NOTRE DAME HOUNDS (by Jamie Neugebauer)
Goal-Riley Kohonick (Salmon Arm, BCHL) and Logan Dyck (graduation, Fredonia DIII) are both gone, and leave huge skates for new head coach Brett Pilkington to fill after those two were arguably the league’s best 1-2 punch in net a season ago. It appears as though ND will start the year with a 1a-1b situation from two 2002-born goaltenders, Alaskan Raythan Robbins, and Grand Prairie, AB-native McCoy Bidewell. Both have shown very well leading up to the pre-season, with Robbins looking like the technician, and Bidewell the gamer. They are both very competitive young men, and there has not been a clear No. 1 in Wilcox so far.
Defence-Getting the smooth-skating Hardy Wagner back from the BCHL looks to be a huge boon for Pilkington’s group – it’s not every day you can just slip a projected veteran No. 1 Dman into your team this close to the season. He is joined by fellow returnee Zack Whittaker, and the impressive 02-born Patrick Ferrie, an excellent skating veteran of two BCHL contests a year ago – to form the basis of a Hounds D-Corps that will value taking care of the puck, and good positioning, ahead of brute physicality. ND High Schooler Jaryd Sych impressed on and off the ice in camp, coming almost out of nowhere to earn a full-time spot as a big-bodied-yet-mobile steady eddie from the left side.
Forwards-Much like the rest of the roster, this is almost a completely brand-new forward group; though as the Hounds were the league’s second worst goal scorers a year ago, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Veteran maritime league sniper Ethan Stuckless looks to use his big shot and offensive instincts to lead the line, alongside returning Hounds rookie scoring leader Jake Dale, and electric rookie Kevin Anderson. This is expected to be very deep group, capable of getting the job done in a wide variety of ways, and with offence coming from all over the line-up. Watch for former Minnesota prep school captain Truett Olson to really impress with his speed, tenacity, and nose for the net, as well as ex-Humboldt Bronco and Melville Millionaire Connor Nolan, who has taken enormous steps forward this off-season.
HUMBOLDT BRONCOS (by Mike Stackhouse)
GOAL-The Broncos are making changes in goal where Tanner Marshall, a 20-year-old who played last year in the BCHL, has been brought in to be the number one puckstopper. He’ll be backed up by Michael Harroch, part of last year’s tandem. Also in the mix is 2003 born Brett Mirwald, who looked good as an AP with the Broncos last year and was a standout with the Saskatoon Blazers U18.
DEFENSE-There’s plenty to like here with Doug Scott and Cody Hough returning. Both are high tempo players who can quarterback a powerplay. Scott, in particular, was lights out with 30-points in 26-games. Chase Felgueiras is back from a loan with Portage MJHL, Kade Olsen is a solid top four dman and Noah Barlage will be looking to blossom after being a regular last year as a 16-year-old. Throw in Jackson Bohan and we are already up to six blueliners who would be the envy of any other team.
FORWARDS-Luke Spadafora and Tristan Shewchuk headline a deep group of forwards as Shewchuk scored 30 goals last year and Spadafora, a one time Rookie Of The Year, had 15-points in 14-games upon arriving in a trade with Melville. Much travelled Austen Flaman can play anywhere in the top six and goal scorer Logan Kurki will be looking to build on his 23-goal and point-per-game season as a rookie. Stephane Huard should also add to the offense and he brings major junior experience from the QMJHL. One time Pat C’s forward Chase Nameth should be a solid contributor as a 20-year-old. He spent two years in the BCHL and was added in an offseason trade.
KINDERSLEY KLIPPERS (by Mike Stackhouse)
GOAL-Because of the Covid situation, the Klippers made an organizational decision to stick with Canadian born players so that’s resulted in a few player losses but goaltending appears to be in good hands with Matthew Pesenti returning from a loan to Yorkton at the end of last year where he ended up being the Terriers’ goalie in the playoffs. Newcomer Brett Sweet put up solid numbers in Calgary U18 AAA last year and has been a star in camp.
DEFENSE – Michael Neumeier played for the Klippers last year as a 16-year-old and he’s all set to be the anchor after an all-rookie season. He brings smarts, maturity, and skill. Jack Michel was added from Flin Flon and he should pair nicely with Mark Snarr as a solid all-around duo. Newcomers to watch include Saskatoon’s Ethan Grabowski, a good sized rookie who plays a good stay-at-home style. Josh Pufahl is a defense/forward hybrid and those types of players have had success in the SJHL in recent years.
FORWARDS – Michael Neumeier’s older brother Brett enters his 20-year-old season as a bonafide leader and hard worker who’s very popular with his teammates. Kyle Ford comes over from La Ronge in an offseason trade and should add some offense as well as a competitive edge. The Klippers also have Eric Sorenson back for his 20-year-old season as the roster figures to take a complexion that is high on character and determination. New coach Ken Plaquin is also seeing a potential jump in Ethan King from his rookie campaign. New players to watch include 17-year-old Logan Linklater, a local product, who may end up centring one of the top two lines. He’s also highly regarded by the Prince Albert Raiders. One of the more physical players in the league figures to be Ethan Ironside, who hits with a purpose.
BATTLEFORDS NORTH STARS (by Mike Stackhouse)
GOAL-The Stars return Kristian Lyon and Austin Schwab from last year. This season will be a change of sorts as the Stars have always been very strong in front of their netminders. This year, they’ll be asked to do a bit more with not a lot of experience in front of them. Head coach Brayden Klimosko calls this a 1A and 1B situation.
DEFENSE-The loss of a couple of graduates as well as the unexpected departure of Noah Form leaves a gaping hole for the Stars and they’ll continue to seek veteran help in the form of a trade. Nevertheless, it’s a great opportunity for Timon Prexler, who still contributed 14-points as a third pairing type. Suddenly there’s nobody in front of him and Klimosko is excited about his potential. Wilson Steele is a towering 6’4” newcomer from Alberta and Calgary native Ethan Hayter has surprised after putting up a point per game at the U18AA level.
FORWARDS-Another position where the Stars were hit hard with departures, so Jaxon Steele goes to the top of the depth chart. He had 25-points in 24-games last season. Dylan Esau, Steve Kesslering, Rylan McNinch, and Carson Reagan stand to potentially benefit from the opportunity of open slots in the top six. KT Walters could be an impactful rookie from BC. He played 6-games in the BCHL last year. Breydon Berthold was acquired from Fort McMurray and Mason Richey was added from West Kelowna in an effort to add more veterans. Jake Southgate is a homegrown player to watch.