Wednesday, September 21, 2011

BC Division Preview


B.C. Division

Kamloops Blazers
General Manager: Craig Bonner
Head Coach: Guy Charron

2011 pre-season: 2-2-0-1, 5pts

2010-11 Record: 29-37-3-3, 64pts (5th in B.C. Div., 9th in Western Conf.) GF: 219 GA: 285

2010-11 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 19.5% (T-11th); PK: 76.4% (20th)

2011 Playoffs: Did not qualify

2010-11 Top Scorers:
Brendan Ranford 68gp-33g-53a-86pts
Thomas Frazee 70gp-31g-41a-72pts
Colin Smith 72gp-21g-29a-50pts

Up Front: Philadelphia Flyers prospect Brendan Ranford heads up the Blazers attack after leading the team in scoring last season. The talented 19-year-old has the tools to be among the top scorers in the WHL again this season. Joining Ranford is 20-year-old Chase Schaber, who plays a solid defensive game and put up nearly a point per game last season. 18-year-old Colin Smith and 19-year-olds Dylan Willick and Jordan DePape will also play big roles in the Blazers’ offense this season. 17-year-old Swiss forward Tim Bozon showed good offensive ability during pre-season, and could be a valuable asset this season. Look for rookie Matt Needham to be a contributor as well after posting seven points in 13 games as a 15-year-old last year.

On The Blue Line: 20-year-old veteran Bronson Maschmeyer heads up a Blazers’ defense corps that will look to improve upon what was the 20th-ranked goals-against last season. Also back is 19-year-old Austin Madaisky, who should log big minutes for the team this year after recovering from a broken neck, suffered last season. The Blazers acquired 18-year-old Czech puck-mover Marek Hrbas from Edmonton to help their transition game and the power play. Sophomore Brady Gaudet will look for more responsibility after adjusting to the WHL as a 16-year-old last year. 20-year-old Josh Caron could return to the team as well, but could also play in the AHL.

Goaltending: 19-year-old Cam Lanigan looks to take over the starting job this season after coming to the Blazers in a trade with Edmonton last year. The Calgary, AB, product has 90 games of WHL experience under his belt and should provide a solid veteran presence in the Blazers’ net. Rookies Taran Kozun and Cole Cheveldave are battling for the back-up role.

Player to Watch: Matt Needham

Though he may be just 16 years old, Matt Needham has already proven he can play and be a contributor at the WHL level. The Blazers’ first-round Bantam Draft pick in 2010, Needham scored three goals and seven points in 13 games with the team last season. A smaller player, Needham boasts tremendous offensive skills and a feisty, competitive demeanor. The son of former Blazer standout Mike Needham, Matt is a player who always seems to step up when his team needs a goal. Watch for Needham to make an impact in his first full WHL campaign.

Kelowna Rockets
General Manager: Bruce Hamilton
Head Coach: Ryan Huska
2011 pre-season: 6-0-0-0, 12pts
2010-11 Record: 43-28-0-1, 87pts (1st in B.C. Div., 2nd in Western Conf.) GF: 240 GA: 201
2010-11 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 19.3 (T-11th); PK: 84.1% (3rd)
2011 Playoffs: Lost in six games to Portland in second round

2010-11 Top Scorers:
Shane McColgan 67gp-21g-45a-66pts
Geordie Wudrick 71gp-43g-16a-59pts
Tyson Barrie 54gp-11g-47a-58pts

Up Front: The Rockets return an arsenal of solid offensive options this season, led by 18-year-old New York Rangers prospect Shane McColgan. Though not the biggest player on the ice, McColgan doesn’t back down from a challenge, and competes as hard as any player in the League. Expect McColgan to be among the WHL’s top scorers at season’s end. Also back are veterans Cody Chikie and Brett Bulmer, who both should see an increase in their offensive output. Talented sophomores Colton Scissons and Zach Franko impressed with their offensive games last year. Both could see big jumps in their point totals on what should be a powerful offense in Kelowna this season.

On The Blue Line: The Rockets return five defensemen from last year’s squad that finished with the second-best goals-against in the Western Conference. Veterans Kevin Smith and Mitchell Chapman are back to provide the team with plenty of experience and a good blend of offense and defense. MacKenzie Johnston and Damon Severson will look for bigger responsibility this season while rookies Madison Bowey and Jesse Lees have shown great potential as 16-year-olds. Bowey is an offensive talent who could eventually help replace the departure of Tyson Barrie.

Goaltending: With 20-year-old Adam Brown and 18-year-old Jordon Cooke both returning, the Rockets own one of the best goaltending tandems in the WHL. Brown has already proved his worth as a starter in the WHL, having already accumulated 85 wins to go with a sparkling 2.57 GAA and a .911 save percentage over 148 career games. Cooke impressed with his play as a rookie last season, and will definitely push Brown for playing time this season.

Player to Watch: Colton Scissons

Acquired from Saskatoon during the 2009-10 season, Scissons made his WHL debut as a 17-year-old rookie last year, scoring 17 goals and 41 assists with a solid +15 rating. A competitive and well-rounded player, Scissons plays an excellent two-way game, making him a valued contributor at both ends of the ice. The North Vancouver, B.C., product should be able to increase his offensive output this year. He should also garner plenty of attention from NHL scouts as he readies for his NHL draft-eligible season.

Prince George Cougars
General Manager: Dallas Thompson
Head Coach: Dean Clark
2011 pre-season: 1-3-1-0, 3pts
2010-11 Record: 33-35-2-2, 70pts (4th in B.C. Div., 7th in Western Conf.) GF: 258 GA: 265
2010-11 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 18.4 (15th); PK: 82.7 (5th)
2011 Playoffs: Lost in four games to Kelowna in first round

2010-11 Top Scorers:
Brett Connolly 59gp-46g-27a-73pts
Taylor Stefishen 68gp-24g-43a-67pts
Sena Acolatse 67gp-15g-48a-63pts

Up Front: Brett Connolly heads up a Cougars offense that finished fourth in the Western Conference in goals last season. The 19-year-old from Prince George, B.C., scored an impressive 46 goals in just 59 games last season, and is a legitimate threat to hit the 50-goal mark this season. Connolly, however, could stick with the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, which would greatly hamper the Cougars’ offence. 19-year-old Charles Inglis scored 32 goals last season for the Cougars, and will figure heavily into the Cougars’ attack this year. Also returning is 17-year-old Troy Bourke, who turned heads with 19 goals and 42 points to go with his team-leading +15 rating as a rookie last year. Alex Forsberg, the first overall pick from the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft, will make his full-time debut this season.

On The Blue Line: Though they lose high-scoring veteran Sena Acolatse from the mix, the Cougars still return a strong group of defenders for this season. Towering Slovakian Martin Marincin could return to head up the blue line in Prince George. The 19-year-old put up 14 goals and 56 points in 67 games for the Cougars last season. But, he could remain in the Edmonton Oilers’ system as well. Guaranteed back are veterans Jesse Forsberg, Daniel Gibb, Cody Carlson and sophomores Shane Pilling and Josh Smith. Now in his third WHL season, Forsberg should be able to step up and shoulder a heavier workload. Expect youngsters Linden Springer and Joseph Carvalho to push for roster spots as well.

Goaltending: The acquisition of Drew Owsley from the Tri-City Americans gives the Cougars a bona fide No. 1 netminder who can give them a chance to win every night. Owsley, a product of Lethbridge, AB, posted 76 wins, a 2.68 GAA and a .911 save percentage in 122 career games with the Ams, and has extensive playoff experience. The Cougars have several options for the back-up role, including Bantam Draft selections Brett Zarowny and Devon Fordyce. Tyler Santos is also in the mix for the back-up job.

Player to Watch: Troy Bourke

The Cougars’ second-round pick in the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft, Bourke emerged as one of the team’s better offensive players as a 16-year-old rookie last year. The Onoway, AB, native scored 19 goals and 42 points and led the team in plus/minus. He also starred for Team Pacific at the 2011 World Under-17 Challenge, helping the team to a Bronze medal. His offensive skills are already apparent, but it is Bourke’s two-way ability and hockey sense that will have plenty of scouts keeping a close eye on him in his NHL draft-eligible season.

Vancouver Giants
General Manager: Scott Bonner
Head Coach: Don Hay
2011 pre-season: 3-0-2-1, 9pts
2010-11 Record: 35-32-1-4, 75pts (2nd in B.C. Div., 5th in Western Conf.) GF: 236 GA: 251
2010-11 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 19.2% (13th); PK: 78.4% (16th)
2011 Playoffs: Lost in four games to Tri-City in first round

2010-11 Top Scorers:
Brendan Gallagher 66gp-44g-47a-91pts
Spencer Bennett 72gp-37-33a-70pts
Neil Manning 72gp-15g-36a-51pts

Up Front: 19-year-old Brendan Gallagher heads up a Giants attack looking to improve upon what was the WHL’s 14th ranked offense last season. The diminutive Gallagher, a Montreal Canadiens prospect, was among the WHL’s top scorers last year and could very well find himself near the top of the list again this season. Slovakian forward Marek Tvrdon should be able to provide plenty of offense after missing almost all of last season with an injury, while veteran James Henry will also be counted on to carry a heavy offensive load. Sophomores Dalton Sward, Teal Burns and Cain Franson have the skill to step into secondary scoring roles. Jordan Martinook will look to improve on the 11 goals and 28 points he produced as a rookie last season.

On The Blue Line: The Giants could return up to six regulars from last year’s defense corps. Veterans Neil Manning, Wes Vannhieuwenhuizen and David Musil head up the Giants’ blue line, and will all be looking to cut down the team’s goals-against after having allowed the most goals in a season since the 2003-04 campaign. Manning has racked up 141 points in 251 career games, and should continue to provide plenty of offense from the back end. Musil and Vannieuwenhuizen are imposing figures who will need to make life difficult on opposing forwards. 18-year-olds Zach Hodder and Luke Fenske are also back, but will be pushed by several of the talented, young defensemen in the Giants’ system.

Goaltending: 18-year-old Brendan Jensen is ready to assume the starting job with the Giants after backing up Mark Segal the past two seasons. Jensen has 36 games of WHL experience on his resume, and will be given the opportunity to show he can handle a heavy workload in net. 16-year-old Jackson Whistle, the Giants’ fourth-round pick in the 2010 WHL Bantam Draft, will take on the back-up role after turning in a string of solid performances during the pre-season.

Player to Watch: Marek Tvrdon

Giants’ fans got a small taste of what Marek Tvrdon can bring to the table when he appeared in 12 games in 2010-11, scoring six goals and 11 points. Unfortunately, a season-ending shoulder injury kept the 6’2”, 208-lb winger from making a real impact for the Giants. Yet, even though he was limited to just 12 games, the Detroit Red Wings thought highly enough of him to select him in the fourth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. A big-bodied forward with great hands, puck skills and the ability to protect the puck in traffic, Tvrdon is a menace in front of the opposition net. The Nitra, Slovakia, product has a heavy shot and the ability to get shots off quickly in traffic. Expect Tvrdon to be a key performer for the Giants now that he is once again healthy.

Victoria Royals
General Manager / Head Coach: Marc Habscheid
2011 pre-season: 1-4-0-0, 2pts
2010-11 Record: 33-31-4-4, 74pts (3rd in B.C. Div., 6th in Western Conf.) GF: 227 GA: 255
2010-11 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 21.8% (T-6th); PK: 79.2% (13th)
2011 Playoffs: Lost in five games to Spokane in first round

2010-11 Top Scorers:
Ryan Howse 70gp-51g-32a-83pts
Roman Horak 64gp-26g-52a-78pts
Kevin Sundher 70gp-24g-52a-76pts

Up Front: The Royals lose three of their top five scorers from last year, including 51-goal man Ryan Howse. Replacing the offense created by Howse, Roman Horak and defenseman Brandon Manning won’t be easy. Fortunately, the Royals return 19-year-old Kevin Sundher and 20-year-old Robin Soudek to carry the offensive load. Both topped the 20-goal mark last year. 19-year-old Jamie Crooks will be expected to improve upon the 19 goals and 38 points he recorded last season and carry more responsibility this season. Sophomore Brandon Magee is coming off a terrific season as a 16-year-old last year. He and fellow 17-year-old Steven Hodges should be able to contribute more to the attack this season.

On The Blue Line: The Royals will see six WHL-experienced rearguards return this season. 20-year-old Hayden Rintoul was acquired in the off-season from the defending WHL champion Kootenay Ice. Rintoul is a strong two-way presence who can help generate offense from the back end and bolster the power play. 18-year-old Jesse Pauls has some offensive flair to his game, having generated 19 points in 34 games over the last two seasons. Veterans Tyler Stahl and Zach Habscheid add plenty of size and physical presence to the Royals’ defense corps. Rookies Kade Pilton and Keegan Kanzig will look to earn spots in the lineup this year as both have promising futures with the Club.

Goaltending: With the graduation of Lucas Gore, the job of No. 1 netminder in Victoria is open. 20-year-old Braden Gamble served as Gore’s back-up for the last two seasons, and is an option for taking on the top job this season. The Royals acquired 19-year-old Keith Hamilton from Portland to vie for the starting job as well. Hamilton posted 17 wins and a .914 save percentage in 28 games for Portland last season. 17-year-old Jared Rathjen is also in the mix for a spot in the goaltending tandem.

Player to Watch: Brandon Magee

The Royals’ fourth-round pick in the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft, Magee turned in a valiant effort as a 16-year-old rookie last year, scoring 12 goals and 29 points with a team-leading +15 rating in 65 games. A hard-working, competitive forward who knows how to get under the skin of opponents, Magee also has the ability to score and create offense. Though not a very big player, Magee plays hard and doesn’t shy away from the tough areas on the ice. Taking on a bigger role this season, expect Magee to continue to impress with his no-quit attitude.

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