By Mike Stackhouse
FLIN FLON BOMBERS
Key Returnees: G Brenden Newton, D Ben Lanfermann, D Isaac Jackson, F Nick Shumlanski, F Jordan McCausland, F Rylan Tkachuk, F Tyler Nyman, F Nate Hooper, F Brody Madarash, F Connor Beebe, F Tyler Millar, F Daylan Marchi.
Potential Newcomers: Rookie left winger Chrystopher Collin is believed to be very good offensively, with a similar skill set to Jason Lavallee. His upside may even be higher.
Donovan Villeneuve is a high end offensive skilled centreman, who once he adjusts to the league should be a threat on a consistent basis. Both Collin and Villeneuve are 18-year-old rookies from Quebec, an area that has been well received by the Flin Flon fan base.
Kurtis Rutledge was a major junior regular in the WHL with Tri-City and Kootenay. The 20-year-old was acquired in a trade with the AJHL Calgary Mustangs and should provide good leadership, stability, and will be a welcome presence at a position the Bombers lost a significant amount of talent in the offseason.
19-year-old Calvon Boots, is an Alaska born defenseman, who chose Flin Flon over the North American Hockey League. He plays the game hard and compiled 9-goals and 10-assists in 19-games with his U-18 club in the States last year.
Rookie forward Dylan Burton tore up the Manitoba Midget AAA Hockey League with 25-goals and 23-assists in 37-games with the Winnipeg Thrashers. He’s small but plays with grit and should provide good speed.
Dawson McKenzie is a teammate of Burton, who had 54-points with the Thrashers. More of a playmaker with a high hockey IQ.
Grads Zac Robidoux, Mason Etter, Eric Sinclair, Braden Lacoursiere, Brandon Masson, Teal Sobkowicz, Greyson Reitmeier, Jason Lavallee, Kristian St. Onge,
Eligible but not returning: Rylee Zimmer, Troy Williams, Brandon Lesko (going to school, but expected to play part-time), Cory Thomas.
Overall outlook: The Bombers were league runner-ups for the second year in a row and are poised to make it back to the league finals again as they return key players in goal and up front. They’ve filled some holes on defense with veterans and the crop coming in have solid credentials. While the unexpected loss of Lesko has a negative impact, it’s hoped he can still play as many games as possible while he enrolls at U of S.
LA RONGE ICE WOLVES
Key Returnees: G Luke Lush, D Bryce Fiske, D Austin Shumanski, D Trey Doell, F Braden Isbister, F Tanner Brewster, F Derek Frater.
Potential Newcomers: G Jordan Frey is still midget eligible and had a 3.20 GAA and .919 SPCT with the Saskatoon Contacts last year. The Ice Wolves are committed to him as one of their two netminders.
D Dawson Boehm played his first year of junior in the Jr B ranks in BC, where he picked up 3-goals and 20-points in 32-games. He’s former SJHL superstar Brett’s younger brother, but much bigger in stature.
D Ben Manson has shuffled the last two years between Midget AA and Midget AAA. He’s former NHLer Dave’s son and has a playing style similar to older brother Josh, who’s carved out a nice NHL career in Anaheim.
19-year-old Connor Smith destroyed his high school league in Michigan and played last year in the SIJHL, scoring 24-goals as a rookie. He’s slated to be a top line player in La Ronge.
Winnipeg produce Blaise Arkle is another player who should step into a top line role. He produced 19-points in the AJHL with Calgary last year.
Twin brothers Justin and Austin Bill are a pair of high energy rookies from Leoville (north of Spiritwood), who are in exceptional physical shape after placing high in cross country at the national Indigenous Games in Toronto this summer. Potential to be fan favorites and ability to create havoc.
Drayton Thunderchief was picked up in a trade with Kindersley and has a handful of games experience in the WHL. He’s an up and down winger and will get a chance to play a scoring role.
20-year-old Jason Bednarski was added from Ontario, where had 25-points at the Junior A level last season. He’ll be looked upon to be a centreman who can match up against other team’s top lines.
Two components of a deadline deal with Battlefords should also make an impact. Mackenzie Donovan is a bit 6’3” 220-pound winger he didn’t look out of place in the last five games of the year last season.
Shane Hounsell broke his wrist after the deadline and the Ice Wolves didn’t get a chance to audition him, but he has been a big surprise at training camp with how far he’s come and appears to have a bright future.
Eligible but not returning: Aaron McKay (NCAA), Craig Pejkovic, Trevor Bush, Jaden Bosman, Noah Looman, Zach Gladu (QMJHL Val D’Or), Kent Hanson, Derek Patter, Jeremy Velazquez, Shae Kiryk, Jarred Hicks, Braden Dunn, Curtis Peck.
Grad: Lucas Nagel.
Overall outlook: Rome wasn’t built in a day. Young bench boss Evan Vossen has his work cut out for him after two really down seasons; but the former player (2004-07) wasn’t afraid to set up roots in town, becoming the first known coach to do so in La Ronge on a year round basis. He played for Bob Beatty and knows what worked for him as a player, therefore, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Vossen use the same tactics to try and replicate that success.
G Evan Plotnik, G Derrick Hucul, D Tyler Heidt, D Adam Hergott, D Kayle Tosh, D Boedy Donald, F Kalem Zary, F Reed Gunville, F Andrew Thompson, F Tanner Zentner, F Jaxon Joseph, F Carson Albrecht, F Justin Ball, F Rock Ruschkowski.
Potential Newcomers: Lochlan Morrison played upwards of 200 games in the Western Hockey League, including 67 last year between Prince Albert and Victoria. He brings, obvious, high level experience and projects to be one of the top overall defensemen in the SJHL.
Ashton Oakes is a 19-year-old who played 24 games in Camrose (AJHL) last year. He’s 6’1” and doesn’t mind mixing it up. He plays a shut down style and competes hard.
Vincent Ouellet-Beaudry has played a handful of games in the QMJHL, and put up 24-goals and 24-assists in 48-games at the Junior ‘A’ level in Granby a year ago. He’s a one-year player being that he’s 20.
First year junior Dylan Scheunert is a big, strong centerman who likes to compete in the hard areas. Fans may notice a similarity to Zentner. He had 11-points in 33-games with Red Deer AAA.
Nolan Kadachuk was an assistant captain with Tisdale AAA last year and had a real solid midget career. The blueliner had 15-points in 29-games last season.
Tyson Meyers is assistant coach Dan’s son and the nephew of Ron, who played four years at Alaska Fairbanks. Tyson is a hard nosed player who competes hard and doesn’t know quit. He scored 18-points in 34-games with Battlefords Midget AAA a year ago.
Local product Jake Misskey may be the only underaged player on the team. He had 22-points in Swift Current AAA last year and is filling out his tall frame. He’s ready physically.
Eric McNeilly had 39-points in 43-games with the Saskatoon Contacts AAA last year and plays a physical game.
Taylor Schmidt had a coming out party with Tisdale in the playoffs last year at Midget AAA, emerging as their top player as they advanced to the finals. He’s smaller in size, but doesn’t play that way.
Eligible, but not returning: Dakota Boutin, Matt Goudy, Jarrod Isley, Matt Hermary, Ethan Rheaume.
Overall outlook: The loss of Boutin was realized late when Northern Michigan forced the hand of both Boutin and the Mustangs for him to play elsewhere, so Melfort made the best of it and sent him to Penticton (BCHL) for futures. It’s hoped the Mustangs will get back to being a hard team to play against within the whistles. With 16 games against Nipawin and Flin Flon, there is going to be a lot of heavy games but this club is still just one year removed from back to back Canalta Cups.
Key Returnees: D Josh McDougall, D Carter Doerksen, D Austin Glenn, D Josh Laferriere, D Thomas Lenchyshyn, F Brett Harasmyuk, F Logan Casavant, F Mike Grant, F Daven Smith, F Keillan Olson.
Potential newcomers: 19-year-old Tristan Petrie was picked up from Lloydminster (AJHL) and knows how to play within a system and gives the Hawks a solid, bonafide Junior A defenseman to bolster their unit.
Look for 19-year-old Austin Mikesch to be a surprising scorer from the get go. The American born forward had 23-goals and 42-points in 24-games in his US high school league. The Hawks feel fortunate to have recruited him and has a great skill set that should translate well to the SJHL.
Zach Cox played as an underage junior in Alberta with Drayton Valley last year and contributed 25-points. Look for another step forward this year in Nipawin.
Lance Alm was a workhorse goalie in Battleford AAA last year, appearing in 33 games and posting a SPCT of .913. He’s athletic and despite having another year of midget eligibility, the Hawks feel he’s ready and aren’t afraid to use him, regularly.
Caleb Paisley is a skilled rookie forward who played at the Rink Hockey Academy in Manitoba. He’s a fierce competitor and the Hawks are looking for big things.
Eligible, but not returning: Declan Hobbs (WHL), Brandan Arnold (WHL), Grant Baetsen, Mike Maple, Tanner Thompson.
Grads: Kristian Stead, Nicholas Riemer, Tanner Reynolds, Josh Bly, Eric Bolden, Keegan Milligan, Keegan Kjargaard.
Overall outlook: Doug Johnson has a well earned reputation of being a coach who always has his team’s in the mix. They haven’t been able to get over the hump of Melfort or Flin Flon in recent years to get into the league final, but they are in good position to get themselves right back into a spot where they can contend to be one of the better teams in the league in the Spring of 2018. Josh McDougall should be on the NCAA radar right from the get go and Brett Harasmyuk is poised for a jump in production.