 47 wins and a 3.15 GAA in 110 career appearances with the ICE.

Player to Watch: Luke Philp

A 20-year-old from Canmore, AB, Philp will be relied on heavily this season to provide leadership and scoring. Over his career, Philp has steadily improved and now boasts 206 points (82g-124a) over 225 games. One player that will be looking to follow in Luke’s footsteps is his brother, Noah. The younger Philp enters his rookie season in the WHL this year after spending last year in Junior ‘A.’

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Lethbridge Hurricanes
General Manager: Peter Anholt
Head Coach: Brent Kisio
2015 Pre-Season: 6 GP, 3-2-1-0
2014-15 Record: 20-44-5-3, 48pts (6th in Central Division) GF: 202  GA: 304
2014-15 Power Play / Penalty Killing Ranking: PP: 15.2% (22nd); PK: 78.3% (14th)
2015 WHL Playoffs: Did not qualify
2014-15 Top Scorers:
Tyler Wong                        64gp-27g-29a-56pts
Jamal Watson                   66gp-26g-28a-54pts
Giorgio Estephan              64gp-23g-28a-51pts

The Lethbridge Hurricanes enter a new era after going through a difficult stretch. General Manager Peter Anholt and new Head Coach Brent Kisio begin their first full season with the Hurricanes and are looking to steer the team in a positive direction. Up front, the ‘Canes look to improve on their offence that ranked 19th and power play which finished last in overall efficiency last season. Veterans Tyler Wong and Giorgio Estephan are back and are looking to pace the attack. The Hurricanes have several young players who will likely compete for both spots and playing time throughout the course of the season.  Rookie forwards Zane Franklin and Brett Davis are amongst several young prospects looking to make an impact for the Hurricanes. Defensively, the Hurricanes gave up the second most goals against in the WHL last season and will have plenty of new faces on the back end. The Hurricanes acquired long-time Vancouver Giants defenceman Arvin Atwal over the off-season via trade to help stabilize the defensive unit. In the net, 17-year-old Stuart Skinner and 19-year-old Jayden Sittler should start the year as the Hurricanes’ goaltending tandem. The pair combined for 19 wins last season in 63 games played between the two of them.Player to Watch: Jordy Bellerive

The second overall selection from the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft enters his first season in the WHL looking to help turnaround the Hurricanes’ fortunes. A 16-year-old from North Vancouver, BC, Bellerive enjoyed a productive campaign with Okanagan Hockey Academy of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League (CSSHL) last year.  The 5-9, 175 lb centre put up 34 goals and 49 points in 27 games. Bellerive is an offensively skilled forward who has the opportunity to establish himself as a scoring threat for the Hurricanes. Bellerive is a player who the Hurricanes will count on to put the puck in the net and help the team back into the playoffs. 

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Medicine Hat Tigers
General Manager / Head Coach: Shaun Clouston
2015 Pre-Season: 5 GP, 4-1-0-0
2014-15 Record: 45-23-2-2, 94pts (2nd in Central Division) GF: 268  GA: 213
2014-15 Power Play / Penalty Killing Ranking: PP: 20.9% (11th); PK: 81.3% (7th)
2015 WHL Playoffs: Lost in five games to Calgary in Round 2
2014-15 Top Scorers:
Trevor Cox                         69gp-29g-80a-109pts
Cole Sanford                      72gp-50g-45a-95pts
Dryden Hunt                      71gp-33g-50a-83pts

The Tigers come into the 50th Season with many key players returning to the fold and are poised for another playoff run. Medicine Hat ranked second in the Central Division after being narrowly edged by the Calgary Hitmen at season’s end and were also defeated by Calgary in Round 2 of the 2015 WHL Playoffs. Up front, overagers Trevor Cox and Cole Sanford could once again in line for major offensive roles. Combined with recently-departed Dryden Hunt last year, the line posted 112 goals and 287 points which helped the Tigers finish fifth overall in goal scoring last season. Veterans Steve Owre, and Chad Butcher are a couple other names expected to round out the Tigers attack.  Ty Schultz and Ty Stanton should provide depth for the Tigers to help offset the graduation of Tyler Lewington and Kyle Becker.  Sophomore David Quenneville should be ready for a major workload on the Tigers’ defensive unit after having success at the 2015 Ivan Hlinka Memorial winning a gold medal. With the graduation of veteran netminder Marek Langhamer, the starting role is up for grabs. Nick Schneider suited up in 27 games for the Tigers last season and earned 15 wins. The Tigers brought in former Portland Winterhawks goaltender Evan Johnson to join Nick Schneider in the goaltending tandem.  Johnson has 19 games of WHL experience combined with the Winterhawks and the Calgary Hitmen, posting six wins along the way. Player to Watch: Cole Sanford

A 19-year-old product of Vernon, B.C., Sanford enters his fourth WHL season and is expected to have a productive season offensively. Sanford was one of two skaters to score 50 goals in the 2014-15 regular season and his 95 points were fourth-best amongst all skaters. Sanford’s 50 goals marked a 17-goal improvement from the previous season and he has become one of the League’s biggest offensive threats. After a successful campaign last year, expect Sanford to be amongst the leaders in several offensive categories in the WHL this season.

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Red Deer Rebels
General Manager / Head Coach: Brent Sutter
2015 Pre-Season: 5 GP, 3-2-0-0
2014-15 Record: 38-23-5-6, 87pts (3rd in Central Division) GF: 240  GA: 227
2014-15 Power Play / Penalty Killing Ranking: PP: 20.2% (13th); PK: 83.7% (2nd)
2015 WHL Playoffs: Lost in five games to Medicine Hat in Round 1
2014-15 Top Scorers:
Riley Sheen                        71gp-24g-47a-71pts
Connor Gay                        71gp-23g-38a-61pts
Brooks Maxwell                71gp-27g-32a-59pts

The Red Deer Rebels returned to the post-season in 2015 after a one-year absence, but were eliminated in Round 1 by the Medicine Hat Tigers. The Red Deer Rebels will host the 98th edition of the MasterCard Memorial Cup this season and look to take the next steps in becoming a contender. This year, the Rebels could return many of their key players including team captain Conner Bleackley. A native of High River, AB, Bleackley scored 27 goals and 49 points in 51 games to go along with a plus-13 rating. Adam Musil and Wyatt Johnson provide a scoring punch for the Rebels while newly-acquired forward Lane Pederson provides depth up front for the Rebels. Red Deer posted the league’s second-best penalty kill last year and a big factor in that success was due to the Rebels’ strong defence corps. 19-year-old Hayden Fleury leads a strong core that also features veteran standout Kayle Doetzel. Rylan Toth looks poised to be the starting goaltender for the Rebels this season while Trevor Martin and Dawson Weatherhill will push for a spot. The biggest threat on the Rebels, though, may come via trade as the Club builds for a national championship. Player to Watch: Jeff de Wit

17-year-old power forward Jeff de Wit comes into his second season in the WHL and is looking to play a big role up front for the Rebels.  A big-bodied skater, de Wit notched 13 points (3g-10a) in limited action for the Rebels last season. The native of Red Deer, AB, was named to the 2015-16 NHL Central Scouting Future’s List and will have plenty of opportunities to help guide the Rebels to a deep run both the post-season and at the 2016 MasterCard Memorial Cup.

East Division

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Brandon Wheat Kings
General Manager/Head Coach: Kelly McCrimmon
2015 Pre-Season: 4 GP, 3-0-1-0
2014-15 Record: 53-11-4-4, 114pts (1st in East Division) GF: 340  GA: 219
2014-15 Power Play / Penalty Killing Ranking: PP: 25.7% (2nd); PK: 77.1% (17th)
2015 WHL Playoffs: Lost in four games to Kelowna Rockets in 2015 WHL Championship Series
2014-15 Top Scorers:
Tim McGauley                   72gp-42g-63a-105pts
Morgan Klimchuk             60gp-34g-46a-80pts
Peter Quenneville             72gp-27g-48a-75pts       

 

The Brandon Wheat Kings took a big step forward last season as they claimed the Scotty Munro Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s top Club in the regular season. The Wheat Kings also advanced to the 2015 WHL Championship Series for the first time since 2005 before falling to the Kelowna Rockets. With a collection of young, high-end talent, the Wheat Kings own a deep roster and will be eyeing not only a return to the WHL Championship Series, but claiming the Ed Chynoweth Cup. Up front, the Wheat Kings return several key forwards from what was the highest scoring offence in the WHL last season. Tim McGauley, Rihards Bukarts and Jayce Hawryluk lead a dangerous attack while sophomore Nolan Patrick could also be a difference-maker in the Wheat Kings’ offence. Philadelphia Flyers’ prospect Ivan Provorov will lead a defensive group that allowed the third-fewest goals against in the Eastern Conference last season. Provorov capped an impressive rookie campaign with 61 points (15g-46a) which led all first-year players and ranked fourth amongst WHL defencemen. Veteran defencemen Macoy Erkamps and Colton Waltz look to solidify a well-rounded blue line both offensively and defensively. Jordan Papirny will return as the starting netminder after leading all goaltenders with 44 wins in 59 games last season and further impressed in the post-season, picking up 12 victories.

Player to Watch:  Stelio Mattheos

A 16-year-old from Winnipeg, MB, Mattheos enjoyed a successful season with the Winnipeg Wild Midget AAA squad in Manitoba Minor Hockey League. The first overall selection in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft scored 14 goals and 25 points in 27 games as a 15-year-old.  A big-bodied center who can skate, play physical and generate offence, expect Mattheos to make an immediate impact on the Wheat Kings and be a significant contributor to the Club on both ends of the ice.
 

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Moose Jaw Warriors
General Manager: Alan Millar
Head Coach: Tim Hunter
2015 Pre-Season: 7 GP, 3-3-0-1
2014-15 Record: 32-35-4-1, 69pts (4th in East Division) GF: 221  GA: 266
2014-15 Power Play / Penalty Killing Ranking: PP: 15.7% (20th); PK: 76.7% (19th) 
2015 Playoffs: Did not qualify
2014-15 Top Scorers:
Brayden Point                    60gp-38g-49a-87pts
Jack Rodewald                  71gp-35g-50a-85pts
Axel Blomqvist                  61gp-25g-34a-59pts

The Moose Jaw Warriors head into the 2015-16 season looking to end a three-year playoff absence.  Up front, forward Brayden Point could carry much of the offensive load if he is returned from the Tampa Bay Lightning where he is currently impressing. The 19-year-old Lightning prospect recorded another strong campaign with 87 points last season which tied him for eighth overall in point scoring amongst all WHL skaters. While Jack Rodewald and Tanner Eberle will be missed, Brett Howden looks to fill the scoring void along with veteran Torrin White. Recently-acquired Dryden Hunt also provides another option. Defensively, the Warriors aim to improve on their 19th ranked defence last season. Dustin Perillat led all Warriors defencemen with 28 points (8g-20a) in 53 games and will likely need to be a contributor on the power play that ranked 20th overall last season. The second-year defenceman will be joined alongside veterans Dallas Valentine and Tyler Brown who each bring size and experience to the Warriors’ back end. Now-veteran goaltender Zach Sawchenko should take full control of the reins for the Warriors after appearing in 49 games last season and posting 21 wins.

Player to Watch:  Brett Howden

The 17-year-old forward from Oakbank, MB, enters his second full season in the WHL with the Moose Jaw Warriors after posting 22 goals and 46 points in 68 games as a rookie last season. Howden’s impressive rookie campaign landed him a spot on the 2015-16 NHL Central Scouting Futures List. Howden was drafted by the Warriors fifth overall in the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. Howden played for Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial in 2015 and helped guide Canada to a gold medal. Howden also suited up for Team Canada at the 2015 IIHF World U18 Championships and won a bronze medal. Expect Howden to be a difference-maker for the Warriors when called upon this season.

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Prince Albert Raiders
General Manager: Curtis Hunt
Head Coach: Marc Habscheid 
2015 Pre-Season: 6 GP, 2-4-0-0
2014-15 Record: 31-37-2-2, 66pts (5th in East Division) GF: 215  GA: 257
2014-15 Power Play / Penalty Killing Ranking: PP: 20.1% (14th); PK: 77.9% (16th)
2015 WHL Playoffs: Did not qualify 
2014-15 Top Scorers: 
Reid Gardiner                    67gp-34g-30a-64pts
Craig Leverton                  70gp-20g-33a-53pts
Jayden Hart                        59gp-22g-27a-49pts

After making two consecutive playoff appearances in 2013 and 2014, the Raiders did not qualify in 2015 despite winning seven of their final 10 games to close out the regular season. It is a new era in Prince Albert with Curtis Hunt entering his first season as the Raiders’ General Manager and Marc Habscheid beginning his first full season as Head Coach. The Raiders are retooling after trading key veterans such as Leon Draisaitl and Josh Morrissey midway through last season. The team does boast promising young talent to step up and help the Raiders take the next step. Reid Gardiner led the Club in scoring with 34 goals and 64 points while Buffalo Sabres prospect Brendan Guhle finished second amongst Raiders defencemen in scoring with 32 points in 72 games played. It will be up to veterans Simon Stransky and Jordan Tkatch to take on important offensive roles for a squad that finished 17th in goal scoring last season. Acquired from the Kelowna Rockets via trade last season, Jesse Lees looks to lead a young group of Raiders defencemen to the next level and compete for a playoff spot in the competitive Eastern Conference. 18-year-old Nick McBride played in 37 games as a sophomore last season, posting 13 wins and two shutouts. The 2015 Scholastic Player of the Year could split playing time with Rylan Paranteau who notched 18 wins for the Raiders last season.Player to Watch: Simon Stransky

Stransky, a 17-year-old from Ostrava, Czech Republic, enters his second season in the WHL and is looking to be an impact player for the Raiders. The 6-0, 169 lb forward played in 70 games last season and registered 42 points (12-30a) after being selected 24th overall by the Raiders in the 2014 CHL Import Draft.  Stransky was named to the 2015-16 NHL Central Scouting Futures List and has plenty of international experience including capturing a silver medal for the Czech Republic at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial. Stransky will likely see a major role for the Raiders this season. 

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Regina Pats
General Manager/Head Coach: John Paddock
2015 pre-season: 7 GP, 1-6-0-0
2014-15 Record: 37-24-5-6, 85pts (2nd in East Div.) GF: 263  GA: 258
2014-15 Power Play / Penalty Killing Ranking: PP: 15.3% (21st); PK: 80.3% (9th)
2015 WHL Playoffs: Lost in five games to Brandon in Round Two
2014-15 Top Scorers:
Adam Brooks                     64gp-30g-32a-62pts
Taylor Cooper                   65gp-25g-35a-60pts
Braden Christoffer           72gp-26g-33a-59pts

 

General Manager and Head Coach John Paddock guided the Regina Pats to a second place finish in the East Division and a trip to the 2015 WHL Playoffs. The Pats will look to reach to the next level with their young core including Adam Brooks and Sam Steel. Gone are top-scoring veterans Braeden Christoffer, Patrick D’Amico and Pavel Padakin parting the primary offensive responsibilities to dynamic young players such as Steel and L.A. Kings prospect Austin Wagner. The defensive unit is solid with veterans Colby Williams and Sergei Zborovskiy leading the unit. Along with Connor Hobbs, the Pats are full of strong two-way defenders who are capable of putting up points and keeping the pace of play steady in their own defensive zone. Daniel Wapple looks to be back as the starting goaltender for the Pats after playing in a career-high 56 games last season, posting 29 wins and a .906 save percentage.

Player to Watch: Sam Steel

The second overall pick from the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft came into his first season in the WHL last year and made a substantial contribution to the Regina Pats.  The 17-year-old from Sherwood Park, AB, put up 17 goals and 54 points along with a plus-10 rating in 61 games. Steel also appeared in all five playoff games for the Pats in the 2015 WHL Playoffs. A great skater with elite-level offensive skill and instincts, Steel has the talent and ability to elevate his game and continue to provide an immediate impact in the Pats’ lineup.

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Saskatoon Blades
General Manager/Head Coach: Bob Woods
2015 Pre-Season: 5 GP, 4-0-1-0
2014-15 Record: 19-49-2-2, 42pts (6th in East Division) GF: 195  GA: 308
2014-15 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 21.7% (9th); PK: 75.3% (21st)
2015 WHL Playoffs: Did not qualify
2014-15 Top Scorers:
Brett Stovin                        72gp-29g-21a-50pts
Same McKechnie              69gp-22g-21a-43pts
Cameron Hebig                 72gp-18g-22a-40pts

The Saskatoon Blades endured a difficult season last year and hope the rebuild is complete. The Blades have stocked up on young players who will look to further improve the Club’s standing in the East Division after finishing last year with 19 wins. Cameron Hebig and Ryan Graham are amongst a squad looking to display their skill set and take the Club to the next level. 18-year-old Wyatt Sloboshan and 20-year-old Nick Zajac will also be tasked with providing offence for the Blades who struggled in goal scoring last season. On the blue line Brycen Martin, who was acquired from the Swift Current Broncos midway through the 2014-15 campaign, will lead a young defensive unit that is eyeing improvement. The Blades have an abundance of goaltenders including Brock Hamm, Nik Amundrud and rookie Dorrin Luding who all saw action in the pre-season and are competing for the starting job in the Blades’ cage. Amundrud led all Blades goalies in games played last season with 33 appearances and several highlight-reel stops.

Player to Watch: Nikita Soshnin

An 18-year-old from Lipetsk, Russia, Soshnin enters his second season in the WHL with the Saskatoon Blades and is looking to contribute much more on the offensive end. The 5-10, 163 lb forward was chosen ninth overall by the Blades in the 2014 CHL Import Draft and collected 27 points (10g-17a) in 70 games last season. Soshnin will be relied on to help the Blades improve in many offensive categories and provide a steady presence for a young team entering the 2015-16 campaign.

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Swift Current Broncos
General Manager / Head Coach: Mark Lamb
2015 Pre-Season: 6 GP, 1-4-1-0
2014-15 Record: 34-33-1-4, 73pts (3rd in East Division) GF: 221 GA: 245
2014-15 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 21.9% (7th); PK: 81.2% (8th)
2015 WHL Playoffs: Lost in four games to Regina in Round 1
2014-15 Top Scorers:
Jake DeBrusk      72gp-43g-39a-81pts
Colby Cave          72gp-35g-40a-75pts
Coda Gordon      62gp-25g-36a-61pts

The Swift Current Broncos have many key players returning to a Club who finished third in the East Division last season and qualified for a playoff spot before losing to the Regina Pats in Round 1 of the 2015 WHL Playoffs. 18-year-old veteran Jake DeBrusk could return from the Boston Bruins’ camp to head up what should be a productive unit. The Bruins prospect was tied for sixth in goal scoring last season with 42 while veteran forward Glenn Gawdin had a productive season scoring 15 goals and 54 points. The Broncos added offensive depth up the middle with the acquisition of centre Scott Feser from the Red Deer Rebels in the off-season. The Broncos also return a strong defence corps, led by veterans Max Lajoie and Jordan Thomson. 20-year-old Landon Bow may return to the Broncos after playing in 66 games last season, picking up 31 wins along the way and seven shutouts, which was tied for first amongst WHL goaltenders. Travis Child is slotted into a back-up role but can push Bow for more starts after getting into action 22 times last season. Player to Watch: Maxime Lajoie

Lajoie enjoyed a consistent campaign with the Broncos as a rookie last season, netting seven goals and 40 points while playing in all 72 games. Lajoie also contributed three points (1g-2a) in four playoff games for the Broncos. The 6-1, 185 lb rearguard was selected 95th overall by the Broncos in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft and boasts strong offensive skills from the blue line. Lajoie has already drawn the attention of NHL scouts and landed a spot on the 2015-16 NHL Central Scouting Futures List for players eligible for the 2016 NHL Draft. Lajoie is expected to take a large role for the Broncos’ defensive unit and will likely see plenty of minutes on the power play.

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