Is Sept. 10 way too early to make power rankings when the season begins Sept. 24, and not every team has even played a pre-season game? Absolutely.
But hockey is supposed to be fun, so let’s have some!
- Estevan Bruins – Slow start to pre-season with two losses to their rival Weyburn Red Wings, but the Centennial Cup hosts are loaded and will likely keep tinkering. Quebec Major Junior Hockey league veteran Mark Rumsey is slated to light the league on fire, and so far so good with five points in two games. Weapons, and experience everywhere, and if they don’t dominate all year, questions will be asked. No pressure, right?
- Humboldt Broncos – Two tight affairs to open the pre-season against the Nipawin Hawks only demonstrated that Scott Barney’s men are still going to fire a million pucks at the opposition net every night, and their deep D-corps is another year older. Nabbing Saskatoon’s own Alec Saretzky from the BCHL was a great pickup, and the league’s best defence-corps on paper will look to make them tough to beat on any night.
- La Ronge Ice Wolves – The Wolves forwards are as deep as Humboldt’s D, and could definitely be No. 2 once there is more understanding of what their blue line will look like with Tristan Lambert and Logan Holm out the door. Nolan Doell and Holden Knights will be hard to stop this year, as will Aaron Greyeyes if he can stay healthy. Xavier Cannon is one of the few established veteran goaltenders around the league.
- Battlefords North Stars – Little surprise that the combo of Brayden Klimosko and Garry Childerhose at the top were quick to reload the last Canalta Cup champions quickly. Holden Doell is a good early bet for rookie of the year and looks to be part of an outstanding top line with local boy Jale Southgate and Ryland McNinch.
- Flin Flon Bombers – Cal Schell is back in net with a point to prove after a sublime performance the last time the SJHL had a playoff game, former Sask U18 superstar Cole Duperreault has yet to have the opportunity to show what he can do, and Jaeden Mercier should light the league on absolute fire this campaign; so lots of reason for enthusiasm at the Whitney. This team will score, the question is what the defence looks like behind the outstanding 2002 born Noah Kuntz, who should be an all-star.
- Melfort Mustangs – A core built around returnees Ben Tkachuk, Marco Lopez, Lucas Ochitwa, Joel Favreau, and Seth McCulloch is a great place to start, and you know Trevor Blevins will keep making moves for a fan base that expects nothing less than a contender every year. Lots to learn about this group, but still have to assume they’ll be tough, especially at the Palace.
- Nipawin Hawks – The post-Jake Tremblay-Jake Lenchyshyn era at the Cage will be based, as is usually the case in Nipawin, on keeping pucks out of the Hawks’ net. Plenty of experience on the Nipawin blue line, and they have some outstanding goaltending prospects, so are there enough goals here? We’ll find out!
- Melville Millionaires – The fans in Melville will certainly be believing captain Jonathan Krahn is among the league’s best forwards, and with Zach McIntyre, Jackson Bohan, and a few nice young pieces around him, we have to believe this year will be a real step forward at the Horizon Credit Union Centre. It would be a nice boon if they get big young defender Ayden Lemarre back from the Swift Current Broncos.
- Weyburn Red Wings – The Cody Mapes era in Weyburn has included all sorts of moves in and out, and though there is some pretty nice continuity between the likes of Joe Young in net, Graham Skinner at the back end, and Dante Ballarin and Braden Birnie upfront, the Wings have a lot to prove to their great fan base. Young is expected to have a huge year in net.
- Notre Dame Hounds – Brett Pilkington’s first foray into SJHL head coaching and general managing was ruined by Covid last year, and as a large number of his recruits have come from outside Saskatchewan, it’s impossible to say how his young team will handle the realities of this league once real games commence. Captain Kevin Anderson is committed to Princeton University, fellow 2003-birth year Jaryd Sych is expected to be not far behind in terms of getting that NCAA D1 spot, and both look outstanding after an off-season of hard work.
- Yorkton Terriers – The cupboard still has a few holdovers from the recent glory years, and Kishaun Gervais is back from the WHL, so they still will surprise a team or two. Steve Norum and Gervais should be a great combo at the top of this line-up, and head coach Matt Hehr is pretty high on Jacob Herman in the net if they get him back from the Swift Current Broncos.
- Kindersley Klippers – Two-time all-star Michael Neumeier is gone, as is Logan Linklater upfront, so much like with Notre Dame, the lack of Junior A experience in this group is the biggest question mark. Matt Pesenti should be a star in the net, while veterans Hunter Laroque and Mark Snarr should be in for plenty of minutes on the back end this year for Ken Plaquin.