LA RONGE ICE WOLVES (by Mike Stackhouse)
GOAL-An area of strength for the Ice Wolves is between the pipes where standout Liam McGarva returns, as does Xavier Cannon, who filled in admirably when McGarva dealt with a suspension down the stretch and into the playoffs. McGarva had 4 shutouts and a .915-SPCT while earning a Goalie Of The Year finalist selection. Cannon simply went 9-1-and-1 with a .921-SPCT in McGarva’s absence. Hometown product Alex Bell is also in the fold after an excellent rookie season at Lac La Biche.
DEFENSE – Logan Holm and Kaiden Collumb are back from last year’s group in what figures to undergo a makeover of sorts. Big things will be expected from Tristan Lambert, a trade acquisition from Drayton Valley (AJHL), who starred with Columbia in the KIJHL and was named that league’s Defenseman Of The Year with 37-points and 141-penalty minutes. Adam McNutt almost made the club last year as a 16-year-old, but he’s made the grade one year later despite still having a year of midget eligibility. Garrett Hunter is a stay at home type who played minor hockey at Notre Dame.
FORWARDS – It’s a solid nucleus, led by the streaky Aaron Greyeyes and the physically imposing Spencer Kennedy, who can also contribute on the score sheet. Holden Knights, Chad McLlwain, and Nolan Doell also return and figure to have prominent roles. One newcomer to watch is Narek Aleksanyan, who would have made the team last year but was too young and ineligible because he was from out of province. Instead, he wound up going to Fresno and racking up 104-points to lead the team. Gavin Mattey is a sniper from the KIJHL, William Smith is a Quebec product with one year of eligibility and Mathieu Belanger was picked up in a trade with Weyburn and has impressed through the Fall Camp.
NIPAWIN HAWKS (by Mike Stackhouse)
GOAL-The Hawks will hope Ross Hawryluk can build off his solid rookie performance that saw him post a 2.52-GAA and .920-SPCT. Nick Heinzle was added from the NOJHL and Rayside Balfour, where he posted a 2.81-GAA and .913-SPCT as an underage rookie. Because of these uncertain times, the Hawks feel three goalies is the responsible way to go so Chase Hamm also looks to have solidified a spot after graduating from the Saskatoon Contacts.
DEFENSE-Jack Lenchyshyn may potentially be one of the top defensemen in the SJHL with his all-around play. Mkyllan Couture looks to have made major strides during the offseason and look for Evan Bortis and Cole Beamin to also take on added responsibilities. Liam Bell and Eric Robbie are a couple of 2003 born players that will be eased into the system.
FORWARDS-Heart and soul Jake Tremblay is back to lead the forwards and he’s got plenty of support in the form of returning vets Michael Makarenko, Brodie Girod, Burke Simpson, and Josh Lester. Christian Albertson comes over from Melfort after a 9-goal season with the Mustangs as a rookie. Head coach Doug Johnson says he’s fit in very well with his new surroundings. Zack Falck was picked up from the Maritimes but is originally from Winnipeg and should provide depth on the right side. Carson Dobson and Alex Johnson are a couple of rookies to keep an eye on.
MELFORT MUSTANGS (by Mike Stackhouse)
GOAL – Head coach Trevor Blevins picked up Steven Bacovsky from Kindersley in the offseason and he’s expected to share time with Joel Favreau, who was lights out with the Prince Albert Mintos last season. Blevins says both will get ample opportunity to develop but there’s an opening for whoever’s got the hot hand to take control.
DEFENSE – The Mustangs return four on the back end from last year and Blevins says he’s been impressed with the offseason work put in by Vinny Prospal. Lucas Ochitwa played in the Young Guns SJHL-MJHL Showcase last year and has a chance to step into a prominent role while Gabe Odowichuk has plenty of experience and Andrew Hunt should be able to carve out a regular role. There’s plenty of competition for the depth positions however Leyton Holoien is a local player worth keeping an eye on.
FORWARDS – Ben Tkachuk could see a big jump in production from his 21-points last season as he rockets up the depth chart. Adam Nobes and Colton Schell look like they’ll get first line minutes and Leighton Burns-Marion was picked up in a trade from the AJHL. Blevins believes the 20-year-old has untapped offensive potential and he’s been impressed with his size, speed, shot combination. Ben Chase should have a more clear path to playing time and rookie Noah Wilson was the captain for St. Albert last year and brings a fast, tenacious high compete level.
FLIN FLON BOMBERS (by Mike Stackhouse)
GOAL-Cal Schell gives Mike Reagan the physically imposing, fast moving goalie any coach would covet. Schell was very good in limited action after being acquired at the trade deadline last year. Rookie Jared Thompson put up an eye popping 1.61-GAA and .920-SPCT with the Regina Pat C’s and should be a very capable back-up.
DEFENSE – The blueline could be a work in progress as Cole Vardy is out with an injury until after Christmas so that leaves Ryder Richmond as the lone returnee. Richmond had 17-points in 52-games and he’ll be joined by younger brother Reece, who has some offensive potential based on 48-points in 40-games with Yellowhead AAA. Noah Kuntz is another Regina Pat C who may make an immediate impact after scoring 8-goals and 29-assists in 43-games. Ethan McColm is another puck moving D with size that will be asked to contribute.
FORWARDS-One of the best top lines in the league figures to be twin brothers Chase and Easton Haygarth with Zach Huber. Both Haygarths were point per game players last year with Easton getting more goals. Huber scored 15 with the WHL Saskatoon Blades last season. Jaeden Mercier was broken in last year as a depth forward, but he’ll jump to top six status with veterans Billy Klymchuk and Reid Robertson. Rookie Cole Duperreault scored 30-goals in 44-games with Beardy’s AAA while Nathan Gagne is this year’s Quebec content, a province that has been very kind to the Bombers in recent years.