Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Closing in on WHL playoffs . . . Raiders get No. 1 draft selection . . . Hockey Canada picks Hamilton


D Brett Carson (Moose Jaw, Calgary, 2001-06) has signed a one-year extension with SaiPa Lappeenranta (Finland, Liiga). This season, he had three goals and five assists in 30 games.
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The WHL playoffs open on seven fronts on Friday night.
There are series previews available elsewhere, starting with dubnetwork.ca and whl.ca, so I’m not going to bother replicating any of that work.
Instead, here’s a quick look at each series and the injury implications, knowing full well that, like Sgt. Schultz, we’ll know nothing until Friday’s lineups are posted:
WESTERN CONFERENCE

Everett (44-16-12, 1st in U.S., 1st in conference) vs. Victoria (37-29-6, 2nd wild-card): They’ll play Friday and Saturday in Everett. . . . The Silvertips swept the season series, going 4-0-0; the Royals were 0-3-1. . . . D Aaron Irving missed a couple of late-season games but has returned and will be a key for Everett. Their top three defencemen — Noah Juulsen, Kevin Davis and Irving — all are right-hand shots. . . . Everett F Devon Skoleski didn’t finish Sunday’s final game, while F Orrin Centazzo won’t play again this season. . . . Victoria F Tyler Soy missed a good chunk of time late in the season, but returned for the last couple of games. . . . The Royals may open without F Ryan Peckford, D Ralph Jarratt and D Chaz Reddekopp, all of whom are injured. Peckford is practising, while Jarratt is skating in a non-contact sweater. Reddekopp, who has a broken foot, won’t be there for the start of the series.
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Prince George (45-21-6, 1st in B.C.) vs. Portland (40-28-4, 1st wild-card): It starts with games Friday and Sunday in Prince George. . . . How competitive was the Western Conference? Portland is a wild-card entry with 40 victories. . . . In the season series, the Cougars were 2-2-0; the Winterhawks 2-1-1. . . . Prince George F Brad Morrison suffered an ankle injury in a Feb. 24 fight and hasn’t played since. He’s a point-a-game guy. . . . Portland F Cody Glass, who will be an early first-round selection in the NHL’s 2017 draft, missed the season’s last five periods. He had 94 points, including 32 goals, in 69 games. . . . The Winterhawks have been without F Evan Weinger, a 20-goal man, for 10 games. He last played on Feb. 24. . . . Portland might find motivation from the fact that it wanted a 2-3-2 format, but Prince George got the 2-2-1-1-1 it wanted, perhaps believed that the bus travel will wear on the Winterhawks. . . . The Cougars, who went wire-to-wire to win the B.C. Division, will get motivation from the fact it didn’t place one player on the conference all-star team or have anyone win an individual award. They also didn’t show up in the final CHL rankings.
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Seattle (46-20-6, 2nd in U.S.) vs. Tri-City (41-28-3, 3rd in U.S.): They’ll get started in Kent, Wash., on Friday and Saturday. . . . Seattle won the season series, 6-2-0. . . . Seattle F Mathew Barzal had 79 points, including 69 assists, in 41 games but hasn’t played since March 7 because of the mumps. Will he, or won’t he? We won’t know until Friday. . . . Seattle G Rylan Toth led the WHL with 36 victories but last played on March 11. How badly injured is he? We’ll find out on Friday. . . . Two Tri-City forwards — Max James and Vladislav Lukin — are back from late-season injuries. Each played two of three weekend games and should be ready for Friday. However, F Nolan Yaremko is likely out after being injured in practice last week, and F Michael Rasmussen (wrist) won’t play in this series.
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Kelowna 45-22-5, 2nd in B.C.) vs. Kamloops (42-24-6, 3rd in B.C.): The series begins in Kelowna on Friday and Saturday. . . . Kamloops was 6-3-1 in the season series; the Rockets were 4-6-0. . . . Since the start of the 2015-16 exhibition season, these teams have met 30 times. Kelowna is 16-13-1 in those games; Kamloops is 14-14-2. . . . A year ago, the Rockets beat the Blazers in a seven-game first-round series, winning Game 7, 2-1, in OT on a goal by F Tomas Soustal. . . . The Rockets have been missing Soustal, a point-a-game guy who hasn’t played since he was injured while blocking a shot on March 1. . . . The Blazers are believed to be healthy.
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EASTERN CONFERENCE

Regina (52-12-7, 1st in East, 1st in conference, 1st overall) vs. Calgary (30-32-10, 2nd wild-card): They’ll get started with games in Regina on Friday and Saturday. . . . Regina won the season series, 3-1-0; Calgary was 1-2-1. . . . The Pats go into the playoffs on an eight-game winning streak. . . . Regina F Jake Leschyshyn (knee) won’t play again this season. The Pats will be without F Nick Henry for Game 1 as he serves a one-game WHL suspension. . . . The Hitmen are believed to be healthy.
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Medicine Hat (51-20-1, 1st in Central) vs. Brandon (31-31-10, 1st wild-card): The Wheat Kings open defence of the Ed Chynoweth Cup in Medicine Hat on Friday and Saturday. . . . The Tigers won the season series, 3-1-0. . . . Medicine Hat may get back two defencemen — Kristians Rubins and Ty Schultz. Both have been out with injuries but have been taking part in full practices this week. . . . Brandon D Garrett Sambrook hasn’t played since Feb. 24. The Wheaties say he is out with an illness that isn’t mumps. . . . F Reid Duke, who led the Wheat Kings in goals (37) and assists (71), was injured in a 7-1 loss to host Regina on Friday and didn’t play in the Pats’ 6-0 victory in Brandon on Saturday. . . . Brandon also was without F Tanner Kaspick, D Kale Clague and F Nolan Patrick on Saturday. However, all four of those players returned to practice this week. . . . The Wheat Kings will get F Tyler Coulter back from a one-game suspension.
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Lethbridge (44-21-7, 2nd in Central) vs. Red Deer (30-29-13, 3rd in Central): They’ll get started in Lethbridge on Saturday and Sunday. . . . The Hurricanes were 5-0-1 in the season series; the Rebels were 1-4-1. . . . Two of the Hurricanes’ top forwards — Matt Alfaro and Zak Zborosky — have played once (March 15) since March 4. Both are point-a-game players. . . . Red Deer won’t have D Alex Alexeyev, F Adam Musil or F Reese Johnson. F Grayson Pawlenchuk is skating but hasn’t been cleared for contact after January shoulder surgery. D Austin Pratt is doubtful.
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Moose Jaw (42-21-9, 2nd in East) vs. Swift Current (39-23-10, 3rd in East): It begins with games in Moose Jaw on Friday and Saturday. . . . The Warriors won the season series, 4-2-0. . . . Despite being 175 km apart on the Trans-Canada Highway, these rivals haven’t met in the playoffs since Moose Jaw won a six-game series in 1999. . . . The Warriors may have F Spencer Bast available after a late-season injury. . . . For their final regular-season game, the Broncos’ scratches included G Jordan Papirny, (mumps), F Lane Pederson, D Colby Sissons, D Max Lajoie, F Kaden Elder and F Ryan Graham. Emanuel Viveiros, the Broncos’ head coach, has said they should have all of them back for Game 1, with the exception of Graham.
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The Prince Albert Raiders won the WHL’s draft lottery on Wednesday, meaning they moved up two spots and now hold the first selection the bantam draft that is scheduled for May 4 in Calgary.
In the standings, the Raiders had finished ahead of the last-place Kootenay Ice, which now has the second pick, and the Vancouver Giants, who have the third pick.
The Edmonton Oil Kings are in the fourth spot, followed by the Saskatoon Blades and Spokane Chiefs. The rest of the first round is in the inverse order of the final regular-season standings, as are the remaining rounds.
The Raiders also hold an option on the Kelowna Rockets’ first-round selection, thanks to a deal in which F Reid Gardiner headed west. The Raiders have to exercise that option this draft or in 2018. Prince Albert also holds two second-round picks and three in the third round.
When Jeff D'Andrea of paNOW asked Curtis Hunt, the Raiders’ general manager about the possibility of trading the No. 1 pick, the response was:
“My track record proves that I’ll trade just about everything. I haven’t thought about it, but if it worked for us now and in the future, I think you have to consider everything moving forward.”
The Raiders haven’t held the first selection since 2001. That’s when they took F Kyle Chipchura, who went on to total 165 points, including 59 goals, over four seasons with them.
Some observers have D Kaiden Guhle, a 6-foot-1, 170-pounder from Sherwood Park, Alta., as the favourite to go first overall. The Raiders selected his brother, Brendan, with the third overall pick in the 2012 draft. He was dealt to the Prince George Cougars this season.
Here is the first-round order for the 2017 bantam draft, as of Wednesday night
1. Prince Albert
2. Kootenay
3. Vancouver
4. Edmonton
5. Saskatoon
6. Spokane
7. Calgary
8. Brandon
9. Swift Current (from Red Deer)
10. Saskatoon (from Victoria)
11. Portland
12. Tri-City
13. Swift Current
14. Kamloops
15. Moose Jaw
16. Lethbridge
17. Kelowna (Prince Albert has option)
18. Prince George
19. Seattle
20. Everett
21. Medicine Hat
22. Red Deer (from Regina)
NOTES: Portland is in the first round with its own selection for the first time since Nov. 28, 2012, when the WHL took away first-round picks in five straight drafts, starting in 2013. That was after ruling that the Winterhawks had violated rules regarding player benefits. . . . Prince Albert holds an option on Kelowna’s first-round pick in 2017 or 2018. . . . Swift Current holds Red Deer’s first-round pick from a Dec. 27, 2015 trade in which F Jake Debrusk went to the Rebels, with F Lane Pederson among the pieces going to the Broncos. . . . Saskatoon has Victoria’s first-round pick from a Jan. 6, 2015 deal in which F Alex Forsberg went to the Royals. . . . Red Deer has Regina’s first-round selection from a Jan. 10 deal that involved, among other things, D Josh Mahura and F Jeff de Wit going to the Pats for F Lane Zablocki and D Dawson Barteaux. . . . To keep up on WHL trades involving draft picks, visit Alan Caldwell’s blog, Small Thoughts at Large, right here.
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The WHL also announced its all-star teams and some of its award winners on Wednesday. For a look at those lists, visit whl.ca.
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If you enjoy stopping off here and would care to make a donation to the cause, please feel free to do so by clicking on the DONATE button and going from there.
If you have some information you would like to share or just a general comment, feel free to email me at greggdrinnan@gmail.com.
If interested, you also are able to follow me on Twitter at @gdrinnan.
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The U of Saskatchewan Huskies of 2016-17 had some 23 players on their roster who played in the WHL. You may have seen the Huskies on action on TV last weekend. They were in Fredericton, N.B., where they lost the Canadian university final, 5-3, to the U of New Brunswick Varsity Reds on Sunday. . . . But there was more to the story than that. It seems the Huskies ‘adopted’ a young hockey player, Carson Ferdinand, and gave him the thrill of a lifetime by making him part of the team. . . . It’s a nifty story — especially when you consider that Carson’s mother is a swim coach at UNB — and Darren Zary of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix has it all right here.
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Steve Ewen of Postmedia tweeted Wednesday morning that F Ty Ronning of the Vancouver Giants “says he’s signed a PTO with the Hartford Wolf Pack, the AHL affiliate of the New York Rangers.”
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Ronning was a seventh-round selection by the Rangers in the NHL’s 2016 draft.
The son of former NHL F Cliff Ronning, Ty had 53 points, including 25 goals, in 68 games with the Giants this season. He led them in goals and points, and was selected as the team’s MVP.
In 215 regular-season games, he has 134 points, including 66 goals.
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Hockey Canada has named Darren Rumble, the head coach of the QMJHL’s Moncton Wildcats, as head coach of the team that will play in the 2017 IIHF U-18 World Championship. . . . Rumble, a former assistant coach with the Seattle Thunderbirds (2012-13), was an assistant coach with Hockey Canada’s U-18 team at the 2015 and 2016 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup summer tournaments. . . . Rumble’s assistant coaches at the World Championship will be Steve Hamilton of the Edmonton Oil Kings and Stephane Julien of the QMJHL’s Sherbrooke Phoenix. . . . Jory Stuparyk of the Oil Kings will be the video coach, with Hockey Canada’s Fred Brathwaite the goaltending consultant. . . . The 10-team U18 World Championship is scheduled for Poprad and Spisska Nova Ves, Slovakia, from April 13-23. Canada is in a pool with Finland, Latvia, Slovakia and Switzerland. The other pool features Belarus, Czech Republic, Russia, Sweden and the U.S.
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The Prince George Cougars have signed F Chance Adrian to a WHL contract. From Dalmeny, Sask., he was a seventh-round pick by the Red Deer Rebels in the 2014 bantam draft. He was dropped and the Cougars added him to their protected list in December. . . . Adrian, who won‘t turn 18 until Nov. 16, had 46 points, including 19 goals, in 43 games with the midget AAA Saskatoon Contacts this season.
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If you enjoy stopping off here and would care to make a donation to the cause, please feel free to do so by clicking on the DONATE button and going from there.
If you have some information you would like to share or just a general comment, feel free to email me at greggdrinnan@gmail.com.
If interested, you also are able to follow me on Twitter at @gdrinnan.
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“At some point, you just have to suck it up and play.” . . . That’s how Mike Fraser, the writing scout, starts this week’s column for the Brandon-based Westman Journal. Fraser, who scouts for the Wheat Kings, spends a lot of time in Western Canada’s arenas, and he sees it all. . . . You don’t want to miss his latest work and it’s right here.
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Elliotte Friedman leads this week’s 30 Thoughts with a look at the staredown that is doing on between USA Hockey and its national women’s team. As he points out. the American women are tying to get what Canada’s national women’s team already has. . . . That’s all right here.
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Griffin Foulk, who played in the WHL with the Everett Silvertips, Seattle Thunderbirds, Lethbridge Hurricanes and Swift Current Broncos (2012-16), is from Broomfield, Colo. These days, he’s attending Colorado U and has walked on with the school’s football team, the Buffaloes. "It was one of those things where I elected to forego college hockey and try and go professional at the age of 16, and it kind of came time this past fall to make the call to get my education," Foulk, 21, told Adam Dunivan of BoCoPreps.com. "But I love competing, I love working hard and it's just second nature to me. Coming here, having an opportunity to try out . . . I'm just dipping my toes in the water right now but I hope to make something of it." . . . Dunivan’s story is right here
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MONDAY-THURSDAY GAMES:

No Games Scheduled.
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FRIDAY GAMES (all times local):

(Game 1, best-of-seven series)
Swift Current at Moose Jaw, 7 p.m.
Brandon at Medicine Hat, 7:30 p.m.
Calgary at Regina, 7 p.m.
Kamloops at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.
Victoria at Everett, 7:35 p.m.
Tri-City vs. Seattle, at Kent, Wash., 7:35 p.m.
Portland at Prince George, 7 p.m.
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SATURDAY GAMES (all times local):

(Game 2, best-of-seven series)
Red Deer at Lethbridge, 7 p.m.
Swift Current at Moose Jaw, 7 p.m.
Brandon at Medicine Hat, 7:30 p.m.
Calgary at Regina, 7 p.m.
Kamloops at Kelowna, 7:05 p.m.
Victoria at Everett, 7:05 p.m.
Tri-City vs. Seattle, at Kent, Wash., 7:05 p.m.

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