Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League

SJHL Players in WHL East Hub

by Rory McGouran

The SJHL has always been well represented in a wide manner across the hockey landscape, with players eventually moving on to new clubs across the globe. Whatever direction their career takes them in, they continue to promote the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League to the highest of standards for future generations to come.

With the WHL’s Return-to-Play bubbles now in action or shortly commencing, this four-part series will take an in-depth look at the talent in the Western Hockey League that once suited up in an SJHL jersey.

WHL’s Eastern Division Bubble

The WHL’s Eastern Bubble features seven teams and is taking place in Regina, SK. This bubble also has the honour of carrying the largest amount of SJHLers out of all four WHL divisions, with 23 past players taking part. It also shows the widest spread among SJHL clubs, with 9 of the 12 SJHL teams having at least one representative. The Battlefords North Stars, Weyburn Red Wings, and Notre Dame Hounds are the three teams with no past players currently in the WHL’s Eastern Bubble.

Estevan Bruins

The Estevan Bruins are tied for the most players currently employed in the WHL’s Eastern Bubble with four, although all four were not donning the Bruins “B” for very long.

Time in Estevan
The trio of Nolan Jones, Eric Pearce, and Boston Bilous were all brought in as loans to start the SJHL’s 2020/21 season while the WHL awaited a return. Eric Pearce’s two goals and three points led the way, while Nolan Jones added a pair of points from the backend. Bilous only dressed for one start between the pipes. However, it was quite the performance, as the Moose Jaw Warriors’ product picked up a 26-save shutout against the Weyburn Red Wings and was named the SJHL’s Goalie of the Week in late November.

Max Wanner, an Estevan, SK native, suited up for two games with the Bruins in 2019/20. He was held off the scoresheet in both contests.

Since returning to the WHL Bubble (as of March 17th)
Nolan Jones, Boston Bilous, and Max Wanner are all playing for the Moose Jaw Warriors in the bubble. Bilous was the early standout of the bunch, posting a 2-0-0 record, 1.90 GAA, and .920 SV% in his first two games. The Langley, BC native had a small setback in his latest outing, as he was pulled after allowing 4 goals on 16 shots.

Eric Pearce is back up with his Prince Albert Raiders, with whom he’s played 173 games over the past three seasons. Pearce picked up his first goal of the bubble in a 5-3 win over Brandon on March 16th.

Stats with Estevan
D – Max Wanner – 2019/20 – 2gp, 0g-0a-0p, 0 PIMS
D – Nolan Jones – 2020/21 (LOAN) – 5gp, 1g-1a-2pts, 32 PIMS
G- Boston Bilous – 2020/21 (LOAN) – 1gp, 1-0-0-0, 1SO, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 SV%
F- Eric Pearce – 2020/21 (LOAN) – 5gp, 2g-1a-3pts, 2 PIMS

Flin Flon Bombers

The Flin Flon Bombers represent the other SJHL club with four players currently in the WHL’s Eastern Bubble. Just like the Estevan Bruins, three of them were loaned to the team, while all four’s time in the SJHL was brief.

Time in Flin Flon
Marek Schneider’s three games in northern Manitoba were stretched out over the past two seasons. The Saskatoon Blade suited up for two games in 2019/20, before slipping on the Bomber’s jersey once more this year. He failed to register a point in all three outings.

Brad Ginnell, Rylan Thiessen, and Rhett Rhinehart were all called in while the WHL was still searching for their clearance to return. All three picked up at least a point, while Ginnell found the scoresheet in both of Flin Flon’s games this year.

Since returning to the WHL Bubble
Ginnell, who is with his 5th WHL organization, just suited up for his 232nd WHL game. He currently has two assists in three games with the Moose Jaw Warriors this year.

Brandon Wheat Kings product, Rylan Thiessen, has one assist in two outings as he embarks on his second season with Brandon.

Meanwhile, Rhett Rhinehart is at a point-per-game pace with two points in two bubble games for the Saskatoon Blades. His teammate, Marek Schneider, is still searching for his first career WHL point in what will be his 10th career WHL game.

Stats with Flin Flon
D – Marek Schneider – 2019/20, 2020/21 – 3gp, 0g-0a-0pts, 0 PIMS
D – Rylan Thiessen – 2020/21 (LOAN) – 2gp, 0g-1a-1pts, 15 PIMS
F – Brad Ginnell – 2020/21 (LOAN) – 2gp, 1g-1a-2pts, 0 PIMS
D – Rhett Rhinehart – 2020/21 (LOAN) 2gp, 0g-1a-1pts, 14 PIMS

Humboldt Broncos

Shout-out to the Humboldt Broncos’ scouting staff, as all three players now up in the WHL’s Eastern Bubble were once drafted by the Green and Gold.

Time in Humboldt
Josh Paulhus would be the most recognizable name for Broncos fans. The Saskatoon Blade forward spent the full 2019/20 season with Humboldt, picking up 13 points in 42 games as a rookie. His rights were traded to the La Ronge Ice Wolves prior to the start of the 2020/21 campaign.

Brett Mirwald didn’t get many looks in the Broncos crease, but when he did, he made them count. The 2003-born net-minder saw action in two games during the 2019/20 season, posting a sparkling .953 SV%, and securing his first career SJHL win among the two appearances.

Finally, James Form, who suits up for the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice, was called up for one game back in 2018/19 while a member of the U18 AAA Saskatoon Blazers. Form was held pointless in his SJHL debut. However, he scored three goals in 36 games during his first full season with Winnipeg in 2019/20.

Since returning to the WHL Bubble
The deal that sent Paulhus from Humboldt to La Ronge wasn’t the only one that affected his rights. The Regina Pats also traded the Saskatoon native to his hometown Blades, where he has been held pointless in two games inside the bubble.

Form is also searching for the scoresheet within the bubble, the 19-year-old just recently suited up for his 46th career WHL game with the Winnipeg Ice and second this season.

With the play of Estevan’s Boston Bilous through the Moose Jaw Warriors’ first two games, Brett Mirwald looked like he would have to wait for his opportunity to see some action. However, the youngest of the three Broncos in this profile, 17-years-old, was thrust into action after Bilous was pulled in his third straight start. Once again, the former Saskatoon Blazer stood on his head, stopping all 27 shots faced en route to a 5-4, come-from-behind, overtime victory for the Warriors.

Stats with Humboldt
F – James Form – 2018/29 – 1gp, 0g-0a-0pts, 0 PIMS – Drafted by Humboldt (68th overall in 2017)
F- Josh Paulhus – 2019/20 – 42gp, 4g-9a-13pts, 77 PIMS – Drafted by Humboldt (8th overall in 2017)
G – Brett Mirwald – 2019/20 – 2gp, 1-1-0-0, 2.01 GAA, .953 SV% – Drafted by Humboldt (61st overall in 2018)

Kindersley Klippers

It goes without saying, Kindersley’s first-year bench boss, Ken Plaquin, would love to utilize the talents of hometown boy, Logan Linklater on a routine basis with the Klippers, but with his production at the SJHL level and immediate jump to the WHL, he might be one that stays put with his Major Junior club.

Time in Kindersley
2003-born Logan Linklater got his first taste of SJHL action when he dressed for one game in 2019/20. Apparently, that taste set him up for success. Linklater returned to the Klippers to start the 2020/21 season and would have safely been in the Rookie of the Year conversation if he kept up with his point-per-game pace throughout a full campaign.  The speedy forward had 4 points in 3 games before the season came to a halt.

6’2, 225lbs Cayde Augustine was a loan to the Klippers, thus making his SJHL tenure brief. The Airdrie, AB product suited up for two games, registering zero points with Kindersley this year.

Since returning to the WHL Bubble
Linklater has dressed for all three games with the Prince Albert Raiders in the Eastern Bubble. He has yet to find his first career WHL point, but is a +1 on a Raider team that is 2-0-1 through their first three games.

Augustine has seen action in one game for the Swift Current Broncos inside the bubble. Over the course of his 3-year WHL career, he’s picked up 16 pts in 87 games from the backend.

Stats with Kindersley
F – Logan Linklater – 2019/20, 2020/21 – 4gp, 1g-3a-4p, 6 PIMS
D – Cayde Augustine – 2020/21 (LOAN) – 2gp, 0g-0a-0pts, 2 PIMS

La Ronge Ice Wolves

With one draft pick, one loan, and one player acquired through trade, the La Ronge Ice Wolves are well represented in a variety of ways in the WHL’s Eastern Bubble.

Time in La Ronge
Although no one expected Nolan Allan to stay too long in La Ronge due to his already established pedigree in the WHL, the value a player like this brings to the club as a mentor to others should not be underestimated. Allan was also able to showcase his elite talent, picking up 5 points in 5 games.

Adam McNutt, the Ice Wolves’ third round pick in 2018, was another major contributor on the backend for a La Ronge team that held a 4-1 record prior to the shutdown. The 17-year-old found the scoresheet once, with one assist in three games played.

Josh Paulhus’ time in the SJHL was almost all dressed and already discussed with the Humboldt Broncos. Paulhus was able to get a one-game taste of Kevin Kaminsky hockey prior to the season shutdown.

Since returning to the WHL Bubble
Allan has been held off the scoresheet in three games with the Prince Albert Raiders. However, the team that took him 3rd overall in the 2018 WHL Draft is 2-0-1, and Allan will look to be a factor in every contest moving forward. McNutt, who was a 4th round pick (68 overall) by the Raiders in the same draft, suited up for his first two career WHL games inside the bubble.

Josh Paulhus – (See Humboldt)

Stats with La Ronge
D – Nolan Allan – 2020/21 (LOAN) – 5gp, 2g-3a-5pts, 10 PIMS
D – Adam McNutt – 2020/21 – 3gp, 0g-1a-1pts, 2 PIMS, Drafted by La Ronge (25th overall in 2018)
F – Josh Paulhus – 2020/21 – 1gp, 0g-0a-0p, 0 PIMS.

Melfort Mustangs

Melfort’s Zack Smith has spent more time in the SJHL than any other player currently in the WHL’s Eastern Bubble. On the flip side, if the other Mustang representative, Logen Hammett, continues with his development, one game might be all he plays for Melfort who drafted him 9th overall in 2018.

Time in Melfort
Zach Smith was a mainstay throughout Trevor Blevins’ lineup in 2018/19.  After putting up 14 points in 15 games in 2019/20, the Regina Pats plucked the 2-way centreman and called him up. His contribution didn’t halt in his first stint with the Pats. Smith put up 19 points in 51 games with Regina in 2019/20. Overall in the SJHL, the Martensville, SK native had 36 points in 77 SJHL games played, and added an additional 16 playoff games with the Mustangs.

Logen Hammett, who the Mustangs used a first-round selection in the 2018 SJHL Bantam Draft, only played one game with Melfort in 2018/19. However, the potential was always there. Hammett was named the Saskatchewan U18 AAA League Top Defenseman in 2019/20 with the Regina Pat Canadians. Time will tell if the potential was too high and the 17-yr-old Regina product sticks with the Brandon Wheat Kings throughout his junior career.

Since returning to the WHL Bubble
Smith has yet to find the scoresheet inside the Eastern Bubble through three games with the Regina Pats. He’s currently skating on the third line with Drew Englot and Sloan Stanick.

Hammett was one of a handful of players to play his first career WHL game inside the bubble. He didn’t register a point, but finished as a +1 with the Wheat Kings.

Stats with Melfort
F – Zack Smith – 2017/18 – 2020/21 – 77gp – 15g-21a-36pts, 50 PIMS
D – Logen Hammett – 2019/20 – 1gp, 0g-0a-0pts, 0 PIMS – Drafted by Melfort (9th overall in 2018)

Melville Millionaires

The Melville Millionaires have the honour of saying they drafted both their bubble representatives from a young age. Will we get to see these two players back in the SJHL is another question altogether, considering their elite play since the Bantam Draft.

Time in Melville
Landon Kosior was loaned from the Prince Albert Raiders to the Melville Millionaires for the initial games of the 2020/21 season, and boy, he did not disappoint. 6 points in 6 games showcased that he is a step above.

Kosior found success with the Prince Albert Raiders right from the start of his Major Junior career as a 17-year-old in 2019/20, putting up 23 points in 64 games as a defenseman. He’ll now be tasked with even more responsibility with the defending champs inside the bubble.

Chase Bertholet, meanwhile, who was drafted 63rd overall by Melville in 2018, also suited up for 6 games with the Millionaires this year,he has since returned to the Winnipeg Ice, where he played 9 games in 2019/20. Bertholet didn’t find the back of the net, but did add 3 assists in his brief tenure with Melville.

Since returning to the WHL Bubble
Kosior hasn’t registered a point in three games inside the bubble, but he has been counted on in a top-4 defensive role with the Raiders, who have yet to lose in regulation.

Bertholet and the Winnipeg Ice currently sit at 1-1 through two games. The Pas, MB product assisted on the Ice’s first goal of the bubble season.

Stats in Melville
D – Landon Kosior – 2020/21 (LOAN) – 6gp, 1g-5a-6p, 4 PIMS – Drafted by Melville (14th overall in 2017)
F – Chase Bertholet – 2020/21 – 6gp, 0g-3a-3pts, 2 PIMS – Drafted by Melville (63rd overall in 2018)

Nipawin Hawks

The lone Hawk up in the WHL’s Eastern Bubble hasn’t even been a Hawk for that long. Needless to say, Doug Johnson and the Nipawin fan base would be ecstatic having Carter Stebbings line up in The Cage for Nipawin home games.

Time in Nipawin
Carter Stebbings rights were originally drafted by the Melville Millionaires 2nd overall in 2017, making him the highest SJHL draft pick currently in the Eastern Bubble. Fast forward three years, and through a series of trades, he ended up on Nipawin’s list in June of 2020. Hawks fans got a glimpse of him to start the 2020/21 season, where he scored one goal in 4 games.

Since returning to the WHL Bubble
The 19-yr-old- Saskatoon native just played in his second career WHL game with the Swift Current Broncos, and first inside the bubble. So far he’s yet to register a point, but the former captain of the U18 AAA Saskatoon Blazers will look to prove that he’s ready to stay at the Major Junior level.

Stats with Nipawin
F – Carter Stebbings – 2020/2021 – 4gp, 1g-0a-1pts, 2 PIMS – Drafted by Melville (2nd overall in 2017)

Yorkton Terriers

Brothers unite in the WHL’s Eastern Bubble, as Yorkton’s own Kaleb and Aiden Bulych make up two-thirds of the Terriers representatives. Sprinkle in a goalie with 141 games of WHL experience, and the Terriers have a good following down in Regina.

Time in Yorkton
The Bulych Brothers have vastly different resumes from their time with the Yorkton Terriers. Older brother Kaleb only had one outing way back in 2016/17. He’s since suited up for 215 WHL games between the Vancouver Giants and Swift Current Broncos. Aiden, however, had an exceptional rookie season with the Terriers, scoring 49 points in 58 games in 2018/19. The Brothers now have the fortune to team up together with the Swift Current Broncos inside the bubble.

Nolan Maier, who has 7 starts for Yorkton in 2017/18, was welcomed back to the club to start the 2020/21 season as he awaited the WHL’s return. It was a rocky start in his lone game this fall as he allowed 5 goals on 43 shots.

Since returning to the WHL Bubble
Maier has since bounced back from his lone start in Yorkton and has got the Saskatoon Blades off to a perfect 2-0 record while posting a 2.50 GAA and .909 SV%.

As for the brothers, Kaleb continues to add to his already impressive and lengthy WHL career, picking up an assist in two games played. Meanwhile, younger bro, Aiden has one goal in a pair of outings. The Broncos, at the time of writing, are still searching for their first win inside the bubble.

Stats with Yorkton
D – Kaleb Bulych – 2016/17 – 1gp, 0g-0a-0p, 0 PIMS
F – Aiden Bulych – 2017-2019 – 65gp, 15g-37a-52pt, 32 PIMS
G – Nolan Maier – 2017/18, 2020/21 – 8gp, 1-6-1-0, 5.14 GAA, .884 SV%

This four-part series will continue, as up next we take an in-depth look at the WHL’s Central Division Bubble, housed in Alberta.