Wednesday, September 17, 2014
The WHL’s 49th regular-season gets started on Friday.
Here is a look at the Eastern Conference’s 12 teams, thanks to reporters who cover the WHL (teams appear in order of last season's finish; the Western Conference will appear tomorrow):
EDMONTON OIL KINGS
Last season: 50-19-3; won WHL championship and Memorial Cup.
Head coach: Steve Hamilton (first season as head coach, fifth with team).
Assistant coach: Ryan Marsh (first season).
Key losses: D Cody Corbett, F Riley Kieser and F Reid Petryk graduated. LW Mitch Moroz (Edmonton Oilers), D Griffin Reinhart (New York Islanders) and F Henrik Samuelsson (Arizona Coyotes) are likely to stick in the pros.
The 20-year-olds: F Edgars Kulda, D Blake Orban, G Tyler Santos and D Ashton Sautner. Kulda (Coyotes) may stick in the pros. Santos is competing with freshman Patrick Dea for the backup goalie job.
The imports: The Oil Kings are one over the limit, with three – veterans Kulda, a Latvian, and F Mads Eller, a Dane, along with Russian newcomer Marsel Ibragimov, 17. If neither Kulda nor Eller (Dallas Stars) sticks in the pros, one will have to be traded.
Key returnees: 2014 NHL draft picks F Brandon Baddock (New Jersey Devils) D Aaron Irving (Nashville Predators) D Dysin Mayo (Coyotes) and F Brett Pollock (Stars) all are expected back. The team will go as far as G Tristan Jarry, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2013 and a candidate to be Canada’s World Junior starter, takes them.
New Faces: F Brayden Brown, F Davis Koch, F Garan Magnes and D Chance Patterson are among the next crop of Oil Kings, players who dressed for a game or two last season and now get an opportunity to become regulars.
Watch for: The immediate future of the Oil Kings rests largely on the pro fate of Curtis Lazar (Ottawa Senators), the heart and soul of the team, who may or may not make the grade in the NHL. If he returns, he’ll be the team’s captain and top offensive threat. If not, the entire complexion of the team changes.
Noteworthy: The Oil Kings have half-a-dozen players in pro camps. At their home-opener Saturday, when the Memorial Cup banner is raised to the Rexall Place rafters, the Oil Kings’ lineup could feature as few as four players who saw the ice in their championship victory in May.
Did you know: In 40 career WHL playoff games, F Luke Bertolucci has eight goals, exactly as many as he has in 104 regular-season games. After scoring six times in the last regular season, he picked up six goals in the 2014 playoffs and scored twice in the Memorial Cup.
The prognosis: The roster turnover is so great that it’s almost impossible to see the Oil Kings making another championship run, but a good nucleus of young talent will keep them competitive. Everything else depends on Jarry and Lazar.
— BRIAN SWANE/Edmonton Sun
Last season: 39-26-7; first in East Division, swept in first round.
Head coach/Sr. VP of hockey operations: John Paddock (first season).
Assistants: Dave Struch (ninth in WHL, first with Pats), Darrin McKechnie (first), Rob Muntain (goalies, fourth).
Key losses: F Boston Leier, F Dyson Stevenson, D Jesse Zgraggen (all graduated), F Chandler Stephenson (signed, Washington), D Dmitry Sinitsyn (signed, KHL).
The 20-year-olds: F Patrick D’Amico, F Logan McVeigh, F Braden Christoffer.
The imports: Sophomore F Max Kammerer and freshman D Sergey Zborovskiy.
Key returnees: F Morgan Klimchuk, an NHL first-rounder and two-time 30-goal man, is poised to join the WHL’s elite. . . . His primary scoring support comes from fellow wingers Connor Gay and Dryden Hunt, both of whom are coming off breakout seasons. . . . Kyle Burroughs and Colby Williams – the only true veterans on the blueline – are expected to log big minutes and chip in offensively. . . . G Daniel Wapple is ready to excel in his first season as a full-time starter.
New faces: F Sam Steel, the second-overall pick in the 2013 bantam draft, headlines a rookie class that also includes fowards Luc Smith, Jared McAmmond, Rykr Cole and Colton Kroeker, plus D-men James Hilsendager and Ryan Krushen.
Watch for: Steel and Zborovskiy to play major roles as rookies. . . . The Pats to go young with an eye toward the future.
Just notes: Klimchuk (assuming he returns from the Calgary Flames) is a strong candidate for the Canadian world junior team and could also be trade bait prior to the Jan. 10 deadline. . . . Long-time owner Russ Parker sold the Pats in the spring to five local businessmen known collectively as Queen City Sports and Entertainment Group.
Did you know?: Paddock is making his first foray into the junior ranks after more than 30 years in the AHL and NHL.
The prognosis: The Pats are too young and have lost too many key players to challenge for a second straight East Division title. However – barring a complete fire sale – they should have enough talent to compete for one of the final playoff spots in the conference.
— GREG HARDER/Regina Leader-Post
Last season: 48-17-3-4; second in Central Division, seeded third in Eastern Conference, lost in first round.
Head coach: Mark French (first season).
Assistants: Darcy Wakaluk (10th season), Joel Otto (seventh season), Brent Kisio (seventh season).
Key losses: G Chris Driedger, who will play in the Ottawa Senators’ organization, and F Brady Brassart, D Jaynen Rissling and D Alex Roach, all of whom graduated.
The 20-year-olds: D Kenton Helgesen, F Mike Winther, F Adam Tambellini, F Connor Rankin.
The imports: F Pavel Karnaukhov (2014 CHL import, first round), F Radel Fazleev (2013 CHL import, first round), F Pavlo Padakin (2012 CHL import, first round).
Key returnees: F Jake Virtanen was selected sixth overall by the Vancouver Canucks in June’s NHL draft. Edmonton Oilers prospect Greg Chase will battle Virtanen for team scoring lead.
New faces: F Beck Malenstyn, Karnaukhov, F Jordan Stallard, F Taylor Sanheim, F Carsen Twarynski, D Kirk Johnson, D Marshall Donald, D Jake Bean, G Evan Johnson, G Brandon Kegler.
Watch for: The Hitmen to rebound after an embarrassing first-round upset last spring.
Just notes: French coached a KHL expansion team, Medvescak Zagreb, into the playoffs in 2013-14. . . . G Mack Shields was 20-3-0 as a backup last season.
Did you know?: The Hitmen have qualified for the post-season in 16 of the last 17 seasons.
Prognosis: Virtanen, once recovered from off-season shoulder surgery, will become the league’s most dominant power forward and should help the Hitmen win the division and compete for top spot in the Eastern Conference.
— SCOTT FISHER/Calgary Sun
MEDICINE HAT TIGERS
Last season: 44-24-3-1; fourth in Eastern Conference, lost in conference final.
General manager/head coach: Shaun Clouston (fifth season as head
coach, third as GM).
Assistant coaches: Joe Frazer (fifth season), Jerrid Sauer (first
Key losses: F Curtis Valk, who led the Tigers in goals (47) and
points (92), won 11 awards, including MVP, at team banquet. F Jacob Doty and D Dylan Bredo graduated.
The 20-year-olds: G Marek Langhamer, G Jared Rathjen, D Tommy
Vanelli, D Kyle Becker, D Tyler Lewington. Rathjen didn’t play in
the pre-season due to undisclosed medical problems and is to see a cardiologist in Calgary today. Vanelli (St. Louis) may play in the AHL.
The imports: Langhamer (Czech Republic), who may end up in the Arizona Coyotes organization, and F Markus Eisenschmid (Germany).
Key returnees: Vanelli, Langhamer, F Trevor Cox, F Cole Sanford, Lewington, F Miles Koules, F Steven Owre. Koules and Lewington are in the Washington Capitals’ main camp, while D Ty Stanton, 19, is with the Detroit Red Wings.
New faces: Rathjen, acquired from the Vancouver Giants. D David Quenneville, F Mark Rassel and F Mason Shaw are among the freshmen battling for spots.
Watch for: The Tigers to make a few moves depending on the status of Langhamer, who is signed and in camp with the Coyotes.
Noteworthy: D Connor Hobbs was a member of Canada’s under-18 team that won gold at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in August. So was Clouston, who was a last-minute addition as an assistant coach.
Did you know: The Tigers will play their 45th and final season in the
Medicine Hat Arena. Next season, they’ll be in the $61-million regional events centre that is under construction.
The prognosis: Medicine Hat will again aim to host a playoff series
or two, presuming Langhamer returns and Cox and Koules have expected big seasons. After 12 straight seasons of reaching the playoffs, the Tigers’ fans have come to expect nothing less.
— RYAN McCRACKEN and SEAN ROONEY/Medicine Hat News
SWIFT CURRENT BRONCOS
Last season: 38-25-3-6; fifth in Eastern Conference, lost in first round of playoffs.
Head coach: Mark Lamb (sixth season as coach and general manager).
Assistant coaches: Jamie Heward (third season), Josh Dixon (first season).
Key losses: G Eetu Laurikainen, F Nathan Burns and F Graham Black graduated.
The 20-year-olds: F Coda Gordon and F Colby Cave reached 70 points last season. Stephen Shmoorkoff is a longshot to hold down the sixth D spot, leaving the final spot to F Andrew Johnson.
The imports: Finnish D Julius Honka (16G, 40A) again will quarterback a potent power play. Swede Andreas Schumacher, 18, was selected in the 2014 CHL import draft and impressed during camp with his speed and shot.
Key returnees: Cave, Gordon and Jay Merkley (34G, 32A) lead the forward group, with big things also expected from sophomores Glenn Gawdin (10G, 12A) and Jake DeBrusk (15G, 24A). Honka is part of a D corps that also includes Dillon Heatherington, Brett Lernout and Brycen Martin. All four are NHL draft picks, none taken after the third round. Landon Bow takes over for Laurikainen in goal after two years as understudy to one of the league's best.
New faces: F Tyler Steenbergen and F Cole Johnson (12th and 34th overall, 2013) stood out in camp and will push a number of veterans for playing time. F Luca Leone, acquired from Vancouver for D Bobby Zinkan, and Schumacher, along with 1997 F Tyler Adams and 1995 F Austin Calladine also will start the season in Swift Current. Travis Child makes his WHL debut as Bow’s backup.
Watch for: Upgrades to the 20-year-olds and goaltending if Johnson or Bow struggle, as expectations are sky-high this season.
Noteworthy: Cave has played in 148 straight WHL games. He has missed only two games since joining the Broncos full-time in 2011-12.
Did you know: The team's 38 victories last season were the most of Lamb's five seasons. Honka (14th overall to Dallas) was the Broncos' first first-round NHL draft pick since F Nathan Smith (Vancouver) in 2000.
The prognosis: The Broncos should once again battle with Brandon for the regular-season crown in another weak East Division. Goaltending will determine how they fare come playoffs, but the team believes it’s a contender and anything short of the conference final will be a crushing disappointment.
— BRAD BROWN/Prairie Post
Last season: 39-28-2-3; sixth in Eastern Conference, lost in second round of playoffs.
Head coach: Ryan McGill (third season in second stint; previously coached Ice from 1998-2002).
Assistant coaches: Jay Henderson (second season); Mike Bergren (goaltending coach, third season); Wayne Dougherty (skills and development coach, first season).
Key losses: F Sam Reinhart led the Ice with 105 points in 2013-14. After being awarded the Four Broncos Trophy as WHL player of the year, Reinhart was drafted second overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2014 NHL entry draft. The 2014 CHL sportsman of the year is signed and may stick with the Sabres. F Tim Bozon (62 points) is expected to move on to the AHL after recovering from Neisseria meningitis. D Jagger Dirk graduated.
The 20-year-olds: F Austin Vetterl, F Levi Cable, G Mackenzie Skapski. Skapski could stick with the New York Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford.
The imports: F Alexander Chirva (Russia), D Rinat Valiev (Russia).
Key returnees: F Jaedon Descheneau, F Luke Philp, D Tanner Faith, Valiev. All four are at NHL camps, but expected to return.
New faces: Chirva, who was picked in the 2014 CHL import draft; rookie forwards Austin Wellsby, Vince Loschiavo, Jared Legien looking for openings. Rookie blueliners Cale Fleury, Bryan Allbee, Mark O'Shaughnessy remain in the mix.
Watch for: Philp to take over the reigns of this club, both in terms of leadership and offence, with the expected move to the NHL by former captain Reinhart.
Noteworthy: Fleury was invited to Hockey Canada's U-17 development camp this summer; he is the younger brother of Carolina Hurricanes 2014 first-round pick Haydn Fleury.
Did you know: The Ice have made the WHL playoffs in 16 consecutive seasons. The team will look to build on its WHL record of 15 consecutive regular seasons with a record of .500 or better.
The prognosis: The Ice should build on that WHL regular-season record, while also extending the playoff-appearance run. But there is no replacing a player like Reinhart. How far the team goes will depend on the emergence of youngsters like Fleury, Legien and Loschiavo.
— TAYLOR ROCCA/Cranbrook Daily Townsman
BRANDON WHEAT KINGS
Last season: 34-29-6-3; seventh in conference, eliminated in second round of playoffs.
Head coach: Kelly McCrimmon (12th season as coach, 26th as general manager).
Assistant coaches: Darren Ritchie (eighth season), David Anning (third), Matt Cockell (goaltending, sixth).
Key loss: Ryan Pulock, Brandon’s top defenceman three straight seasons, is set to play professionally as a 20-year-old after being chosen 15th overall by the New York Islanders in the 2013 NHL draft.
The 20-year-olds: D Eric Roy (Calgary Flames), F Peter Quenneville (Columbus Blue Jackets) and Czech F Richard Nejezchleb (New York Rangers) were all in pro camps, but are unsigned. If all three come back, Brandon could have one of the top trios in the WHL.
The imports: Latvian F Rihards Bukarts (28G, 26A) and Russian freshman D Ivan Provorov are holding the spots for now. If Nejezchleb returns, either he or Bukarts will have to be traded, or Provorov will be released. A freshman import can’t be traded.
Key returnees: F John Quenneville (25G, 33A) and F Jayce Hawryluk (24G, 40A) were picked 30th overall by the New Jersey Devils and 32nd by the Florida Panthers, respectively, in the 2014 NHL draft. . . . F Tim McGauley (21G, 39A) is one of the team’s best two-way forwards. . . . G Jordan Papirny was stellar in last season’s playoffs (.914 save pct.). . . . D Ryan Pilon (7G, 29A) was Pulock’s understudy and will handle increased responsibility.
New faces: F Nolan Patrick and D Kale Clague were picked fourth and sixth, respectively, in the 2013 WHL bantam draft. . . . F Tanner Kaspick was the top goal-scorer in this summer’s Canadian under-17 development camp.
Watch for: The Wheat Kings will score plenty of goals, but if preventing them becomes a problem, expect a trade for veteran help.
Noteworthy: Provorov is new to the WHL, but played the last three years in the United States.
Did you know: Hawryluk is the second Wheat King drafted 32nd overall by Florida, joining G Tyler Plante (2005 draft).
The prognosis: With abundant young talent, and 2014 No.1 overall pick Stelio Mattheos arriving next season, the Wheat Kings are poised to join the WHL’s elite. With some tweaking, that could happen this season.
— ROB HENDERSON/Brandon Sun
PRINCE ALBERT RAIDERS
Last season: 35-32-3-2; eighth in Eastern Conference, lost in first round of playoffs.
Head coach: Cory Clouston (second season).
Assistant coaches: Tim Leonard (third season), Dave Manson (second season as associate coach).
Key losses: G Cole Cheveldave and F Collin Valcourt (graduated), F Chance Braid (traded to Prince George), F Carson Perreaux (retired).
The 20-year-olds: The Raiders are juggling four – F Dakota Conroy, F Jayden Hart, F Calder Brooks and D Sawyer Lange.
The imports: Should F Leon Draisaitl stick with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, the Raiders will move forward with two Czechs – F Simon Stransky and D Tomas Andrlik.
Key returnees: Raiders GM Bruno Campese is working under the assumption that NHL prospects Draisaitl and D Josh Morrissey (Winnipeg) won’t return. Lange will be leaned on to provide offence from the back end and anchor the power play, while F Reid Gardiner will compete for top-line minutes. G Nick McBride looks to establish himself as a bona fide starter after stealing the net from Cheveldave near the end of last season.
New faces: D Hunter Warner provides a big-body presence that was somewhat absent from the Raiders’ blue line last season. F Jordan Tkatch is a versatile forward coming off a 46-point season with Prince George.
Watch for: Gardiner to have a big season and show NHL clubs why they were crazy to pass on him in the 2014 draft. A promising core of 1997s in Stransky, McBride, F Matteo Gennaro and D Brendan Guhle to shine a bright light on the Raiders’ future.
Noteworthy: Last season, McBride was the first 16-year-old goaltender since 2001 to be on the team’s roster full-time.
Did you know: Clouston has never missed the post-season as a head coach in the WHL.
The prognosis: If Morrissey and Draisaitl return, the Raiders will contend for the East Division crown. If not, the Raiders just might have enough depth to eke out a playoff spot as McBride breaks out as one of the league’s elite goaltenders.
— ANDREW SCHOPP/Prince Albert Daily Herald
RED DEER REBELS
Last season: 35-32-1-4; ninth in Eastern Conference, missed playoffs.
General manager/head coach: Brent Sutter (11th season).
Associate coach: Jeff Truitt (third season).
Assistant coaches: Steve O’Rourke (second season), Taylor Dakers (goaltenders, second season).
Key losses: G Patrik Bartosak, whose .924 save percentage was third-best in the league, and F Rhyse Dieno ( 25-41-66), to graduation. F Aspen Sterzer, 20, will attend university.
The 20-year-olds: F Brooks Maxwell; D Brett Cote, acquired from Victoria; Devan Fafard, who moves from defence to forward.
The imports: Latvian D Hugo Jansons and Slovak D Mario Grman, both 17, were selected in the 2014 CHL import draft.
Key returnees: D Haydn Fleury and F Conner Bleackley were selected in the first round of the 2014 NHL entry draft; Maxwell and F Presten Kopeck are candidates to wear a letter; F Wyatt Johnson, D Kayle Doetzel and F Evan Polei were invited to NHL camps and are back with the Rebels; F Grayson Pawlenchuk and F Adam Musil are expected to have breakout sophomore seasons.
New faces: F Jeff de Wit, the club’s first pick in the 2013 bantam draft and D Josh Mahura, taken in the second round; Cote; G Ryan Toth, 18; Grman and Jansons; D Austin Strand, F Brayden Burke and F Mason McCarty, all 17.
Watch for: Toth and returnee Taz Burman, 17, to share goaltending duties almost equally early in the season.
Noteworthy: Musil was a member of Canada’s U18 team that won gold at the Memorial of Ivan Hlinka tournament in August.
Did you know: The Rebels haven’t advanced past the second round of the playoffs since 2004.
The prognosis: The team will score more in 2014-15 and the defence is much improved in terms of skill and agility. The question is: Can Burman and Toth supply the goaltending necessary to make a move up the standings? If so, the Rebels will qualify for post-season play.
— GREG MEACHEM/Red Deer Advocate
MOOSE JAW WARRIORS
Last season: 21-42-3-6; 10th in the Eastern Conference.
Head coach: Tim Hunter (first season).
Assistant coach: Mark O’Leary (third season).
Key losses: F Sam Fioretti and D Jesse Forsberg graduated. The Warriors also traded veteran forwards Colton McCarthy, Josh Uhrich and Miles Warkentine, while veteran F Bryson Gore opted not to return.
The 20-year-olds: Forwards Tanner Eberle, Jack Rodewald and Jaimen Yakubowski are expected to beat out RW Scott Cooke.
The imports: Russian D Alexey Sleptsov had a strong IIHF World Under-18s and will look to contribute more in his second season. Tall Czech F Jiri Smejkal was taken 12th overall in the 2014 CHL import draft.
Key returnees: F Brayden Point had 91 points last season, the most since Troy Brouwer led the league in scoring in 2005-06. Goaltending tandem Justin Paulic and Zach Sawchenko will be leaned upon heavily. Veteran defencemen Spenser Jensen, Dallas Valentine and Reid Zalitach will be asked to assume larger roles.
New faces: The Warriors have high hopes for towering D Austin Adam, 19, who came over from Everett. Noah Gregor (Alberta midget AAA scoring champion) and former first-round bantam pick Brett Howden (younger brother of Quinton Howden) – both 16 – will be expected to chip in offensively. Yakubowski and Kolten Olynek add to the depth up front.
Watch for: Forwards Howden, Gregor and Jayden Halbgewachs to play significant roles in their freshman seasons.
Noteworthy: Sawchenko started in goal as Canada’s under-18s won the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament over the summer.
Did you know: Head coach Mike Stothers left over the summer after three years. He now is head coach of the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs.
The prognosis: The Warriors revamped their offence in a bid to end their two-year playoff absence. They’re going to need increased production and strong goaltending to compensate for an inexperienced defence. Anything less than a return to the playoffs would be a massive disappointment, though they aren’t likely to rise above the middle of the pack in the Eastern Conference.
— MATTHEW GOURLIE/Moose Jaw Times-Herald
Last season: 16-51-2-3; last in the East Division, 11th in the Eastern Conference.
Head coach: Bob Woods (first season).
Assistant coach: Dean Brockman (first season).
Key losses: D MacKenzie Johnston, D Dylan Busenius, F Connor Sanvido to graduation. G Alex Moodie was dealt to Spokane. D Clayton Kirichenko was traded to Vancouver.
The 20-year-olds: F Brett Stovin is the longest-serving Blade with 191 regular-season games to his credit. G Troy Trombley ended last season as the starter. F Chase Clayton also is in the mix.
The imports: Russian F Nikita Scherbak was the Blades’ leading scorer with 78 points. Russian F Nikita Soshnin and Swedish D Amil Krupic were added in the 2014 CHL import draft. One will have to be dropped if Scherbak, a first-round pick by the Montreal Canadiens, returns from the NHL. Or, they could trade Scherbak.
Key returnees: Possibly Scherbak. D Nelson Nogier missed half of last season with a shoulder injury. He’ll be the No. 1 defenceman. F Ryan Graham, who earned an invite to Minnesota Wild camp. Draft-eligible F Cameron Hebig.
New faces: Freshman F Wyatt Sloboshan, acquired from Swift Current on New Year’s Day. D Jordan Thomson finished the season in Saskatoon and now is a full timer. Former first-round bantam picks Ty Mappin and Alex Forsberg – the top choice in 2010 – are key additions up front.
Watch for: The Blades to make upgrades to their goaltending and 20-year-old spots. The possible trade of Scherbak.
Noteworthy: Nogier was drafted in the fourth round (101st overall) by the Winnipeg Jets in June. He became the first born and raised player from the Saskatoon area to be selected in the NHL draft as a Blade since G Michael Garnett (third round, 80th overall, Atlanta Thrashers, 2001).
Did you know: Long before Woods coached in the NHL as an assistant with Washington and Anaheim, he was a defenceman with the Brandon Wheat Kings (1987-89).
The prognosis: The Blades, who played host to the 2013 Memorial Cup, underwent a full-scale rebuild last season and posted the second-worst record in their 50-year history. They’ve improved, but almost certainly not enough to make the playoffs.
— DANIEL NUGENT-BOWMAN/Saskatoon StarPhoenix
Last season: 12-55-2-3; the poorest record in the 60-team CHL.
Head coach: Drake Berehowsky (second season).
Assistant coaches: Bryan Maxwell (first season), Mike Craig (second season), Jeff Battah (goaltenders, second season).
Key losses: F Josh Derko (11G, 5A), the captain, graduated and 19-year-old D Macoy Erkamps didn’t report to training camp, demanding a trade.
The 20-year-olds: D Nick Walters, D Tyler Bell and F Riley Sheen. Sheen (knee) is on the limp, but should return soon to provide needed offence. Bell was one of the team’s few shot-blockers.
Key returnees: F Reid Duke (15G, 25A), who held out of training camp, and a healthy F Tyler Wong (17G, 14A) will need to stay healthy and motivated because this team needs help up front. Duke was drafted by the Minnesota Wild (6th round, 169th overall) then skipped Lethbridge’s training camp, hoping for a trade that never happened.
New faces: Start with Maxwell, a former Canes GM/head coach, who provides the only experienced hand on the bench. The two-time Memorial Cup-champion coach will handle the defence and is the first public relations victory for the organization in years. . . . F Jaeger White is only 16 but was the most electrifying player in the preseason. A speedy forward with something to prove after being passed by 71 times in the 2013 bantam draft, White plays like an angry young man — with loads of skill. . . . Another rookie, G Stuart Skinner, will be the team’s starting goalie, based on training camp hype alone. Skinner, who doesn’t turn 16 until Nov. 1, had a four-game tryout at the end of last season. He’ll battle with another rookie, 18-year-old Zac Robidoux, for starts but Robidoux has even less experience (two games with Medicine Hat last season) than Skinner.
Watch for: Duke, since most observers feel he came back because of a promise to be dealt. Otherwise, keep an eye on Skumatov, who looks like a dynamic offensive threat with plenty of grease on a team lacking both.
Noteworthy: The Hurricanes were in financial distress during last season and the WHL got involved in the off-season, telling Lethbridge City Council that if certain targets weren’t met, there would be consequences. All the ominous pronouncement did was enhance the soap opera surrounding the Hurricanes.
Did you know: Maxwell won the 1987 Memorial Cup with Medicine Hat, then won it again in 1991 with the Spokane Chiefs before overseeing a WHL championship team in Lethbridge in 1997. He was fired by the Hurricanes in 2002-03.
The prognosis: Another struggling season but at least there appears to be a plan in Lethbridge, as the defence has added height — with heft coming as those players age. The forwards continue to be on the small side, but White and the two Russians should add some excitement while the management tries to avoid the league’s murky admonishments.
— LETHBRIDGE HERALD