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Sports >  Spokane Chiefs

Spokane Chiefs begin 2022-23 preseason camp with 13 Bantam Draft picks

Aug. 31, 2022 Updated Wed., Aug. 31, 2022 at 7:26 p.m.

By Kevin Dudley For The Spokesman-Review

It’s a time of transition for the Spokane Chiefs as they prepare for the 2022-23 season with a new head coach with a familiar face.

The team named Ryan Smith its head coach on June 27, removing the “interim” tag he had when he took over in February of last season. Smith took a Chiefs team treading water in the Western Conference and led a second-half surge to make the playoffs. He’s been on the Chiefs’ bench the previous two seasons as an assistant.

The Chiefs also named Matt Bardsley their new general manager on May 3.

Smith leads a team this season looking to get consistently better and stay healthy.

It’s a team with promising talent in rookie Berkly Catton and second-year defenseman Saige Weinstein. The Chiefs also return two NHL draft picks in goaltender Mason Beaupit and defenseman Graham Sward, selected this summer by the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators, respectively.

Eighty-two players will take to the freshly painted Spokane Arena ice this weekend for a tournament-style preseason camp. The players are split into four teams, each named after former Chiefs players – Trevor Kidd, Bryan McCabe, Dustin Tokarski and Jared Spurgeon.

Thirty-three players at camp were born in 2007, making them ineligible for a full-time roster spot. One of them is the team’s first-round bantam draft pick, Chase Harrington.

All 13 of Spokane’s 2022 bantam draft picks will be at camp. In addition, both of Spokane’s U.S. priority draft picks – Landon Hafele and Ryan Denes – will be present.

Notably, just one import player will be there: center Tommaso De Luca, the Chiefs’ lone draft pick during this summer’s Canadian Hockey League import draft. Defenseman David Jiricek, the Chiefs’ 2020 import draft pick, is not on the preseason roster, though the Chiefs still retain his rights. Jiricek was selected sixth overall by the Columbus Blue Jackets at this summer’s NHL draft and would be a huge addition to the Chiefs’ blue line. Since Jiricek was drafted from his team in Europe, he is eligible for the American Hockey League should Columbus want him there.

The Chiefs’ two import players last season – Yannick Proske and Timafey Kovgoreniya – will not return to the team.

As for those who will be at camp, there will be plenty of competition to improve on last year’s performance.

The Chiefs will have to contend again with the competitive U.S. Division, and it’ll start on the back end. Sward leads a defensive corps that surrendered an average of 34 shots on net per game last season.

Beaupit’s .893 save percentage is much more impressive than it looks on paper when taking the shots against into account.

Sward and Raegan Wiles are the returning veterans, and Weintstein is a promising 17-year-old. Mac Gross is competing for one of three 20-year-old spots, and Brayden Crampton and Logan Cunningham look to build on their rookie years. Youngsters Will McIsaac and Nathan Mayes will also get long looks in camp.

Beaupit is the No. 1 guy in net heading into camp. Manny Panghli, who appeared in 20 games last season, is back to compete for the backup position with 17-year-old Cooper Michaluk, who impressed in five appearances last year.

At forward, the Chiefs will likely rely on veterans like 19-year-old Chase Bertholet, the team’s leading returning scorer. Reed Jacobson, Erik Atchison and Cade Hayes will compete for the 20-year-old roster spots.

Jacobson will also be relied upon for scoring, but the Chiefs will need others to step up. Ty Cheveldayoff proved once Smith took over last season that his skill set is more than just being a big body who can hit and fight. Carter Streek was flashy at times and will need to prove he’s a consistent scorer. Blake Swetlikoff is still searching for his breakout season.

Some notable camp attendees include Post Falls native Dante Hughes, the brother of former Chief Bear Hughes. Coeur d’Alene native Mason Lochten will also be at camp.

Also attending is KJ Sauer, the son of former Chief Kurt Sauer. Hughes and Lochten are in their 17-year-old season. Sauer is in his 15-year-old season and not eligible for a full-time roster spot.

The preseason camp tournament begins Thursday and concludes with the annual Red-White game at 10:30 a.m. Sunday at the Arena.

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