In the weeks leading up to the start of the 2021-22 regular season, we will be going team-by-team to profile new players coming in for the upcoming year. This will include recaps of offseason commitments and acquisitions, as well as scouting reports from the coaches.

First up is the Alberni Valley Bulldogs.

As the host team, the Bulldogs finished second in the Alberni Pod last season, just two points shy of first place with a record of 11-5-3-1. Stephen Castagna finished tied for fourth in league scoring with 29 points in 20 games, while his teammate Brandon Buhr ended his campaign with 28 points, good enough for sixth among all players.

Both of those players are returning next year and will join forces with a new crop of players who committed to the team or were acquired via trade this offseason.

We caught up with Bulldogs head coach Joe Martin to go over all the new faces for 2021-22.

New recruits

Nicholas Beneteau (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Windsor, Ont.
  • Previous team: Leamington Flyers (GOJHL)

Due to COVID shutdowns in Ontario, Beneateau last played in the 2019-20 season with Leamington where he scored 15 goals, added 21 assists and totaled 36 points. He was named to the league’s Rookie All-Star Team at the end of the year.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s a big centreman and a responsible two-way player. He’s coming from a coach who we’ve gotten players from in the past. He’s coached well and will help us in both ends of the rink. In time, we want him to be a top centreman for us.”

Mirko Buttazzoni (2004, F)

  • Hometown: Langley, B.C.
  • Previous team: Burnaby Winter Club Prep (CSSHL U18)

He only played four games last year for BWC, but managed to play at a point-per-game pace with three goals and one assist. The year prior, he was a productive offensive player with West Van Academy’s Elite 15s squad where he notched 25 points in 33 games.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s a 2004, so I think he’s just starting to play his best hockey. He started coming on at the end of last year, even though he didn’t get to play a lot of games. He reminds me of Diego Cuglietta who we had in Merritt a long time ago. He hounds pucks and is extremely competitive.”

Booker Daniel (2001, F)

  • Hometown: Vanderhoof, B.C.
  • Previous team: Tri-City Americans (WHL)

Daniel has made several stops over his junior career, including a couple short stints in the BCHL with the Nanaimo Clippers and the Surrey Eagles. More recently, he’s played parts of three seasons with Tri-City of the Western Hockey League and, last season, he put up nine points in 19 games during their shortened year.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s a 20-year-old from the Western League. He’s going to help us with speed as well as bringing pucks to the net. He’s another highly competitive person. It creates a bit of an older hockey team for us with the addition of Booker. I think it adds to our tenacity and our team speed.”

Kai Greaves (2003, D)

  • Hometown: Cambridge, Ont.
  • Previous team: Waterloo Siskins (GOJHL)

In 2019-20, Greaves was named to the Rookie All-Star team in the GOJHL after putting up five goals and 16 assists for 21 points in 48 regular-season games.

Martin’s scouting report:

“Kai is a strong right-handed defenceman. We were short right-handed shots last year at the end. He’s well-liked by his teammates. He came out for a visit, met some of our players and hit it off with the guys right away. He’s a good fit for our locker room. He adds the ability to add some offence in time. I’m looking for him to provide some strong minutes against some good opponents.”

Hobie Hedquist (2003, G)

  • Hometown: Heron Lake, Minn.
  • Previous team: Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL)
  • Commitment: University of North Dakota (2022-23)

Hedquist had a 4-9-1 record with Dubuque last year in 21 appearances for the Fighting Saints. Prior to that, he played in the Sioux Falls Power program in South Dakota.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s a goalie that played a lot of games last year. He’s looking to play on a strong hockey team and provide an opportunity to win every night.”

Cole Melady (2003, F)

  • Hometown: Seaforth, Ont.
  • Previous team: Stratford Warriors (GOJHL)

The third former Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League player on our list, Melady brings instant offence to the Bulldogs lineup. In his most recent season in 2019-20, he racked up 31 points in 47 regular-season games as a rookie with Stratford.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s very well-coached. In time, he’ll be an offensive player for us. He took a big step last year in the GOJHL. This year, he’ll be relied upon to grow his role. He’ll start off as a depth forward, but we believe this guy is going to be one of our top all-around players pretty soon.”

Zeke Nicholson (2004, F)

  • Hometown: Vancouver, B.C.
  • Previous team: St. George’s School U18 Prep (CSSHL U18)

Nicholson only played four games for St. George’s last year, but still managed four points in that short amount of time. In 2019-20, he suited up for West Van Academy Elite 15s and had 36 points in 36 games.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s very similar to Cole [Melady]. He’s a strong skater. He played for Tyler Kuntz at St. George’s so he’s well-coached. He understands the details and has a very good skill set.”

Caden Tremblay (2005, D)

  • Hometown: Port Alberni, B.C.
  • Previous team: North Island Silvertips U18 (BC U18)

Although he only got in a pair of games last season, the year prior, he put up 27 points in 30 games from the back end, playing for the Silvertips U15 team.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s a young defenceman, but he’s a mature 16-year-old. He’s a strong skater. He’s highly competitive and makes it hard on opponents.”

Acquired via trade

Ethan Leyer (2002, F)

  • Hometown: St. Albert, Alta.
  • Previous team: Whitecourt Wolverines (AJHL)
  • Commitment: St. Cloud State University (2022-23)

Leyer, a three-year Alberta Junior Hockey League veteran, amassed 74 points in 114 regular-season games in the league, beginning with the Bonnyville Pontiacs and then the Whitecourt the past two years.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He has a lot of speed. He has a good skill set. He’s a good two-way player and very good on faceoffs. Going into his fourth year of junior, we’re looking to provide him with quality teammates and a good hockey team and for him to provide us with some scoring.”

Maxwell Dukovac (2002, F)

  • Hometown: Aurora, Ill.
  • Previous team: Nanaimo Clippers (BCHL)

Dukovac played 10 games in the exhibition season with the Nanaimo Clippers in 2020-21, but did not participate in the pod season in the spring. He was acquired by the Bulldogs on Jun. 1 as part of a future considerations trade in November. His most recent regular-season action came in 2019-20 when he had 21 points in 14 games for Chicago Mission 18U.

Martin’s scouting report:

“He’s a two-way player that just got started with Nanaimo last year, but didn’t finish the season. We saw some bright moments from Max and we’re looking to help him continue that.”

Photo credits: Dan Hickling (Daniel, Hedquist)