Thursday, April 28, 2011

BC Cup Begins, Wild Video From Russia...

The BC Cup is underway with practices for the eight teams made up of the top U-16 players from all corners of the province.

I went for a quick trip down to Interior Savings Center today to I ran into Hurricanes Head Coach/GM Rich Preston, and Marc Habscheid with Victoria . Vancouver GM Scott Bonner was also in the Blazers office visiting with his brother.


Who are the Blazers going to take with their 4th overall pick in next week's WHL bantam draft? I have a feeling they know...but they aren't about to show their hand heading into the event.

There's a couple ways to look at it. After getting stud F Matt Needham last year they could be looking at a blue-chip defenseman with the pick. Or maybe they find a winger to play for Needham for the years to come.

One thing for certain, the Blazers HAVE to make the pick count. Pending a trade, they won't pick again until 50th overall in the third round. Their 2nd round pick belongs to Vancouver in the JT Barnett deal.

Whoever the Blazers select, the player will carry the weight of being the highest ever bantam pick in franchise history.


Who has a big draft ahead? I like the position of Swift Current, Lethbridge, and Vancouver on draft day.

Swift Current holds the 2nd, 13th, 24th, 39th and 46th picks overall. Lethbridge has the 3rd, 5th, 26th, 29th and 48th picks. Vancouver picks 20th, 28th, 30th, 35th, 38th and 65th. Moose Jaw.

The teams not in the best draft day spot? Portland, Tri-City and Saskatoon.

Portland doesn't pick until 42nd overall. Saskatoon doesn't have a pick until the 66th spot while Tri-City won't call out a name until the 75th overall selection.


Just announced today, the WHL will be webcasting both the WHL Awards Luncheon and the WHL bantam draft next Wednesday/Thursday. They are available at and are free of charge.


Tim Kehler (Swift Current Assistant Coach for three seasons) recently took over a team of BCHL'ers for an International tournament in Moscow. The experience was no doubt a memorable one for all involved. Especially after this incident in one of the first games against the Russian U-20 team. The video has been all over the internet.

You can see the video here of what exactly happened....


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Big Day

What a day for hockey fans in this province.

The Canucks and Blackhawks in a game seven showdown and there's no shortage of Canuck fans in these parts. Radio NL is carrying the game, pre-game show at 6:30pm.

Safe to say confidence isn't a strong suit amongst the group, both as a team and a fanbase. I said going into the series it wasn't going to be easy for the Canucks to pull this off. Talent aside, mental obstacles are tough to overcome.

Perhaps that's the reason I loaded up on Hawks in my playoff pool this year.

The Canucks have all the tools but maybe lack the toolbox. At times I watched them play this season and thought that's a championship calibre team. I think if they can overcome the mental challenge of the Hawks, they will win the Stanley Cup.

This might as well be game seven of the Stanley Cup final tonight.


Kudos to former WHL'er Andy Schneider (Seattle, Swift Current 1988-93) who played his final game of pro hockey recently as he finished up the season with Schwenningen ERC of the German Elite league.

Schneider, who just turned 39 will finish his pro career with 1044 games played. His 17 year pro career featured only 10 games in the NHL with the Ottawa Senators in 1993-94 season.

He was a player about 15 years before his time. A smaller, skilled player, Schneider would have excelled in today's pro game if you could rewind the clock.

Conditioning is and was always big with Andy. He'll return back to is home in Swift Current and will continue to train hockey players.


The WHL Conference finals continue tonight in Cranbrook when the Kootenay Ice host the Medicine Hat Tigers in game three. Spokane and Portland get back at it tomorrow night in Spokane.

My prediction going into the playoffs was a Medicine Hat vs Spokane final which I made on CKNW's Sports Talk with Dan Russell on the eve of the WHL playoffs.

Spokane was a unanimous pick amongst the BC division's five broadcasters. The Eastern Conference wasn't as clear with three of the guys picking Saskatoon and and another Red Deer if I recall.

My sentimental choice is the Kootenay Ice based on Cody Eakin and the Chynoweth family. The big trade the Ice and the Broncos pulled off at the deadline is paying dividends. Eakin has been money in the playoffs and picked up the WHL Player of the Week award for his pair of game winners vs the Tigers in the opening two games of the series.


Are you on twitter? If so, look me up @JonKeenNLSports.


The WHL is coming off it's 6th annual U.S. Prospects camp in Anaheim. Some of the bloodlines in this year's camp included Teemu Selanne's son Eemil and Tyson McLellan, the son of Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan

According to some who were there, Taylor Vickerman of the Spokane Jr. Chiefs was very impressive. We will see how many Americans are selected in next Thursday's bantam draft set for Calgary.

In Kamloops, the U-16 BC Cup begins Thursday as the top 15 year-olds come in to show their skills. Amongst the group will be F Jake Virtanen of Abbotsford. He could be the #1 pick in next week's bantam draft if Calgary is looking at a forward. Scouts say he is likely the best forward available in the draft.


Blazer F JT Barnett was involved in a minor car accident near his home in Scottsdale, AZ last week. The collision was enough to apparently total off his car. Barnett wasn't injured. the collision apparently was under low speeds and in a gated residential area.


Blazer F Jordan DePape is going on tour with country music star George Canyon. Yes, it's true....but probably not what you're thinking.

It's part of a diabetes awareness tour and it lands in Halifax a week from today. For more, check this out.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

WHL Bantam Draft updates

As mentioned earlier, I'll be headed into Calgary for the WHL bantam draft set for May 5th... if you want to stay in the loop add my twitter @JonKeenNLSports and I'll have the latest talk, rumours and updates live from the draft floor for not only the Blazers but the entire WHL.

It should be fun...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Latest on Chilliwack....

The WHL made it official today, welcoming Victoria to the league with the transfer of the Chilliwack Bruins to the Island.

WHL Commisioner Ron Robison spoke with NL Sports today.

On what went wrong in Chilliwack and the potential in the future to land another franchise....

"We believe Chilliwack is a viable market under the right circumstances. Many of the conditions that were impacting on that franchise was the deterioration of ownership relations in the market and inability to have a new lease in the facility.

We looked to our clubs to make sure there is stability long term in the market and that just wasn't there at the present time. Under the right circumstances moving forward we would certainly consider (Chilliwack)."

On the impact of the Chilliwack fan base....

"It's obviously a difficult process as far as going through a relocation of any franchise. We really feel for the fans of Chilliwack. At the same time given the circumstances we felt it was in the best interest to relocate the franchise to begin play in Victoria next season."


As for the Bruins hockey staff, there's no word on their future. Sources tell me Victoria is retaining Bruins Head Coach/GM Marc Habscheid. There's no word on whether he's willing to move or not. It's certainly not what he signed up for two years ago.


The twitter universe has been blowing up on this topic today. Add me @JonKeenNLSports for more Kamloops Blazers and WHL related news.


There's an interesting live radio show tonight on Chilliwack's 89.5 FM. Guests include Daryl Porter and Brian Burke of the Bruins ownership group and WHL Commisioner Ron Robison.

It's set for 5pm PT. You can listen live by
following this link.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Long Time Volunteer Passes

News Release:

The Kamloops Blazers are saddened to announce the passing of long-time Blazers volunteer, Fred Nicolson. We want to acknowledge Fred’s contribution of time, energies and expertise to the well being of the Blazers and the Western Hockey League.

Fred spent the past 39 years as a volunteer in the Kamloops hockey scene from the Kamloops Chiefs to the Jr. Oilers and finally the Blazers over the past 26 seasons. Fred was in charge of the off-ice officials for many years at Kamloops Blazers hockey games. The majority of his time was spent in the penalty box either timekeeping or scorekeeping. Fred also spent time on the Executive, including a stint as President, of the Kamloops Blazers Booster Club.

Some of Fred's fondest assignments included working the 1995 Memorial Cup in Kamloops, 2006 World Junior Championship in Kamloops and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Fred’s long career and greatest contributions are marked by volunteerism, gift of time and his commitment to always addressing our individual needs.

The Kamloops Blazers deepest condolences are with Fred's partner, Evelyn, and the rest of his family and friends.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A few things....

Off the top today, go read the latest blog entry from Blazer F Dylan Willick as he prepare for the NHL draft. He's been blogging for "Coming Down the Pipe" and they have been good reads. Check out the link here, or over on the right side of this page.


Blazer F Colin Smith scored the winner for Canada in a U-18 World Championship game vs Finland on the weekend in Germany. There's more of a write-up here.


I like the signing of G Cole Cheveldave. Im my brief conversation with him last month, he seems to have that certain something to him. He has a bit of swagger, and some confidence. He competes hard and has a chance to come in and compete for the #1 job. I was impressed.

He may be a bit under sized when it comes to the majority of WHL goaltenders at 5'10 and that would be the only thing you could be concerned about.


I'm hearing a few names floating around out there for the Blazers Assistant Coaching job. Safe to say they are looking for someone with a lot of WHL experience who can come in and use their knowledge and have a lot of say with how the team will operate. I would expect whoever they hire to likely have WHL coaching experience as either a former head or assistant coach. I also don't expect an announcement anytime soon though.


A shake-up in the WHL landscape in coming and coming soon. Expect an announcement from the WHL shortly regarding the Chilliwack/Victoria situation.
Also, the WHL Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Year will be announced this week. The winner of the WHL Player of the Year will be announced at the WHL Awards Luncheon in Calgary May 4th.


WHL scouts are headed back to Kamloops at the end of the month. The BC Cup will be the 2nd major bantam event in three weeks after KIBIHT was held earlier. It'll be good to see the top bantam prospects from the province heading into the WHL bantam draft in Calgary May 5th.

The scouts were all in Lethbridge this weekend to take a look at Alberta's top prospects. The Blazers hold the 4th overall pick and we will take a look at some potential names they could be after in the coming days ahead.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Blazers Make it Official

This morning they announced the signng of G Cole Cheveldave of Calgary, AB. He will join the team next season as an 18 year-old.

Blazers General Manager Craig Bonner spoke on the news..

"It's a big signing for us. He had a good season being named the Alberta Junior Hockey League's rookie of the year. We hope he can continue to play the way like he did this past season. He's a competitive kid and he sees the window of opportunity here. We don't have a solidified number one guy right now and we're very excited to have him on board"

He says an early March visit by Cheveldave to Kamloops helped the recruiting process.

"I think it's what sealed the deal. He was here for four days and had a great experience. We put a lot of effort into this and we're happy to welcome him next season."

Friday, April 15, 2011

Blazers Holding Line on Season Tickets

Press Release: The Kamloops Blazers have released their 2011-12 Season Ticket Package and are pleased to announce there will be NO price increase from the 2010-11 season. Some of the highlights of the package include an easy and affordable payment plan that includes 5 payments, the first two home playoff games, a guaranteed seat for all playoff games and Rain Check nights to ensure your tickets do not go unused.

For more details, visit

G Cole Cheveldave to Sign with Blazers

There's speculation the Blazers have signed goaltender Cole Cheveldave.

Radio NL has learned the team is expected to announce the signing of the AJHL's Rookie of the Year and runner-up for the MVP award while playing with the Drumheller Dragons.

Cheveldave, who's heading into his 18 year-old season joined the Blazers for a few days at the end of his season to get a taste of Kamloops and the Blazers.

The Blazers are expected to announce the signing over the weekend. He's expected to come in and compete for the starting job next season.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Three Blazers in Central Scouting Final Rankings

The complete list is here.

Forward Colin Smith improved his ranking from 130th in the midterm rankings to 96th in the final rankings. The 17-year-old forward had a terrific second half of the season that included recording two 3-goal games and finishing 3rd in team scoring with 21 goals, 29 assists and 50 points. Smith also was selected last week to Canada’s entry in the Under-18 World Championships in Germany. The team will play their first game of the tournament on Friday, April 15th.

Defenseman Tyler Hansen is ranked 131st among North American skaters. The Magrath, AB native completed his second season with the Blazers scoring 2 goals, 10 assists and 12 points in 70 games. The 17-year-old was one of the Blazers’ steadier defensemen this season.

Dylan Willick has been ranked 164th among North American skaters in the NHL’s Central Scouting final rankings. The 18-year-old forward impressed with his work ethic and consistency. He finished with 24 goals, 20 assists and 44 points playing in all 72 regular season games.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Saturday Thoughts

KIBIHT heats up today with the final day of round-robin play and the semi-finals tonight. Still a ton of scouts from across the WHL here in Kamloops. A lot of them were out and about town last night. The local Tier 1 team - the Jardine Blazers I think have what it takes to win this barring a stinker on their behalf in the playoffs. They have a lot of good talent and a couple projected 1st rounders at the WHL bantam draft. I've been impressed with their depth, skill, skating and goaltending. They are trying to become the first Kamloops team to win KIBIHT in 17 years. They will play Hollyburn this afternoon before crossing over to play the 2nd place team in the other pool in the semi-finals tonight at the Sports Center.

- I had a scouting package emailed to me from Western Elite Prospects. It's provided an interesting look at some of these players at KIHBIT. I'll take the newsletter and rankings to the bantam draft next month in Calgary and see how it all shakes down.

- Speaking of the bantam draft, there's plans by the WHL to webcast the opening round of the draft on Watch for more details in the coming weeks. Shaw is on board for the production.

- It's time to start "tweeting". Soon I'll be tweeting under the Radio NL news account. I'd suggest following if you're not already. I'll start tweeting from the bantam draft and carry on from there into the new seasons. Look for my own twitter account at some point. I think it can be a great resource and a lot of people are relying more on twitter and less on conventional media sources to get the latest info.

- The Moose Jaw Warriors shook things up this week by letting go of four-year Head Coach Dave Hunchak. I'll tread lightly on this subject and say I think this is a move that isn't shocking but still one that gives you a bad feeling when you think about the stress and turmoil a move like this causes.

I worked with Dave for three seasons in Swift Current before he ventured out on his own to take over the Warriors bench. For those three seasons we had a good relationship. We spent a lot of time on the golf course along with Athletic Therapist Paul Ayotte for a couple of summers. We had some epic Elmwood battles no doubt.

Before joining the Warriors, Dave was also heavily considered for the expansion Edmonton Oil Kings coaching job and in Prince Albert with the Raiders. The interest he was getting makes me believe he will be back in this league in some capacity next season.

For the most part, I think the writing was on the wall that Hunchak had to make a long playoff run in order to get a deal moving forward from 1st year Director of Hockey Operations Alan Miller who came in from the OHL.

There's some good interviews with audio from Warriors voice James Gallo posted here. Have a listen. Hunchak and Millar both share their thoughts. Millar refutes the claim that he will be "parachuting a buddy from the OHL". Have a listen.

Have a good weekend, I'll try to post more KIBIHT thoughts with the playoffs beginning tonight.


Thursday, April 07, 2011

KIBIHT Thoughts

- KIBIHT tonight in Kamloops was the center of the scouting universe...teams from all over the WHL were represented as the Kamloops Jardine Blazers took on Warman in the feature game after the opening ceremonies. Both teams have some high-end bantam prospects. In the end, the Jardine Blazers were way too much for Warman to the tune of 10-1.

- The Kamloops Blazers had their full staff there...right down to the Account Executive. With the 4th overall pick, the Blazers feel they can get an impact player. While not saying on-record what type of player they're after, I think there are some quality d-men they're taking note of to try and add some balance moving forward. Winning the draft lottery means they will have the highest pick in franchise history.

- I got my first look at Warman D Ryan Pilon. He's a big kid who skates well. He had to conserve his energy and keep it simple with Warman only dressing four defenseman and playing earlier in the day. He's not the consensus #1, but he'd probably get the most votes heading into the WHL bantam draft in Calgary. Some are saying he may not be taken 1st, but he won't fall past #3.

- For those wondering, he's Rich Pilon's (New York Islanders) nephew. Pilon is from Duck Lake but plays with the "AA" Wildcats out of Warman. You don't have to tell him when the WHL bantam draft is... "May 5th...Thursday," Pilon rattled off without hesitation when I spoke to him afterwards.

"It's gonna be mind-boggling, a great experience. Sometimes I have to ask myself if it's even real."

Who's the best available forward? Some think it could Abbotsford's Jake Virtanen. Abbotfsord isn't at KIBIHT though. I'll see him here at the end of the month at the BC Cup.

-Who's going number one next month? As one head-scout told me... "the number one pick will be whoever the Calgary Hitmen decide it's going to be."

- Speaking of Calgary...they had a strong presence at the games tonight. They were the only team set-up at the other side of the rink. I guess when you have the #1 pick you get your own private viewing area....

- The Swift Current Broncos hold the #2 pick overall which ties their highest pick ever (2005 2nd overall pick - Geordie Wudrick) They also pick again at #13. To say this is a huge draft for the club is an understatement.

They're also still holding out hope that F Evan Richardson will join them at some point. The Broncos first pick in 2009, 15th overall. Apparently he was close at one point this season. I know the team is still talking to him on a regular basis. He had a decent year in Victoria of the BCHL posting 42 points in 55 games in his rookie season. He's off to Russia later this week along with several other BCHL'ers to represent Canada in an invitational tournament.

- We'll get a good look at all the teams tomorrow morning and afternoon. I'm emceeing both banquets up at TRU Grand Hall joined by Blazers Marketing Manager Dave Chyzowski and goaltending consultant Dan De Palma who will act as the guest speakers.

- Looking forward to seeing the Swift Current Bantam Kabos Raiders. I'm told they have a couple of top bantam draft prospects in Tim Vanstone and Jordan Wittman. With that said, their first game didn't go so well as they were 8-1 losers to Spruce Grove. This could be the Raiders best team since the 2003 edition that saw half the team drafted including F Andrew Bailey and F Zack Smith (Ottawa Senators) who were both taken in the third round.


Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Smith On Cracking Team Canada

I had a brief conversation with Blazer F Colin Smith this afternoon after he got off the plane in Toronto.

On getting the word he'd made Canada's National U-18 team...

I found out last night around 8pm...I pretty surprised. I was just real I'm here (Toronto) and I'll just try to make the most of the opportunity.

Has it sunk it in.. the fact you're heading to Germany to wear the Maple Leaf?

Well, not yet. Maybe when we get to Germany. Obviously going overseas will be an experience and something I'll remember. It's something every Canadian kid wants to do, so it's pretty exciting.

On what he thinks his role with the team will be....

I really have no idea as of right now. Whatever I'm asked to do I'm going to do it to the best of my ability and do whatever it takes for the team.

On taking a step towards making Canada's World Junior team in couple years....

Right now I'm just trying to jump on the opportunity I have in front of me now. Whatever comes up down the road I'll cross that bridge when it comes.


Colin Smith Cracks U-18 Team

Kamloops Blazers forward Colin Smith has cracked Canada's Under 18 team that will compete at the championships in Germany next week.

Here's the news release from Hockey Canada and the Blazers.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Tuesday Tidbits

- I'm looking forward to Kamloops being the center of the bantam scouting universe the next five days. The Kamloops International Bantam Ice Hockey Tournament begins tomorrow morning.

25 teams are taking part including the Tier 1 Jardine Blazers and the Tier 2 Maverick Motor Inn team coached by Blazers goaltending consultant Dan De Palma. The Jardine Blazers have a team which will be picked over come the WHL bantam draft. Top prospects Joe Hicketts and Ryan Gropp are being touted as first rounders.

It'll also be good to see the Swift Current Bantam Kabos Raiders come in along with their coaching staff of Kent Woods, Tracy Tangen and Al Larochelle.

There will be a pair of banquets on Thursday to welcome the players, coaches and parents. I'll be there to emcee the events along with guest speakers from the Blazers. Scouts from all over the land will take part.

Kamloops will also host the BC Cup at the end of the month.


Awaiting word to hear if Blazer F Colin Smith cracked Canada's U-18 roster for the tournament in Germany. Some names have started to trickle out. However, to my knowledge there hasn't been an announcement from Hockey Canada.


You'll notice a new link on the upper right part of the page. It's to Rivershore Golf Links in Kamloops. If you're coming through this summer it's a must play amongst the great tracks out here..

The staff led by General Manager Don Brett-Davies will look after you. You can find it just off the Trans-Canada highway, 15kms just east of Kamloops.


Quite a trip ahead for former Broncos Assistant Coach Tim Kehler. The current Head Coach/General Manager for the Salmon Arm Silverbacks will guide a team of BCHL'ers to Russia later this week to take part in an invitational tournament.

The Hockey Canada sponsored event will send the group overseas for 10 days. There they will spend time at Russia's national training facility and play some of the top junior programs in the world. Kamloops native Devin Gannon will play on the team. He also plays for Kehler in Salmon Arm.


The WHL's 2nd round of playoffs begin Thursday. No upsets in the opening round to some surprise. Usually you can count on one or two but not this year.

My predicted WHL Championship series of Portland vs Medicine Hat remains intact for now....

After going 8/8 (like many) in round one, here's my 2nd round predictions:

Saskatoon vs Kootenay - Saskatoon in six
Medicine Hat vs Red Deer - Medicine Hat in six
Portland vs Kelowna - Portland in seven
Spokane vs Tri-City - Spokane in five


I haven't been looking into the Chilliwack mess but have been an interested observer. I hope we see some clarification there in the next week or two. For all intensive purposes, it sounds like teams can begin booking their ferry rides over to the Island for next season. It just remains to be seen if Chilliwack will secure a WHL team for next season or not. I'd think that would be unlikely at this point.

After working in the WHL's smallest market in Swift Current for over a decade, all this franchise relocation talk hits a bit close to home. Whenever there was talk of a franchise on the move, for years the Broncos were always mentioned. I feel for the fans and the people who work for the team. It's not a comfortable place to be in.