The BCHL’s 56th season is just two days away and the league expects to be front and centre in the world of Junior hockey.
Opening night is Friday, Sept. 8 with seven games on the agenda.
The most obvious alteration this season is the move by the Wenatchee Wild from the Mainland Division to the Interior Division. Each of the other six Interior teams will have multiple visits from the defending regular-season champs.
The first big event on our calendar again this season is the Bauer BCHL Showcase, the sixth since the event was first hosted in 2012. All 17 BCHL clubs will compete in two games each, regular-season games that will count in the standings. We expect there to be close to 200 scouts from the professional and college ranks there to evaluate players.
The Showcase has been a driving force in the number of players committing to college hockey programs in Canada and the United States the last six seasons. In 2016-17, the BCHL saw 151 players committed to college programs, a new all-time high. In addition to that, three BCHL graduates who participated in past Showcase events made it to the NHL last season in Troy Stecher of the Vancouver Canucks, Danton Heinen of the Boston Bruins and Tyson Jost of the Colorado Avalanche.
Some of the next players planning to join that list suit up in the BCHL this season for the first time. The Penticton Vees boast two NHL-drafted players on their roster this season, both of them defencemen. Nick Leivermann was selected in June by the Colorado Avalanche while Ryan O’Connor was selected by the Toronto Maple Leafs. Chilliwack Chiefs forward Skyler Brind’Amour was chosen by the Edmonton Oilers.
Kale Howarth, going into his third season with the Trail Smoke Eaters, was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets and is committed to the University of Connecticut for 2018-19.
A quick look at the BCHL commitments page for the season ahead shows more than 60 committed players already.
We already know we’ll have a team competing for a national championship this season but the Chilliwack Chiefs will want to win their way into the 2018 RBC Cup that they are hosting May 12 to 20 at Prospera Centre.
There have been a number of changes in the coaching ranks over the offseason. New bench bosses in place for 2017-18 are Matt Hughes with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, Brian Passmore with the Cowichan Valley Capitals, Adam Maglio with the Prince George Spruce Kings, Scott Atkinson with the Salmon Arm Silverbacks and Brandon West with the Surrey Eagles.