Sunday, September 18, 2016

Doing some scattershooting . . . Giants say season-ticket sales are up . . . Wheaties, Oil Kings trim rosters

We’re scattershooting as the WHL approaches the start of its 51st regular season . . . 
1. Will the Everett Silvertips qualify for the playoffs for a 14th straight season? They have made it in each of their first 13 seasons in the WHL.
2. Will Everett head coach Kevin Constantine get a new contract before this season is over? He is the only head coach to get the Silvertips out of the opening round.
3. F Nick Henry of the Regina Pats was the MJHL’s rookie of the year with his hometown Portage Terriers last season. He chose to join the Pats, rather than go the NCAA route, and then lit up the preseason with five goals and six assists in eight games. Will he be able to continue that pace in the real games?
4. It will be interesting to watch Regina GM/head coach John Paddock’s game plan unfold. It’s based on reaching the 2018 Memorial Cup, a tournament the Pats should get to play in as the host team. It will be the trophy’s 100th anniversary and the Pats’ 100th season. Paddock landed Henry, 17, and F Bryan Lockner, 16, who also was thought to be NCAA-bound. Is F Tyson Jost, 18, paying close attention as he begins his freshman season at the U of North Dakota? The Colorado Avalanche selected Jost with the 10th overall pick in the NHL’s 2016 draft. The Pats acquired his rights in a deal with Everett.
5. Brandon F Nolan Patrick was the WHL’s playoff MVP as the Wheat Kings won the Ed Chynoweth Cup last spring. But he was injured in the Eastern Conference final and needed surgery in July to repair a sports hernia. Seen as the consensus No. 1 pick in the NHL’s 2017 draft, he returned to full practice last week but has yet to play in a game. It will be interesting to see how he progresses once he gets back in the lineup.
6. F Matt Phillips of the Victoria Royals is the WHL’s most exciting player. Last season, he put up 76 points, including 37 goals, in 72 games. It is going to be fun watching the 5-foot-6, 140-pound whirling dervish in his sophomore season.
7. Peter Anholt, the GM of the Lethbridge Hurricanes, was thrilled when he was able to acquire D Brennan Menell from the Vancouver Giants the other day. Menell put up 53 points, 46 of them assists, in 69 games with a struggling Vancouver team last season. What will he do with the Hurricanes, a team that has some firepower up front?
8. A year ago, the Hurricanes were coming off a 20-44-8 season. Last season, with Anholt in charge and newcomer Brent Kisio running the bench, they were the WHL’s surprise team, finishing at 46-24-2. How will they do this season when they won’t be able to surprise the other teams?
9. F Tyler Benson of the Vancouver Giants was able to play in only 30 games last season and he wasn’t near 100 per cent for some of those appearances. It would be great to be able to watch him at his best, or at least close to it, this season. When healthy, he is one of the WHL’s top skaters. Unfortunately, he’s already nursing a shoulder injury.
10. When Jason Smith was a defenceman with the Regina Pats (1991-93), he was one of the WHL’s toughest players. You didn’t want to go into a corner and engage in a 1-on-1 puck battle with him. You didn’t want to stand in front of Regina’s net when he was on the ice. Today, he’s the head coach of the Kelowna Rockets. Smith, who turns 43 on Nov. 2, has never been a head coach at any level of hockey. The WHL game has changed a whole lot since he played in the league and it’s going to be interesting watching him learn.
11. F Aleksi Heponiemi, a freshman from Finland, led the WHL in assists (10) and points (15) in six exhibition games. He’s 5-foot-10 and 140 pounds and should be a whole lot of fun to watch this season.
12. It’s supposed to be a rebuilding/reloading season for the Portland Winterhawks, isn’t it? But they came out of the exhibition season with a 5-0-1 mark, the only one of the 22 teams not to suffer a regulation-time loss. Yes, it’s only the preseason but is GM/head coach Mike Johnston already working his magic in what is his second go-round?

Bob McGill, a longtime WHL scout, has died at the age of 71. McGill, who lived in Sherwood Park, Alta., was the father of Ryan McGill, a former WHL player and coach, who now is the head coach of
Bob McGill receives a WHL Distinguished Service Award
from commissioner Ron Robison in March.

(Edmonton Oil Kings photo)
the OHL’s Owen Sound Attack.
Bob McGill was presented with a WHL Distinguished Service Award in March prior to a game between the host Edmonton Oil Kings and the Red Deer Rebels.
McGill scouted for various WHL teams for more than 25 years.
He worked for the Lethbridge Hurricanes, Medicine Hat Tigers, Kelowna Rockets, Vancouver Giants and the Oil Kings.
During his 10 seasons with the Rockets, they won two WHL titles and made three Memorial Cup appearances, winning it all as the host team in 2004.
He joined the Oil Kings for their inaugural season (2007-08) and was with them through 2014 when they won the Ed Chynoweth Cup and the Memorial Cup. He retired after that season, going out on top.
He had played for the original Oil Kings before joining the Edmonton Fire Department, where he would spend 30 years.
McGill, known by all as Gilly, was extremely popular on the coaching circuit and among his peers.
The Regina Pats went 3-3-1 in the exhibition season and will open the real season on Friday against the visiting Prince Albert Raiders. Greg Harder of the Regina Leader-Post reports that F Luc Smith (charleyhorse) and D Lane Zablocki (shoulder), who didn’t play in a 6-4 loss to the visiting Brandon Wheat Kings on Saturday, should be ready, but D Brady Pouteau (ankle) isn’t expected to be back. . . . Regina got down to two goaltenders by dropping Kurtis Chapman from their roster. He is expected to report to the SJHL’s Estevan Bruins. Chapman, 18, is from Airdrie, Alta. He was a seventh-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft. His departure leaves the Pats with Tyler Brown, 19, and Jordan Hollett, 17, as their goaltenders. Brown got into 50 games last season (21-19-6, 3.15, .909), while Hollett made 23 appearances (10-6-1, 3.67, .887).
The Vancouver Giants are preparing for their first season in the Langley Events Centre after moving over from the Pacific Coliseum. Peter Toigo, the Giants’ vice-president, operations, has told Steve Ewen of the Vancouver Province that the team may limit tickets sales to “about 4,500” per game, at least in the early going. The LEC has a listed hockey capacity of 5,276, which includes 700 standing room. The Giants may not sell standing room. According to Ewen, Toigo told him that the Giants want to make sure they have the fan experience nailed down. They want make sure the building and staff can handle the crowd. . . . Toigo also told Ewen that season-ticket sales are up for the first time since 2006-07, although he wasn’t able to supply an exact figure.
F Tyler Benson of the Vancouver Giants skated with the Edmonton Oilers’ prospects in Penticton, B.C., on Sunday, but he did it while in a non-contact sweater. Benson suffered a shoulder injury a week earlier in a WHL exhibition game, so didn’t play in the Oilers’ first two games at the YoungStars Classic in Penticton. He isn’t expected to play in their final game in the tournament against the Winnipeg Jets on Monday, either. . . . “Just a tweak, a day-to-day thing,” Benson told Robert Tychowski of the Edmonton Sun. “They’re just trying to take precautions to make sure nothing gets worse.” . . . Benson, a second-round pick by the Oilers in the 2016 NHL draft, was limited to 30 games with the Giants last season thanks to surgery to remove a cyst from his lower back area, then groin and lower core injuries. . . . “That’s all cleared up,” he told Tychowski. “I’ve had no issues with that for a while now. . . . I’m all good now.”
The Brandon Wheat Kings dropped D Ty Ettinger, 16, and G Hunter Arps, 17, from their roster. . . . Ettinger is expected to join the midget AAA Sherwood Park Kings. From Androssan, Alta., Ettinger was a fifth-round selection on the 2015 bantam draft. . . . Arps may return to the midget AAA Moose Jaw Generals, although he may yet end up with the SJHL’s Melfort Mustangs. Arps, from Pleasantdale, Sask., was a fifth-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft. . . . Arps’ departure leaves the Wheat Kings with two goaltenders — veterans Jordan Papirny 20, and Logan Thompson, 19, both of whom were there last season.
The Edmonton Oil Kings got their roster down to 24 players, including three goaltenders and 14 forwards, by trimming four players on Sunday. . . . F Brian Harris, 17, is expected to join the MJHL’s Swan Valley Stampeders. He was an 11th-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft. . . . F Scott Atkinson, 16, was a fifth-round pick in the 2015 draft. He is returning to the major midget Greater Vancouver Canadians. . . . D Travis Verveda, who turns 19 on Nov. 6, is returning to the AJHL’s Okotoks Oilers. He has played 32 games with the Kamloops Blazers over the past two seasons. . . . D Jayden Platz, 16, is expected to return to the Northern Alberta X-Treme of the Canada Sport School Hockey League. He was a second-round selection in the 2015 bantam draft.
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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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