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Look at WHL’s BC Division

Just in time for tonight’s Western Hockey League openers: The final installment of division capsules with the B.C. Division up today.

The first edition of the WHL radio show is up and includes an interview with the Portland coach.

Our advance to the Spokane Chiefs’ season-opener at Tri-City Saturday night is here


Chilliwack Bruins

Last season: 32-33-2-5, eighth in Western Conference, fourth in B.C. Division. Lost to the Tri-City Americans in six games in the first round of the playoffs.

Head coach: Marc Habscheid (second season, ninth overall).

Assistants: Pat Conacher (first season), Enio Sacilotto (first season), Brady Robinson, goaltender coach (fourth eason).

Key losses: D Matt Delahey, D Jesse Craige and F Colton Grant have graduated. After two seasons of solid but unspectacular work, Swedish import Alexander Wiklund was released.

The 20-year-olds: G Lucas Gore, F Shayne Neigum, D Brandon Manning and D Jeff Einhorn.

The imports: Ex-Edmonton Oil King Robin Soudek (Czech Republic) and New York Rangers prospect Roman Horak (Czech Republic). 

Key returnees: F Ryan Howse, F Roman Horak, F Kevin Sundher, F Dylen McKinlay, D Brandon Manning and D Tyler Stahl. Manning is the team captain and the other five are National Hockey League draft picks.

New faces: Steven Hodges was selected ninth overall in the 2009 bantam draft and had two assists in five games as a 15-year-old last season. Robin Soudek was acquired from Edmonton in April for a sixth round bantam draft pick.

Watch for: Assuming he is returned to junior by the Calgary Flames, and assuming he stays healthy, look for Ryan Howse (19 years old) to crack the 50-goal barrier. Teammate and Buffalo Sabres draft pick Kevin Sundher (18 years old) looks poised to take the next step and become an elite player.

Just notes: Brandon Manning and Chris Collins are undrafted players who were invited to NHL camps. Manning received an invite from the New York Rangers while Collins joined the Carolina Hurricanes.

Did you know: Head coach Marc Habscheid is 16 wins shy of 300 in his major junior career?

The prognosis: With a number of young players taking the next step in their development, the Bruins could make a quick climb up the Western conference standings. They received honourable mention in the BMO CHL pre-season rankings, and 40-plus wins is not out of the question.

Eric Welsh, The Progress

 

 

KAMLOOPS BLAZERS
Last season: 32-33-2-5, seventh in Western Conference, third in B.C. Division. Lost in first round of playoffs.
Head coach: Guy Charron (first full season).
Assistants: Scott Ferguson (third season), Geoff Smith (third season), Dan De Palma, goaltender coach (second season).
Key losses: F C.J. Stretch, D Ryan Funk and G Kurtis Mucha all graduated.
The 20-year-olds: D Corey Fienhage, a third-round pick of the
Buffalo Sabres in the 2008 NHL draft, left the U of North Dakota to join the Blazers. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder is the lone 20-year-old in camp. Yes, there will be moves.
The imports: Slovakian C Dalibor Bortnak, 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, is back for a third season. German LW Bernhard Keil, 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, was picked in the 2010 CHL import draft.
Key returnees: G Jon Groenheyde, D Austin Madaisky, LW Brendan Ranford, C Chase Schaber.
New faces: LW J.T. Barnett, acquired from the Vancouver Giants; RW Chase Souto, 16, who has been likened to fellow Californian Mitchell (Dirty Harry) Callahan of the Kelowna Rockets; D Brady Gaudet, the 10th pick in the 2009 bantam draft.
Watch for: Fienhage to be one of the WHL’s top defencemen - he’s big, moves well and has an edge… . Groenheyde to handle the bulk of the goaltending, unless some experience is added. Backup Troy Trombley, 16, is 6-foot-6 but is untested.
Just notes: D Josh Caron was one of the WHL’s most improved players last season. A heavyweight, he became proficient enough that he was asked to curtail the pugilism… . Sophomore C Colin Smith has something to prove after being cut from Canada’s summer U-18 team.
Did you know: Barnett’s father, Michael, was Wayne Gretzky’s agent and now works for the NHL’s New York Rangers.
The prognosis: The Blazers haven’t been out of the first round since 1999. They’ll be strong on the back end. But Groenheyde has never been a starter at this level and goal-scoring may be a problem. Still, the Blazers should be in the middle of the B.C. Division pack.
Gregg Drinnan, Kamloops Daily News

__._,_.___

 

Kelowna Rockets
Last season: 35-31-2-4, sixth in Western Conference, second in B.C. Division. Lost in second round of playoffs.

Head coach: Ryan Huska (fourth season, ninth overall).

Assistants: Dan Lambert (second season), Ryan Cuthbert (fourth season), Kim Gellert (sixth season); Kim Dillabaugh, goaltender coach (eighth season).

Key losses: F/D Brandon McMillan to the AHL/NHL; G Mark Guggenberger and D Dallas Jackson to graduation. Also likely lost: RW Kyle St. Denis (concussion-related injuries).

The 20-year-olds: LW Evan Bloodoff, LW Geordie Wudrick, LW Tyler Matheson and D Brendon Wall, plus, technically, St. Denis and McMillan.

The imports: Two centres in 6-foot-3 Andreas Stene of Norway and 6-1 Gal Koren of Slovenia. Both were selected in the CHL’s import draft in June.

Key returnees: D Tyson Barrie, sophomore RW Shane McColgan, LW Brett Bulmer and G Adam Brown, this season’s starting netminder.

New faces: Wall, acquired in a trade with the Prince Albert Raiders; and D Kevin Smith, acquired in a one-for-one trade with the Moose Jaw Warriors for fellow D and 19-year-old Collin Bowman.

Watch for: Barrie, 19, to be amongst the WHL’s best offensive defenceman this season. Last season, he tied for first in scoring amongst blue-liners with Kevin Connauton of the Vancouver Giants at 72 points despite being a
year younger and playing in six less games.

Just notes: Bloodoff and Wudrick will both be attending NHL training camp with the Phoenix Coyotes. Also attending camps will be Barrie (Colorado), RW Brett Bulmer (Minnesota), RW Mitchell Callahan (Detroit), D Antoine Corbin (Dallas) and D Colton Jobke (Minnesota).

Did you know: Corbin was born and raised in Granby, Que., near Montreal, but his family moved west to Caronport, Sask., when he was 12.

The prognosis: After a middle-of-the-pack finish last season in the Western Conference, the Rockets should climb the ladder this season. With most of last season’s roster returning, Kelowna should contend for the
B.C. Division crown in what should be a close four-way race with Vancouver, Chilliwack and Kamloops.
 Doyle Potenteau, The Kelowna Daily Courier

 

 

PRINCE GEORGE COUGARS

Last season: Dreadful, dead-last in WHL and CHL, 12-56-0-1 – the kind of record that gets you top selections in the bantam and import drafts.

Head coach: Dean Clark (second season).

Assistant coach: Jason Becker (first full season).

Key losses: Leading scorer Alex Rodgers, and a string of goalies who couldn’t get it done behind a porous defence, not to suggest that was an easy task.

The 20-year-olds: A goalie, Morgan Clark, acquired from Swift Current, and big winger James Dobrowolski, who is itching to finally get to play with the team’s top player, Brett Connolly. Parker Stanfield is around, but the need for defence help could leave Stanfield without a spot.

The imports: D Martin Marincin, the first-overall CHL pick and an Oilers draft, and second-year winger Jaroslav Vlach.

Key returnees: Connolly, Connolly, and Connolly. Best player this franchise has ever had, taken sixth overall by Tampa Bay in June, is healthy after hip problems limited him to 16 games last winter. After Connolly, a lot of unproven commodities, most of them still young. D Jesse Forsberg, a sophomore, will be watched by NHL scouts.

New faces: C Charles Inglis, who fell out of favour in Saskatoon and was traded for a second-rounder; and new-old goalie James Priestner, 19, the starter last fall until he abruptly quit to go backpacking in Asia. At best, he’s the backup this season.

Watch for: Young players to get their feet wet. C Troy Bourke had three goals in a five-game audition as a 15-year-old, D Josh Smith is physical, and D Dane Phaneuf is, yes, that guy’s younger brother.

Did you know? The Cougars are finally signing the majority of draft picks, with Bourke, Smith, Phaneuf, Caleb Belter and Alex Forsberg, younger brother of Jesse and the first-overall bantam pick in 2010, among those already inked. The switch in head scouts from Russ Smart to Wade Klippenstein is, not surprisingly, bringing improvements.

The prognosis: There’s only one way to go, baby. Playoffs? Not impossible, but nowhere near certain. Might be a decent team for 2011-12, if Connolly doesn’t prematurely jump to the NHL and ruin what appears to be a promising plan.

 Jim Swanson, freelancer

 

VANCOUVER GIANTS

Last season: 41-25-3-3, won B.C. Division, fifth in the Western Conference. Advanced to conference finals, where they lost in six games to the Tri-City Americans.

Head coach: Don Hay (seventh season).

Assistants: Chad Scharff (third season), John Becanic (first season).

Key losses: D Nolan Toigo, C Milan Kytnar and RW Brett Breitkreuz graduated. D Kevin Connauton, RW Tomas Vincour, LW Lance Bouma and C James Wright all expected to pro.

The 20 year olds: C Matt MacKay, who was picked up in an off-season deal with Medicine Hat, and C Craig Cunningham, the captain.

The imports: Slovak W Marek Tvrdon and Swede W Casper Carning went 13th and 37th overall in this year’s CHL Import draft.

Key returnees: Cunningham, who had 97 points last season, has chemistry with Brendan Gallagher, he of the 41 goals and 81 points. On D, David Musil looks greatly improved, and the Giants are counting on him and Neil Manning to lead the way.

New faces: C Jordan Martinook and LW R.J. Reed, pick-ups from the Alberta Junior A league, have top-six forward potential.

Watch for: Musil to blossom into a top-10 pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. He’s stronger and faster than a year ago. C-LW James Henry could also be in for a breakout year. He found confidence down the stretch, scoring seven of his 21 goals in his final 19 games.

Just notes: LW Nathan Burns (knee, November), LW Connor Redmond (shoulder, January) and D Zach Hodder (shoulder, December) are long-term injuries to start the campaign.

Did you know?: G Mark Segal’s training regiment this summer included working in a boxing ring under the tutelage of Perry Kane, the father of former Giants’ star Evander Kane.

The prognosis: With Cunningham back from pro camp, chances of another lengthy playoff run go up. No matter what, they’ll check and work, like all Giant teams.

Steve Ewen, Vancouver Province


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