Saskatoon -- the south bridge has officially been named after Gordie Howe. Ceremony Sunday with the Howe family. #yxe pic.twitter.com/UoNsREtsco— TheStarPhoenix.com (@TheStarPhoenix) September 22, 2016
This weekend will probably make a good case for the WHL starting its season at least a week later and playing 68 games instead of 72.— Scott Sepich (@SSepich) September 23, 2016
Some opening day notes . . .
The Prince George Cougars are in Victoria to open with a doubleheader against the Royals and will have F Kody McDonald and F Brad Morrison in their lineup. McDonald had been with the NHL’s New York Islanders, while Morrison was with the New York Rangers. . . .
The Victoria Royals still have four players at NHL camps — F Matt Phillips (Calgary Flames), D Chaz Reddekopp (Los Angeles Kings), F Tyler Soy (Anaheim Ducks) and F Jack Walker (Toronto Maple Leafs). . . . The Royals did get back D Ralph Jarratt from the New Jersey Devils. . . .
The Moose Jaw Warriors have one of their two goaltenders back in the fold. Brody Willms, 18, returned after a stint with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. Veteran Zach Sawchenko remains with the Nashville Predators. . . . The Warriors also have G Adam Evanoff, a 10th-round selection from the 2015 bantam draft, on their roster. He’s a 16-year-old from Penticton. . . .
The Kelowna Rockets remain without two NHL first-round draft selections. F Nick Merkley, taken 30th overall in 2015, remains with the Arizona Coyotes, while D Lucas Johansen, selected 28th overall in 2016, is with the Washington Capitals. Merkley, of course, is coming off knee surgery that prematurely ended his 2015-16 season. . . .
The Kamloops Blazers, who go home-and--home with the Kelowna Rockets this weekend, had nine players in NHL camps, but six of those players have returned. Still in the NHL are G Connor Ingram (Tampa Bay Lightning), F Deven Sideroff (Anaheim Ducks) and F Garrett Pilon (Washington Capitals). . . . The Blazers and Rockets are to meet Friday in Kamloops and Saturday in Kelowna. . . .
The Vancouver Giants will open their first season at the Langley Events Centre without F Tyler Benson and F Thomas Foster. . . . Benson, who suffered a shoulder injury during the WHL exhibition season, remains with the Edmonton Oilers and apparently has been cleared to resume full practices. . . . Foster was returned to Vancouver by the Oilers but came back with an undisclosed injury. . . . The Giants also got D Dmitri Osipov back from the Chicago Blackhawks. . . . Still in NHL camps are F Ty Ronning (New York Rangers), F Radovan Bondra (Chicago) and F Darian Skeoch (Anaheim Ducks). . . . The Giants may end up dressing only 16 skaters when they open against the visiting Everett Silvertips tonight. . . .
The Red Deer Rebels will have F Grayson Pawlenchuk and D Colton Bobyk on hand as they open the season at home to the Edmonton Oil Kings on Friday night. Pawlenchuk was in camp with the Dallas Stars, while Bobyk was with the New York Rangers. . . . But the Rebels don’t expect to see F Brandon Hagel (Buffalo Sabres), D Josh Mahura (Anaheim Ducks), F Adam Musil (St. Louis Blues) or F Michael Spacek (Winnipeg Jets). They may also be without F Jeff de Wit (Detroit Red Wings). . . .
The host Regina Pats and Prince Albert Raiders could be missing as many as 10 players when they open the regular season Friday night at the Brandt Centre. . . . The Pats are without F Adam Brooks (Toronto Maple Leafs), F Sam Steel (Anaheim Ducks), D Connor Hobbs (Washington Capitals), F Austin Wagner (Los Angeles Kings) and D Serbey Zborovskiy (New York Rangers). . . . Still missing, at least as of Thursday evening, from Prince Albert are F Reid Gardiner (Pittsburgh Penguins), D Brendan Guhle (Buffalo Sabres), G Rylan Parenteau (Vancouver Canucks), D Vojtech Budik (Buffalo) and F Luke Coleman (Detroit Red Wings). . . .
The Edmonton Oil Kings have F Lane Bauer and D Aaron Irving back in camp. Both are expected to play Friday against the host Red Deer Rebels. . . . Bauer and Irving both had been with the Edmonton Oilers. . . .
The Saskatoon Blades will be missing at least three veterans as they open Friday night against the Broncos in Swift Current. F Ryan Graham returned from the Ottawa Senators with a leg injury, while F Cam Hebig has an undisclosed injury. . . . D Libor Hajek remains in camp with the Tampa Bay Lightning. . . .
The Swift Current Broncos have settled on their goaltending tandem, choosing to go with Taz Burman, who was acquired last season from the Seattle Thunderbirds, and Travis Child. . . . Burman, 20, is preparing for his fourth WHL season, the first three of which were with the Red Deer Rebels. . . . Child, 19, is into his third season with the Broncos. . . . The Broncos have released G Bailey Brkin from their roster. Brkin, 17, is from Sherwood Park, Alta. Last season, he got into 23 games with the Coeur d’Alene Hockey Academy prep team of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League. . . .
F Joachim Blichfeld has been returned to the Portland Winterhawks by the NHL’s San Jose Sharks. Blichfeld, an 18-year-old from Denmark, was a seventh-round pick by the Sharks in the NHL’s 2016 draft. He is going into his first WHL season. . . . The Winterhawks also have Finnish D Henri Jokiharju, 17, and veteran F Rodrigo Abols of Latvia on their roster. Abols, 20, is in camp with the NHL’s Vancouver Canucks. . . . With WHL teams allowed to keep a maximum of two import players, the Winterhawks will have to make a decision of Abols should return.
Bob McKenzie, the original hockey insider, has released his top 15 preseason rankings of players eligible for the NHL’s 2017 draft. Until further notice, he says he is referring to this one as The Nolan Patrick Draft, so you know that the Brandon Wheat Kings centre, who is into his third season, is No. 1. By the way, Brandon owner Kelly McCrimmon has told McKenzie that Patrick, who missed all of the exhibition season after undergoing sports hernia surgery in July, will play Friday night against the Warriors in Moose Jaw. . . . McKenzie’s rankings are right here, and they include three WHLers in the top 15. . . . Just let me say that I fully expect Tri-City Americans F Michael Rasmussen, who is at No. 13, to climb up some of these lists before the draft gets here.
The Prince George Cougars have signed F Brendan Kochanski, a 6-foot-3, 205-pounder who was a free-agent invitee to training camp. A Winnipegger, Kochanski, 18, played the last two seasons with the midget AAA Winnipeg Thrashers. Last season, he had eight goals and 10 assists in 37 games, along with 136 penalty minutes. . . . The Cougars are carrying 32 players, including three goaltenders and 11 defencemen. . . .
The Brandon Wheat Kings have released veteran F Jaeger White, an 18-year-old from Medicine Hat who was a third-round pick by the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the 2013 bantam draft. He began last season with Lethbridge, putting up a goal and two assists in 23 games. He then was pointless in three games with the Everett Silvertips. With Brandon, he had one assist in 13 games. . . . Brandon now has 16 forwards on its roster.
The Moose Jaw Warriors have dropped F Tyler Smithies, 16, from their roster. A list player from Calgary. Smithies is expected to return to the midget AAA Leduc Oil Kings. He had 12 points, including five goals, in 33 games with the Oil Kings last season. . . .
F Adam Musil has been named captain of the Red Deer Rebels, although he still is in camp with the St. Louis Blues. F Scott Eansor will wear the ‘C’ with the Seattle Thunderbirds and F Wyatt Sloboshan is the new captain of the Saskatoon Blades. . . .
F Chase Lang, who is eligible to return for his 20-year-old season with the Vancouver Giants, is in camp with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild, but is listed as being out week-to-week with a back injury.
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No Games Scheduled.
FRIDAY GAMES (all times local):
Kootenay at Calgary, 7 p.m.
Kelowna at Kamloops, 7 p.m.
Medicine Hat at Lethbridge, 7 p.m.
Brandon at Moose Jaw, 7 p.m.
Edmonton at Red Deer, 7 p.m.
Prince Albert at Regina, 7 p.m.
Saskatoon at Swift Current, 7 p.m.
Everett at Vancouver, 7:30 p.m.
Prince George at Victoria, 7:05 p.m.
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