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Fw: The CHL Hockey Insider | Nov 23

 

Sent: Wednesday, November 23, 2016 10:12 PM
Subject: The CHL Hockey Insider | Nov 23


November 23, 2016
 

November 23, 2016
 

Cougars pounce back into first in CHL Top 10

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WESTERN HOCKEY LEAGUE AD
IBA West - June 2015
CHL Top-10 Spotlight: Armada climb into first place
2016 CIBC Canada Russia Series Recap
#CHLShowdown - Week ending Nov 20/16
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Guhle dealt to Cougars in Friday blockbuster

Cougars acquire defenceman Brendan Guhle from Raiders
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CHL announces shortlist for 100th Mastercard Memorial Cup bid presentations

The Hamilton Bulldogs, Oshawa Generals, and Regina Pats have advanced to the next stage of the national bid process for...
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It's the most wonderful time of the year: Teddy Bear, Toque & Mitten Toss 2016-17

The WHL's annual run of Teddy Bear, Toque & Mitten Toss games begins this Saturday when the Calgary Hitmen host...
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Nov 16 - Nov 23

Janes Saves of the Week – Nov 21/16

Check out the ninth edition of #JanesSaves - featuring Michael Herringer of the Kelowna Rockets and much more!

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CHL Top-10 Spotlight: Armada climb into first place

The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada took road wins in Rouyn-Noranda and Val-d'Or last weekend to push themselves into first place in the...
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2016 CIBC Canada Russia Series Recap

The Canadian Hockey League skated to a 13-5 series win in points over Russia in the 2016 CIBC Canada Russia...
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Prince George Cougars
18-4-2-0

1

Regina Pats
16-2-3-0

2

London Knights
16-3-2-1

3

Erie Otters
16-5-2-0

4

Rouyn-Noranda, Huskies
15-5-1-2

5

Shawinigan, Cataractes
16-6-0-0

6

Everett Silvertips
15-3-4-0

7

Windsor Spitfires
14-4-3-0

8

Medicine Hat Tigers
17-5-1-0

9

Blainville-Boisbriand, Armada
16-6-1-1

10

CHL Showdown highlights one great play from all three leagues allowing fans to vote on the top play. This week features Keanu Yamamoto, Yakov Trenin and Tyler Parsons.

#CHLShowdown - Week ending Nov 20/16

  Read now  
 
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Fw: Important Details Regarding The Brick Teddy Bear Toss!

 


 
Sent: Thursday, November 24, 2016 8:41 AM
Subject: Important Details Regarding The Brick Teddy Bear Toss!

Important Details Regarding The Brick Teddy Bear Toss! 

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Bring a New Bear to the Game! 

CalgaryConvertedVS  Lethbridge Hurricane logo2 
Calgary Hitmen VS Lethbridge Hurricanes
Saturday, November 26, 2016
Puck Drop at 2:00PM

Don't forget to bring a bear to toss for The Brick Teddy Bear Toss! Fans are asked to bring a new stuffed toy to the game and to toss it on the ice when the Hitmen score the team's first goal. There is demand for over 22,000 teddy bears to be shared amongst 60 local agencies. 

Plastic bags will be provided upon entry to protect the plush toys when tossed.


Game-Worn and Game-Issued Jersey Auction

The Hitmen will be wearing red-themed teddy bear jerseys during The Brick Teddy Bear Toss on Saturday. These jerseys will be up for auction at  ElevateAuctions.comstarting at 2:00PM on game day! In addition to the game-worn and game-issued jerseys, fans will have an opportunity to bid on five team-signed red helmets. The auction will close on Sunday, December 4 at 8:00PM. 

Auction proceeds will support Children's Miracle Network. 

teddybear sized jersey


Fans Encouraged to Arrive Early for the Game

With the anticipation of a large crowd for The Brick Teddy Bear Toss, fans are encouraged to arrive early or use public transportation in order to avoid delays in parking and entering the Scotiabank Saddledome.

Doors will open at 12:30PM to ensure you are in your seat prior to the 2:00PM puck drop! 


ChryslerClub_Logo-Wordmark

Join us for Lunch Before the Game!
Buffet Opens at 12:00PM


TEDDY BEAR TOSS BUFFET

Saddledome Smoked Beef Brisket with Homemade BBQ Jus

Mini Cheese Perogies Topped with Bacon, Chives & Sour Cream

Baked Penne with Tomato Sauce

Oven Roasted Baby Potatoes with Fresh Thyme

Chef's Selection of Seasonal Vegetables

Artisan Greens with Carrot Curls

Spicy Jicama Slaw

Assorted Squares

$21.95 
 $12.00 (Children 11 and under)

The Chrysler Club Dining Room is located at the West Entrance of the Scotiabank Saddledome underneath the Plus 15 through Dutton's Canadian Lounge.

MAKE A RESERVATION:

To make a reservation, please call 403-571-9733 between 9:30AM and 4:00PM Monday - Friday.

Please note:  Calgary Hitmen tickets for Saturday, November 26 are required for entry.

This email was sent to The Brick Teddy Bear Toss Ticket Holders.
Calgary Sports & Entertainment Corporation

Calgary Flames / Calgary Hitmen / Calgary Roughnecks / Calgary Stampeders
555 Saddledome Rise SE  Calgary, AB  T2G 2W1
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In Their Own Words...

Jaynen Rissling (from 2010)

Jaynen Rissling...in his own words (from 2010).

Who as your favourite hockey player growing up?
  • Chris Pronger
What is our favourite NHL team?
  • Edmonton Oilers
What is your favourite movie?
  • Dumb and Dumber
If a movie was being made about your life, who would play your role?
  • Mark Wahlberg
Who is the funniest player on the Hitmen team and why?
  • Ben Wilson.  He's got a big mouth for a little guy.
Which celebrity do you think most closely resembles you?
  • Patrick Dempsey   Jason Statham
Who is the best singer on the Hitmen team?
  • Justin Kirsch    Misha Fisenko
What do you miss most about the city of Moose Jaw?
  • Volleyball in the pool with Kirsch
Do you karaoke?  If so, what song do you sing?
  • No
Do you have any siblings?
  • 2 sisters
Which teammate to you room with on the road?
  • Juraj Holly
What's the most annoying thing about rooming with him when you're on the road?
  • He's always on Skype with basically everyone in Slovakia.
If you were going to be exiled to an island and could only bring one teammate with you, who would it be, and why?
  • Justin Kirsch, he seems like a very nice guy.
Do you have a culinary specialty you like to prepare?
  • Steaks or Burgers
Do you have a hidden talent?
  • So good at Call of Duty
Who is your favourite band/artist?
  • Miley Cyrus
What's your funniest hockey moment / story of the funniest thing you've seen during a hockey game?
  • My friend got his jersey caught on a nail along the boards.
Tell us one thing about you that we don't know.
  • My natural hair color is blonde.

Brandon Glover



Who was your favourite hockey player growing up?     Patrick Roy

What is your favourite NHL team?  The Montreal Canadiens

What is your favourite movie?  Conviction

Who is the funniest player on the Hitmen team and why?  Spencer Humphries, great sense of humour

Do you have any tattoos?  None

Who is the best singer on the Hitmen team?  Jimmy Bubnick

What do you miss about NOT living with Ben Wilson anymore?  I have nobody to wake me up if I sleep in

Do you karaoke? If so what song do you sing?  "Here for a good time" by George Strait

Do you have any siblings?  A younger brother named Cole

Which teammate do you room with on the road? Used to be John Lawrence and then Luke Gordon

What was the most annoying thing about rooming with Luke Gordon?  He liked to sleep too much so I couldn't watch TV

If you were going to be exiled on an island and could only bring one teammate with you, who would it be and why?  Colin Bowman...he is a genius

Do you have a culinary specialty you like to prepare?  Steak and Eggs

Who is your favourite singer?  Kenny Chesney

Calder Brooks...In His Own Words (from 2010)

Calder Brooks in his own words (from 2010)
Who was your favourite player growing up?  Joe Sakic

What is your favourite NHL team?  Chicago Blackhawks

What is your favourite movie?  Anchorman

If a movie was being made about your life, who would play the part? Samuel L Jackson

Which celebrity do you think most resembles you?  Justin Bieber

Do you have any tattoos?  No

What do you miss most about Saskatchewan?  Family and friends

Who is the best singer on the team? Kenton Helgesen

Do you have any siblings?  1 brother (13 yrs old)

Which teammate do you room with on the road?  Alex Roach

What's the most annoying thing about rooming with him when you're on the road?  He stinks

Do you have a culinary specialty? Waffles

Do you have a hidden talent?   I can sing

Who is your favourite band?  Abba

What's the funniest hockey moment?  Cody Sylvester ate an entire block of cheese after a game on a dare.

Tell us one thing we may not know about you:  I've ate a cow's tongue

VICTOR RASK

Victor Rask...in his own words (from 2011)
Who was your favorite player growing up?  Peter Forsberg

What is your favorite movie?  The Hangover

What do you miss most about Sweden?  The food

Which Hitmen player has the hardest shot?  Greg Chase

Who is the best singer on the team?  Jaynen Rissling

Do you have any siblings?  Yes, one sister

Which teammate do you room with on the road?  Brooks Macek

What is the most annoying thing about rooming with Brooks?  He talks in his sleep

If you were going to be exiled on to an island and could only bring one teammate with you, who would it be and why?  Brady Brassart...he's a funny guy!

Who is your favorite band/artist?  Eminem

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The Latest from the Hitmen Informant (Courtesy of Brad Curle)

The Hitmen Informant

Rule Changes for 2014-15 WHL season

Calgary, AB – The Western Hockey League today announced a series of rule changes for the upcoming 2014-15 WHL Season, which opens Friday evening.

Rule changes for the 2014-15 WHL Season were tested during pre-season and most of the changes adopted by the National Hockey League (NHL):

*Indicates rule adopted by the NHL
1)     Overtime
•        During the regular season, at the end of the third period of a tied game, there will be a two minute break prior to the start of a five (5) minute sudden-death overtime period (same as in previous seasons).
•        *The Clubs must change ends for the overtime period.

2)     Shootout
•        Should a regular season game be tied after the five (5) minute sudden-death overtime period, the Zamboni(s) will do a dry scrape of the middle of the ice (same as in previous seasons).
•        *The Clubs must change ends again for the shootout.
•        *The home team shall have the choice of shooting first or second, and the Clubs shall alternate shots.
•        *The spin-o-rama type move where the player completes a 360 degree turn as he approaches the goal shall not be permitted. Should a player perform such a move during the penalty shot, the shot shall be stopped immediately by the referee, and no goal shall be permitted. (This also applies on regular penalty shot situations during a game)

3)     Tripping
•        *A two minute minor penalty will be assessed when a defending player “dives” and trips an attacking player with his stick, body, arm or shoulder, regardless of whether the defending player is able to make initial contact with the puck.
•        *In situations where a penalty shot might otherwise be appropriate, if the defending player “dives” and touches the puck first (before the trip), no penalty shot will be awarded.  (In such cases, the resulting penalty will be limited to a two minute minor for tripping).

4)     No Change Icing
•        *When a Club commits a no change icing infraction, a face-off violation by that team will not result in the center being removed.
•        *Instead, the center will be warned by the linesman that his Club has committed their first face-off violation.  The linesman will then conduct the face-off as quickly as possible.
•        *Any second violation by that same Club, on the same stoppage, will result in a bench minor penalty for delay of game (face-off violation) being assessed.
•        *If the center attempts to arrive at the face-off spot just as the five seconds elapse to gain an advantage to win the face-off, he shall not be removed from the face-off.  The center will be warned by the linesman that his Club has committed a face-off violation.  In the event the center then commits a second face-off violation, or the action is actually the second face-off violation, a bench minor penalty for delay of game will be assessed.

5)     Puck Out of Bounds
With respect to the attacking Club being responsible for the puck going out of play in the attacking zone, the following exceptions apply, and as a result, the face-off shall be conducted at one of the face-off spots in the attacking zone:

•        *Shot at the net that deflects off the goal post or crossbar and out of play
•        *Shot at the net that breaks the glass
•        *Shot at the net that goes off the side of the net and out of play
•        *Shot at the net that goes off the dasher boards or glass and out of play
•        *Shot at the net that is tipped or deflected by a teammate out of play
•        *Shot at the net that becomes wedged in or on the exterior of the goal net

6)     Video Goal Judge Reviewable Situation
•        When a goal has been scored and the Video Goal Judge has conclusive video evidence that the puck hit the netting (therefore out of play) and went back onto the ice surface which was undetected by the on-ice officials, this goal shall not be allowed.  If the puck subsequently leaves the attacking zone after hitting the net, this play is no longer reviewable by the Video Goal Judge.

WHL Introduces New Playoff Format

Calgary, AB – The Western Hockey League will have a new playoff format for the 2015 WHL Playoffs. The new format mirrors that of the National Hockey League and is designed to enhance Divisional rivalries in the First Round of the WHL Playoffs.

The Western Hockey League’s Eastern and Western Conferences will use a Divisional/Conference hybrid playoff format, with the inclusion of Wild Card qualifiers, for the 2015 WHL Playoffs. All playoff series are still best-of-seven affairs.

The new format will see the top three Clubs in each Division make up the first six playoff qualifiers within each of the two WHL Conferences. The remaining two spots per Conference will be filled via Wild Cards, with the next two highest-placed Clubs in each Conference earning playoff berths based on their regular season record, regardless of Division.

In the First Round, the Division winner with the best record in each Conference will be matched against the wild card team with the lesser record; the wild card team with the better record will play the other Division winner. The second and third-place teams within each Division will also meet in the First Round.

First-round winners within each bracket play one another in the Second Round with the four winning Clubs advancing to the Conference Championships. Home ice advantage through the first two rounds goes to the Club that placed higher in regular season standings.

The two Clubs winning second round series in each Conference will advance to the third round (WHL Conference Championships), where they will be ranked in order of regular season points.

The Eastern and Western Conference Champions will advance to the best-of-seven WHL Championship Series, with the Club having the most regular season points receiving home ice advantage.

WHL Western Conference Preview

Calgary, AB – The Western Hockey League’s 49th season begins on Friday, September 19th, as fans gear up for another exciting winter of WHL hockey.

The Portland Winterhawks have been the class of the WHL’s Western Conference for four years running, having represented the Western Conference in the WHL Championship series in each of the last four campaigns. Do the Winterhawks have what it takes to make it five in a row? Will the Kelowna Rockets be able to repeat their franchise record-setting campaign from a year ago? Can the Victoria Royals and Seattle Thunderbirds continue to build on last year’s success? Or, will another team rise up to claim the title of Best in the West?

The WHL’s Western Conference is loaded with high-caliber talent. From veteran stars like Tri-City Americans goaltender Eric Comrie and Portland Winterhawks’ dynamic duo of Oliver Bjorkstrand and Nicolas Petan to top NHL Draft prospects like Seattle’s Mathew Barzal and Ryan Gropp, Prince George’s Jansen Harkins and Kelowna’s Nick Merkley, the talent runs deep in the West.

Here’s a look at the WHL Western Conference:

B.C. Division

Kamloops Blazers
General Manager: Craig Bonner
Head Coach: Don Hay
2014 pre-season: 5gp, 4-1-0-0
2013-14 Record: 14-53-2-3, 33pts (5th in B.C. Div., 10th in Western Conf.) GF: 175  GA: 305
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 15.9% (22nd); PK: 72.1% (21st)
2014 Playoffs: Did not qualify
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Cole Ully                      69gp-30g-42a-72pts
Matt Revel                    73gp-15g-30a-45pts
Josh Connolly               72gp-11g-34a-45pts
With Don Hay back behind their bench for the first time since the 1994-95 season, the Kamloops Blazers look to turn their fortunes around after a tough 2013-14 campaign.  19-year-old Dallas Stars prospect Cole Ully will once again be the focal point of the Blazers’ offense.  Coming off a 30-goal, 72-point season last year, Ully will need to be equally good or better if the Blazers want to climb the standings.  Veterans Matt Needham, Matt Revel and Collin Shirley will also need to contribute offense for Kamloops, while 17-year-old Nick Chyzowski should take a step forward in his development.  Defensively, 20-year-old Brady Gaudet returns to the team that drafted him and will lead the Blazers’ blue line.  Veteran Josh Connolly can provide plenty of offense from the point while physical and strong Ryan Rehill will have to keep things organized in the defensive zone.  20-year-old goaltender Bolton Pouliot looks to be the Blazers’ No. 1 netminder.  With 85 games of WHL experience under his belt, Pouliot will provide a stable presence in net.
Player to Watch: Nick Chyzowski
The 17-year-old from Kamloops, B.C., enters his second season in the WHL looking to make a much bigger impact for his hometown team.  Drafted in the second round, 44th overall, by the Blazers in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft, Chyzowski has always had strong offensive talent and the ability to score goals.  Though he managed just three goals as a rookie last year, expect him to increase that number with more responsibility as a sophomore.  Playing under Don Hay, Chyzowski also expects to continue to focus on playing a strong defensive game and being responsible in his own end.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Kelowna Rockets
General Manager: Bruce Hamilton
Head Coach: Dan Lambert
2014 pre-season: 6gp, 2-4-0-0
2013-14 Record: 57-11-0-4, 118pts (1st in B.C. Div., 1st in Western Conf.) GF: 310  GA: 182
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 22.1% (9th); PK: 86.2% (1st)
2014 Playoffs: Lost in five games to Portland in Western Conference Championship series
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Myles Bell                    69gp-42g-35a-77pts
Ryan Olsen                  71gp-30g-34a-64pts
Damon Severson          64gp-15g-46a-61pts

With new head coach Dan Lambert behind the bench, the reigning regular-season WHL Champions return most of their top players that helped them to a franchise-record 57 wins last season.  Though they lose their top two scoring forwards, Ryan Olsen and Myles Bell, the Rockets return several forwards who should be able to keep them among the WHL’s offensive powers.  2013-14 Rookie of the Year Nick Merkley looks to build on the 25 goals and 58 points he put up as a 16-year-old while Tyson Baillie, Justin Kirkland and Rourke Chartier should be able to contribute to the offense.  Captain Madison Bowey will lead a strong defence corps that gave up the second-fewest number of goals in the WHL last year.  Bowey and Riley Stadel are both strong in the offensive zone while players like Mitchell Wheaton, Dalton Yorke and Cole Martin add depth in the defensive zone.  19-year-old Jackson Whistle will take over the starting netminder job with the graduation of Jordon Cooke.  Whistle has posted 33 wins in 43 games over the past two seasons with the Rockets.    

Player to Watch: Nick Merkley
A 17-year-old product of Calgary, AB, Merkley enjoyed a tremendous rookie campaign in 2013-14, netting 25 goals, 58 points and claiming WHL Rookie of the Year honors.  On a team that boasted strong offensive depth, Merkley played his way into a key offensive role at a young age.  The 5’10”, 187-lb forward possesses excellent offensive skills, vision and skating ability, and is equally a threat as a playmaker and a goal scorer.  Having helped Canada’s Under-18 team to a Gold medal at the Ivan Hlinka tournament in August, Merkley now enters his NHL draft-eligible season with plenty of eyes directed his way.  Expect Merkley to build on his solid rookie season and emerge as one of the WHL’s top offensive stars.

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Prince George Cougars
General Manager: Todd Harkins
Head Coach: Mark Holick
2014 pre-season: 5gp, 3-0-2-0
2013-14 Record: 27-37-3-5, 62pts (4th in B.C. Div., 9th in Western Conf.) GF: 238  GA: 305
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 17.7% (21st); PK: 75.5% (17th)
2014 Playoffs: Did not qualify
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Todd Fiddler                 66gp-50g-48a-98pts
Troy Bourke                 69gp-29g-56a-85pts
Zach Pochiro                63gp-27g-39a-66pts
After an off-season that brought many organizational changes, the Cougars welcome a new Ice Age to begin the 2014-15 season.  Up front, the Cougars will look to 17-year-old Jansen Harkins to take on a big role in the offense.  The talented pivot put up 34 points as a rookie in 2013-14, and will be counted on to up that total this season.  Sophomore Adam Morrison and veteran Chase Witala will also be key players in the Cougars’ attack while 20-year-old Chance Braid will need to provide good leadership to a young group.  Towering Detroit Red Wings prospect Marc McNulty heads up a group of seven potential returnees on the Cougars’ blue line.  McNulty led the defence corps with 17 goals and 42 points last year.  6’6”, 240-lb Martin Bobos also returns as do veterans Joseph Carvalho, Raymond Grewal and Wil Tomchuk.  Rookie Josh Anderson has the makings of a strong shutdown defender.  18-year-old Ty Edmonds returns as the Cougars’ No. 1 netminder.  He’ll be looking to make a strong impression on NHL scouts after being passed over in the 2014 NHL Draft.

Player to Watch: Jansen Harkins
The son of Cougars’ general manager Todd Harkins, Jansen Harkins is coming off a successful rookie season last year that saw him net 10 goals and 34 points in 61 games.  The second overall pick of the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft also suited up for Team Pacific in the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and helped Canada’s Under-18 team win Gold at the 2014 Memorial for Ivan Hlinka tournament in August.  An intelligent and skilled player, Harkins has all the tools to become a dominant player in the WHL.  Eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft, expect Harkins to receive a lot of attention as the 2014-15 season goes along.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Vancouver Giants
General Manager: Scott Bonner
Head Coach: Troy Ward
2014 pre-season: 6gp, 3-2-0-1
2013-14 Record: 32-29-7-4, 75pts (3rd in B.C. Div., 7th in Western Conf.) GF: 234  GA: 248
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 24.2% (5th); PK: 80.4% (9th)
2014 Playoffs: Lost in four games to Portland in first round
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Carter Popoff                72gp-13g-51a-64pts
Cain Franson                66gp-30g-33a-63pts
Jackson Houck             69gp-34g-27a-61pts

Under the guidance of new head coach Troy Ward, the Giants look to build off the momentum they gained after making it back to the WHL playoffs last year.  Veterans Jackson Houck, Carter Popoff and Dalton Sward head up the Giants’ offense.  Houck and Popoff will look for big offensive campaigns in their 19-year-old seasons.  Additionally, the Giants re-acquired Matt Bellerive, who should contribute scoring as well.  Young star Tyler Benson will make his full-time debut, and could step into a big offensive role immediately.  Veterans Mason Geertsen, Arvin Atwal and Tyler Morrison return to head up a Giants’ defence corps that lost key veterans Brett Kulak and Dalton Thrower from last year’s lineup.  Russian sophomore Dmitry Osipov expects to contribute much more as he heads into his NHL Draft-eligible season.  18-year-old Payton Lee returns as the Giants’ starting netminder.  Lee posted 19 wins in 47 games last season.
Player to Watch: Tyler Benson
The first overall pick from the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, Benson comes into his first full season in the WHL with big expectations.  The 6’0”, 190-lb left wing piled up 37 goals and 95 points in 49 games for the Kelowna Pursuit of Excellence Midget Prep team last year and also helped Team Alberta win a Gold medal at the 2013 Western Canada Under-16 Challenge Cup.  In addition, Benson suited up for seven games for the Giants as a 15-year-old.  With great speed, strength and skill at his disposal, Benson will have every opportunity to take on a key role in Vancouver’s offense in his first season in the WHL.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Victoria Royals
General Manager: Cameron Hope
Head Coach: Dave Lowry
2014 pre-season: 7gp, 2-3-2-0
2013-14 Record: 48-20-1-3, 100pts (2nd in B.C. Div., 3rd in Western Conf.) GF: 238  GA: 181
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 20.5% (13th); PK: 81.3% (T-6th)
2014 Playoffs: Lost in five games to Portland in second round
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Brandon Magee            65gp-25g-42a-67pts
Austin Carroll                70gp-34g-23a-57pts
Alex Blomqvist             65gp-24g-32a-56pts

The Victoria Royals enter the 2014-15 season having enjoyed their best WHL campaign in franchise history last year, setting Club records for wins and points, and making it to the second round of the WHL playoffs.  With plenty of talent returning, the Royals aim to remain at the top of the B.C. Division.  Up front, the Royals could return four of their top six scorers from last season, including feisty Brandon Magee, and big power forwards Austin Carroll and Axel Blomqvist.  All three will be counted on for consistent offense and leadership.  17-year-old Tyler Soy impressed in his rookie season last year, and is a good bet for a much bigger role in the attack.  Travis Brown will head up a defence corps that allowed the second-fewest number of goals in the WHL last year.  Brown gives the Royals a potent weapon in the offensive zone.  Joe Hicketts will look to put last year’s injury woes behind him while Keegan Kanzig and Ryan Gagnon add toughness and defensive strength to the blue line.  19-year-old Coleman Vollrath takes over the top job in the Royals’ goal after posting 20 wins and a WHL-best .928 save percentage in 34 games last year.

Player to Watch: Tyler Soy
A 17-year-old native of Cloverdale, B.C., Soy is coming off a strong rookie campaign last year where he scored 15 goals and 30 points in 65 games.  The 5’11”, 172-lb centre also played for Team West in the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and helped Canada’s Under-18 squad take home a Gold medal in the 2014 Memorial for Ivan Hlinka tournament in August.  A highly skilled, speedy and hard-working forward, Soy will step into a larger role in Victoria this season and should help offset the loss of veterans like Logan Nelson and Ben Walker.  Expect the 2015 NHL Draft-eligible Soy to be a solid offensive contributor for the Royals this season.

U.S. Division

Everett Silvertips
General Manager: Garry Davidson
Head Coach: Kevin Constantine
2014 pre-season: 7gp, 5-2-0-0
2013-14 Record: 39-23-7-3, 88pts (3rd in U.S. Div., 5th in Western Conf.) GF: 218  GA: 206
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 21.1% (10th); PK: 79.2% (12th)
2014 Playoffs: Lost in five games to Seattle in first round
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Josh Winquist               67gp-47g-46a-93pts
Ivan Nikolishin              72gp-18g-41a-59pts
Matt Pufahl                   62gp-15g-35a-50pts

The Everett Silvertips enter the 2014-15 season looking to remain in the top half of the WHL Western Conference standings.  However, the loss of some key veterans means they will have to rely on others to step up.  The ‘Tips return just one of their top five point getters from last season, with 18-year-old Ivan Nikolishin looking to build on his 59-point rookie campaign.  Forwards like Tyler Sandhu, Carson Stadnyk and Dawson Leedahl will need to fill key roles up front this season while sophomores such as Patrick Bajkov and Matt Fonteyne look for more responsibility as well.  Ben Betker will anchor a defence corps that will be relatively young.  The 6’6”, 220-lb Betker plays a strong, tough defensive game, and should help keep things stable in the defensive zone.  Top 2015 NHL Draft prospect Noah Juulsen can expect an expanded role this season while fellow 17-year-olds Kevin Davies and Jordan Wharrie can also contribute more.  If San Jose Sharks prospect Mirco Mueller returns, he will greatly boost the ‘Tips’ defence corps.  Veteran netminder Austin Lotz returns, providing a steady presence in the ‘Tips’ goal.

Player to Watch: Noah Juulsen
The 17-year-old rearguard from Abbotsford, B.C., enjoyed a good season last year for the Silvertips, posting two goals and 10 points with a solid +12 in 59 games as a rookie.  The 6’1”, 180-lb defender also played for Team Pacific in the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge as well as attending the selection camp for Canada’s Under-18 team in the summer.  A smooth-skating defenceman with good skill, passing ability and solid defensive acumen, Juulsen has the makings of a strong two-way defenceman.  One of 19 WHL players on NHL Central Scouting’s Futures list for the 2015 NHL Draft, expect Juulsen to play important minutes for the ‘Tips over the course of this season.

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Portland Winterhawks
General Manager / Head Coach: Jamie Kompon
2014 pre-season: 5gp, 4-1-0-0
2013-14 Record: 54-13-2-3, 113pts (1st in U.S. Div., 2nd in Western Conf.) GF: 338  GA: 207
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 27.5% (1st); PK: 81.9% (4th)
2014 Playoffs: Lost in seven games to Edmonton in WHL Championship series
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Nicolas Petan               63gp-35g-78a-113pts
Oliver Bjorkstrand         69gp-50g-59a-109pts
Brendan Leipsic                        60gp-39g-52a-91pts
The Portland Winterhawks enter the 2014-15 WHL season as four-time defending Western Conference champions.  Despite losing significant contributors from last year’s U.S. Division-winning side, the Hawks still return plenty of elite talent.  Oliver Bjorkstrand and Nic Petan highlight what should be a dangerous Hawks offense.  Bjorkstrand and Petan will again likely be in the running for the WHL scoring title.  Also back are Chase De Leo, Paul Bittner and Keegan Iverson, who round out a deep top-six.  Look for Alex Schoenborn and Dominic Turgeon to see increased responsibility as well.  On the back end, the Hawks lose key players like Derrick Pouliot, Garrett Haar and Matt Dumba.  However, look for 19-year-olds Blake Heinrich and Anton Cederholm to log big minutes and help move the puck to the team’s talented forwards.  Sophomore Keoni Texeira will also be expected to step into a bigger role this season.  Brendan Burke returns as the Hawks’ starting netminder.  The 19-year-old enjoyed a strong regular season, but would like to bounce back after struggling in the later rounds of the 2014 WHL playoffs.
Player to Watch: Paul Bittner
Bittner, a product of Crookston, MN, enters his third season in the WHL with the Winterhawks looking to take on a key role up front.  The 6’4”, 202-lb winger scored 22 goals and 49 points last year, but should be able to better those totals while playing alongside the likes of Nic Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand this season.  A big-bodied, strong power forward, Bittner doesn’t shy away from going to the tough areas of the ice to score.  Add in his strong skating and skill, and it’s no wonder Bittner is considered a top prospect for the 2015 NHL Draft.  Expect Bittner to play a key role for the Winterhawks in their quest for yet another dominating season in the U.S. Division.

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Seattle Thunderbirds
General Manager: Russ Farwell
Head Coach: Steve Konowalchuk
2014 pre-season: 7gp, 3-4-0-0
2013-14 Record: 41-25-2-4, 88pts (2nd in U.S. Div., 4th in Western Conf.) GF: 238  GA: 249
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 20.5% (T-13th); PK: 79.0% (13th)
2014 Playoffs: Lost in four games to Kelowna in second round
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Shea Theodore             70gp-22g-57a-79pts
Alexander Delnov          71gp-29g-34a-63pts
Branden Troock                        58gp-24g-34a-58pts

The Seattle Thunderbirds enjoyed one of their most successful regular-season campaigns in several years last year, finishing among the top four in the WHL Western Conference and advancing to the second round of the playoffs.  With a handful of budding stars, the T-Birds will look to build on their success.  Look for sophomores Mathew Barzal and Ryan Gropp to factor heavily into the T-Birds’ offense.  Both are considered top prospects for the 2015 NHL Draft.  Veteran Justin Hickman brings leadership and secondary offense to what is a young group up front, while second-year forward Keegan Kolesar looks to take on a bigger role.  Anaheim Ducks’ prospect Shea Theodore is back after putting up a 79-point season on the blue line last year.  He should again be among the top-scoring defencemen in the WHL.  Sophomore Ethan Bear, also a top prospect for the 2015 NHL Draft, can expect to shoulder a heavier workload.  Veterans Jared Hauf, Jerret Smith and Kevin Wolf add depth and experience to a very strong T-Birds’ defence corps.  20-year-old goaltender Taran Kozun impressed last season when he was acquired from Kamloops at the trade deadline.  If he can replicate that success this season, the T-Birds will be strong in the crease.
Player to Watch: Ryan Gropp
The Thunderbirds’ first-round pick, sixth overall, in the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft, Gropp joined the Club in late October 2013 and quickly slid into a key offensive role.  The 6’3”, 200-lb winger netted 18 goals and 42 points in 59 games to finish second among the team’s rookies in scoring.  A skilled and smart player with outstanding skating ability and speed, Gropp also boasts a big frame, making him a handful for opposing defenders.  Heading into his NHL Draft-eligible campaign, expect Gropp to take on a large role alongside fellow top draft prospect Mathew Barzal in the T-Birds’ offense.

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Spokane Chiefs
General Manager: Tim Speltz
Head Coach: Don Nachbaur
2014 pre-season: 7gp, 2-2-3-0
2013-14 Record: 40-26-3-3, 86pts (4th in U.S. Div., 6th in Western Conf.) GF: 244  GA: 213
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 22.3% (8th); PK: 77.9% (14th)
2014 Playoffs: Lost in four games to Victoria in first round
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Mitch Holmberg            72gp-62g-56a-118pts
Mike Aviani                   69gp-38g-43a-81pts
Reid Gow                     65gp-6g-56a-62pts

The Spokane Chiefs are coming off a 2013-14 season that saw them hit the 40-win mark for a sixth time in seven years, largely due to the dominating offensive contributions of veterans Mitch Holmberg and Mike Aviani.  With those two gone, along with the departures of other key veterans, the Chiefs will look to their younger players to take over the leadership of the team.  Up front, the Chiefs need to replace the 100 goals scored by Holmberg and Aviani.  Look for the likes of Adam Helewka, Connor Chartier, Liam Stewart and Riley Whittingham to lead a score-by-committee attack.  Defensively, the Chiefs also lose their veteran leader Reid Gow, who piled up 62 points in 65 games.  19-year-old Jason Fram becomes the elder statesman.  Fram netted 57 points last year, and will need to eat up big minutes at both ends of the ice.  Jeff Rayman, Colton Bobyk and Matt Sozanski all return, but have limited WHL experience.  Evan Fiala, a first-round pick in 2012, is one of a few rookies looking to earn a regular spot on the Chiefs’ blue line.  With veteran starter Eric Williams moving on, the Chiefs look to 19-year-olds Garret Hughson and Alex Moodie to battle for the starting job in goal.  Hughson backed up Williams in each of the last two seasons while Moodie has 56 games of WHL experience from his time with the Saskatoon Blades.

Player to Watch: Adam Helewka
The 19-year-old product of Burnaby, B.C., is coming off a 2013-14 campaign that saw him net 23 goals and 50 points to finish fifth on the team in scoring.  Now in his third season in the WHL, Helewka finds himself thrust into a much bigger role in the Chiefs’ offense with the loss of top scorers Mitch Holmberg and Mike Aviani.  The 6’1”, 202-lb left wing is the only returning player who topped the 20-goal mark last year, and will be tasked with upping his goal and point totals for a Chiefs’ team that is seeking its next offensive leader.  With top-line minutes at his disposal, expect Helewka to become a focal point in the Chiefs’ attack.

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Tri-City Americans
General Manager: Bob Tory
Head Coach: Mike Williamson
2014 pre-season: 8gp, 5-3-0-0
2013-14 Record: 29-33-4-6, 68pts (5th in U.S. Div., 8th in Western Conf.) GF: 178  GA: 224
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 18.2% (20th); PK: 81.1% (8th)
2014 Playoffs: Lost in five games to Kelowna in first round
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Brian Williams              72gp-36g-20a-56pts
Beau McCue                 72gp-20g-20a-40pts
Parker Bowles              39gp-15g-25a-40pts

The Americans are coming off a 2013-14 season that saw them fail to hit the 40-win mark for the first time since the 2005-06 campaign.  With many of their veterans returning, and with the expected emergence of some younger talents, the Ams will push for a higher spot in the Western Conference.  Up front, veterans Brian Williams, Parker Bowles, Lucas Nickles and Beau McCue will lead the way.  Williams paced the team with 36 goals last season while Bowles expects to do much more after missing much of last season due to injury.  Expect younger players like Ty Comrie and Braden Purtill to contribute more as well.  Led by 20-year-old captain Justin Hamonic, the Ams could return five regular defenders from last season.  Sophomores Brandon Carlo and Parker Wotherspoon are in line for much bigger roles this season as both are considered top prospects for the 2015 NHL Draft.  Josh Thrower brings a physical edge to the back end.  In Eric Comrie and Evan Sarthou, the Americans boast a very strong goaltending tandem.  Comrie has proven himself to be one of the WHL’s top goaltenders while Sarthou is a promising young netminder with plenty of potential.
Player to Watch: Brandon Carlo
A product of Colorado Springs, CO, Carlo broke into the WHL last season with three goals and 13 points in 71 games for the Americans.  Standing 6’5” and 185lbs, Carlo strikes an imposing figure on the blue line.  Yet, Carlo isn’t just a big body.  He has the skating ability, puck-moving skills and hockey sense to make an impact in all areas of the ice.  One of three WHL players who will suit up in the 2014 All-American Prospects Game, Carlo is ready to play a large role on the Americans’ blue line this season.

WHL Eastern Conference Preview

From whl.ca

Calgary, AB – The Western Hockey League’s 49th season begins on Friday, September 19th, as fans gear up for another exciting winter of WHL hockey.

The Edmonton Oil Kings have been the class of the WHL’s Eastern Conference for the last three years. Can the defending WHL and MasterCard Memorial Cup champions find a way to top the Conference once again? Or, will another team rise up to dethrone the Oil Kings?

Here’s a look at the WHL Eastern Conference:

East Division

Brandon Wheat Kings
General Manager/Head Coach: Kelly McCrimmon
2014 pre-season: 4gp, 3-1-0-0
2013-14 Record: 34-29-6-3, 77pts (3rd in East Div., 7th in Eastern Conf.) GF: 271  GA: 269
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 25.9% (2nd); PK: 75.2% (18th)
2014 Playoffs: Lost in five games to Edmonton in second round
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Jayce Hawryluk                        59gp-24g-40a-64pts
Ryan Pulock                 66gp-23g-40a-63pts
Tim McGauley              68gp-21g-39a-60pts

The Brandon Wheat Kings took a big step forward last season, making it back to the playoffs after missing out the year before.  With a collection of young, high-end talent, the Wheat Kings will be gunning for East Division supremacy.  Up front, the Wheat Kings return several key forwards from what was the third-highest scoring offense in the WHL Eastern Conference last season.  Jayce Hawryluk, John Quenneville, Peter Quenneville, Rihards Bukarts and Tim McGauley lead what should be a dangerous attack while sophomores Jesse Gabrielle and Braylon Shmyr will look to take on a bigger role.  Highly-touted rookie Nolan Patrick could also be a difference-maker as a 16-year-old.  The Wheat Kings will miss the presence of former captain Ryan Pulock on the back end.  However, 18-year-old Ryan Pilon should be able step up and help fill the void both offensively and defensively.  Look for rookies Ivan Provorov and Kale Clague to step in on the back end as well.   Goaltender Jordan Papirny takes on the starting job in goal after posting 22 wins in 46 games last year and further impressing in the post-season.

Player to Watch:  John Quenneville
An 18-year-old from Edmonton, AB, Quenneville enjoyed a breakout campaign last year, scoring 25 goals and 58 points in 61 games to help the Wheat Kings make the post-season.  He also turned the eyes of NHL scouts with his blend of offensive skill and physical ability, hearing his name called in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft when the New Jersey Devils selected him 30th overall.  A big-bodies forward who can skate, play physical and generate offense, expect Quenneville to build on his strong campaign last year and become a go-to guy in the Wheat Kings’ attack.
 
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Moose Jaw Warriors
General Manager: Alan Millar
Head Coach: Tim Hunter
2014 pre-season: 6gp, 1-3-2-0
2013-14 Record: 21-42-3-6, 51pts (5th in East Div., 10th in Eastern Conf.) GF: 202  GA: 283
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 19.7% (16th); PK: 77.6% (15th)
2014 Playoffs: Did not qualify
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Brayden Point               72gp-36g-55a-91pts
Jack Rodewald             58gp-28g-27a-55pts
Sam Fioretti                  65gp-20g-35a-55pts

The Warriors come into the 2014-15 season looking to end a two-year playoff absence.  Up front, expect Brayden Point to carry much of the offensive load.  The 18-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick put up an impressive 91 points last year, and should again be among the top scorers in the WHL this season.  Veterans Jack Rodewald and Tanner Eberle, along with off-season acquisition Jaimen Yakubowski, will also need to factor into the offense.  Defensively, the Warriors aim to improve on what was the 18th ranked defence last season.  Russian sophomore Alexei Sleptsov is coming off a 25-point season last year, and will need to be a big contributor on the power play.  Veterans Austin Adam, Spenser Jensen and Dallas Valentine bring plenty of size to the Warriors’ back end.  Veteran goaltender Justin Paulic has 114 games of WHL experience, including appearing in 56 games last year for the Warriors.  He will be pushed for the starting role by promising 17-year-old Zach Sawchenko.
Player to Watch:  Zach Sawchenko
The netminder from Calgary, AB, who doesn’t turn 17 until December, enters his second season in the WHL playing the back-up role to veteran Justin Paulic after getting into 26 games as a rookie.  Yet Sawchenko, who was the Warriors’ first pick, 33rd overall, in the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft, is the goaltender of the future for Moose Jaw.  The Warriors’ Rookie of the Year last year, Sawchenko backstopped Canada’s Under-18 team to a Gold medal at the Memorial for Ivan Hlinka tournament in August, and also starred for Team Pacific in the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.  Expect Sawchenko to be a difference-maker for the Warriors when called upon this season.
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Prince Albert Raiders
General Manager: Bruno Campese
Head Coach: Cory Clouston
2014 pre-season: 6gp, 3-2-0-1
2013-14 Record: 35-32-3-2, 75pts (4th in East Div., 8th in Eastern Conf.) GF: 243  GA: 258
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 24.9% (3rd); PK: 76.0% (16th)
2014 Playoffs: Lost in four games to Edmonton in first round
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Leon Draisaitl               64gp-38g-67a-105pts
Josh Morrissey             59gp-28g-45a-73pts
Collin Valcourt              71gp-28g-44a-72pts

The Raiders lose several key veterans from last year’s team that finished eighth in the WHL’s Eastern Conference.  However, the team boasts a few players who are ready to step up and fill the void.  Up front, the Raiders don’t expect leading scorer Leon Draisaitl back.  It will be up to veterans Jayden Hart, Dakota Conroy and Reid Gardiner to take on key offensive roles in Draisaitl’s absence.  Look for 19-year-olds Jordan Tkatch and Gage Quinney, and 17-year-old Matteo Gennaro to provide offensive punch as well.  19-year-old captain Josh Morrissey expects to have another dominant season on the Raiders’ blue line if he doesn’t stick in the NHL, while 20-year-old Sawyer Lange and 18-year-old MacKenze Stewart will also be key cogs on the Raiders’ back end.  17-year-old Nick McBride got into 27 games as a rookie last season, posting 12 wins and a 2.95 GAA.  The 23rd overall pick from the 2012 WHL Bantam Draft looks poised to take on the starting role this season, with 18-year-old Rylan Parenteau pushing for starts.

Player to Watch: Reid Gardiner
Gardiner, an 18-year-old from Humboldt, SK, enters his third season in the WHL looking to be an impact player for the Raiders.  The 5’11”, 185-lb pivot put up 22 goals and 44 points in 70 games last season, helping the Raiders make the post-season.  A strong two-way forward with excellent hockey sense and vision, Gardiner will be expected to take on much more responsibility this season after the graduation of several of the Club’s top players from last year.  Having gone undrafted in the 2014 NHL Draft, Gardiner would like nothing more than to use the upcoming campaign to prove NHL scouts wrong in passing him by.

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Regina Pats
General Manager/Head Coach: John Paddock
2014 pre-season: 7gp, 4-2-1-0
2013-14 Record: 39-26-4-3, 85pts (1st in East Div.,2nd in Eastern Conf.) GF: 257  GA: 247
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 20.9% (T-11th or 12th); PK: 73.6% (20th)
2014 Playoffs: Lost in four games to Brandon in first round
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Chandler Stephenson    69gp-30g-59a-89pts
Dyson Stevenson          66gp-38g-38a-76pts
Morgan Klimchuk          57gp-30g-44a-74pts

Under the guidance of new head coach John Paddock, the Pats will look to some younger players as they set out to defend their 2013-14 East Division crown.  Gone are top-scoring veterans Chandler Stephenson, Boston Leier and Dyson Stevenson, leaving the heavy offensive lifting to 19-year-old Calgary Flames first-rounder Morgan Klimchuk.  16-year-old Sam Steel comes in with plenty of fanfare, and certainly has the talent to make an immediate impact up front.  Look for the likes of Connor Gay, Braden Christoffer and Dryden Hunt to step up.  Veterans Colby Williams and Kyle Burroughs will anchor the back end for the Pats.  Both are strong two-way defenders who can put up points and keep things organized in the defensive zone.  Veteran Daniel Wapple is back to take over the starting job for the Pats.  The 19-year-old missed time due to injury last year, but managed 12 wins, including two shutouts, in 19 games with the Pats.  Fellow 19-year-old Tyler Fuhr will take on the back-up role.
Player to Watch: Sam Steel
The No. 2 overall pick from the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft, Sam Steel comes into his first season in the WHL with high expectations.  The 16-year-old from Sherwood Park, AB, put up seven goals and 23 points in 14 games in an injury-shortened season for Sherwood Park of the Alberta Midget AAA League, and even got into five regular-season and two post-season games for the Pats.  A great skater with elite-level offensive skill and instincts, Steel has the talent and ability to make an immediate impact in the Pats’ lineup, even as a rookie.

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Saskatoon Blades
General Manager/Head Coach: Bob Woods
2014 pre-season: 6gp, 3-2-1-0
2013-14 Record: 16-51-2-3, 37pts (6th in East Div., 11th in Eastern Conf.) GF: 207  GA: 317
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 20.9% (11th); PK: 74.2% (19th)
2014 Playoffs: Did not qualify
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Nikita Scherbak            65gp-28g-50a-78pts
Connor Sanvido            68gp-16g-24a-40pts
Cory Millette                 63gp-17g-17a-34pts

The Saskatoon Blades endured a difficult season last year as they entered a rebuilding phase.  This year, the Blades return several of their young, promising talents who will look to improve the team’s standing in the East Division.  18-year-old Nikita Scherbak led the team in scoring last season as a rookie, and is eligible to come back this season.  However, the first-round NHL Draft pick’s status is unclear with the Blades having picked up two more Import players during the off-season.  If Scherbak remains with the Blades, he will undoubtedly be a top point-producer.  17-year-old Cameron Hebig, 19-year-olds Cory Millette and Alex Forsberg, and 20-year-old Brett Stovin will also be tasked with providing offense.  On the blue line, Nelson Nogier has put last year’s injury woes behind him, and should be ready to log heavy minutes.  Veterans Ayrton Nikkel and Jordan Thomson will be key cogs in the Blades’ defensive plans as well.  20-year-old goaltender Troy Trombley returns to hold down the starting job in the Blades’ cage.  Trombley got into 49 games for the Blades last season.
Player to Watch: Nelson Nogier
An 18-year-old from Saskatoon, SK, Nogier enters his third season in the WHL with his hometown team looking to contribute much more after an injury-shortened season last year.  The 6’3”, 202-lb rearguard only appeared in 37 games, scoring once and picking up six points, but still garnered plenty of interest from NHL scouts and wound up getting drafted in the fourth round of the 2014 NHL Draft by Winnipeg.  A strong skating, defensive-minded blue-liner, Nogier prides himself on being hard to play against, being defensively sound, and providing strong leadership.  Now healthy, expect Nogier to be a lynchpin in the Blades’ defensive scheme this season.

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Swift Current Broncos
General Manager / Head Coach: Mark Lamb
2014 pre-season: 7gp, 4-2-0-1
2013-14 Record: 38-25-3-6, 85pts (2nd in East Div., 5th in Eastern Conf.) GF: 248 GA: 229
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 23.4% (6th); PK: 79.5% (10th)
2014 Playoffs: Lost in six games to Medicine Hat in first round
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Graham Black               69gp-34g-63a-97pts
Nathan Burns                68gp-27g-50a-77pts
Coda Gordon                59gp-26g-45a-71pts
           
The Broncos bring back many of the key players who helped the Club to a second-place finish in the East Division last season.  20-year-old veterans Colby Cave and Coda Gordon return to head up what should be a productive offense.  Both put up 70 or more points last season.  Also back are talented sophomores Jake DeBrusk and Glenn Gawdin, who should be ready to take on bigger roles in the attack.  Veteran Jay Merkley will look to improve on his 34-goal campaign as well.  The Broncos also return a strong defence corps, led by veterans Dillon Heatherington, Brett Lernout and Brycen Martin, who are all NHL prospects.  The Broncos will benefit greatly if offensive standout Julius Honka returns.  The graduation of Finnish standout Eetu Laurikainen leaves a hole in the Broncos’ net.  19-year-old Landon Bow, who backed up Laurikainen in each of the last two seasons, looks to take over the starting job.  Bow has 41 games of WHL experience under his belt.  17-year-old Travis Child will get his first WHL experience, slotting into the back-up role.

Player to Watch: Jake DeBrusk
An Edmonton, AB, product, DeBrusk enjoyed a solid campaign as a rookie last season, netting 15 goals and 39 points in 72 games.  The 6’0”, 177-lb left wing, who was a seventh-round pick of the Broncos in 2011, boasts strong offensive skill, and isn’t afraid to engage in physical battles.  DeBrusk has already drawn the attention of NHL scouts, finding himself listed on NHL Central Scouting’s Watch List for players eligible for the 2015 NHL Draft.  The son of former NHLer Louie DeBrusk, Jake will be expected to step into a much larger role in the offense for Swift Current this season.

Central Division

Calgary Hitmen
General Manager: Mike Moore
Head Coach: Mark French
2014 pre-season: 6gp, 4-2-0-0
2013-14 Record: 48-17-3-4, 103pts (2nd in Central Div., 3rd in Eastern Conf.) GF: 287  GA: 207
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 22.8% (7th); PK: 83.0% (3rd)
2014 Playoffs: Lost in six games to Kootenay in first round
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Brady Brassart             70gp-35g-50a-85pts
Greg Chase                  70gp-35g-50a-85pts
Jake Virtanen               71gp-45g-26a-71pts

The Calgary Hitmen enjoyed a terrific 2013-14 regular season, but were disappointed when they were eliminated in the first round of the 2014 WHL Playoffs.  With new head coach Mark French at the helm and with many of their top players returning, the Hitmen will look to remain among the Eastern Conference’s elite.  Veteran Greg Chase, 20-year-old Adam Tambellini and 18-year-old Jake Virtanen head up a strong offense that also includes Chase Lang, Connor Rankin and Radel Fazleev.  With talents like Mike Winther, Pavel Padakin, Elliott Peterson and Pavel Karnaukhov in the mix, the Hitmen have plenty of offensive options.  NHL prospects Travis Sanheim and Ben Thomas return to lead a Hitmen defence corps that finished third among all Eastern Conference Clubs in goals-against last year.  Both Sanheim and Thomas are capable of contributing at both ends of the ice.  Veterans Colby Harmsworth and Micheal Zipp add defensive depth.  With Chris Driedger graduating, the Hitmen hand the No. 1 goaltending job to Mack Shields.  The 19-year-old has posted 30 wins over 49 career appearances for the Hitmen over the last two seasons.
Player to Watch: Travis Sanheim
An 18-year-old product of Elkhorn, MB, Sanheim came into his rookie season last year as a relative unknown.  However, the 6’3”, 184-lb two-way defender established himself as an impact player as the season went on, and also rocketed up the NHL scouting rankings to end up being selected in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft.  A mobile, intelligent defender with plenty of offensive upside, Sanheim has the tools to be a dominating presence in the WHL.  Having consistently improved throughout last season, expect Sanheim to continue that trend with a bigger role in 2014-15.

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Edmonton Oil Kings
General Manager: Randy Hansch
Head Coach: Steve Hamilton
2014 pre-season: 5gp, 2-3-0-0
2013-14 Record: 50-19-2-1, 103pts (1st in Central Div., 1st in Eastern Conf.) GF: 290  GA: 179
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 19.6% (17th); PK: 85.3% (2nd)
2014 Playoffs: WHL & MasterCard Memorial Cup Champions
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Henrik Samuelsson       65gp-35g-60a-95pts
Curtis Lazar                  58gp-41g-35a-76pts
Mitchell Moroz              70gp-35g-28a-63pts                
           
The Edmonton Oil Kings graduate several of their top stars that helped them win the 2014 WHL Championship and MasterCard Memorial Cup.  However, they still return some talented younger players who will look to step up.  Brett Pollock will lead the offense after breaking out for a 25-goal campaign last season while players like Lane Bauer and Tyler Robertson will need to take on more responsibility.  19-year-old Curtis Lazar will be relied upon heavily in all areas if he doesn’t end up playing in the NHL this season.  20-year-old Edgars Kulda, the MVP of the Memorial Cup, would also be a key cog up front if he doesn’t play in the professional ranks.  The graduation of Griffin Reinhart and Cody Corbett leaves big shoes to fill on the back end.  Dysin Mayo and Aaron Irving can expect to shoulder a bigger load while 20-year-old veterans Ashton Sautner and Blake Orban will also be counted on to log heavy minutes.  19-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Tristan Jarry gives the Oil Kings top-notch goaltending.  A finalist for the 2013-14 WHL Goaltender of the Year award, Jarry put up 44 wins, including eight shutouts, last season.

Player to Watch: Brett Pollock
An 18-year-old from Sherwood Park, AB, Pollock took a huge step forward last year, his second season in the WHL, netting an impressive 25 goals and 55 points in 71 games after scoring just twice in 40 games as a rookie the previous season.  His strong campaign with the Oil Kings made a strong impression on NHL scouts, and he was chosen by the Dallas Stars in the second round of the 2014 NHL Draft.  With the departures of key Oil Kings forwards like Henrik Samuelsson and Mitch Moroz, Pollock will be expected to shoulder an even bigger offensive workload this season up front in Edmonton.

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Kootenay Ice
General Manager: Jeff Chynoweth
Head Coach: Ryan McGill
2014 pre-season: 5gp, 1-4-0-0
2013-14 Record: 39-28-2-3, 83pts (4th in Central Div., 6th in Eastern Conf.) GF: 235  GA: 209
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 24.3% (4th); PK: 79.4% (11th)
2014 Playoffs: Lost in seven games to Medicine Hat in second round
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Sam Reinhart                60gp-36g-69a-105pts
Jaedon Descheneau      70gp-44g-54a-98pts
Luke Philp                    71gp-31g-46a-77pts

The Kootenay Ice are coming off a 2013-14 campaign that saw them finish above .500 for a WHL-record 15th consecutive year.  Last year’s success was due, in large part, to the offensive dominance of Sam Reinhart and Jaedon Descheneau, who combined for 80 goals and 203 points.  With Reinhart almost assuredly to play in the NHL with the Buffalo Sabres this season, the Ice will need to fill a huge hole up front.  Descheneau will be back to lead the attack, but will face an adjustment without his line mate.  The Ice will lean heavily on veteran Luke Philp, who is coming off a 31-goal campaign, and 20-year-old Austin Vetterl to provide scoring.  Defensively, veterans Tanner Faith, Tyler King and Rinat Valiev will be counted on to eat up minutes while sophomore Troy Murray will need to step into a bigger role on the back end.  19-year-old Spruce Grove, AB, product Wyatt Hoflin looks to take over the starting job in Kootenay’s net with the graduation of MacKenzie Skapski.  Hoflin has posted 11 wins and a 3.24 GAA in 43 appearances over the last two seasons with the Ice.
Player to Watch: Jaedon Descheneau
A 19-year-old from Edmonton, AB, Descheneau has enjoyed a couple of highly productive seasons in Kootenay, playing alongside Sam Reinhart.  The shifty, speedy and offensively talented winger netted 44 goals and 98 points last season, was selected to suit up for Team WHL in the SUBWAY Super Series, and heard his name called in the NHL Draft in June when the St. Louis Blues picked him in the fifth round.  Now back for his fourth WHL campaign, Descheneau becomes the go-to guy for the Ice.  The 5’9”, 192-lb sniper will need to show he can provide top-line offense without his All-Star line mate Reinhart.

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Lethbridge Hurricanes
General Manager: Brad Robson
Head Coach: Drake Berehowsky
2014 pre-season: 6gp, 2-4-0-0
2013-14 Record: 12-55-2-3, 29pts (6th in Central Div.,12th in Eastern Conf.) GF: 171  GA: 358
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 18.4% (19th); PK: 69.8% (22th)
2014 Playoffs: Did not qualify
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Riley Sheen                  61gp-19g-30a-49pts
Brady Ramsay              72gp-15g-27a-42pts
Reid Duke                    62gp-15g-25a-40pts

The Lethbridge Hurricanes come into the 2014-15 season looking to erase the memories of what was a difficult campaign last year.  Up front, the ‘Canes look to improve on their 22nd-ranked offense from last year.  Veterans Riley Sheen, Reid Duke, Jamal Watson and Tyler Wong are all back, looking to pace the attack.  Sophomore Giorgio Estephan hopes to take a step forward and contribute more while Russian rookie Nikita Milekhin should inject some scoring into the lineup.  20-year-old veterans Nick Walters and Tyler Bell will head up a Hurricanes’ defence corps that will hope to cut down on the 358 goals they allowed last season.  19-year-olds Lenny Hackman and Griffin Foulk both will look to bring more to the table while 17-year-old Thomas Lenchyshyn is one of a few rookies gunning for a spot on the blue line.  18-year-old Zac Robidoux and 16-year-old Stuart Skinner start the year as the Hurricane’s goaltending tandem.  The pair have a combined seven games of WHL experience between them.
Player to Watch: Tyler Wong
An 18-year-old from Cochrane, AB, Wong comes into his third season with the Hurricanes looking to be a big part of their offense.  The 5’9”, 165-lb centre enjoyed a breakout campaign last year, putting up 17 goals and 31 points in 52 games, and established himself as a scoring threat.  An offensively skilled, competitive forward who boasts good skating ability and hockey sense, Wong is a player who the Hurricanes will count on to put the puck in the net.  Look for Wong to see his goal and point totals increase as he helps the Canes on their quest to get themselves back into the playoff picture.

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Medicine Hat Tigers
General Manager / Head Coach: Shaun Clouston
2014 pre-season: 5gp, 3-2-0-0
2013-14 Record: 44-24-3-1, 92pts (3rd in Central Div., 4th in Eastern Conf.) GF: 260  GA: 196
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 20.3% (15th); PK: 81.3% (6th)
2014 Playoffs: Lost in five games to Edmonton in Eastern Conference championship series
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Curtis Valk                   72gp-47g-45a-92pts
Trevor Cox                   70gp-25g-57a-82pts
Cole Sanford                 72gp-33g-40a-73pts

The Tigers come into the new season returning many of the players who helped them reach the Eastern Conference championship series last year.  Up front, veterans Cole Sanford and Trevor Cox are in line for top offensive roles after their outstanding performances during the 2014 WHL playoffs.  Veterans Steve Owre, Miles Koules and Blake Penner are a few of those expected to contribute more to the attack to help offset the graduation of Curtis Valk.  Tyler Lewington and Tommy Vannelli head up a defence corps that could return eight rearguards.  Sophomore Connor Hobbs should be ready for a big workload in his first full season after enjoying success with Canada’s Under-18 team this summer.  Rookie David Quenneville is the Tigers’ defensive lynchpin of the future.  With veteran netminder Marek Langhamer likely bound for the AHL, the Tigers brought in 20-year-old Jared Rathjen to join Nick Schneider in the goaltending tandem.  Rathjen has 74 games of WHL experience to draw upon while Schneider posted a 6-0 record with a .943 save percentage in eight games last season

Player to Watch: Cole Sanford
A 19-year-old product of Vernon, B.C., Sanford enters his third WHL season with high expectations for a productive offensive campaign.  Sanford racked up 33 goals and 73 points in 72 games last season, marking a 31-goal and 62-point improvement from his rookie season in 2012-13, and became one of the Tigers’ biggest offensive threats.  His performance in the 2014 post-season – 11 goals and 24 points in 18 games – was a key reason the team made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Championship.  With last year’s success under his belt, expect Sanford to be a key cog in the Tigers’ attack.

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Red Deer Rebels
General Manager / Head Coach: Brent Sutter
2014 pre-season: 6gp, 3-2-1-0
2013-14 Record: 35-32-1-4, 75pts (5th in Central Div., 9th in Eastern Conf.) GF: 214  GA: 224
2013-14 Power Play / Penalty Killing ranking: PP: 18.5% (18th); PK: 81.5% (5th)
2014 Playoffs: Did not qualify (lost in tie-break game to Prince Albert)
2013-14 Top Scorers:
Conner Bleackley          71gp-29g-39a-68pts
Rhyse Dieno                 65gp-25g-41a-66pts
Aspen Sterzer               70gp-29g-24a-53pts
The Red Deer Rebels narrowly missed the playoffs last season, losing to the Prince Albert Raiders in a tiebreaker game for the eighth and final playoff berth.  This year, the Rebels return many of their key players who will be looking to move the team up the standings.  Conner Bleackley, the Rebels’ captain, is back to lead the offense.  The 18-year-old from High River, AB, scored 29 goals and a team-leading 68 points last year, but is also a tremendous two-way player who is strong in his own end.  Sophomores Adam Musil, Presten Kopeck and Grayson Pawlenchuk will be counted on to take big roles in the offense, while veterans Wyatt Johnson and Brooks Maxwell will also be key up front.  18-year-old Haydn Fleury heads up a strong Rebels’ defence corps that also features veteran standouts Nick Charif and Kayle Doetzel as well as off-season acquisition Brett Cote.  In goal, the Rebels will miss the outstanding netminding of Patrik Bartosak.  17-year-old Taz Burman and 18-year-old Rylan Toth will form the goaltending tandem this year.  Burman got into 17 games last year as Bartosak’s back-up.

Player to Watch: Adam Musil
17-year-old power forward Adam Musil comes into his second season in the WHL looking to fill a big role up front for the Rebels.  A big-bodied, strong and skilled pivot, Musil impressed as a rookie last year, notching 11 goals and 29 points in 60 games.  He also played for Team Pacific in the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and helped Canada’s Under-18 team win a Gold medal in the 2014 Memorial for Ivan Hlinka tournament in August.  Listed by NHL Central Scouting in their ‘Ones to Watch’ list, expect plenty of eyes to be on Musil as the season goes on.

Hitmen finish pre-season at 4-2

The Calgary Hitmen exploded for four goals in the first period, including a pair of markers just 23 second apart, en-route to a 4-1 victory over the Kootenay Ice Sunday afternoon in Coleman at the Crowsnest Sports Complex.

The victory was the second in as many days for the Hitmen who finish the Western Hockey League pre-season schedule with a record of 4-2.

Landon Welykholowa and Pavel Karnaukhov both had a goal and an assist to lead the Hitmen attack while Jake Bean and Mike Winther rounded out the scoring.

Kootenay outshot Calgary 25-16 but Evan Johnson turned in a solid goaltending performance making 24 saves to pick up the win.

Austin Wellsby had the lone goal for the Ice in a game where all the scoring came in the first period.

The Hitmen penalty killers played a key role in the victory holding the Kootenay powerplay to just one goal on nine chances while Calgary was 1-4 with the extra attacker.

The Hitmen will now get ready to open their 72-game 2014-15 WHL regular season schedule on Saturday, September 20 with the Adrenalin Source for Sports Home Opener against the Red Deer Rebels.  Game time is 7:00 pm at Scotiabank Saddledome.

Calgary Hitmen season tickets for the 20th anniversary season are available now at the Scotiabank Saddledome box office.  In appreciation for the continued support the Hitmen receive from the community, the purchase or renewal of select 2014-15 season ticket packages will include a complimentary premium 20th anniversary jersey.  For more ticket information or to order a limited edition jersey, visit www.hitmen20.com or call 403-777-4646.

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